Actor Scarlett Johansson caused ripples of controversy following her comments about the nature of marriage for Playboy Magazine.

I think the idea of marriage is very romantic; it’s a beautiful idea, and the practise of it can be a very beautiful thing. I don’t think it’s natural to be a monogamous person.

The topic of monogamy is heaving with contradictory ideas; the traditional form of marriage, between one man and one woman, has given way to unions between partners of the same sex.

LGBT campaigns across the world are compelling a growing number of countries to accept gay marriage as the norm.

And yet the idea of alternative relationship forms – such as having multiple partners – continues to suffer under intense scrutiny.

In the animal kingdom, having multiple sexual partners allows for the maximum proliferation of genes (for male animals), and increases the chance of conception in female animals, as well as produces offspring varied enough to resist certain illnesses.

Reaching into our past yields yet more knowledge: writing in Nature Communications, researchers argued that polygamy was a normal practise until humans changed from hunter-gatherer to a farming style of living. After that point, monogamy was socially enforced.

The reasons why vary- a Marxist view of history argues that monogamy became a way to keep property in the family by passing it down from man to man through inheritance.

Another possible reason monogamy developed is a way to combat sexually transmitted diseases which in large polygamous groups spread quickly.

But is monogamy natural, or is it a social construct?

Sociologist Catherine Hakim, author of Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital told indy100 that it's more about how attractive one is perceived to be.

The idea that every man gets one woman and every woman gets one man is popular because of [the idea of] patriarchy.

Professor Hakim identifies the existence of a particular kind of social hierarchy – the ones at the top attract a higher portion of partners.

People like Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Lawrence and George Clooney. People who are living on the top of the hierarchy can see life in a very different way.

Physical attractiveness is the currency.

According to Hakim, women are much more 'sophisticated' about their attractiveness, and can take steps to maximise it when need be. Men, on the other hand, tend to live in their heydays - assuming attractiveness in their youth will carry over as they age.

And although women seem to be much more aware of their assets in the world of capitalism, patriarchy remains.

Men still have control. Patriarchy still rules. They insist in being in control. It's an illusion to think because women are coming up, that we've broken control. 

People who are most attractive or wealthiest are most likely to have affairs. Now it’s more democratic – anyone who is super attractive or super wealthy can indulge themselves. 

The New Rules: Economies of Desire by Catherine Hakim is out now.

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