Myths die hard.
And it's even harder to dispel a myth when it concerns sexuality. But in a new book called "The Myth of Monogamy," a husband-wife scientific team contends that monogamy among animals, and humans in particular, may be the exception rather than the rule.
David Barash, a University of Washington zoologist and professor of psychology, and Judith Lipton, a Seattle psychiatrist, said the book, published by W.H. Freeman and Co. this month, is intended to empower people, not to condone infidelity.
"A lot of people get upset if you talk about something like infidelity and say it is natural because then it seems good and proper," said Barash. "There are lots of things that can be natural and are truly awful, like earthquakes and AIDS. We are not saying monogamy is good or bad. But people are more empowered when they understand something. We are not sympathetic with people who philander and say, 'The devil made me do it,' or claim their behavior is genetic. People can do all kinds of natural nasty things - lie, cheat, steal and kill - but it doesn't mean those things are good."
"The Myth of Monogamy" grew out of the authors' experiences as a zoologist and a psychiatrist. Lipton said psychiatrists often get disaster calls from clients who have found that their partners have been cheating on them. Barash noted that animal behavior has been revolutionized in the past decade by DNA fingerprinting, which has revealed many species once viewed as paragons of virtue to be philanderers.
"The most frequent calls psychiatrists get in the middle of the night are from people who have discovered adultery," said Lipton. "Infidelity crises in marriage is very common, almost like a bad case of the marital flu. People who discover it are outraged, grief-stricken and angry. People who have been cheated on can sometimes be extremely violent and much of the violence in the United States can be attributed to infidelity.