Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People” as Want to Read:
The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  449 ratings  ·  49 reviews
Applying new research to sex in the animal world, esteemed scientists David P. Barash and Judith Eve Lipton dispel the notion that monogamy comes naturally. In fact, as The Myth of Monogamy reveals, biologists have discovered that for nearly every species, cheating is the rule -- for both sexes.

Reviewing findings from the same DNA fingerprinting science employed in the cou
Paperback, 240 pages
Published May 1st 2002 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 2001)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Myth of Monogamy, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Myth of Monogamy

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.74  · 
Rating details
 ·  449 ratings  ·  49 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People
Big H
Oct 08, 2011 rated it it was ok
If you cut this book directly in half, you would have two separate books. The first would be called "Why and How Ducks Gang Rape One Another." The second would be called "Are Humans Meant to be Monogamous? F*ck If We Know, But This Is What Other People Say." I also wondered while reading if the authors (not just Dave, but also his wife Judith Eve Lipton) supported monogamy or extramarital affairs...
Nov 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Fascinating and surprisingly humorous given the potential for this book to be agonizingly didactic. I thought the authors provided a balanced analytical assessment of their findings however, I wish they had addressed modern couples who engage in ECPs (extra pair couplings)in the form of open relationships or swinging. I thought this was a disappointing oversight for an otherwise in depth study.
Jan 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
I took a human sexuality course to fulfill my sciences requirements freshman year of college, along with about 500 other dazed freshman (it was an 8 AM class), and retained about 2% of the course content, I'm embarrassed to say. This book is written by professors from my alma mater -- as it turns out, the UW is a hotbed of sexual behavior research. I was just fascinated by this book, Professors Lipton and Barash (married, by the way) are great story tellers. I have to warn the females out there: ...more
M. Sarki
Feb 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Not exactly the book I was looking for, but then again, I am never sure what that is until I find it. Rare is the manuscript that satisfies my curiosity. And though an important study needed to get to the root of our human predicament, this is a book mostly for the birds among us. And as certainly noted, science is interesting and beneficial to our understanding of how things actually work. But basically, as in all relationships, monogamy comes down to mak
Feb 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book will make absolutely enthralling another ten years. I feel like we're riding a whole wave of new research in sexuality, history and psychology; and this book was just written 10 years too early. There's tonnes of information, but it can be read in so many different ways and interpreted in so many different ways that it's extremely difficult to draw conclusions. And which, for the most part, title nonwithstanding, the authors don't do. They offer suggestions, make connectio ...more
Jul 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
I want to get the positive things out of the way first: I found it really interesting, blah blah blah. They generalized animal behavior related to nonmonogamy (infidelity only, for the most part) and showed how humans exhibit those traits. I was rather gleeful, to be honest.

That said, I took issue with a few things.

1. The speciesism of their language. Humans are animals; the word "animals" does not actually exclude human beings. Thinking of ourselves as different (and better) than other animals
May 09, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who has a lot of time on his/her hands and enjoys stories about animal sex
the subject matter was interesting, but the writing was cringe-worthy. there was a distinct 'tee-hee!' feeling about the descriptions of female animals who copulated outside their social coupling, and an equally repellent disapproval toward males who did the same thing. if the goal is to describe how monogamy is unnatural, then why the snickering?
Sep 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
This book shows how people are not naturally monogamous, but I think it cops out by stopping short of recommending that people explore nontraditional relationship options. Still very useful, however.
Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
The book could have been a bit shorter without loosing the power of the arguments authors made. Other than that, it's an interesting read.
H.K. Johnson
Oct 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
I would've liked a bit more cross cultural analysis and a bit less reference to birds/animals/bugs, but overall the book does a pretty good job of providing info to support its claim (that monogamy is as unnatural for us as it is for many of our winged or 4 to 8 legged friends in the wild. Or, at least that there should be room for diversity in human preference. Of course we do have a level of intellect not afforded to animals, but the books does a good job of explaining our biological inclinati ...more
Jun 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: relationships
"For human beings, sex has three great functions: procreational, rela­tional, and recreational. The first is obvious. The second speaks to the deep
bonding and connectedness that often develop between lovers. The third aspect of sex, recreational, is doubtless
the most controversial. But the fact remains that sex is, or can be, great fun
and a powerful recreational urge in its own right."
Nov 17, 2011 rated it liked it
I found this book to be a fascinating study on why humans do and do not remain monogamous. This book explores all the various findings to support both why it goes against our evolutionary nature to remain monogamous, as well as why it remains a societally favored way of life. I happened upon this book entirely by coincidence, picked it up to flick through it and see what it was about, and found I couldn't put it down. It did take me a little while to get through in it's entirety, but it was an i ...more
Mar 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Really excellent read. Far more even-handed and scientifically responsible than Sex at Dawn. This book sticks to the facts and doesn't come off as value-driven. It makes a very strong case for monogamy being "unnatural" in a strictly biological sense while still making a big effort to look at the positive side of monogamy and take into account the things about humans that separate us from animals (notably our ability to make promises and reflect on our actions). Wouldn't have given it five stars ...more
Kristina Moses
To be fair to my review, I only read to page 40 when I decided I was too bored with reading it and gave up. It was very detailed into the biology of many different species, and very early on made the point that monogamy is generally not a natural thing. However there were two points that I felt were lacking: with all the biological reasons for EPC (extra pair coupling) there was no mention (at least that I had seen yet) as to why monogamy isn't natural for lgbt couples, also, there was a consist ...more
Jun 09, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was recommended on the Savage Love podcast, and it was at the library, so I gave it a try. Frankly, it was boring. It was like a dry journal article in a wildlife biology publication, but spread out for hundreds of pages. They made all their points in the first chapter, and really only the last chapter was interesting. Here's the point they made a million times: monogamy is not a biologically natural state, so don't be shocked that it's so difficult to maintain among humans.
Mar 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
I found this book very interesting and very readable - the writers are funny and personable. It was fun to read something different - animal biology and it gave me a lot of things to think about.
Tom Menner
Jul 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
The title was intriguing, but while I don't disagree with some of the arguments it is just a very dry read.
Oct 17, 2019 added it
So this book is telling us, that (heterosexual) humans and other animals are not meant to be monogamous but in the last chapter the authors are writing that "What comes naturally is easy to do, this doesn't mean that it is right.". So the authors debunk monogamy, but the book itself is very poly negative, it's always just saying that anything but monogamy will lead to negative effects, as if it's always non-consensual, would disease us -or lead to having unwanted children. A very stale approach. ...more
Sydney Wilson
Aug 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
So let’s take some interesting biological and anthropological studies, and construct a really poor argument of nonmonogamy using every cliche of behavior we can. It’s pedantic. It’s frustratingly thoughtful sometimes, and at others it’s frustratingly poorly written. I’m all for questioning ideas of monogamy, but this isn’t the way to do it.
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
Why does it seem like David Barash is up to something? I've seen a number of genuinely bizarre things from him, and they all seem to be pointing in a certain direction.
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Awesome book about one of our most cherished social ideals: monogamy. It is not that stable, mind you though. It fractures upon careful analysis and that is what Brash does terrifically
Stephanie Cass
Dec 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Excellent book with a very concise argument against assuming that monogamy is somehow inherent or natural to any species of critter, including people. Based primarily in the avian kingdom but also looks at many other animals, whatever it takes to prove the point that "Nature" doesn't actually fit current perceptions.

It's a good start to thinking more holistically about relationships and picking apart why they are what they are. But it doesn't necessarily offer interpretation or extrapolation to
Dec 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sociobiology
Well-written, thoroughly researched and not nearly as dry as one might expect from such a biologically-steeped book. The countless studies cited of sexual behaviour in so many different species illustrate the point - over and over - that the concepts of fidelity, monogamy and the benefits and pitfalls of infidelity are complex. Most interesting is the way that one can see the parallels between human sexual behaviour and animal sexual behaviour, and brings us uncomfortably close to the real drivi ...more
Aug 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
this book goes around of (not only) human extra-marital sexual relationships from perspective of biology and games theory. authors dare to ignore completely social prescriptions of modern modelled-after-religion society (like monogamy as the natural character of human being) and help you to see it from the angle of science not blinded by morality & church. this book _will_ put you in questioning moral basics of your own, and unless you are sanctimonious churchgoer and/or hypocrite, your point of ...more
Jul 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sexology-anthro
A wonderful read, with a surprising ending. Just when you think all hope was lost, the author summarizes his book with reasons why it is not and (despite chapters of research as to why and how monogamy is unnatural to much of the animal world, which includes human beings), he reminds us that as human beings we are the one animal capable of MAKING THE CONSCIOUS DECISION to override our natural tendencies in consideration of our fellow human beings (and romantic partners). His conclusion leaves th ...more
Jun 18, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to DDog by: Cunning Minx
This book was fairly interesting as long as I kept reading it steadily. At some point I wasn't reading it at all and it took me months to just finish it already.

It's not bad, although the chatty pop culture references grated after awhile. I learned some stuff, which now I mostly don't remember. If you want a well-researched book about animal mating habits and what they may or may not suggest about human patterns, this is it.
Jun 26, 2013 rated it liked it
I thought this book was good. I did like it, but it took me a while to finish it. I heard about this book from a few different sex educators, and it seemed like a book that I should read. I'm glad I did, but I can sum it up pretty easily:

Chapters 1-5: Birds aren't monogamous. Neither are insects, or most mammals, especially primates.
Chapters 6-7: Neither are humans.

I was hoping for something more like Sex At Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethra.
Mar 30, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Well, I basically stopped reading this book halfway through. I just got bored. I was wondering, where's the juicy stuff?? I guess maybe if I kept reading I might find more info that pertains to humans and not just birds but... eh, I had other good stuff to read. now it's time to return it to the library and I don't have much motivation to finish it first. oh well...
May 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. If you like genetics, evolution, or the study of the natural world, you will like this book.

Note: the last chapter makes a surprisingly strong argument for monogamy amongst humans, although only the reader who has read the entire book will appreciate them
Alex Harmon
May 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Most excellent layman's version of data gathered from many nature studies about animal breeding behavior. This really helped put a new perspective on human sexuality and my own inclinations. Good stuff. Highly recommended.
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities
  • Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray
  • Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality
  • Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics
  • A History of Mathematics
  • Como Não Aprender Inglês
  • Sexo Privilegiado
  • You Are Now Less Dumb: How to Conquer Mob Mentality, How to Buy Happiness, and All the Other Ways to Outsmart Yourself
  • Meditation on Perception: Ten Healing Practices to Cultivate Mindfulness
  • Girl Unknown
  • Momofuku Milk Bar
  • Why Can't You Read My Mind?: Overcoming the 9 Toxic Thought Patterns that Get in the Way of a Loving Relationship
  • Ramen Obsession: The Ultimate Bible for Mastering Japanese Ramen
  • Exercises in Knitting
  • Milk Bar Life: Recipes & Stories
  • Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking
  • Buddhism With An Attitude: The Tibetan Seven-Point Mind Training
  • Mythology: The Complete Guide to Our Imagined Worlds
See similar books…
David P. Barash is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington, and is notable for books on Human aggression, Peace Studies, and the sexual behavior of animals and people. He has written approximately 30 books in total. He received his bachelor's degree in biology from Harpur College, Binghamton University, and a Ph.D. in zoology from University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1970. He taugh ...more

News & Interviews

You know the saying: There's no time like the present...unless you're looking for a distraction from the current moment. In that case, we can't...
51 likes · 23 comments
“But as we shall see, thanks to recent developments in evolutionary biology combined with the latest in technology, there is simply no question whether sexual desire for multiple partners is "natural". It is. Similarly, there is simply no question of monogamy being "natural". It isn't.” 3 likes
More quotes…