Polygamy and the Myth of Polyandry

I’ve recently been involved in a long polygamy discussion over at Wheat & Tares. I’ve done little to directly discuss my feelings on polygamy here, so I figure, now’s as good a time as any to start. Like most of my series, I’ll probably get halfway through it and then lose interest and abandon it, so I apologize in advance.

Some Definitions of Terms

Polygyny – The practice of one man having two or more wives simultaneously.

Polyandry – The practice of one woman having two or more husbands simultaneously.

Polygamy – The practice of one person having two or more spouses simultaneously. In theory, this can refer to either polygyny or polyandry. In practice, when people say “polygamy,” they’re typically only talking about polygyny.

Bigamy – The act or practice of marrying a second person while still married to the first. Generally this is a legal term intended to describe a crime in countries that promote and enforce monogamy. Polygamists who are prosecuted are often charged with bigamy, but to say all bigamists are polygamists is not exactly accurate. Some bigamists have simply failed to legally end one marriage before initiating another and have never lived a polygamous lifestyle wherein they are simultaneously in a relationship with two or more people at once.

Monogamy – The practice of one person having only one spouse.

Polyamory – The practice of one person loving two or more people romantically, but not necessarily in a committed relationship such as marriage. In theory, all polygamous marriages are polyamorous, but not all polyamorous relationships are polygamous.

Hypergamy – The act or practice of seeking a spouse with the highest social status or most desirable traits possible.

Group Marriage – A form of polyamory involving at least three people wherein all members of the marriage are considered to be married to all other members of the marriage.

Polygynandry – A form of polyamory involving at least two men who are exclusive with at least two women. The lines between polygamy, polygynandry and group marriage are sometimes blurry and not entirely agreed on.

I am going to start with the issue of whether polygamy should be legal, then move to the question of what the Bible says about polygyny, then address the theological question of polygyny. The shift from polygamy to polygyny is deliberate, because I’m going to address polyandry here and now.

As noted above, polyandry is the practice of one woman having two or more husbands, and polyandry comes up often in these discussions. This is primarily because: (1) Joseph Smith and some other early Mormons practiced it in at least some form; (2) A lot of the people engaging in these discussions of polygamy on Mormon-themed blogs are egalitarian-minded folks, and a system where men are free to pursue multiple wives while women are restricted from pursuing multiple husbands strikes us as obviously unfair and wrong, and (3) If polygamy were ever legalized in our Western egalitarian society, it would not just be polygyny. Legislators would have to legalize polyandry as well.

There are two broad considerations here:

In spite of strong egalitarian trends in Western societies, polyandry is extremely rare among polygamous groups

It’s estimated that about 85% of the societies that have ever existed have technically been open to polygyny. In contrast, less than 1% have been open to polyandry. [1] The numbers for the United States are similarly low. To my knowledge, none of the fundamentalist Mormon polygamous groups in the U. S. allow for polyandry, not even the comparatively progressive and transparent groups like the Apostolic United Brethren and Centennial Park, and the extent to which Joseph Smith practiced it in early Mormonism is debatable.

There is a non-Mormon Arizona group, Liberated Christians, that promotes all forms of polyamory and non-monogamy including polyandry, in part out of its beliefs in the equality of men and women. But it should be obvious that such groups are rare.

Why is polyandry so rare among polygamous groups and so often under condemnation? Certainly our annoying friend patriarchy with its perpetual restrictions on women plays a role. I cannot say for certain whether polygyny is the baby of patriarchy or polygamy inherently lends itself to polygynous patriarchy, but I’m not sure it matters much. The two almost always go hand in hand, which is enough for me to be highly wary of it.

But there’s another consideration as well.

The sociobiological implications of human physiology and the evolutionary impulses of the sexes

Did you know that men and women are different?

I remember one of my LDS friends bragging about how many descendants his polygamist pioneer great-great-grandfather had. And my immediate question was, “Yes, but how many descendants does your great-great-grandmother have?” He stopped, thought about it for a moment, then admitted that she probably did not have that many more than a monogamist woman. Even if she’d had multiple husbands, she could not have possibly had more descendants than she already did.

This illustrates a huge difference between men and women. On a strict evolutionary level, there are no incentives for women to live polyandrously. We don’t get any more descendants out of it than if we live monogamously, so we have less impulse to try for as many partners as possible. On top of that, we know that we’re saddled with the responsibility of gestating, giving birth to, and nursing our offspring, so what we want is someone who isn’t going to abandon us to do all that and then raise a baby on our own—that is, we crave commitment and we’re more inclined to hypergamy than men are. [2] So strong is our inclination to hypergamy that we’re much more willing to share a spouse if it means landing a desirable one. [3]

What men want is significantly different. In theory, men have little to lose by procreating with as many women as possible. Men also have higher sex drives (on average) and are more inclined towards promiscuity, so men have an evolutionary impulse to seek out as many partners as possible. [4] In contrast to women, men are less inclined to share their partners with other men because it leads to paternity uncertainty. [5]

At first glance, it would seem that polygyny is the ideal system to accommodate this, because polygyny can give both groups what they want. It can give women commitment and support, and it can give men greater access to sex and the opportunity to procreate more. Furthermore, when the most desirable males marry in a polygynous society, they aren’t taken off the market, which can be advantageous to underprivileged females as they always have the chance to marry up to the top of the pack. On the downside, this means the women are less attracted to and sometimes outright ignoring the least desirable men—a consequence that I’ll explore in a future post.

Culturally, polygynous societies have generally viewed having more wives as a sign of wealth and power, which gave men more incentive to want to have them. For women, landing the alpha male was power and security, so women had every impulse to try and marry up as far as they could, even if it meant sharing a husband.

What I Did Not Just Say

Did reading all of that make you want to throw up? Learning it certainly made me want to throw up. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much it made sense.

I need to be clear about a few things:

  • I did not just say that all men are disinterested in commitment. I said that women have a strong urge for it driven by our physiology, and this isn’t replicated in men.
  • I did not say that all men are horny toads. They’re just more interested in sex than women are, and there are many studies bearing this out. [6]
  • I did not say that all women are adverse to promiscuity. They’re just less inclined towards it because they have more to risk by engaging in it.
  • I did not say that there are no exceptions to these trends. I am one of them. I have a higher sex drive than my husband and absolutely no interest in sharing him with another woman. If my choices were to marry polygynously or die alone, I’d pick Door #2. It isn’t the polyamory that repulses me, it’s the inequality. On the other hand, I could probably suffer a marriage where I’m just as free to pursue other partners as my husband is, even if I never actually did. I’m sure that many other men and women could say, “These trends don’t describe me personally,” and that is okay.

I think that this information explains many of the trends we observe in our society. It explains why men are more inclined towards multiple sexual partners and extra-marital affairs. [7] It explains why younger women are more likely to marry older men (older men are more established) and why older men are more okay with marrying younger women (younger women have a longer period of fertility ahead of them).

It explains why we’re more inclined to scorn women who sleep around and envy men who do the same. Women are able to procure sex much more easily than men are because men are more interested in sex, so women aren’t really accomplishing much by sleeping with them. But a man who lures multiple women to his bed must have something about him that’s allowing him to beat out his competition for the women in question. [8] I certainly don’t endorse that double standard, but I understand where it comes from.

Trust me, I would like to believe that men and women have no differences here, that we’re all equally inclined to need commitment and equally inclined to crave multiple partners and equally inclined to be hypergamous. But it just isn’t the truth.

What It Means For Polyandry

Joseph Henrich, Chair of Culture, Cognition, and Evolution at the University of British Columbia,  explains the implications of this for polyandry:

Females are limited in their direct reproduction to the number of offspring they can rear to maturity in their lifetimes, and are necessarily committed to high levels of investment, at least in the form of providing the egg, gestation, and lactation. In contrast, with little investment (sperm and a small effort), males can potentially have thousands of offspring that they can decide to invest in, or not, based on the costs of obtaining additional mates vs. the impact of additional investment for their offspring. Because human offspring benefit from the investment of both parents (at least in ancestral human societies) females seek to form pair-bonds with those males who are best able to invest in their offspring (males possessing high social status, wealth, and valued skills). A female does not generally benefit from establishing simultaneous pair-bonds with multiple males because (1) she can only have one pregnancy at a time (so lots of sex with different males does not increase her reproductive success), (2) this brings males into conflict (sexual jealousy) and (3) this creates confusion regarding male paternity (and greater paternity confidence increases paternal investment). In contrast, males benefit both from pursuing additional pair-bonds with different females at the same time, and from additional extra pair copulations (short-term sexual relationships). [9]

Caught in the pincer bind of patriarchal censure and sociobiological abnormality, polyandry will always be negligibly rare. Certainly if polygamy were legalized, some women would practice polyandry. But when we talk about legalizing polygamy, for all practical intents and purposes, what we’re really talking about is introducing polygyny into our society. Polyandry is an intellectual tease, an ideal we can never attain on any meaningful level, a distraction meant to divert our attention from the practical ramifications of dealing with the real issue, and a placebo to soothe the feminist outcry over polygyny.

I’ll discuss the consequences of polygyny in the next post.

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OTHER POSTS

Polygamy and the Myth of Polyandry
Menace to Society

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NOTES

[1] Joseph Henrich, “Polygyny in Cross-Cultural Perspective: Theory and Implications,” 15 July 2010, 23.

[2] Henrich, 28.

[3] Ibid.,32.

[4] Richard Sine, “Sex Drive: How Do Men and Women Compare?

[5] Ibid., 32.

[6] Sine, “Compare?

[7] Derek @ fMh, “Bad Y Chromosome!

[8] Henrich, 28.

[9] Ibid., 22.


Comments

Polygamy and the Myth of Polyandry — 57 Comments

  1. Good post.

    I cannot say for certain whether polygyny is the baby of patriarchy or polygamy inherently lends itself to polygynous patriarchy, but I’m not sure it matters much. The two almost always go hand in hand, which is enough for me to be highly wary of it.

    It seems to me that the difference in the two scenarios is of CRUCIAL importance. We know patriarchy is deep-seated and wide-reaching, so it can “almost always go hand in hand” with a lot of things — even, or rather especially, when we haven’t consciously considered deconstructing the relationship. But we don’t argue that various facets of reality “inherently lead themselves to patriarchy” just because of widespread patriarchy now.

    The second thing I’d wonder is: is marriage about having babies? Is marriage about “propagating genes”? Is marriage about “reproductive success”? If none of these, then I don’t know why we are looking at it in an evolutionary psychological way. (I guess you could argue that it just “is” about these things, or that it “should be,” but I don’t think that even you like the implications of that. I mean, I don’t know, but isn’t it bad to teach girls, for example, that they are basically mothers-in-training? Should we teach girls to look at young men as prospective fathers-of-their-children?)

    Even if an evolutionary psychological model provides an easy-to-digest story in these cases, it seems to me that much of modern society is about ripping to shreds the evolutionary milieu of which this psychology developed. If we have a more egalitarian society where marriage isn’t about children and reproductive success and what-not, it doesn’t make as much sense to look at landing an alpha male as being necessary for power and security, and so it doesn’t make sense to look at polygamy as necessarily trending to an alpha male with the harem following.

    This, btw, is PRECISELY an instance of where it would be very important to know whether polygyny is the baby of patriarchy (e.g., a system where alpha males hold such disproportionate power will encourage polygyny) or if instead polygamy inherently leads itself to polygynous patriarchy (this has implications elsewhere: the alpha male power/security status isn’t social or cultural, but evolutionary and inherent to human nature. If this is the case — and you privilege evolutionary psychology — much of the case for egalitarianism and equality for the sexes simply falls apart.)

  2. I saw your last comment on that post, Jack, and I replied. I agree with you that it is just plain silly (and sexist) to not allow women to have more than one husband if a man is allowed to have more than one wife.

  3. I think you need a few brief definitions at the beginning of the post so people who don’t know all the “polys” can follow along without going to dictionary.com

    looking forward to more

  4. Tim, the key terms derive from Greek.

    Poly means “many” (think of its use in math, such polynomials). The gyn element means woman (think of a gynecologist, a doctor of woman’s issues). So polygyny refers to a form of marriage with one husband and multiple wives.

    In polyandry, the andr element refers to a man (male). (So androgony is confusion between male and female characteristics). So this is the opposite situation, one wife with multiple husbands.

    In polygamy, the gam element comes from Greek gamos and means marriage. It is a generic term that covers both of the more specific terms, although for practical purposes we tend to use it as a synonym for polygyny.

  5. Jack, interesting post.

    I’m no fan of polygamy, due to many of the issues you mentioned on the thread at Wheat and Tares. However, so that I can understand your position…are you trying to build a case for polygamy remaining outlawed?

  6. #1 Andrew ~ It seems to me that the difference in the two scenarios is of CRUCIAL importance.

    Sit tight. I don’t think there will ever be a slam-dunk case that it’s the latter, but I think there is some extremely strong evidence for it. I’ll go over that in the post after the next one.

    I’m using evolutionary biology as a possible predictor of human behavior and an explanation for observed trends. Essentially, the point of this post is, “the failure of polyandry is nature, not nurture.” I completely agree with you that humans do sometimes buck evolutionary biology, and the fact that we’ve developed highly monogamist societies is proof of that. But there’s usually a beneficial reason for why we abandon evolutionary trends, and I think that the hypergamous tendencies of women and polyamorous tendencies of men are still very observable in our society.

    Is marriage about having children? Yes and no. Certainly I don’t believe that married people have a duty to reproduce. It’s not part of my theology nor would I argue that it’s a civic responsibility. I do think that the state’s interest in marriage largely concerns children and reproduction. I bring up the evolutionary psychology model because I think that people are subconsciously driven by these tendencies, even if they personally decide that they have no interest in children.

    #3 Tim ~ You know, I was going to do that initially, and was just so tired of coding the footnotes on this post Sunday night / Monday morning that I said “screw it” and put it up without definitions. Anyways, I’ve edited the post to include definitions of terms relevant to the discussion. Maybe later I’ll edit them further to include Greek roots, like Kevin says.

    #5 Katie ~ I’m going to argue for why I don’t have an interest in issuing marriage licenses to adult groups of more than two. To be clear, I’m not interested in prosecuting people who are living a polyamorous lifestyle. If a man has one partner who is his legal wife and two other partners whom he calls his wives but who are, as far as the law is concerned, live-in girlfriends, I don’t have any legal objections to that. I say leave them be.

  7. I said in my #6, “I completely agree with you that humans do sometimes buck evolutionary biology, and the fact that we’ve developed highly monogamist societies is proof of that.”

    On further reflection, what I should have said was, “the fact that we’ve so often developed societies where monogamy is the ideal is proof of that.”

    Between serial monogamy, extra-marital affairs, and the declining rate of marriage, we aren’t living this ideal as well as we once would have liked to.

  8. *sits tight*

    But yeah, I don’t disagree with your point about humans bucking evolutionary biology. That’s entirely the point of my critique of evo psych. The biggest case against the materialistic/evolutionary case is the mind — trying to reduce human psychology creates zombies at best.

    In a way, you already anticipate my point. We’ve developed highly monogamist societies. We aren’t limited to what evolution ‘says’ we should be like, and our values don’t need to be what evolution ‘wants’ us to value. If that is the case with monogamy (even despite the fact that we aren’t “living this ideal as well as we once would have liked to,”), then the same could CERTAINLY be the case with polygamy. But since we live in a highly developed monogamist society and not a highly developed polygamist society, I guess we can pick and choose which ideals we want to try to buck evolutionary trends with

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  10. Very interesting. I accidentally came across your site while in a debate with a undisguised anti-Mormon blog that restricts responses to their postings. The interesting thing there is I wasn’t even defending the LDS church, but rather the site’s posted reasons for being against Polygyny (of course, they wrote it polygamy). Anyway, I’ve also sent you a request on Facebook and will be going through the rest of your postings. Btw, you’re not alone in being a “mixed” marriage.

    Paul Marcel-Rene’, Akron North Ward, Akron, Ohio

  11. Polandry in Canada is documented in 2009 and 1999. In Saskatchewan Canada, two married women went to family law court and were sanctioned to “retroactively” be declared the same time legal common law spouses of non consenting men. These are the only cases in Canada because the other 9 provinces do not authorize multiple spouses at the same time. Once all of Canada allows polygandry, it will really take off.

  12. It should be noted, though, that monogamy IS an evolutionary adaptation. Human children require a LOT more care than other mammal children do, so having two parents that are dedicated to them is a great advantage. Having a village to help the mother may be great, but having a husband that loves the children and cares for them is much much better. Those families where the husband stuck around historically had higher survival rates for children than the family where the husband left, so good dads became more common in society. Yes, cheating has its benefits biologically, but it is a gamble because even if he had more children, they might not survive if he doesn’t care for them.

    Also, it is true that polyandry might be rarer than polygyny, it is also true that in todays society, those relationships which involve bondage fetish where the man is submissive, polyandry relationships do occur (yes, consensual cockholding is a fantasy for a small segment of the male population). You don’t hear about them much because they are taboo, but they do exist and would perhaps be more out in the open about it if polygamy was legalized.

  13. It should be noted, though, that monogamy IS an evolutionary adaptation. Human children require a LOT more care than other mammal children do, so having two parents that are dedicated to them is a great advantage. Having a village to help the mother may be great, but having a husband that loves the children and cares for them is much much better. Those families where the husband stuck around historically had higher survival rates for children than the family where the husband left, so good dads became more common in society. Yes, cheating has its benefits biologically, but it is a gamble because even if he had more children, they might not survive if he doesn’t care for them.

    I don’t buy this: it assumes that the nuclear family is a discrete, autonomous, independent societal unit, and I’m pretty sure that’s not the case in the overwhelming mass of human cultures throughout history.

    It’s hard to say that something is an evolutionary adaptation when it’s only happening in certain cultures over a comparatively short period of time.

  14. It is true that there were polygamous relationships among the rich in many ancient societies. But wouldn’t the nuclear family hold for the vast majority of the population? Do you have a link to an academic source that says that nuclear families are not the norm?

  15. I’ve realized that my example from two posts ago of one wife multiple husbands wasn’t really the best example, because while it is an example of polyamory, there probably would be very few actually marriages with one wife and two husbands in this community, but rather a husband, his wife, and her second sexual partner, which isn’t exactly what Jack’s article was about obviously.

    However, I have found articles showing that there is a community of people who are polyamorous, but not fetishist in any other way. These relationships are secular and many are polyandry (or would be if the law allowed that type of marriage). Newsweek did an article on them about a year and a half ago.

    http://www.newsweek.com/2009/07/28/only-you-and-you-and-you.html

  16. RollingForest, did you mean “cuckold”? I’m pretty sure the term you used is quite popular in marital relations in all societies.

  17. Yes, sorry, I didn’t spell check. And women (and men) cheating on their spouses certainly happens in all societies. But I was specifically referring to the case where men with submissive fantasies give their wives permission to have sex with other men (which, to my knowledge, is not so common). The man is giving his okay, but he likes to pretend that his wife is forcing him to allow it. But like I said before, I realized that this is only the smallest sliver of the population who does this and finding actual multiple marriages would be rare even here. I think my second example would be a more common place to find polyandry.

  18. Nuclear family = husband, wife, and children as an independednt, autonomous unit. Most family groups throughout history have been larger extended-family, multigenerational affairs.

    I’m not saying that polygamy is the norm by any means. I’m not saying anything about monogamy or polygamy at all.

  19. I’m not a ethnographer but from what I understand polyandry serves different functions than polygamy. Its generally a situation where a group of brothers unable to afford separate wives and households pool their resources to maintain one household and one wife. So its something that happens among the poor. Conversely polygamy is for the rich, men capable of affording multiple wives. Polygamy raises the status of low status women and high status men. Its a good solution to societies where female infanticide might otherwise be common.

    But I would say is there is a western equivalent that we had a society during the Victorian era, very high rates of female prostitution. A society where a large chunk of the men are having regular contact with a woman who is maintaining a stable of male lovers each of whom is gifting her in exchange for sex and companionship. And it fulfilled the same function as classic polyandry. Poor men, who couldn’t afford to maintain a household were able to defacto pool their resources and keep about 4% of the female population continually sexually available primarily for the poor.

    I will comment though there are a few areas where you see polyandry in the USA is among the femdom community, BDSM. Its not uncommon at all for a female dominants to have multiple male submissives, a stable of men, 2-7 males per female is common for women who want a polyandrous relationship. Alternately there is a male “husband” who is the only one who gets to have intercourse with the female dominant and a large number of male “play partners” who may have lesser sexual releases.

    Another area (somewhat related) is the cuckolding community. Basically males are programmed to be in “sperm competition” with other men mating with women they mate with regularly. I’m not sure if you want to get R rated here, as to how this fetish works but that’s another 100k people or so in the USA.

    So it is happening.

  20. CD-Host: I’ve never heard of the first example you gave with brothers sharing a single wife. Do you have any web links that show whether this ever happened anywhere on a large scale basis?

    I think the last two examples you gave often are practiced by the same group of people. And while the multiple men to one woman is part of that fetish, one of the main reasons it common in that community is simply because there are many more submissive men than dominant women in the community whereas the opposite is true for M/f population in the community (though the differences in gender populations in that case aren’t nearly so extreme). But however you slice it, the BDSM community is small, at least those who practice it to the degree that you are suggesting. It obviously isn’t biologically adaptive from the male perspective to let your wife have sex with other men and possibly be impregnated by them, so it, like homosexuality, is probably recreated in each generation rather than passed down through the generations (or maybe it is connected to some positive trait similar to the way being receptive to sickle cell anemia is connected to the gene that makes you immune to malaria).

    However, I think you have a good point about the prostitutes. It is, as they say, the world’s oldest profession and, like alcohol, can’t be stamped out by prohibition. Men are willing to have sex with women who are having sex with other men. However, these men do not form loving relationships with the women in question. It makes sense biologically: If you are forming a loving relationship with a woman, you’d like to have kids with her. If you can’t be sure the kids are yours (because she is having sex with other men) then from a biological perspective it is not in your best interest to fall in love with her. A man might have sex with a woman in the off chance that the children born are his, but he isn’t going to fall in love with the woman unless he can be reasonably sure that the kids are his. Regardless of how anyone feels about this, this is how biology works and it has a very strong effect on human behavior. However, this won’t be true polyandry the way Ms. Jack was suggesting because it would be purely sexual rather than a long term commitment.

  21. That last paragraph was simply breathtaking in its erroneous assumptions and misapplication of evolutionary science. But thank you for the late night laugh.

  22. @Whitney: Do you want to elaborate on that accusation? I’m confused as to what exactly it is that you protest to. How many men do you know who are willing to stay married and in love with a woman who constantly has sex with people besides her husband? There may be a few swingers in the population, but none who are planning to have children at the time, thus supporting what I said.

  23. I mean, I mostly just object to the conflation of “falling in love” with the biological need to spread one’s seed. It’s just so overly simplistic.

    For example, I object to the following:

    However, these men do not form loving relationships with the women in question.

    Actually, men *think* they fall in love with prostitutes plenty. Call girls who service finance gurus in NYC report that it’s rarely just about sex. It’s about companionship that they’re not getting elsewhere. These men know what they’re buying. But they get confused. Do they plan on taking these women home to meet the family and start a family of their own? Doubtful. But some of them do fall in love, and it’s not about fetishes. It’s about loneliness.

    If you are forming a loving relationship with a woman, you’d like to have kids with her.

    For some men. But that’s certainly not universally true. And what happens when a woman can’t have kids? Is the inverse true? A man will just fall out of love because his motivation for loving her is moot? I know some men bolt, but again…not universally true.

    A man might have sex with a woman in the off chance that the children born are his, but he isn’t going to fall in love with the woman unless he can be reasonably sure that the kids are his.

    First of all, people have sex and fall in love for all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with a biological urge to procreate. Second, one of the great lessons that trash tv has taught me is that some men will stick by a woman even if the kid isn’t theirs. LOTS of men bolt when they’re SURE the kid is theirs. And while I’ll grant you that men who ditch a woman for sleeping around on them may be partially motivated by the biological need to win the sperm race, I think the feelings of jealousy and betrayal go much deeper. Because men get pissed about cheating partners even when kids aren’t even wanted or part of the picture.

    And really I just laughed because I love me some Tudors smut, and I love me some Game of Thrones smut, and this whole business of keeping the familial lines pure is such a fantastic source of entertainment. Seriously, even dynasties obsessed with blood lines knew that falling in love and staking a genealogy claim were completely different goals, and they were just lucky when things worked out in favor of both.

  24. Rollingforest –

    In terms of brother marriage a good modern example is
    http://www.case.edu/affil/tibet/tibetanSociety/marriage.htm

    I’d agree that to some extent the male / female imbalance in the femdom/malesub helps to cause polyandry. On the other hand the existence of widespread polyandry helps to recruit women into the femdom community who wouldn’t be interested in an exclusive BDSM relationship. So for example its not uncommon for female submissives to actually get 1 or 2 male slaves in addition to a boyfriend.

    Jack, before we go down this road too far, are you OK with on your blog? On the one hand its an American/Western subgroup that is currently engaged in polyandry so its useful on the other hand you may get push back regarding hosting this conversation. Do you want to establish any sorts of guidance or..?

    As for relationships with prostitutes I think you are fundamentally misunderstanding the depth of feeling that can occur in that kind of relationship. No there is nothing particularly emotional about a 1 off encounter. But if you have a woman who lets say has a dozen men who are seeing her on average 5 hrs / week. That’s going to look like a few meeting a day, lunches, weekends or vacations together…

    Further her time with them is highly focused time. She is focused on making sure the man is enjoying himself and building those sorts of emotional bonds. She may be at work, but he’s experiencing many of the same types of activities he would be getting from a romance and is spending just as much time with her.
    Remember her work time is pairing off against their free time so she can easily fill up a huge percentage of their “free time”.

    These can be very loving relationships. And at the same time the sorts of women drawn to building those sorts of deep connections with multiple men which turn them into long term regulars are women who themselves are quite giving and loving. So yes there can be the kinds of affection that exist in a marriage. There are plenty of biographies of courtesans and their clients from the last 500 years which document this quite well. And a not uncommon way for those careers to end was in a marriage. And that’s still the case today.

  25. @Whitney: I agree that falling in love and seeking to reproduce are not always the same thing, but they often follow the same path and I don’t think that is accidental. Having children is not the purpose of life, but the simple fact is that those who are naturally inclined to have kids are the most common in the population simply because those that don’t will die out after a few generations. It is a form of natural selection.

    I have also heard about people paying prostitutes to talk to them, but it boggles my mind. I can understand why a man might pay for sex. But pay for someone to pretend to be your friend? How could anyone want that? The thought of having a heartfelt conversation with someone who only cares about me so long as my wallet holds out sickens me. I could never pretend that they were my friend because I would always know in the back of my mind that they were only doing it for the money. Now it might be that the prostitute was a perfectly kind girl at heart, but if I had to pay her to have her talk to me I could never get any satisfaction out of that. The only thing I can think of is that maybe these men truly believe that the prostitute really is their friend and that she only takes the money to support herself and that she would continue to be his friend even if she got her money from another man. It would be interesting to talk to these men and find out why it is different for them than it is for me.

    Finding out that your wife is infertile does put a strain on the relationship for most men I think. It is true that many choose to stay with their wives, but most have to overcome the natural longing for biological children. I think it is a very honorable thing to stay with your wife after finding out she is infertile, but most men do have biological urges which pull them in the other direction which they must fight to overcome with their strong love for their wife. So, yes, sometimes love prevails. But love is much less likely to prevail if the infertility is known before the relationship starts. Otherwise beautiful women who are wheel chair bound find it difficult to get dates. The reason, even if people aren’t consciously aware of it, is because people know that a girl in a wheelchair is often too fragile to get pregnant.

    It is true that people have sex and fall in love for many reasons. But before the invention of contraception, having sex and falling in love mostly let to children eventually. Remember you don’t need to want kids to get pregnant. Many people today say that they don’t want kids, but most end up having kids anyway and this number was even higher before the invention of contraception.

    It is true that people feel hurt when their spouse cheats on them even when they aren’t considering having kids. But I don’t think this proves that the jealousy is independent of reproduction. Why else would we care so much? So your spouse went off and rubbed their genitals against someone else’s genitals? Why does that matter except in regards to reproduction? You’d think if it were just about relationships we’d say “oh well, they were just having a good time. No harm done. As long as they still treat me well, why should I care about who they rub their genitals with?”

    But we do care. Boy, do we care! The reason is that we have strong biological urges to have children and a straying spouse threatens that. Remember that in biology, traits are passed on if they help the organism OR if they don’t hurt it. True, it doesn’t matter from a reproductive stance whether your spouse cheats on you after they are too old to be fertile. But being strict about their fidelity to you doesn’t hurt your reproductive chances since you don’t have any at that age. In other words, there was no reproductive disadvantage but also no reproductive advantage to the behavior of allowing your spouse to cheat on you when they are too old to reproduce, so this behavior just never developed. There was just no reproductive reason pushing for it to come into practice, so it didn’t.

    @CD-Host: Thanks for the link. I’ll have to look into that more.

    Ms. Jack never responded, so I’m going to assume free speech is allowed. It may be true that some women are attracted to femdom because of polyandry. But I think money is a much stronger motivator. That’s why you have lifestyle dommes who do it to find a boyfriend who shares their intrests and you have pro dommes, many of whom, I think, would not take up the fetish otherwise if it weren’t for the fact that they got paid to do it. You don’t have professional male doms or professional female subs because women fear rape more than men do and so such relationships only happen between partners who trust each other. And you don’t have professional male subs because there are so many male subs that are willing to do it for free or to pay to have it done to them. Maybe someone can figure out some way to test this, but I think that more women are attracted to the money involved in femdom than to the number of men they could be having a relationship with.

    From a biological perspective, women, unlike men, seek only quality, not quantity. A woman can only get pregnant once at a time. So seeking out other men who might not be as handsome or smart as her husband, does not help her in a reproductive sense since she is after the best possible partner to create genetically fit children with. Maybe some women have the fetish of having relationships with many men, but I think most women would only want to have sex with another man besides her husband if that man was more handsome than her husband. Women aren’t going to have sex with a man of lower genetic quality if she’s already got a good husband. Men, on the other hand, benefit from having sex with multiple women since they can have multiple children at once in different wombs. That is why men are more likely to want to have sex with multiple women.

    As for the prostitute example, it is true that if a man has sex with a woman multiple times, he starts to develop some feelings for her. But I think that men that fall in love with prostitutes would strongly want the prostitute to find another profession after they married. They might be fine with her having sex with other men while he is courting her. But very few men would be happy if their wife continued to have sex with other men after the marriage.

  26. Having children is not the purpose of life, but the simple fact is that those who are naturally inclined to have kids are the most common in the population simply because those that don’t will die out after a few generations. It is a form of natural selection.

    That’s just stupid. The desire not to procreate is not a hereditary trait.

    I have also heard about people paying prostitutes to talk to them, but it boggles my mind. I can understand why a man might pay for sex. But pay for someone to pretend to be your friend? How could anyone want that? The thought of having a heartfelt conversation with someone who only cares about me so long as my wallet holds out sickens me. I could never pretend that they were my friend because I would always know in the back of my mind that they were only doing it for the money. Now it might be that the prostitute was a perfectly kind girl at heart, but if I had to pay her to have her talk to me I could never get any satisfaction out of that. The only thing I can think of is that maybe these men truly believe that the prostitute really is their friend and that she only takes the money to support herself and that she would continue to be his friend even if she got her money from another man. It would be interesting to talk to these men and find out why it is different for them than it is for me.

    So, in other words, you’re taking what you hypothetically think you would do/think and are generalizing it to the behavior of all males as an evolutionary trait. That’s also stupid.

    Finding out that your wife is infertile does put a strain on the relationship for most men I think. It is true that many choose to stay with their wives, but most have to overcome the natural longing for biological children. I think it is a very honorable thing to stay with your wife after finding out she is infertile, but most men do have biological urges which pull them in the other direction which they must fight to overcome with their strong love for their wife. So, yes, sometimes love prevails. But love is much less likely to prevail if the infertility is known before the relationship starts. Otherwise beautiful women who are wheel chair bound find it difficult to get dates. The reason, even if people aren’t consciously aware of it, is because people know that a girl in a wheelchair is often too fragile to get pregnant.

    Holy crap that’s just a morass of stupid. Where are you even getting all of this from?

    Why else would we care so much? So your spouse went off and rubbed their genitals against someone else’s genitals? Why does that matter except in regards to reproduction? You’d think if it were just about relationships we’d say “oh well, they were just having a good time. No harm done. As long as they still treat me well, why should I care about who they rub their genitals with?”

    Personal betrayal. Because sex isn’t just about having children.

  27. Kullervo:

    You said, “That’s just stupid. The desire not to procreate is not a hereditary trait.”

    The desire to procreate IS a hereditary trait. You don’t learn to be sexually attracted to others. It comes naturally. It is an instinct. And like all instincts, the strength of the desires you feel is based in part on your genetics. It doesn’t just magically happen. Maybe there are cultural influences that affect how many children you have, but if any environmental influence is stable, eventually people will adapt toward acting in the way that produces the most surviving decendents. If they don’t, others will and they will be outcompeted.

    You said ” So, in other words, you’re taking what you hypothetically think you would do/think and are generalizing it to the behavior of all males as an evolutionary trait. That’s also stupid.”

    I’m not talking about evolution in that paragraph. I’m talking about how I would feel and I am trying to understand the thought process behind people who feel differently. If I misrepresented anyone, I’d love for them to provide a more accurate discription.

    You said, “Holy crap that’s just a morass of stupid. Where are you even getting all of this from?”

    You understand that repeating the word ‘stupid’ over and over is not the same thing as a rational argument, right? Do you have any reason for disagreeing with what I said or do you just not like that I said it?

    You said, “Personal betrayal. Because sex isn’t just about having children.”

    If your wife got mad at you and started telling your personal business around town, that would be personal betrayal. But I think that you would be more likely to forgive her for that than if she grinded her genitals with another man. Why do you consider who she has sex with to be so very important, yet are much more likely to forgive her if she, say, spent $6000 of the family money without asking you, something that arguably hurts you more in the physical sense than who she has sex with? The reason is because who she has sex with matters in regard to reproduction and reproduction is why your family can exist at all.

  28. Oh my GOSH. Seriously Rollingforest, you are conflating your own feelings on sexuality with all of human sexuality.

    First of all, there is a MAJOR problem in the developed world with declining birth rates. This is a well known fact. So no. Stable environments do not mean people “adapt toward” producing the most living descendants possible. In fact, education + wealth = fewer babies. So, you’re wrong. The entire country of Japan says you’re wrong.

    You’re also wrong that sexual affairs are ultimately about controlling the family line. Men have vasectomies. Women have hysterectomies and menopause and tied tubes and permanent birth control mechanisms implanted. And within that population, people still have affairs. And their partners are devastated, and it breaks up marriages. And guess what. That devastation cannot possibly have anything to who is at risk for illegitimate children. It has everything to do with betrayal.

  29. Rollingforest, I’m going to spell this out for you plainly, because otherwise you’re not going to stop:

    1. Sex is intimate.

    2. Intimacy makes people vulnerable.

    3. Vulnerability gives rise to expectations of loyalty.

    4. Violating those expectations gives rise to feelings of betrayal.

    Sex isn’t just rubbing a body part against another body part. Even if sex did not make babies, it would still not just be “shaking hands with your genitalia.” Sex is physical intimacy and it often has components of powerul emotional and psychologial intimacy, too. So when you have a relationship with expectations of fidelity with regards to intimacy and that expectation is violated, that’s a big deal.

    Claiming that blowing $6,000 “arguably hurts you more in the physical sense than who she has sex with” ignores the powerful potential for being hurt in an emotional or psychological sense.

  30. You understand that repeating the word ‘stupid’ over and over is not the same thing as a rational argument, right? Do you have any reason for disagreeing with what I said or do you just not like that I said it?

    Yes, I realize I am not providing you with a rational argument. That is intentional. I am not somehow obligated to respond with a rational argument. By flippantly dismissing what you say, I am belittling you. The message I am trying to send is that, for the most part, your arguments are beneath serious consideration, and are not really good enough to warrant a serious response.

    You want to claim victory because I wasn’t interested in meaningfully engaging your stupid argument, be my guest.

  31. Rolling –

    Ms. Jack never responded, so I’m going to assume free speech is allowed.

    Fair enough. Let me respond to your earlier comment about cuckolding fetishists. That’s not strictly part of the femdom community in fact you see this commonly in maledom and in communities that aren’t into BDSM at all. The core attraction of swinging is “wife swapping”. Swinging is fundamentally about women picking alternate lovers in front of their regular partner.

    Men are biologically programmed for sperm competition. Seeing “your female” mate with another man:

    a) Increases sperm production
    b) Increases the duration you can have sex. In particular allows you to thrust deeper and harder to clean his sperm out.
    c) Increases the desire for sex especially immediate after when (a) and (b) will be most effectual from a procreate stand point.

    Those reactions that are very sexually exciting both for the man and the woman. That’s why you frequently hear swingers comment about how the best sex they have is right after swinging and how much it turns them on.

    I have also heard about people paying prostitutes to talk to them, but it boggles my mind. I can understand why a man might pay for sex….It would be interesting to talk to these men and find out why it is different for them than it is for me.

    Prostitutes, mistresses, girlfriends, groupies are substitue wives. They fill in the gaps whatever those gaps are. Some men have perfectly satisfying sex lives but empty emotional lives. They want emotional intimacy combined with physical affection but don’t want the expense of time commitment of maintaining a mistress.

    And the woman doesn’t have to be your friend outside of the financial relationship. Both sides are role playing. Combine loving conversation, physical affection, some level of genuine affection and actual intercourse and the emotions; if the client wants them, are real. The same formula that worked the first time to fall in love still works.

    You don’t have professional male doms or professional female subs

    Huh? Just picking the Dominion, which specializes in both and is one of the largest best known dungeons, for example (I won’t link for now, still waiting for clarity) as of today has on staff:

    13 female doms
    11 female submissives
    18 switches

    As for male prodoms there is a big market, though mainly serving the gay community.

    And you don’t have professional male subs because there are so many male subs that are willing to do it for free or to pay to have it done to them.

    Actually you do as well. Matt Williams, Drake Temple, Dutch Bardou, Riley, Scout… I could probably find about 100 of them. Though in all fairness you are looking at essentially male porn stars who are willing / eager to do BDSM shoots though many won’t do vanilla porn. There they are looking for things like: physically more flexible / better shape, ability to maintain an erection when needed on camera, more camera experience…

    As for the prostitute example, it is true that if a man has sex with a woman multiple times, he starts to develop some feelings for her. But I think that men that fall in love with prostitutes would strongly want the prostitute to find another profession after they married. They might be fine with her having sex with other men while he is courting her. But very few men would be happy if their wife continued to have sex with other men after the marriage.

    I think it depends if the woman sees it as a short term job or as their profession. Women in those professions select men who like women in those professions unless they want to get out. So for example strippers / gamblers (poker player, sports betters) are a common combination in Las Vegas. Prodoms often marry fetishists, who are thrilled to have a woman that likes and understands their needs. And porn starlets marry a lot of guys who are in the industry themselves, as say editors, camera guy, IT support for adult websites… From what I understand prostitutes are often bringing home a lot of extra money that is substantially raising the family’s standard of living well beyond what it would otherwise be, and marry men who want their high school educated wife to be pulling in an extra 50-100k / yr tax free.

    Basically woman who aren’t in to monogamy and know it don’t pick men who demand monogamy. They also happen to have lower monogamous demands on their men, though frequently the men are semi-monogamous. Same as any other kind of pairing, people pick spouses that agree with their values.

  32. “On a strict evolutionary level, there are no incentives for women to live polyandrously.”

    Ms. Jack, you need to read the scientific literature on polyandry. There actually are plenty of incentives and polyandry is WIDESPREAD throughout the entire animal kingdom. I recommend you contact Justin. He can point you to all the literature. You can find him on this facebook group:

    http://www.facebook.com/groups/216856645019018/

  33. There actually are plenty of incentives and polyandry is WIDESPREAD throughout the entire animal kingdom.

    My understanding was that it is rare in primates.

    http://www-personal.umich.edu/~phyl/anthro/mating.html
    http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Polyandry

    Generally, however, polyandry in primates and other mammals is very rare and usually correlated with reduced or reverse sexual dimorphism. When males of a species are much larger than females, polygyny is usually practiced. As size difference decreases, or the females are larger than males, a species is more likely to practice monogamy or polyandry. The non-human great apes (gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees) are highly dimorphic and practice polygyny. Male and female gibbons (lesser apes) are similar in size and form monogamous pairs.

  34. @LDS Anarchist: There are plenty of species where the female mates with more than one male, but this isn’t true polandry because the males also mate with more than one female and don’t form any long term pairing with the females.

  35. Claim #1: “There are no incentives for women to live polyandrously”

    Meet response: “polyandry provides genetic benefits that significantly enhance female lifetime reproductive success.”

    Claim #2: “My understanding was that it is rare in primates.”

    Meet response: “Growing molecular evidence [suggests] that polyandry, is widespread in nature.”

    Polyandry is the one topic monogamists and polygynists can both agree on — they both dislike it equally. Specifically the LDS, pro-polygynists have a hard time trying to get around the census data showing a greater number of men than women [rather than the presumed opposite that might justify plural wives for some people]. Polyandry would have made sense in that situation, but the Utahans couldn’t really get in to it — probably because the majority of the saints thought it was a culturally weird practice.

    One way or the other — the Facebook group LDSA linked to discusses the gospel-based multihusband-multiwife model in more detail [and is an open group anyone is free to join, for or against or neutral], and polyandry has been a recent topic of interest [specifically, LDSA and I have been posting links to the literature on polyandry we've been finding] — though other things related to gospel-based, egalitarian, multispousal tribes are discussed there too.

  36. Justin, yes there are benefits for females in polyandry. They get more males to help raise their young and new males that they add to the group might have better genes than the original one did. But the point is that males are hurt by polyandry. They often end up spending time and energy caring for children that aren’t theirs. From a biological point of view, it is much better for the males to find another female to practice monogamy or polygyny with. Only in very rare circumstances is polyandry the best option for males. In polygyny, a male could have enough resources or good enough genes to justify multiple females sharing him. But in polyandry, all the males are forced to have children through one womb and it just isn’t worth it most of the time. Genetically, it is better for them to seek other less sought after females to mate with

    As for molecular evidence suggesting widespread polyandry, you should post any scientific papers you have here. Keep in mind that animals that are, for lack of a better term, swingers, are not practicing true polyandry since the males also mate with more than one female.

  37. “But the point is that males are hurt by polyandry…all the males are forced to have children through one womb”

    Polyandry alone sure — but you’ll notice that I’m for a multihusband-multiwife family.

    “you should post any scientific papers you have here.”

    I’m not going to link bomb what could be easily obtained with a quick scholar.google.com search — especially when LDSA already linked to the open Facebook group where this model [which includes polyandry] is discussed [as I mentioned in #37], and also one is free to read the book in the process of being written at FastPencil as well [The gospel-based, egalitarian, multihusband-multiwife tribal anarchy model].

  38. Meet response: “polyandry provides genetic benefits that significantly enhance female lifetime reproductive success.”

    Okay. There are few incentives for women to live polyandrously, and as such, its practice among humans has been vanishingly rare.

    Growing molecular evidence [suggests] that polyandry, is widespread in nature.”

    Which species in nature? Because I really don’t see how polyandry in species distantly related to humans would help your case.

    The point of this post was that there is no evidence that polyandry will ever be widespread enough in humans to counteract the effects of polygyny. I stand by that.

    And it looks like I’m going to have to pick up this series again and get to the other reasons why polygamy is bad for human society.

  39. On second thought, I’m not even sure I agree with this:

    polyandry provides genetic benefits that significantly enhance female lifetime reproductive success.

    How does polyandry provide any genetic benefits over and above simply marrying (polygynously or monogamously) the alpha male?

  40. But the point is that males are hurt by polyandry. They often end up spending time and energy caring for children that aren’t theirs. From a biological point of view, it is much better for the males to find another female to practice monogamy or polygyny with. Only in very rare circumstances is polyandry the best option for males.

    At least where it is practiced that’s the idea. A male that’s not throwing off enough wealth to maintain a wife and a child much less multiple children but say is throwing off 1.5x his survival amount. So take 4 brothers each earning 1.5x what it takes for them to live. They can maintain a wife and a child while without polyandry they couldn’t maintain anything. Even at 2x each could maintain their own wife but under polyandry the 4 brothers can have a wife and 3 kids. And if you assume kids are less than adults, possibly more.

    Polyandry provides genetic benefits to males that otherwise wouldn’t reproduce at all. And since it is usually brother marriage the children are at worst his nephews.

  41. “How does polyandry provide any genetic benefits over and above simply marrying?”

    I take it you didn’t go looking into the literature or what LDSA or I have written at the links provided. Because both of those would have answered your question.

    “its practice among humans has been vanishingly rare.”

    Because, as I said, it’s the one topic that both monogamists and polygynists can agree on. Polyandry threatens patriarchy and its precious battleground over paternity and property rights. So, yeah, that makes sense to me too.

  42. CD-Host: Your scenario could be true if the men are barely surviving starvation. You may be surprised how many children people can support even if they are in poverty (and yes, I am talking about without welfare). It doesn’t take much to breast feed a child. People can survive on the smallest of scraps if they have to. Especially if the men aren’t related, they would pretty much have to be on death’s door before it would be worth it to avoid the single women and all focus on one woman to marry, mate with, and support her kids.

    Justin: The move toward gender equality also threatened patriarchy and has pretty much completely destroyed it in America in the last 40 years. And paternity rights shouldn’t be threatened. Everyone has a right to know who their kids are if they so choose. We shouldn’t be leaving this in doubt against their will.

  43. I wrote that as a way of saying that I am okay with you and your group forming whatever relationships you want, but if your form of relationship was ever to become the majority then I feel that men and women shouldn’t face scorn or socal pressure if they decide that they want their own biological children and that they should legally only be required to support kids that are biologically theirs unless they formally adopt the others.

  44. Yeah — I’m an anarchist — so, to each his/her own.

    My tribe is basing our organization on the gospel as our customary/tribal law, which entails children to be viewed under the light of charity [rather than paternity tests] “wherefore, all children are alike unto [us]; wherefore, [we] love little children with a perfect love;” — but sure, I get that anyone should be free to track paternity and withhold their love all they want.

    “but if your form of relationship was ever to become the majority then I feel that men and women shouldn’t face scorn or socal pressure if they decide that they want…”

    I again agree. The only people who heap scorn, social pressure, and legal injunctions on human relationships are the monogamists — my worldview on marriage and marriage families has room for them, but I’ve found that they are not so kind in reciprocating.

  45. Justin I think we agree on the fact that people should be free to choose their own type of relationship. But I’d like to point out that the motivation for monogamy or other relationships isn’t to “withhold love” from any child. Of course everyone should care about every child, but I think there also exists the reasonable desire in people to have their own biological children and the expectation that other men will provide the primary care for their own biological children unless there is a pre-existing arrangement.

  46. You may be surprised how many children people can support even if they are in poverty (and yes, I am talking about without welfare). It doesn’t take much to breast feed a child.

    It takes about 700-800 calories / day from a woman. And children get larger than breast fed size prior to their reproductive years. Right now my daughter is in mid puberty still weighs about 1/2 what I do and eats more food than I do. I don’t know much about primitive polyandry. What I do know is that the cost of raising children properly unquestionable is lowering fertility among my family and friends even in this modern world.

  47. CD-Host, it is true that the cost of raising a child does lower your fertility, but it does it a lot more for a middle class American than it does for a person in poverty in India. One possible reason for this is that Americans want to make sure their children have the same standard of living that they do, so they have fewer kids so as to spend more time and resources on each one. People in India, on the other hand, culturally are expected to have lots of kids and are less likely to be careful with contraception, so even though they have much less resources than Americans, they have many more kids.

  48. Actually India is one of the places where polyandry is still practiced. It is gaining popularity in Malwa, Punjab because families don’t want to divide their lands. The Toda hava practiced it for hundreds of years because of poverty.

    As for India and kids their fertility has fallen off sharply: link

    Indians don’t want to live in misery either. And men that can’t take care of themselves can’t attract mates, same as in the US. The Indian fertility rate skyrocketed with modern medicine and they are quickly bringing it down. In the poor regions to the north, polyandry offers brothers the opportunity to be able to viably support a family where they couldn’t do so individually. Most mammals don’t try and breed to the point they use up all environmental resources. Sometimes they may overshoot but it is rarely the intent to breed to substance levels.

    Responsible procreation is a good idea for rich and poor.

  49. That is interesting about India. I hadn’t realize their birth rate had dropped that much.

    Though I would note that beyond the problems mentioned before about men having less chance of paternity in polyandry, there are other problems. Even if you had two brothers marrying one woman, she is going to have to produce three children instead of two in order to keep the population stable. This forces the woman to have more kids that she would have otherwise just to keep the population the same level as it was before, which will put more strain on her body. And that doesn’t even take into account the fact that there are women who don’t have a husband because of the other women practicing polyandry either won’t be able to reproduce, or if she does, due to an affair, then she won’t be able to keep the child alive if resources are really as low as you suggest. So under this system the population will almost surely begin to drop. If this continues indefinitely then this could prove disastrous for the population.

    (Also, I don’t know about everyone else, but I find myself less attracted to a girl when she starts dating my brother. This might be a natural defense against brothers fighting over the same girl)

    I suppose that the scientific way to answer this question is to look at a population that practices polyandry, track the number of directly genetically related descendants each man has over several generations and also track the growth or fall of population as a whole and compare that to similar countries where polyandry isn’t practiced. That will show whether there are any advantages to polyandry from an evolutionary point of view or not.

  50. If you’re going to discuss marriage patterns in India, you need to account for sex selection, which has led to an alarming drop in the birth rate for girls, and has produced a huge gender imbalance. Any polyandry likely has a lot less to do with genetic superiority and a lot more to do with the consequences of a societal preference for males.

  51. One thing about India’s total fertility rate decline is that it’s really not that surprising. It follows the same trend that we generally see all across the world in terms of countries and regions — when you have greater economic opportunities for women, TFRs decline. In fact, if you divide India into its various states, you can see different levels of declines and then look at when various policies aimed at improving educational parity were enacted. Or when variously economic improvements have occurred.

    For whatever it’s worth, it’s because after a certain point, there comes a sociological shift…we all assume that children are a net cost or a net investment…but this isn’t always the case. If your kids are your source of labor (particularly if your family does something like heavy human-capital-intensive work like farming without automated technology), then more children mean greater cash inflow, not outflow.

    It’s only as the economics change (we look at having higher *quality* kids instead of higher *quantity* kids, because instead of needing hard labor, we want them to become intellectual workers…and in order for them to do that, they’ll need to consume a lot more than they produce for several years) that kids become an expensive proposition.

    anyway, unfortunately, I don’t have anything to contribute to the conversation about polyandry or sex selection at this time. :)

  52. Even if you had two brothers marrying one woman, she is going to have to produce three children instead of two in order to keep the population stable.

    AFAIK polyandry doesn’t really increase the birthrate per woman that much. Women are usually regulating births in a polyandrous society. Where it is used, The goal is to achieve stability at something like 5-6 children / woman. After disease and early death that replaces: 1 woman + 2-3 brothers. If birthrates are below that, polyandry is being used to create negative population growth, generally consolidation of resources.

    Female fertility is probably higher in setups where woman have multiple husbands than in polygamous societies. But in polygamous societies you often have breeding patterns like: High status men marry lower status women who have procreative sex with even lower status men and get the high status men to pay for these children. For a woman that’s a biologically ideal mating pattern. She gets to make best choice genetically and maximize the survivability of her children. I’d have to see data to see how all these variables play out in practice.

    And that doesn’t even take into account the fact that there are women who don’t have a husband because of the other women practicing polyandry either won’t be able to reproduce, or if she does, due to an affair, then she won’t be able to keep the child alive if resources are really as low as you suggest.

    Assuming the tribe practices polyandry widely, the extra women are generally in polygamous situations either de-facto or de-jure. In the Indian tribes we were talking about there is a shortage of women because of death in childbirth, disease and possibly as Whitney mentioned female infanticide.

    high status men have more than one wife
    mid status men have one wife
    low status men share a wife

    In other places where you had sort of pseudo-polyandry you can have large numbers of women who are outside the procreative pool. High status men and woman have female “servants” that don’t have sexual duties but do raise the standard of living.

    Think about Victorian England with

    a) A very large population of prostitutes (4% of the female population) acting much like polyandrous wives.

    b) A very large population of maids acting like wives to higher status men without sexual duties.

    c) Monogamy among the working class.

  53. Unfortunately, you do not seem to observe the co-called “cuckold lifestyle”, with thousands of websites dedicated to this activity. In a cuckold lifestyle, husbands stay faithful to their wives while the wives sleeps with numerous other men. Polyandry is essentially a system in which a female mates with numerous males while her male partner stays monogamous to her; thus, cuckold marriage should be regarded as polyandry, albeit an informal one. If you count cuckold marriage as polyandry, then you could see that polyandry is more widespread in the developed countries than it is originally thought. At any rate is not rare. It is an irony that while people try to abolish polygyny in the developing countries, the developed countries seem to do nothing, or might even condone, polyandry in the form of cuckold relationships.

  54. virgo ~ Do people living a “cuckold lifestyle” share financial resources? Does the woman cohabit with multiple men simultaneously? Do the women conceive with men other than their husbands? If not, then no, it is not polyandry.

    And if the answer to all of those questions is “yes,” then you’d still need statistics to show how prevalent it is. “Thousands of Web sites exist” doesn’t prove anything.

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