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Deconstructing monogamy: Why Wired868’s ‘Outside Woman’ is ahead of the game—like the Greek Hetairae

First, the disclaimer. Disabuse yourself of the assumption I am against marriage and monogamy. You could not be further from the truth. 

I’m not only a veteran in the practice, I shared some supportive insight on how to do monogamy successfully; with eyes wide open, realistic expectations and cost/benefit ratio rooted in the reality of your health and happiness here and now, not some fantasy afterlife for which there is no empirical evidence of existence.

Photo: ‘I do.’

This little op-ed you are about to read, is about letting go of double-standards, unrealistic expectations and embracing some unadorned and inconvenient truths about ourselves we like to brush aside with ‘tradition’ and ‘sanctimony’ and ‘fairytale fluff’. 

On Monday 26 April 2021, Wired868 brought readers into the life of a proud ‘outside woman’ following Missy Elliot’s advice for her hit song Work It: 

‘[…] Girls, girls get that cash. If it’s 9 to 5 or shaking yo ass. Ain’t no shame ladies, just do yo’ thang. Just make sure you ahead of tha’ game…’

Elliot’s lyrics exposed a brutal truth, which is that in our capitalist society whether you are working 9 to 5 standing on your swollen feet all day serving KFC for slave wages, blackening your lungs in a coal mine or chemical plant, pushing your body past its physical limits to beat world records or your opponent in the ring, straining your eyes staring at a screen and taxing the last brain cell in your tired mind to finish a proposal, or on your knees giving head or back shots as your wifely or side-chick duty, it is all work. 

Everybody is selling their body in some way or the other for material security. It is purely superstition, paternalism and misogyny why one form of body-selling is deemed ‘respectable’ and another is not. 

Photo: Thanks, sugar daddy…

In fact it is particularly rich for the most paternalistic of them all, conservative Christian married women, to be looking down on professional side-chicks. It is married women who signed a contract to perform their ‘wifely duties’ to their husbands—whether they like it or not—‘for richer or poorer… better or worse’. 

So who is really ‘ahead of the game’?

Several Christian Conservative platforms and organisations advocate for wives to provide sex on demand whether or not they want to. The Bahamas Christian Council is still opposing legislation to make marital rape illegal. Talk about hostile working conditions!)

I can recall so many sermons at the ole Kingdom Hall admonishing wives: ‘Please please, please, please give your husbands sex! It is your Biblical obligation!’ 

Yes, according to Paul, a likely asexual who loathed marriage for himself, was never in any romantic relationship with a woman, lived in an era where female sexuality was not even properly understood and never considered that women have a far more temperamental, seasonal sexual drive with limitations and medical issues on occasion. 

Yet his is the advice some choose to follow rather than an expert sexologist!

Ahead of the game for a sex worker means avoiding the pitfalls of believing in Pretty Woman fairytales and not having a financial plan. Ahead of the game is using birth control and protection from STDs. Ahead of the game is being content in one’s role and not trying to overstep. 

Smart side-pieces do not try to usurp the wife, as they recognise it is wifey’s support at home that helps his earning potential. It’s wifey’s lack of certain sexual and emotional aptitudes that necessitates the side-piece’s services. 

Ahead of the game is the current owner of a certain guest house in Bois D’Orange, Saint Lucia who, rumour has it, used to be a professional ‘ho’ catering to foreign visitors back in her younger days and is now a ‘respectable’, charity-donating business-woman. 

Ahead of the game is the Rastaman supplier of seedlings and potting soil I faithfully patronise who set up his Agri-business after returning, well-compensated by his middle-aged, ex-sugar mama abroad. 

In fact, the main thing that bothered me about the woman featured in Wired868’s article was her wasteful lifestyle. Buy land, property, stock, bitcoin and university tuition, not another pair of US$1,000 designer sunglasses. 

Photo: Fancy shopping?

However, even she is more ahead of the game than some married women whose only back-up-plan is faith in their husband’s continued loyalty just because he said a vow, which the evidence shows is more likely fulfilled by women than by men. Women stick around for better or worse, men do not.

Part of palliative care training is preparing nurses to deal with the high likelihood of terminally-ill wives being abandoned by their husbands. The study, Gender Disparity in the Rate of Partner Abandonment in Patients with Serious Medical Illness, was published in the 15 November issue of the journal Cancer. 

“Female gender was the strongest predictor of separation or divorce in each of the patient groups we studied,” said Marc Chamberlain, MD, a co-corresponding author and director of the neuro-oncology program at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA). Similar studies in several countries confirm this. 

At least B Smith’s husband, unlike many, was willing to continue taking care of her instead of abandoning her outright. But he like the majority of men, expect to be taken care of their entire lives by a woman.

As certain traditional gender role preachers and sites love to emphasise, the woman was created for the sole purpose of being a helpmate. Whether or not she gets the kind of love, sex, companionship and support she needs in return is her cross to bear. She will get her happiness in the after-life for her long-suffering in this one. 

Photo: A good old fashioned housewife?

It is why married men statistically live longer and are healthier but it is the reverse for married women. A major survey of 127,545 American adults found that married men are healthier than unmarried men. Not so for women. 

Behavioural Scientist Paul Dolan’s book, Happy Ever After, cites evidence from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), which shows unmarried women live longer than married women and middle-aged married women, in particular, are at higher risk of physical and mental conditions than their single counterparts.

So who is really ahead of the game?

Wired868 chief editor Lasana Liburd remarked that an earlier column on a sex worker—who was in an exploitative, disempowered, desperate situation—elicited far less back-lash and debate. The poor, unfortunate prostitute is the narrative people expect! 

Punishment must follow all women who have the audacity to not play by the ‘rules’. How dare they aspire to be as the famed Hetairae of Ancient Greece who, unlike wives of their era, were not sequestered at home, were able to own property, have businesses, get access to learning and could often read, write, play musical instruments and create works of art and have a lot of influence on their patrons.

Image: A Hetaira of Ancient Greece charms her customers.

Many of them are famed for their wisdom and shrewd political minds. 

In our post-colonial society, entrenched in European Judeo-Christian values, a sex worker who is ‘ahead of the game’ brings up a great deal of cognitive dissonance for those who refuse to accept that her existence is an adaptation not an aberration. The social construct of life-long monogamy is the aberration.

In fact, sex workers need to be thanked for allowing so many to maintain the ‘appearance of respectable monogamy’. 

Extra-marital outlets—from concubines, to courtly love to mistresses to prostitution—to serve the libido of men are only necessitated by socially-imposed monogamy, which is guaranteed to fail.

“There are 80,000 prostitutes in London alone and what are they, if not bloody sacrifices on the altar of monogamy?”- Arthur Schopenhauer

The Church accepted alms from prostitutes. The Church knew all too well that the elimination of prostitution would create a pressure cooker situation that would dismantle society were it to explode. 

Photo: A sex worker in the Amsterdam Red Light District.

A man’s daughter was valuable property that could secure a dowry or even business and political alliances if she was delivered ‘unspoiled’ (selling our bodies for money) to the arranged husband. 

So better for a horny young man or sex-starved husband to visit a whorehouse and then go to confession, than ruin a hymen or tamper with another man’s ‘property’ and cause lasting economic and social status upheaval when it comes to patrilineal inheritance rights. 

What do you think marriage was? It was primarily a religious-imperial mandate (obligation to church and empire) and a socio-economic arrangement (to serve the industrial and political model).

Romantic love being the standard basis for marriage as the rule rather than the exception, is a fairly recent Anthropocene construct. It is also the least stable thing upon which to base a life-long relationship. 

Hence it was also necessary to shelter women and keep them as naive as possible with as little options as possible, so they were easily wooed into marriage; and then hobble them socially and financially to trap them in the marriage, once the fog of sex hormones and biochemicals responsible for all those initial feelings of ‘falling in love’ began to clear. 

Image: What many categorise ‘love’ is usually one of the following: lust (very fleeting), attraction (semi-permanent), and attachment (long-term commitment). Each is governed by certain hormones and every person and every relationship has varying degrees of success in generating these hormones.
(From the research led by Dr Helen Fisher at Rutgers, published in Harvard Graduate School of Arts & Sciences website article, Love, Actually: The science behind lust, attraction, and companionship, by Katherine Wu).
(Illustration by Tito Adhikary)

Once the reality of the situation into which they were swept off their feet began to manifest, many would realise deep attachment based on compatibility, respect, empathy was not possible, because of disastrous incompatibility, personality and emotional disorders and deficiencies. 

Do people think it was a coincidence that the divorce race spiked the moment women got more financial independence and social protections?

The ad campaigns of middle-aged men with their middle-aged wives enjoying the benefits of his erectile dysfunction medication, are a tad deceptive as the statistical norm is very different. 

The norm is that her husband is also going through a mid-life and love-crisis and has younger women looking at him as a very viable option. Meanwhile she is menopausing, experiencing a rapid change in her sexuality and the kids she used as the reason for staying in the marriage—during the times she really wanted to call it quits—have gone off to college or are old enough to handle their parent’s divorcing.

Photo: A middle-aged coupled in an advert for erectile dysfunction medication.

When my schoolmates and cousins in the same peer group finished A’ Levels, any remaining parents who were not already divorced/remarried multiple times already, were hit by the mid-life divorce wave. They had done their job. We were grown and off to university! 

Today, we are in our forties and those of us who married young in our 20s and had kids who are now in secondary school are getting hit by the divorce wave.

There are exceptions! 

They are the couples who did not have children. They are the couples who are only now having children in their forties after establishing a very secure life and a commitment. Or those who have been successfully ‘shacking up’ very happily for many years, riding that oxytocin and vasopressin train, and are only now deciding to tie the knot purely for practical tax, economic and other legal reasons—not because they attach some kind of additional, fictional expectation of it. 

Finally, there are the couples who, over the years re-negotiated their monogamous commitment to be about their financial, legal, familial, domestic and emotional commitment to each other, and not about preventing sexual hookups that supplement their relationship.

Photo: Hollywood couple Jada Pinkett-Smith (left) and Will Smith discuss the former’s extra-marital affair.

Maybe it is time for women to reconsider some of the marriage propaganda and fairytale notions they are hounded with since they are little girls and get smarter about this arrangement. 

You may be surprised by what is said within certain protected woman-only spaces online—where we get to talk without the scrutiny of men. It is not just men who have serious discontent in marriage. Women do as well. 

Women lose interest in the same ole dick. Women get hot and heavy crushes on others outside the marriage too that make them remember what it was like to feel that rush of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin (the ‘falling in love’ biochemicals) again, since their spouse no longer triggers that for them. 

Women who married young, then grow and learn and change in values and perspectives, often become incompatible with their spouses. Motherhood changes women as well and their priorities in who they love the most and would die for shifts from husband to their child. 

Often the maternal love is so intense, it clears the fog that prevented them from seeing their spouse clearly. 

Photo: Hmmm…

Tim Jacobs, professor of physiology at Cardiff University, said: “Some studies have shown that during ovulation, there’s a surge of oestrogen which increases a woman’s olfactory sensitivity.” 

And why would a woman need to have a better sense of smell during her monthly sexual peak? Why to sniff out a better potential mate!

In one study, women in committed relationships were asked to be blindfolded and smell the t-shirts of a number of men (who had worn it all day) and list which ones they found most appealing/arousing. Consistently, the women who were not ovulating picked their husband or boyfriend’s scent. 

However, those who were at their monthly sexual peak were twice as likely to pick another man’s scent and it was usually a man more rugged and physically imposing than their current mate. Sometimes it would be a man they would not normally find attractive or consider as marriage material but was a better biological fit than their current partner.

With all this hindsight, is it still rational and even ethical to: 

Photo: Is three really a crowd?
  1. Continue to pretend our homo sapiens primate is organically a monogamous species and be scandalised by the reality of our own nature that has always existed, and perpetuate the double standards and hypocrisy around it?
  2. Continue to pretend our homo sapiens primate species are supposed to live in nuclear units of mating pairs in a nest like birds, rather than in large communal groups/extended families, where our diversity needs are not the burden of just one person to fulfil?
  3. Continue to indoctrinate women to romanticise putting her entire well-being on the shoulders of one man as her everything, rather than establishing her independent sources of support, which includes a solid community that will protect her whether she is married, single, widowed or divorced or deserted when she is sick, old or unattractive?
  4. Continue to indoctrinate young people to enter marriage young, naïve, with zero understanding of themselves, based on their romantic attraction and desire to legitimately consummate it?
  5. Continue to criminalise sex work and keeping it black market, unregulated and dangerous for women?

Journalistic pieces like the one Wired868 did should spark innovative discussion about these things. 

All the ‘tut, tutting’, platitudes and pearl clutching is, for anyone who is a realist, a complete waste of time.  

About Jessica Joseph

Jessica Joseph
Jessica Joseph is currently the Creative Director of Accela Marketing St Lucia/Canada. She is a multiple ADDY Award Winning Trinidadian national, Pop Cultural Anthropologist and Humans Rights Activist. She blogs on Huffington Post and alieninthecaribbean.blogspot.com.

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10 comments

  1. Marc Chauharja Singh

    I noticed you focused a lot on women… is it because you deliberately wanted to do that or because you do not have the information when it comes to men?

    • Jessica Joseph

      You noticed correctly. Women are usually the ones sold the fairytale of “Happy Ever After” since they were girls and it is women who usually pressure men to get married. It is also women who are often the most adamantly against side-chicks and very outraged by their men cheating on them. Clearly, women really bought the fairytale of life-long monogamy, thinking it applied to MEN. It has only ever applied to wives, not to husbands. Allowances were ALWAYS made for men. Whereas women were given capital punishment if they slept with another man other than their husband. Men were just allowed to marry a second wife or take a mistress, so long as it was not another man’s wife. Only if he messed with another man’s “property” did the same capital punishment given to cheating wives, apply to him, as well as the wife he cheated with.

  2. Well written, most importantly supported by data. I have been trying to get this information understood by a couple women I know for years so now I’m just going to forward this article. Regardless of the conclusions one comes to for ones own life it’s important those decisions be well informed.
    Thank you!

  3. Hi Jessica – loved reading your article. Give me a holla at janicelcriqui@gmail.com.

    Looking 4ward 2 our conversation.

  4. I dare anyone to find me an outlet in the conventional media that considers this response or the original Day in the Life piece that provoked it newsworthy.

    And my mind returns to the former education minister who declared within the first month he was in office that “there will be no sex education taught in our schools.”

    The incumbent has made no such declaration but the transition has been seamless…

  5. Jessica Joseph

    Not all men are cheating because their wives aren’t doing their 100% best. There are many other reasons why they break their vows as well, despite the wife going to the ends of the earth for them. Some women marry personality disordered men who are not bothered at all about doing whatever the f8ck they want no matter who it hurts. Some women are married to men who are trying to hide their true sexual orientation. So many reasons why it happens. Malicious reasons and tragic reasons. Some reasons are just people making oaths they cannot keep.

    You are 100% right there is nothing anyone can do to force someone to do the hard work strict monogamy entails. It is WORK. Some people not cut out for that work. Some people lack the basic EQ for work. But they go and prematurely swear a VOW they could do it!

    “Yes, Yes, I could do de WUK! I is the EXCEPTION to the rule! I will not seek any sexual intimacy or even non-intimate sexual contact or even emotional intimacy with NOBODY ELSE but one woman for the rest of my life! I will not even admire any other bumcee but yours. ”

    The vow should have never been made. Expectations should have been more realistic. Experience and competence in the work involved should precede the oath-making, at best. Can you believe there are MULTIPLE oathbreakers who just take the vows over and over?

    I have more respect for the people who do NOT make an oath than those who do and then BREAK IT.

  6. Jessica Joseph

    In a world where a man and now women too, can earn a salary, medical insurance, and retirement plan and even benefits for their family from flying overseas to blow up little children and women; even get medals from Presidents and priests are more than happy to offer communion to them, I think it would be a very interesting indeed to have a conversation about what we consider, a “legitimate occupation.”

    I would really like to know the ways we measure and validate legitimacy.

    • Lasana Liburd

      As if you didn’t give us enough food for thought already! Lol. Point well made, Jessica!

    • Jessica,

      Excellent, thoroughly researched, well written, thought provoking article! There would certainly be a lot less pain and suffering in this world if people would disabuse themselves of these fairytale notions but then again, who doesn’t want to marry a Prince, right!
      One question, does this only apply to heterosexual couples? Is there a different mechanism for gay married couples? How does patriarchy function in this context?

      • Jessica Joseph

        Thank you for the compliments. I don’t post often but I try to make sure when I do, I come GOOD, as Lasana will confirm.

        You ask a good question. So far, I can only give some anecdotal evidence and make inferences based on some stats.
        Ever since Marriage Equality, same-sex marriages overall have less divorce than heterosexual couples. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/04/same-sex

        However, that is due to GAY MEN succeeding at marriage, not to lesbians. Lesbian couples divorce more than gay male couples do and even more than heterosexual couples do. https://leetylerfamilylaw.com/recent-data-shows-gay-couples-less-likely-to-divorce-than-lesbian-couples/. So if we were to just compare the divorce stats for lesbians vs. straight couples, lesbians have the worst track-record when it comes to lifelong marriage. So If there ever was proof women are NOT somehow more marriage-minded than men, there it is! Women SUCK at marriage too! Their romantic desire is VERY tentative, and they can lose it, JUST LIKE THAT for someone when their opinion of them changes. People forget, a woman’s sex organ is her BRAIN. Feelings of disdain, resentment, disappointment, “having to be the adult in the relationship constantly cleaning up messes (literal and figurative), solving all the problems, lifting all the emotional weight and not getting to just relax with this person” dries up a poonanie faster than silica gel. Doesn’t matter if her partner is a man or woman. Same thing applies. More women would initiate divorce far more often if given the chance. The only reason many have not is because it is not financially feasible to do so or they’re afraid their spouse will kill them or the kids too young still or they found a way to supplement their sexual needs and it is working for them.

        Most lesbians couples will commit very hard and very fast but split up in record time. Gay men tend to take longer to commit to marriage but once they do, they tend to stay together longer and deal with loss of sexual attraction for each other in more pragmatic ways by opening up the relationship. I met a gay man still caring for his ex-boyfriend while also married to his husband. Now that is DEVOTION. Gay men seem to understand that devotion has nothing to do with only enjoying one dick for the rest of one’s life. Who will give you a sponge bath when you are an invalid? Who will lie for you to protect you? Who will make sure you are okay and check on you? That is devotion. It has nothing to do with sexual monogamy. It is about KINSHIP and seeing someone as your family, your blood. It is Phila and Agape Love not Eros Love. Erotic love is temporary.

        Sadly we have been led to believe that the latter is the former or that it leads to the former or the latter and former must always go together.