Behavioral Genetics, Biology, Family, Gay Rights, Marriage, Relationships

Genes, Pair-Bonding, Marriage, and Homosexuality

It seems to me the different marriage customs of the world are all manifestations of an underlying, gene-based instinct or propensity in humans to pair bond. There seems to be no other plausible explanation for the ubiquity of marriage.

Of course, pair-bonding does not preclude polygamy.  Polygamy is merely a condition in which one of the partners has formed multiple pair-bonds.   e.g. J0nes has formed a pair-bond with Smith and Stewart each.

One thing pair-bonding does not imply is group marriage.  That is, marriages of more than two people in which every partner is equally married to every other partner.  Humans now and then try such arrangements.  Yet,  in every documented case of group marriage, the participants reverted to pair bonds within six years.

This instinct to pair bond also seems to be present in both heterosexuals and homosexuals.

So I don’t really understand the notion that marriage is traditionally an exclusively heterosexual institution established by some deity.

On the contrary, it seems pretty clear that marriage is ultimately established by our genes — unless you want to add another layer of explanation and claim our genes were established by some deity.

Furthermore, it seems equally clear that both most heterosexuals and most homosexuals have some desire to pair-bond. So, to argue that marriage is an exclusively heterosexual institution would seem to be factually incorrect.

Now, I would not argue that anyone has a right to pair bond simply and only because it’s in their genes to pair bond. It’s in most people’s genes to go to war, but that by itself doesn’t mean anyone has a right to go to war.

But I would argue that the notion pair-bonding is an exclusively heterosexual tradition is evidently false. And I would also argue that — since pair bonding is the biological basis of marriage — it would seem to be very difficult to argue on the basis of its origins that marriage ought to be limited to heterosexuals.

5 thoughts on “Genes, Pair-Bonding, Marriage, and Homosexuality”

  1. If you are saying that, for the most part, people get married because our natural instincts, or genes, tells us we need to be married and who we should marry, with the help of pair bonding, I would have to disagree. As true as that may seem for the people in North America, and reinforced through television shows about people dating for love and what not, it is not the case in other countries. Those in other cultures may have to get married for economic reasons, status in society or be arranged with no pair bonding present.
    Sure, the act of sex in Western culture influences the decision for many to become married, but pair bonding, in my opinion, is interpersonal communication through sex; Sex with someone of interest. So, of course it would be present in both types of sexual relationships. I would agree that marriage as an exclusive heterosexual act is a wrong assumption, simply because of the definition of marriage, but it is perceived that way because of the explanation in the Bible, which many people believe in. It’s their choice.


  2. Strictly genetic thus instinctual? What then would be the difference be between a human and a moose in the mating season? The moose can not resist his genetic program, we can and do. That gene thing is getting much to much emphasis in modern thinking…or are we also programmed to imagine that we reason?


  3. @ MizzKris: Welcome to the blog!

    That marriages are arranged in some cultures and societies does not change the underlying fact that they are arranged according to a basic pattern which seems to have a genetic basis — that is, pair bonding.


  4. @ Paul: I’m not arguing here for genetic determinism, but only for the notion that marriage has a divine origin is false. Obviously, marriage is not strictly instinctual — there is far too much variation in marriage customs between cultures and societies to argue that. But marriage does seem to have an instinctual basis.


  5. If you exclude determinism, I can agree with you. The primitive motor was reproduction to preserve and maintain the specie. Obviously it has changed in our time…but the population is aging and the successors are not there in sufficient numbers. Birth control beyond respecting our rearing capacity and same sex marriages and other same sex unions will not solve that either. But such is life today and it will take some type of global catastrophe to reverse the tendency to not reproduce.


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