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Scarlett Johansson says monogamy not ‘natural.’ Is she right?


AP Photo

AP Photo

Scarlett Johansson is making waves for her recent comments about marriage. 

“I don’t think it’s natural to be a monogamous person,” the 32-year-old superstar told Playboy magazine. “I might be skewered for that, but I think it’s work. It’s a lot of work.”

ScarJo knows a thing or two about marriage. She was married to Ryan Reynolds for three years (2008-2011) and later married Romain Dauriac, a Frenchman who works in creative media. Johansson and Dauriac are rumored to be currently separated.

Her experience is unique, but her feelings about marriage and monogamy are shared by plenty of her millennial peers. A YouGov study found only 51 percent of people under 30 desire a “completely monogamous” relationship. Only 7 percent of respondents under 30 reported wanting a “completely non-monogamous” relationship. The survey found that the older a respondent is, the more likely that person is to want a committed relationship with one partner.

Perspectives on monogamy vary widely and often correlate to a person’s political affiliation, according to that same YouGov study. 69 percent of Republicans describe their ideal relationship as “completely monogamous,” yet only 48 percent of Democrats say the same. Independents closely matched with the GOP on this issue; 68 percent of them want a fully monogamous relationship.

Additionally, women are more likely than men to desire monogamy (52 percent vs. 69 percent). But that does not seem to be Johansson’s case. 

“The fact that it is such work for so many people – for everyone – the fact of that proves that it is not a natural thing,” Johansson explained. “It’s something I have a lot of respect for and have participated in, but I think it definitely goes against some instinct to look beyond.”

Her argument rests on a false assumption, namely that anything that is difficult is inherently unnatural. Yet the things that humans have done throughout history prove this entirely false. Hunting or growing one’s own food is tough, yet people had to do that (at least for part of their diets) until the invention of refrigeration a relatively short time ago. It’s our natural state. Childbirth, one of the most physically and emotionally taxing experiences a human can undergo, is also entirely natural.

Monogamous relationships outside of marriage come with less pressure, according to ScarJo, who thinks “marriage initially involves a lot of people who have nothing to do with your relationship, because it’s a legally binding contract, and that has a weight to it.” But the whole point of monogamy is that it does not involve other people – yet marriage does involve the government (getting that license) and, for believers, a religious institution.

Johansson calls marriage “a beautiful responsibility.” This is a responsibility that a minority of us are taking on: Only 26 percent of us are married by age 32 (a lower percentage than any other living generation). So, if your Instagram and Facebook feeds are becoming a constant stream of engagement pictures, take heart: It’s not a representative sample of our generation.


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