Compulsory Monogamy Going Mainstream?

Perhaps I should clarify: compulsory monogamy is already mainstream. It’s already the norm, and a largely unexamined one at that. What I mean to discuss here is how the idea of compulsory monogamy is now under discussion in the mainstream, thanks to its application to The Hunger Games movie franchise.

This essay, Compulsory Monogamy in The Hunger Games, by Mimi Schippers, PhD, has been picked up by The Huffington Post and Jezebel. Meaning, it’s now reaching a lot of readers. This is one of the first instances I’ve seen of a discussion of compulsory monogamy being so popular, and thus I’m hoping that more people are learning about the concept and, perhaps, being open to considering its relevance to their lives.

Schippers argues that Katniss performs gender differently in relation to Peeta (her movie girlfriend) and Gale (her movie boyfriend). In claiming that gender is not a “being” but a “doing,” Schippers recapitulates feminist scholar Judith Butler’s famous theory of gender performativity (for a brief summary of her work, see this great video). But Schippers takes it a step further, arguing that gender is not simply performative, but also interactive. And by limiting the number of romantic/sexual interactions one is supposed to have at a time, compulsory monogamy also puts limits on how people can “do” gender.

I find this argument fascinating, and it also parallels one of the main points I’ve been making in a class on non-monogamy I’ve been teaching this semester: that a culture’s constructions of gender and sexuality influence what it considers to be viable relationship types.

I’m hoping to see more research on this topic, but mostly, right now I’m happy to see the discussion of monogamy as a culturally-enforced practice gaining prominence.

About Jeana


Jeana Jorgensen, PhD recently completed her doctoral degree in folklore and gender studies at Indiana University. She studies fairy tales and other narratives, dance, body art, feminist theory, digital humanities, and gender identity.