Books  Animal & General Biology  Animals: Behaviour 

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

Popular Science

By: David P Barash (Author), Judith Eve Lipton (Author)

227 pages, no illustrations

Holt McDougal

Paperback | Jul 2002 | #219349 | ISBN: 0805071369
Availability: Usually dispatched within 1 week Details
NHBS Price: £16.99 $21/€19 approx
Hardback | May 2001 | #121655 | ISBN: 0716740044
Out of Print Details

About this book

In The Myth of Monogamy, David Barash describes how new research investigating sex in the animal world concludes there is simply no question whether sexual desire for multiple partners is natural. It is. Similarly, there is no question of monogamy being natural. It isn't. Using DNA fingerprinting technology biologists have been able to trace the parenthood of animals and have found that even among those species previously thought to be monogamous, cheating on your mate is the rule for both sexes. The Myth of Monogamy explores why animals cheat, some prostitute themselves for food or protection, while others strive for genetically superior mates. The Myth of Monogamy also explores what the implications of these dramatic findings mean for humans, in terms of relationships, parenting, aggression and more.

"The Myth of Monogamy provides a fascinating tour of human mating strategies, from monogamy to sexual treachery, from exclusivity to polygamy. Barash and Lipton brilliantly locate human mating within the broader spectrum of mating strategies pursued by other species. The book is gripping from start to finish, solid in its science, and literary in its flair. It's one of the best books written about why humans covet, why commandments are broken, and why men and women get into deep conflicts over mating."
–  David M. Buss, Ph.D., author of The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating and The Dangerous Passion: Why Jealousy is as Necessary as Love and Sex

"I read this book cover to cover – like a novel – not wanting to put it down, not wanting to miss even one deliciously naughty insect or bird figuring out how to "have it all." The authors have written a smart, intriguing, witty, nonsexist, provocative yet careful book about the realities of both male and female animal, and perhaps human, "infidelity." I have to say I felt a little proud of that devious lady bird who got her mate to sit on the eggs while she went behind his back (just as he had gone behind hers!). Nature's morality is different from our own – and Barash and Lipton are cautious about their extrapolations to humans [...] still, it is fascinating to see how reproductive fitness may be the ultimate cause of all those steamy soap operas and country western lyrics."
– Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., author of Everything You Know About Love and Sex is Wrong

"The revelation that social pair-bonds do not necessarily imply exclusive mating relationships has spurred a revolution in how scientists think about mating systems. This book explores when and why social and sexual monogamy often do not coincide."
– Paul W. Sherman, Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University


- Monogamy for Beginners
- Undermining the Myth: Males
- Undermining the Myth: Females
- Why Does Monogamy Occur At All?
- What Are Human Beings Naturally

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David P. Barash is professor of psychology at the University of Washington, Seattle.

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