Halfway through this talk about her new book Is Monogamy Dead?, Rosie Wilby read us a letter which was left for her by a disgruntled member of the public at another bookshop hosting her recently. The letter-writer objected to any question at all of monogamy, wondering if people would start undermining the usefulness of trees next (?!).
This letter had missed the point in several ways. Firstly, Rosie Wilby is not suggesting that monogamy is bad, nor is she disputing its promise. Rather, she is wondering what place it has in the modern world, how it works and how we can make it work for us, using her own experience as a starting point.
The talk consisted mainly of Wilby pondering facts and figures, from recognised academic studies to polls she had conducted herself with a smaller pool of informants. There was a sense of open discussion which seems a good approach and encouraged self-reflection in a useful way. Wilby does not claim to be an expert on psychology, sociology or anthropology, but an interested individual with some experience to share and some questions to ask. She looked at the emerging data on gay marriages and civil partnerships as a way of opening the discussion of monogamy and the gendered aspect of it, which was particularly interesting. She also referred to examples she has encountered of different versions of monogamy, like friends who have sustained successful open relationships or romantic relationships which exist alongside meaningful non-romantic friend relationships.
Because what really counts as monogamy? According to Wilby's own data, nobody is even in agreement about what constitutes infidelity in a monogamous relationship. Does sexting count? Or imagining another in sexual fantasies? Monogamy is certainly more complicated than people sometimes give it credit for, and it seems like a more clear and open discussion of what it means can only be a good thing. I will certainly read her book in the hope of exploring the topic further!
This talk marked the start of Blackwells' autumn series of events, which will include talks, panel show games, music and storytelling - something for everyone. The events are relaxed, friendly and cheap so do go along!