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Ethan Hawke: humans are not monogamous

If he's a cheater, then everyone's a cheater, OK? Actor shares his views on infidelity and takes the whole species down with him.
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Warren L. Waterman, December 4, 2013 2:24:18 PM

When Ethan Hawke says that humans are not a monogamous species, is it science? Or is it just a very general way of admitting that Ethan Hawke is not a monogamous person so get off his back already?

OK, I’m simplifying just a tad. But it sounded a lot like the latter when the former Mr. Uma Thurman spoke to Mr. Porter about relationships and, er, the whole not-schtupping-anyone-on-the-side thing. After pointing out that Hawke was rumoured to have cheated on Thurman with their children’s nanny, who is now his wife, Gossip Cop did him the favour of breaking his quotes down into a widening stream of self-righteousness. Highlights:

— “Sexual fidelity can’t be the whole thing you hang your relationship on.”

OK, sure. There’s definitely more to love than just being faithful. But while simply not cheating is certainly not the be-all in a relationship, cheating usually is the end-all. It’s just kind of the way things work for most people.

— “If you really love somebody you want them to grow, but you don’t get to define how that happens. They do.”

Say, that’s nice. You swingers out there might want to get that stitched on a pillow for the old rumpus room. Seriously though, that’s a wise enough little maxim and, well, not bad advice. Also: this guy digs himself.

— “People have such a childish view of monogamy and fidelity. ‘He’s cheated so he’s bad, she’s cheated so she’s bad,’ as opposed to a recognition that our species is not monogamous.”

Hmm. It is possible to accept grown-up sexy feelings as being more complicated and nuanced than a good/bad binary and still feel gutted, jilted, burned and, yes, cheated when trust is destroyed by lust. It’s also possible to accept monogamy as an agreement and a choice – just as celibacy can be a choice – and to put in the effort to maintain it. But I guess a sophisticated anthropologist like Hawke rises above such naive whimsy as that.

— “My relationship with my present wife is thrilling to me and I’m committed to it … But neither she nor I know what shape the future will come in.”

I think I can picture shape of their future: pear-shaped, if things don’t remain thrilling.

— “To act all indignant, that your world has been rocked because your lover wasn’t faithful to you, is a little bit like acting rocked that your hair went grey.”

Right?! Like, you were in denial about both aging AND the inevitability that the person who vowed to share a life with you WILL one day, guaranteed, trade it all to follow through on some totally uncontrollable sexual urges toward someone who is not you? You monogamist sucker! Ethan Hawke knows.

He probably can’t hear much up there on his high horse, so it’s fitting that Hawke comes off so tone-deaf. If he’d been on less of an urgent tear (for whatever reason), he may have remembered that, while we humans may not be naturally hardwired to mate with just one person in a pattern of serial or long-term animal two-by-two-ness, we are hardwired to be quite violent — yet a good many of us try very hard, through choice as well as social conditioning, to suppress the urge to bash and poke each other with rocks and sharpened sticks like we might in the wild (in between polygamously shagging each other silly, of course).

Of course monogamy isn’t for every human. It isn’t for every human couple, and whatever people work out amongst themselves is their business. But this implication that we’ll all be as civilized as Ethan once we give over to our inevitably cheatin’ hearts is some self-serving bunk. Epic attempt at deflection though.

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Warren L. Waterman

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