Most Americans believe the concepts of fidelity and marriage go hand in hand. However, with the help of a former president, one married couple has set out to prove otherwise.
"It was Bill Clinton who first got Christopher Ryan thinking about monogamy," Washington Post Staff Writer Ellen McCarthy said of Ryan's new book "Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality."
Ryan was a doctoral student during the scandal surrounding Clinton's sexual affair with an intern, Monica Lewinsky, according to McCarthy. It made him wonder: "How is it that the most powerful man in the world is getting publicly humiliated for having a casual sexual relationship with someone?"
The book suggests that "we reevaluate the idea that monogamy comes naturally to men and women-and look at whether it should even be something we require of our spouses." Ryan wrote the book with his wife, psychiatrist Cacilda Jethá.
McCarthy wrote that idea that a person should find happiness and fulfillment with one sexual partner for a lifetime is a "myth," according to Ryan.
Ryan and Jethá claim to be advocates for marriage, because it provides "an emotionally and economically stable environment for a kid to grow up in." But, they say, a husband or wife should not expect fidelity from their spouse because they place "a lot suffering - and what I would say is unnecessary suffering - between couples who have unnecessary expectations of what life is going to be like."
The authors suggest that an act of sex outside marriage "doesn't necessarily diminish the love one has for a spouse," according to the Post. Sex is "just sex," they say.
According to McCarthy, Ryan and Jethá trace many of our modern ideas about matrimony and monogamy back to Darwin and a Victorian understanding of sexuality.
Ryan's and Jethá's views differ greatly from the majority of Americans. According to Gallup, 92 percent of Americans view extramarital affairs as "morally wrong." A higher percentage viewed extramarital affairs as wrong than opposed polygamy, human cloning, suicide, or abortion.
Ryan and Jethá are hardly the first to attempt to normalize extramarital sex in American culture. A 2008 report by the Parents Television Council found that prime time broadcasting across five networks depicted or implied sex between non-married partners four times as often as it did so with married partners.