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Of Marriage And Single Life

From: The Essays, by Sir Francis Bacon, c. 1601

By Sir Francis Bacon

Critique by Punkerslut

Image by Eric Drooker
Image: By Eric Drooker

Start Date: June 5, 2005
Finish Date: June 5, 2005

Monogamy -- Some Questions, Some Answers

     Surely, there are few institutions and few compliments of life that are so revered among ancient writers as that of Monogamy. It is not difficult to find ancient and respected men who would call religion a useless thing, who would speak of war as though it were a level of hell, who would express on paper and in speech the corruption and inhumanity of the world's governments. Some of the most demonized aspects of the underground movement, whether in law-breaking or revolutionary activity or drug use or civil disobedience, in one way or another, all of these have found several popular heroes that supported their cause. As it is with Martin Luther King Jr. who advocated crime as a means of overthrowing oppressive powers. So it is with the industrialist Robert Owen, who supported activity in creating a Utopian Socialist world, despite the fact that he was a Capitalist. This pattern can even be traced to Leo Tolstoy, who frequently argued that all government will result in tyranny, that it is truly immoral to eat flesh, and that patriotism can only breed cruelty. All of these people were controversial in their own times, but as the waves of progress brought us a more improved world than our fathers had, these people became the heroes of our parents.

     Many of these people, by their fame and popularity, were granted the right to freedom of speech, thought, and opinion. Martin Luther King Jr. was allowed to say, "We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed." ["Letter From a Birmingham Jail," written while in jail by Martin Luther King Jr, 1963. Quoted from The Portable Sixties Reader, edited by Ann Charters, a Penguin Classics, page 28.] Robert Owen has been of the opinion of: "Inquire of the most learned and wise of the present day, ask them to speak with sincerity, and they will tell you that they have long known the principles on which society has been found to be false." ["A New View of Society," by Robert Owen, Essay 3, 1816.] Leo Tolstoy, by his stature in society, could say, "A Government, therefore, and especially a Government entrusted with military power, is the most dangerous organization possible." ["Patriotism and Government," by Leo Tolstoy, May 10, o.s., 1900, part 6.] So, it happens, that these men who are considered intellectual giants by the governments of the world, by the educational institutes, by the international monetary funds and globalization advocates, by the corporate powers and the statists, these groups are paying homage to men who would have them destroyed. Those protesters, shoplifters, unionists, stencilists, and other activists who break the law in order to obtain justice are carrying out the dream of Martin Luther King. Those activists that work to overthrow the oppressive chains of a Capitalist system are doing the work of Robert Owen. And, those revolutionary soldiers who do all that they can to crush the state, are simply the realization of Leo Tolstoy's ideals.

     Our society is founded on very ignorant and thoughtless principles; and these principles are promoted, encouraged, and supported in every institution, whether in family, or religion, or society, or government, or education, or places of work and labor. These men who are considered the sages of past eras were allowed to speak their minds on these topics, to offer a little bit of passing wisdom which the public was liberal enough to agree with, but they could never support If Martin Luther King Jr. were still alive today, I doubt there would ever be a police officer bold enough to arrest him for protesting. If Robert Owen were still with us, I doubt that the enemies of Socialism would rally as strong as they do today. And, if Leo Tolstoy were still in our graces, I really do doubt any government arresting him for refusing to pay a war tax. Because, in the eyes of these oppressors, to arrest and hinder such great, powerful heroes of the people is only to agitate the people in to action. But commonly, we will find average men committing these brave acts of self-sacrifice, men who are willing to speak questions during a church sermon, men who protest against the barbaric war policy that the international community has accepted, men and women who are bold enough to stand up for justice in economics, for peace in politics, for equality in society. Since these men and women are not famous or popular, or known of by the people, they will be quickly cut down by authority's heartless tyranny. There will be no defense fund or united effort to save them. Their position in the light will last only a few brief seconds, before they are quickly herded off of stage and ostracized from society. The bitter ironies of our systems confront us in our day to day lives. And we are helpless to do anything, but fight it.

     Yet, among all of these things that the heroes of our world have done, there seems to be one thing they've left untouched: monogamy. It's true that there have been a few extremely unpopular yet vocal people who supported a different program of sexual behavior. But, they were few and far between. They never organized as a massive group in order to tackle their issues and achieve their interests. And, it's also true, that many groups have organized to liberalize the issue of sexuality. It has become popular for humanitarians and active writers to support the right to homosexuality, to support the rights of those who read pornography, to support the idea that sex can be it's own purpose, to support the idea that nudity can never be considered ugly, in that it is our natural state. Of course, while these ideals have been preached, few were quickly to come about and preach an elimination of the monogamous setup. That is to say, they supported appreciating sex as its own end, but only with your monogamous partner; they supported homosexuality, but only homosexuality with specified partners. No doubt some of these liberalizers of sexuality wanted to eliminate the monogamous setup, but again, they are few and far in between. This is not to say that they have accomplished nothing, but only that there is a greater need for these vocalists. People are more willing to oppose polyamory and liberalized sexual relationships, because though they oppose the strict, regimented sex life of the chauvinist, they have found peace, happiness, and contentment in a sexual relationship that was much more free. Yet, they seem to keep that one last relic of chauvinism: monogamy. So, then, let's take into consideration some of the remarks of Sir Francis Bacon on this matter...

"Certainly wife and children are a kind of discipline of humanity; and single men, though they may be many times more charitable, because their means are less exhaust, yet, on the other side, they are more cruel and hardhearted (good to make severe inquisitors), because their tenderness is not so oft called upon."

     Is it true that men who do not marry are less tender, less kind, less fair? Well, in other passages, Bacon makes the opposite assertion: "There is in man's nature, a secret inclination and motion, towards love of others, which if it be not spent upon some one or a few, doth naturally spread itself towards many, and maketh men become humane and charitable..." ["Essays," by Sir Francis Bacon, Of Love, c. 1601.] It may very well appear to us that Sir Francis Bacon was apt to publishing contradictory and arbitrary opinions. I cannot see the validity of his claims, if he supports the assertion in one essay, but then opposes it in the next. But, that aside, what he says here, on single men being more apt to cruelty and hard-hardheartedness, is it true? Well, the primary reason that men are ignorant to compassion, at least the primary reason assumed by Bacon, is because sexual ecstasy and pleasure will act as a release of built-up aggression and pain, the thoughts and emotions that create pain and strife. Since a man who has a partner, that is always willing to satisfy his sexual hunger, is more likely to be getting sex regularly, this man is also much more likely to have a tender, affectionate, and more thoughtful disposition towards all fellow men and women.

     However, what Bacon fails to take in to consideration here, is that single men can engage in sexual behavior much more freely, and without as much hindrances, as the married man. True, the one thing the married man does have over the single man, is that he has a constant partner, and the he will never have to look far when seeking an individual to copulate with. I am not denying this, but I am only saying that the single lifestyle, that is to say, the polyamorous lifestyle, is by far much more rewarding sexually. Yes, the married lifestyle grants security of always having a sexual partner available, but this can come with its dilemmas: often, the partner is uninterested in sex, preoccupied, or otherwise unable to satisfy our needs. It's true, that we should always choose partners with a compatible sexuality, and this includes sexual urges and the way they are expressed. The married life has much less freedom. In Polyamorous relationships, the partners are allowed to experiment and test out new ideas with various partners, in a mutual, consensual, and equally-rewarding arrangement.

     There are so many people in the world that we come in to contact with. Each person is unique, different, and individual. No two people will ever fit each other completely and perfectly. There is no relationship where a person can be completely satisfied by their partner, intellectually, emotionally, socially, sexually. A person's intellectual character might be reflected by novels and foreign films, their emotional character might be described as adorable, socially they might be quiet, and sexually they could be like a bunny rabbit. Another person might be completely, identical, except intellectually they prefer non-fiction sociological and political and emotionally they are calm, collected, and always prepared. Every person is different, because each person follows the path in their life that is right for them. One person might be satisfied socially by drinking at the bar every night, just like another person might be satisfied intellectually by graphic novels and comic books, just as another person might be sexually satisfied by homosexual relationships. Each person is different and their differences should be respected. The churches that boycott the deaths of homosexuals are a glaring example of intolerance and ignorance. It is surprising to my conscience, that so many people could unite for such a cruel cause, yet poverty, misery, and suffering still seems to have no check to it in international affairs.

     The contradiction of modern society's monogamous practices lie in this: we can switch and alternate between friends, to satisfy our intellectual, emotional, or social impulses. To satisfy these desires, the desire to have someone comfort your spirit, to allow expression of your mental faculties, or to be surrounded by friends, to satisfy these instincts, you usually involve numerous people, in and out, without any real drawing of lines. Yet when it comes to the expression of the sexual desires by the people, an entire system of boundaries, repercussions, and terms are implied. Our sexual activity is to be restricted to one other person at a time. Fortunately, the ideas of society had humanized since darker periods of human civilization. There was once a time when it was not socially acceptable for a pair of lovers, married under the sacred oaths of the church, could ever divorce or separate from each other. But, as far as today's standards on sexual behavior are concerned, you are to never be in a sexually active relationship with more than one person at a single time. My argument in response, though, seems to appeal much more to reason and logic. If you engage in many different relationships with many people, based on mutual interest in satisfying emotional, intellectual, or social needs, how is this intrinsically different than having many relationships with different people to satisfy sexual needs? I mean, in all cases, there is a mutual cooperation between the two parties so that they can satisfy each others need, they are both using their bodies in order to accomplish the task at hand, etc., etc.. The only thing really different, is that our society has inhibited taboos about these subjects. The greatest argument that the supporters of monogamy have on their side is tradition. And tradition taught us to be cruel to men and women of a differently colored skin; it taught us to believe that women are intellectually and emotionally inferior; it taught us to be submissive and obedient to all authority. Yet, we have felt that our experience and our own conscience was infinitely stronger and infinitely more useful than what tradition would ever give us.

     The thought that I comes to mind as I look at the status quo of our sexual relationships is, if we are willing to share mutual relationships with many for the sake of satisfying our needs, our desires, and impulses, then why are we so receptive of this idea when it is to satisfy sexual desires? The argument is simple. If our desire of creating pleasure and satisfying needs brings us to be united with numerous people, then why should it be forbidden for the sake of sexual impulses? I'd really like to believe that few would oppose this string of thought for any reason except prejudice and ignorance.

     Honestly, this idea of Polyamory, or "Free Love," and its struggle against the forces of authority, is not much different than the battles that Freethought frequently has with Christianity. Polyamory supports the idea of liberated relationships, of liberated social organization. Monogamy opposes this, only on some abstract, unknown principle concerning the "degradation of human character," or "the association of sin," among other religious propaganda. Freethought supports the idea of abandoning the doctrine of hell, of supporting a heaven on earth and not a heaven after death. Christianity uses guilt and sin in order to turn ordinary men and women in to walking zombies, abstaining from anything that might "satisfy their fleshly pleasures," and they all do this on the very abstract principle of, "that which will be unveiled to you at the proper time, but for now, have faith." The new and progressive movement advocates abandoning heritage, tradition, and prejudice, in order of a better, much more practical, much more ideal world. The old movement advocates abstinence from pleasure for some ideological concept that few people even believe in any more. Christians are notorious in their oppression of minorities, whether it was the Vatican's support of the inquisition, or its sanction of racial slavery, or its declaration of intercontinental war. It is no secret, either, that there is some oppression of the cohorts of monogamy on to those who practice free and open sexuality. Societies that were centrally organized around the concept of Monogamy were very punishing, unaccepting, and intolerant towards those who disbelieved in their sexual regimentation. There was the scarlet letter for those who committed adultery, to give shame to those who followed the instincts of their human nature, just as there was oppression on those who committed "fornication, the act of sexual behavior without the sanctity of marriage."

     And finally, Freethought advocates the right to opinion. A man can believe in Christianity all he wants; the Freethinker knows that many of the Christians are good and noble people, that their pursuits are pure and based on compassion, just as many Christians are intolerant or cruel towards non-believers or "worldly people." A person should always have the right to believe in whatever ideology they think fits their experience and their life on this world. There should never be a regulation that inhibits a person's right to belief, opinion, religion, or speech. The Freethinkers have been the greatest advocate of this, whether it was the freedom to believe in Hinduism as much as it was the freedom to believe in Atheism. We have been the greatest advocates of this because we ourselves are very familiar with the suffering that is accompanied by religious intolerance. So, too, those of us who are followers of the polyamorous walk, we are most tolerant and accepting of the different lifestyles of others. We know, by experience and research, that there are as many sexualities as there are people. Some people find their sexual urges most satisfied when they are engaging only members of the same sex, or only members of the opposite sex, or when they are in a group, or perhaps they have a fetish about a particular part of the body. There are so many divergent sexualities, some people are most sexually satisfied with many partners as some are most sexually satisfied with only one partner. Since so many people have different desires and impulses, we should respect and accept each person for who they are. The homosexual today who feels oppressed by society, but can feel the liberation of his movement in the near future, he may very well support his own freedom, but he does not have any sympathy for the Polyamory movement; many do support the right of a person to have as many partners as they have, but it is a very old taboo, and today, homosexuals forget that when they were burned at the stake, they were tied side-by-side with "fornicators." So it happens with Humanitarian thought, just as we must allow for a person to believe as they wish or think as they wish or read whatever books they want, so too should a person be accepted for the sexual habits that they acquire and practice.

     But, perhaps, my argument against Bacon's is false. After all, it was in his era that sexual activity before marriage was a cardinal sin: fornication. It was spoken of as cruel, heartless, and without the grace of god by every pulpit and every church. The will and desire to engage in sexual activity with numerous partners was regarded as much of a crime as rape, even though nobody was harmed in these consensual relationships. Today, it is much more accepted for men and women to assert their sexuality, with or without the sacred oath of the church. People are starting to believe that their bodies are their own property, and that their actions should be only subject to their own conscience, not the dogmatic and superstitious opinions of the clergy, the priests, and the Vatican. Of course, the time that Bacon lived in, where it was considered unlawful for people to consent to pre-marital sexual conduct, this era has been affectionately labeled "the Dark Ages" by historians and scholars alike. I think the term is fitting.

     Before completing my argument on behalf of the Polyamorous lifestyle and in opposition to the monogamous way of life, there is some disclaimer that I should put forward. I am not advocating the violation of trust between monogamous partners, by cheating on their spouse or lover. What I am advocating, is the mutual agreements between couples that they allow each other to have sexual relations with other people, in order to satisfy their diverse sexual needs. There are many people who require a monogamous sexual relationship, because that is what they were taught and that was the way they were brought up. If their partner cheated on them or "betrayed their trust," it would cause them hurt, pain, and suffering, even though they were incorrectly raised to act this at in such an incident. Our philosophy was always based on the idea of liberating people, of helping them achieve better ends, of organizing a social order so that poverty, unemployment, and misery are not a constant part of every civilized people. Now, to quote another section by Sir Francis Bacon...

"Chaste women are often proud and forward, as presuming upon the merit of their chastity. It is one of the best bonds, both of chastity and obedience, in the wife, if she think her husband wise..."

     In this passage, we see one of those relics of chauvinism and chivalry, the two products of society's misguided views on sexuality. Bacon's assertion is this: a person should be respected and revered by his fellow comrades and kinsmen because of his sexual behavior. The virtue a person acquires comes from where they put or don't put their penis or vagina. Promiscuity is a cruel, barbaric act, and faithfulness is the essence of purity and goodness of character. Bacon and his friends have built up a world where a person is respected by his fellows based on his sexual behavior. Priests, friars, clergy members, and ministers are appraised as the greatest and most noble of humans, mostly because of the "pure, clean" image that is attached to them. Men who are unwilling to engage in sexual relationships, those who are frigid, they act as though they should be proud of their strength, of their ability to resist temptations. And at the bottom of the rung, those who would have sex with almost any consenting partner, those who feel that their emotions and happiness are best served by promiscuous behavior, they are considered vile, disrespectful of the lord and all that is good. This is the world that our ancestors have built up for us. This is the social organization that they had molded during their lifetime for us to fulfill. This is the philosophy of Sir Francis Bacon.

     We are the children of these people. In many ways, we feel that we are bound to their beliefs and their religious ideals. But, I think we need to change society, to reorganize these structures, to remold the opinions of the people in order to make them more tolerant, humane, and rational. In this fair and just society, a person would not be judged on their sexual habits any more than they would be judged on their reading habits, or their musical taste, or their preference of food. A person would be judged on how kind they were to their fellow men, or how much they love charity and cherish beauty. We would judge good on how kind, fair, and just a person is in their dealings with others, how much they strive, work, and organize to create a more ideal world. Badness of character we would judge on whether someone is cruel, cold-hearted, or miserable towards all whom they come in to contact to. Those individuals who have the desire to have domination over other people, and feel power and strength at causing misery in others, and finally, who satisfy these natural inclinations, these individuals are what we would call enemies of goodness and liberty. My arguments against Bacon have all been based precisely around this: the idea that sexuality should be free and open, so that people can live more freely and more according to their wishes.


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