In this episode, we explore the idea of communal living. The Kidbutz of Topanga Canyon is a budding experiment in house-sharing with kids. Two single mothers and a single father live together in a rustic two-million-dollar home in a cool Los Angeles enclave. With shared parenting duties and divided housekeeping and cooking responsibilities, this model seems a workable and very flexible alternative to marriage and monogamy. For these only children, the quasi-siblings around them provide constant playmates. And, parents know there’s always an adult present. But, there are pitfalls to communal living: jealousy, money issues and secrecy. Peter mentions The How of Happiness, by Sonja Lyubomirsky, in which families living communally in Denmark advocate the flexibility of such an approach. Whereas, before, single mothers had to cook every night, now they’re only on the hook for 3 or 4 big meals a month. The other nights they can go to yoga or out on a date. Paul brings out the heavy guns with Sex at Dawn and talks about the “origins of monogamy” and “policing the womb,” in a tone of self-satisfaction that rightly irks Pete. Following the thesis from Sex at Dawn that monogamy is a consequence of private property, Paul observes that many married couples become focused on private property – on buying a house, accumulating trappings of success, etc. The men discuss the generalization that single people are defined by what they do, whereas married couples are defined by what they have. What are the reasons for this? Against this backdrop, the kibbutz lifestyle is refreshing. Does a viable alternative to marriage threaten the institution? Pete has some thoughts on the principles of the Catholic Church and the men conclude – a bit tongue in cheek – that 10,000 years ago tribal man had his cake and ate it, too: harmonious parenting without monogamy. Will we ever return to that model?

Image: Nichols Canyon © David Hockney

  • chaysun

    Re property: do you think sexual jealousy only evolved in us since the advent of agriculture which would only be about 10,000 years? Did it exist before ownership and inheritance became important? You see sexual competition and jealousy with many animals (think deer with antlers fighting for the female) but what are the fighting for? Reproductive success. They own nothing and have nothing to pass on so why fight over it? The female they’re fighting over is close by waiting to reproduce with the winner which means she would choose either. Not sure if she has a choice in this matter though. What if she liked the loser more?

    Why doesn’t nature just let both sleep with her? Why the jealousy?

    When I feel jealousy it’s a deeply ingrained emotion I feel. I don’t think it’s a recent adaptation for humans or any animals. It’s there to make sure OUR genes get passed on and not the other guys. But why this even? What does it matter if our genes go on or not? Why is there such a strong drive to pass on OUR genes? Having this drive is counterproductive to the species. If all other men died right now and ONLY your genes could reproduce you would get what you wanted instinctively but the population of the species would drop drastically and possibly die out in a generation or 2.

    That’s a question that comes up for me here and there, why do we have a drive to pass on ONLY OUR genes? Why the jealousy? What is it there for? What does it benefit or did it benefit in the past that helped us evolve and get this far?

    • Paul Janka

      very interesting analysis. i don’t know the answer, though I imagine “strong genes” would improve the robustness and survivability of the species, no? those individuals who successfully mate would be passing on genes that would increase the fitness of the species… would be interesting to have an evolutionary biologist on the show to discuss and explain. you could call in when that episode is taping, if you’d like. thanks for contributing!

      • chaysun

        Wow! Excellent angle! So in other words, nature created jealousy to pass on better genes? Jealousy causes us to fight and the winners would be the fittest? Very interesting!

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