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Monogamy and Polygamy

Judging from the social habits of man as he now exists, and from most savages being polygamists, the most probable view is that primeval man aboriginally lived in small communities, each with as many wives as he could support and obtain, whom he would have jealously guarded against all other men.
Views: 13.717 Created 01/12/2007

Judging from the social habits of man as he now exists, and from most savages being polygamists, the most probable view is that primeval man aboriginally lived in small communities, each with as many wives as he could support and obtain, whom he would have jealously guarded against all other men.[1]

— Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man (1871)

About 78% of human societies are polygynous, in which some men marry more than one wife.[2] Only 22% of societies are strictly monogamous. No modern societies are polyandrous, in which one woman marries several husbands (not counting extramarital sex, and a poor region of India and Tibet where women marry brothers because the work of several men is needed to provide resources to raise a family). Only 3% of mammal species in general are monogamous, although at least 15% of primate species are.[3]

In historical terms, it is monogamy that is in need of explanation, not polygamy.[4]

— Janet Bennion, Women of Principle (1998)
  

Women-Egalitarian Sisterhood

Imagine a society in which the only wealth is cattle. A village has 1000 men, 1000 women, and 1000 cows.

The Grand Rajah has 100 wives and 100 cows. The Lieutenant Rajah has three wives and three cows. Some men have one wife and one cow. Most men have no wife or cow.

In this society, every woman has one husband and one cow. All women are equal. Most men suffer in this society.

In a polygynous society, the median woman is better off than the median man. The wives of wealthy, monogamous men may object to this statement-until their husbands divorce them for younger women.

Men, on average, are better off in a monogamous society. All men have equal opportunities for a wife and family. It's ironic that men, whose sexuality is more polygynous than women's sexuality, are the beneficiaries of monogamy.

Women's Power

In a kyriarchical society, a few powerful men subjugate everyone else (from the Greek kyrios or dominant lord[5]). Women's preference for high-status men produced these societies. If women believed all men to be equally attractive, human societies would be egalitarian.

In kyriarchical societies, women made most decisions. A warlord couldn't trust other men, because they'd usurp his power. He left day-to-day decision making with his senior wives. I.e., matriarchy and kyriarchy are closely related.

E.g., from 1981 to 1985, the Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (later named Osho, see photo page 193) was the "alpha" male of his Oregon community. He lay around his trailer on Valium and nitrous oxide. Seven women ran the community. These "alpha" women poisoned 751 residents of a nearby town, in an attempt to control local elections. No evidence indicated that the Bhagwan was involved in the attack.[6]

A five-year study of a polygynist religious fundamentalist community in Montana found that women are actually drawn to the group, voluntarily -and in significant numbers-and that men are not the key players in the management of domestic activities and community welfare, as has always been assumed. Women are the key players.[7]

— Janet Bennion, Women of Principle (1998)

The study concludes by "identifying female solidarity as a key to female status, satisfaction, and power."[8] Women are happiest and strongest when they have close, supportive relationships with other women.

Increasing Status via Hypergamy

In polygynous societies, high-status wives had economic resources. They were physically protected. Most important, their son might become the next Grand Rajah.

E.g., the Moroccan emperor Moulay Ismail the Bloodthirsty (c. 1672) had four wives, 500 concubines, and 888 children.[9] His mom won the genetic lottery. Her genes passed on to 888 grandchildren.

In a society ruled by kinship (as opposed to written laws), polygyny creates alliances between families. Marriages increase community stability.[10] Recall from the last chapter why Late Neolithic leaders were polygynous:

not to satisfy their desires, but because their exalted rank brings many pressing offers of matrimonial alliances.[11]

— Tacitus, Germania (circa A.D. 100)

In a class-stratified society, polygyny enables women (but not men) to move up. Attractive young women from low-status families marry high-status men.[12]

Women are encouraged to practice "hypergamy," or marrying up, to...a man who holds a high spiritual or priesthood rank [these men are usually financially better-off too]...women in this type of system, ideally, gain a better status through marrying the elite of the group, while men marry downward.[13]

— Janet Bennion, Women of Principle (1998)

In polygynous societies, men pay bridewealth for wives. A wealthy man can marry as many women as he can support. Bridewealth redistributes wealth from rich families to poor families -or at least to poor families with attractive daughters. Bridewealth increases social equality. Daughters are valued as potential wealth and upward mobility.

In monogamous societies, parents pay men dowry to marry their daughters. The family buys the highest-status husband they can afford. They pay the husband to be monogamous. Dowries increase social stratification. Rich families become richer, especially if they have more sons than daughters. Daughters are unwanted financial and social liabilities in some stratified societies.

Careers vs. Motherhood

In a polygynous society, one wife can focus on her career while another wife raises their children:

As a journalist, I work many unpredictable hours in a fast-paced environment. The news determines my schedule. But am I calling home, asking my husband to please pick up the kids and pop something in the microwave and get them to bed on time just in case I'm really late? Because of my plural marriage arrangement, I don't have to worry. I know that when I have to work late my daughter will be at home surrounded by loving adults.... My eight-year-old has never seen the inside of a day-care center, and my husband has never eaten a TV dinner. And I know that when I get home from work, if I'm dog-tired and stressed-out, I can be alone and guilt-free. It's a rare day when all eight of my husband's wives are tired and stressed at the same time.[14]

— Elizabeth Joseph, "Polygamy: The Ultimate Feminist Lifestyle"

Men-Masters, Slaves, and Welfare Cheats

The average American FLDS polygynist man has three or four wives. Wives average eight children. Men average 28 children.[15]

If a man financially supports his families (most polygynous FLDS men don't), he has to work long hours, instead of spending time with his family.

For men...any sexual motives must surely pall after a while, as the day-to-day pressures of plural family life cumulate-the financial burdens, the needs of large families, family tensions and conflicts, and so on....plural family life is not especially "romantic" for men.[16]

— Irwin Altman and Joseph Ginat, Polygamous Families in Contemporary Society (1996)

If a polygynous man cares whether his four wives and 28 children get along with each other, he has to follow almost one thousand relationships. Morality is how people relate to each other. If a man doesn't pay attention to the relationships within his family, he doesn't care about his family's morality.

Class Stratification

In the Montana polygynist community, one-third of the converts eventually left. Three out of four who left were male.[17] Community stratification dissatisfied these men.

To convert, men give money, land, and possessions to the community. Men have to go through religious and character tests. After converting, men are at the bottom of the hierarchy. The elite men-mostly the sons of the founders-get marital, financial, and religious advantages.

Women have advantages at every stage of conversion. The community doesn't ask women to contribute wealth. They believe that women are inherently more virtuous. Women pass the religious tests more easily.

Women are encouraged to marry high-status men, to immediately join the community elite. Female converts are ten times more likely to integrate into the upper class than male converts.

Incest, Child Abuse, and Wife Battering

When a handful of men have absolute power, expect absolute corruption. Another polygynous community has a reputation for incest, child abuse, and wife battering.[18]

In Colorado City, Arizona, men in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and even 70s barter their 15-year-old daughters. The more girls a man gives away to his friends, the more girls he gets in return.[19] These aren't relationships between consenting adults.

Warren Jeffs, the Colorado City religious leader, ordered parents not to send their children to school:[20]

A child that's not in school is a child that can't tell a counselor they're being abused.[21]

— Ron Allen, Utah state senator

Unlike the Montana community, most apostates (individuals who leave) are women.

Men often marry their stepsisters or cousins. Inbreeding, or old men's defective sperm, produces many children with disabilities.[22]

Down's syndrome children are prized here for their docile nature and the fact that their families receive $500 a month from the government for their care.

"You see these young pregnant mothers rubbing their stomachs saying, 'I hope this one's a Down's,'" said Eunice Bateman, a former plural wife.

Rowenna Erickson, a former plural wife, calls the health care for children in polygamy a "freak show," saying pregnant women seldom receive prenatal care.[23]

— Julie Cart, Los Angeles Times (2001)

Welfare Fraud

Welfare fraud supports families. Polygynous wives tell state agencies that they're single. Colorado City residents receive eight times more government services than they pay in taxes.[24] Every school-age child lives below the poverty level.[25]

Tom Green has five wives and thirty children. Utah convicted him of criminal nonsupport and welfare fraud. He and his wives fraudulently obtained $150,000 in welfare benefits.[26] The state also charged him with child rape, after marrying a 13-year-old girl. The state sentenced Green to five years in prison.

Some men seem to be using their religion as an excuse for behavior that shouldn't be tolerated.[27]

— Ron Barton, Utah state investigator

Violence in Polygynous Societies

Polygynous societies are more violent than monogamous societies.

Polygynous societies have more single men than single women. The competition for scarce women can be brutal, sometimes lethal. Murderers are three times more likely to be single than married.[28]

Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Polygyny

In the Old Testament, the patriarchs Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon were polygynous.[29]

Deuteronomy 25:5-6 requires men to marry their brothers' widows, as second wives. Polygyny wasn't about promiscuous sex, but rather was a duty to care for widows and orphans.

Polygamy, as ideally practiced, is more Christian than divorce and remarriage as far as the abandoned wives and children are concerned.[30]

— Father Eugene Hillman, Polygamy Reconsidered (1975)

The Jewish Talmud limits a man to four wives. European Jews practiced polygyny until the sixteenth century. Jews in Yemen continue to practice polygyny.[31]

In the New Testament, Paul discouraged marriage. He followed the Stoic philosophy that marriage and children distract from religious devotion.

In contrast, Judaism and Islam value marriage as the ideal state for most people. In these societies, polygyny is an ideal form of marriage-if the husband has the resources to provide for his wives, and the good character to raise children.

In A.D. 393, the Pope reversed the Deuteronomy levirate. The Pope adapted Christianity to Roman law, which forbade polygyny, but allowed prostitution and concubines (concubines were wives whose children didn't inherit the father's wealth-we call them-ironically-mistresses).[32]

The Koran (A.D. 651) requires that prosperous men marry destitute widows. The husband must raise the widow's children as his own. A man may marry up to four women.[33]

Marriage and divorce were central issues in the sixteenth-century Protestant reformation. Martin Luther believed that ministers should marry. England's King Henry VIII loved Anne Boleyn, but was married to Catherine of Aragon. Henry asked Pope Clement VII to annul his marriage. The Pope refused. Henry then declared the Church of England independent of Rome; England became the first large Catholic nation to change its official religion to Protestant.

Early Protestant rebel leaders often found themselves surrounded by adoring female converts, and declared that the Old Testament allows polygyny. Polygyny in these sects always died out within a generation-sometimes by burning at the stake.[34]

Contemporary Monogamy and Polygamy

When [my husband] told me, "The sign that I'd had an affair was a sign that there's something wrong in our relationship," I thought, "No Frenchman would ever have said that."

It's likely that in a long relationship there will be an affair somewhere along the road, for both partners, not just for men, so it would not be interpreted as a sign that there's something wrong.

I think Americans are more idealist, a sense of purity and innocence. If people fall in love, and they truly love each other, then there will be no other people in their lives, and they will be monogamous for fifty years. The French would laugh at that concept.

I'm not saying that it's easy to live the Parisian style, but I think it's more realistic. It's less idealistic, it's making room for reality, there are temptations, there are other men and women we encounter along the road.[35]

— Catherine Texier, Breakup: The End of a Love Story (1998)

Biologists describe a species as monogamous if the animals:

  1. Raise their young together.
  2. Stay together for life.

Most monogamous species are less promiscuous than other species. However, all animals will have sex with an animal other than his or her mate if the opportunity arises.[36]

By these standards, American "serial monogamy" is polygamy. In contrast, the French-who accept extramarital sex-are monogamous.

Men's and Women's Desired Number of Partners

72% of men said yes when an attractive female stranger asked to have sex. All of the women in the experiment said no when propositioned by an attractive male stranger.[37]

Men, on average, want 6 partners in the next year, and 18 in their lifetimes.[38] In reality, 23% of American men have had two or more sexual partners in the past year. The median man has about five sexual partners in his lifetime.[39]

Women, on average, want one sexual partner in the next year, and 4 in their lifetimes.[40] In reality, 12% had two or more partners-half the number of men with two or more partners.[41] The median woman has 3.5 sex partners in her lifetime.[42]

In other words, women, on average, get the number of partners they want. Men, on average, don't.

When Masculine Sexuality Is Acceptable

Feminine sexuality (long-term monogamous relationships) is the norm in all societies. But all societies allow masculine sexuality (sex with many partners) somewhere, sometimes, or for some individuals. Each society has different rules about this. E.g., in Italian coastal villages, young men can have sex with foreign tourist women, but not with local women.

To use masculine sexuality, follow your community's rules, move to a community that has rules you like, or hope you have enough cerebral cortex to break the rules without getting caught.

Stress and Promiscuity

When our ancestral mothers felt secure, they chose feminine sexuality and monogamous relationships. But in times of life-threatening stress (e.g., famine or war), women who traded sex for food or safety (i.e., switched to masculine sexuality) survived and became our ancestral mothers.

Abusive families (one form of life-threatening stress) make teenage girls three to six times more likely to have risky, promiscuous sex.[43] Teenage girls from troubled families are more sexually active, at earlier ages, and are more likely to become pregnant.[44] Divorce, lack of support from their fathers, or "male bashing" mothers cause teenage girls to believe that men are unnecessary for raising children.[45] Teenage girls become promiscuous because they don't value men.

Conversely, girls with secure attachments to both parents, who grow up in a low-stress home, delay sexual intercourse and choose long-term, stable mates.[46] The women who most love men love the fewest men; women who least love men love the most men.

Affectionate relationships between girls and their natural fathers delay puberty. The most important period for this effect is the first five years of the girls' lives, suggesting that the girls' brains are set up for relationship styles in this period. Close relationships with mothers are less significant in that regard. The opposite effect is seen when girls have close relationships with unrelated males, e.g., stepfathers, causing some to speculate that pheromones play a role.[47]

A woman who handles stress poorly is more likely to become promiscuous, in situations that another woman easily handles. Men who abuse women cause stress to women and see how they react. If a woman confidently handles the problem, the man leaves her alone. If she handles stress poorly, he recognizes a potential victim.

Smoking, alcohol, and drug use signal inability to handle stress, and subsequent promiscuity. Substance abuse causes daily stress (e.g., getting a fix, or hiding an addiction).

At age nineteen...15 percent of nonsmoking white women attending college have had sex. The same number for white female college students who do smoke is 55 percent. The statistics for men are about the same.[48]

— Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point (2000)

Sexual Satisfaction in Monogamous Relationships

The best sex is within marriages.[49] 86% of married men and women say they're very or extremely satisfied with their sex lives.[50]

75% of individuals in monogamous relationships who live alone say they're very or extremely satisfied with their sex lives.

Of individuals with two sexual partners, only 70% say they're very or extremely satisfied with their primary sex partner. Satisfaction with the secondary partner averages only 44%.[51] I.e., the grass isn't greener on the other side of the fence.

Twice as many single individuals suffer from stress, compared to married individuals (25% vs. 13%). Married men and married women have the same stress levels, on average.[52]

Is There a "Marriage Crisis"?

In 1950, the divorce rate was 23% of the marriage rate, i.e., one-fourth of marriages ended in divorce. In 1970, 33% of marriages ended in divorce. Since 1976, the divorce rate has been around 50% of the marriage rate.[53]

However, the median duration of marriage increased from 6.7 years in 1970 to 7.2 years in 1990.[54]

These contradictory trends were due to several factors. First, life expectancy increased from 70.8 in 1970 to 75.4 in 1990.[55] People now live longer, and marry longer.

Another factor is cohabitation. Fewer couples formally marry now, but more live together, usually for less than the 7 years required for recognition of common-law marriage in most states.. The marriage rate declined, but the "monogamy rate" (including serial monogamy) remains the same.

A third factor was a relative shortage of men born between 1933 and 1957 (see "Man Shortage or Commitment Shortage?" page 97).

Serial Monogamy Tends Toward Polyandry

Judging from women's clothing, contemporary Americans are polyandrous. Polygynous species-in which a male has sex with many females-are identified by males' brightly colored feathers, long tails, huge antlers, etc. The males look sexy, to attract females. The females are drab, to camouflage their nests from predators.

Until 200 years ago, aristocratic men looked sexy in brightly colored silks and satins, lace, tights, and high-heeled, pointy-toed shoes. Aristocratic men were polygynous, if you count mistresses and servants. Aristocratic women's large dresses displayed wealth, but hid their bodies.

The French revolution (1789-1795) made aristocracy unpopular (and sometimes lethal). Men's clothing became drab and functional.[56] After a brief period of simplicity, women's clothing returned to displaying wealth, while hiding their bodies.[57]

World War One (1914-1918) killed 37 million young men.[58] In the 1920s, women competed for men. Women's clothes became sexy. Hemlines rose and necklines fell.

Couples married young in the 1950s. Married women didn't need to compete for men. Women went back to hiding their bodies in large dresses.

The divorce rate started to increase in the 1960s. Older women outnumbered older men, so they had to look sexy to attract a partner. Serial monogamy becomes polyandry as women age. Older women buy sexy clothes, but want to see it advertised on young models. (Playboy bizarrely dresses young women in clothes-well, in high-heeled shoes-that only women over 50 would buy.)

 

African-American Marriage and Polygyny

In 1970, white Americans and African-Americans had similar marriage rates.[59] In the 1990s, the marriage rate for African-Americans was one-half to one-third the marriage rate for white Americans.[60] E.g., half of African-American women will never marry, compared to one-sixth of white American women.[61] Marital satisfaction among African-Americans is lower than among whites.[62] The divorce rate is higher.[63] Factors contributing to African-Americans' low marriage rate include:

• 69% of African-American men are employed, compared to 75% of white American men.[64] Unemployed men are less likely to marry than employed men.

• "12% of African-American males age 25 to 29 were in prison or jail, compared to 4% of Hispanic males and about 1.5% of white males."[65] At the age when most men marry, one out of eight African-American men are incarcerated.

• 3.1% of African-Americans are on public assistance, compared to 0.9% of whites. Women on public assistance are less likely to marry than women not on public assistance.[66]

• African-Americans are three or four times more likely to abuse drugs than white Americans (as measured by drug-related health problems and arrest rates[67]).

• In 1980, 52% of African-American families had one parent, compared to 17% of white American families and 13.5% of Canadian families. In 2000, 61% of African-American families had one parent, compared to 26% of white American families and 14% of Canadian families. Children growing up with a single parent may see marriage as abnormal.[68]

Some successful, married African-American men secretly support a single mother, in return for sex. Typically, the woman has children from previous relationships. She then has another child with her benefactor.

A woman's comment that we needed to learn from Africa where polygamy was responsibly practiced, elicited widespread applause from both men and women. One man spoke to the crux of the issue when he stated that society's moral level overall needed to be raised because there is no reason to expect men to act better if we get polygamy without an improvement in morality.[69]

— Philip Kilbride, Plural Marriage For Our Times (1994)

The good news is that an African-American woman can increase her likelihood to marry by getting an education and a career[70] (see "Education and Employment," page 27)-and attending church doubles her likelihood to marry.[71]

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  49. "Women Enjoy Best Sex Within Marriage," Reuters, November 12, 2002, reporting a survey in Top Sante. http://www.reuters.com/news_article.jhtml;jsessionid=0QBQQYDXOUXM0CRBAEZSFFA?type=humannews&StoryID=1721310
  50. Laumann, Edward O., Gagnon, John H., Michael, Robert T., Michaels, Stuart. The Social Organization Of Sexuality: Sexual Practices In The United States (University of Chicago, 1994, ISBN 0-226-46957-3), p. 364.
  51. Laumann, Edward O., Gagnon, John H., Michael, Robert T., Michaels, Stuart. The Social Organization Of Sexuality: Sexual Practices In The United States (University of Chicago, 1994, ISBN 0-226-46957-3), p. 364.
  52. de Vaus, David. Family Matters, winter 2002.
  53. Table 117, "Marriages And Divorces," 2001 Statistical Abstract of the United States, http://www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/01statab/stat-ab01.html; Table 66, "Live Births, Deaths, and Divorces, 1950 to 2001," 2002 Statistical Abstract of the United States, http://www.census.gov/prod/www/statistical-abstract-02.html
  54. Table 160, "Divorces and Annulments," US Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract of the United States 1998.
  55. Table 128, "Expectation of Life at Birth," US Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract of the United States 1998.
  56. Lurie, Alison. The Language of Clothes (Henry Holt, 1981, ISBN 0805062440), p. 61.
  57. Lurie, Alison. The Language of Clothes (Henry Holt, 1981, ISBN 0805062440), p.62.
  58. http://www.frontiernet.net/~pendino/WW-One.htm
  59. Lloyd, K.M., South, S.J. "Contextual Influences on Young Men's Transition to First Marriage," Social Forces, 74 (1996): 1097-1119.
  60. Lloyd, K.M., South, S.J. "Contextual Influences on Young Men's Transition to First Marriage," Social Forces, 74 (1996): 1097-1119.
  61. In 1997, 37% of African-American women (over age 18) had never married. 40% of African-American women were married. 17.5% of white women had never married, and 60% were married. 25% of Hispanic women had never married, and 60% were married. Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1998 (U.S. Department of Commerce), table 57.
  62. Patterson, Orlando. Rituals of Blood: Consequences of Slavery in Two American Centuries (Counterpoint Press, 1999, ISBN 158243039X).
  63. Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1998 (U.S. Department of Commerce), table 61.
  64. "Civilian Labor Force and Participation Rates With Projections, 1980 to 2008," Table 568, Statistical Abstract of the United States, U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 2001, http://www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/01statab/stat-ab01.html.
  65. US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prisoners and Jail Inmates at Midyear 1999 (Washington DC: US Department of Justice, April 2000), p. 1.
  66. "Number of Persons With Income by Specified Sources: 2000," Table 513, 2002 Statistical Abstract of the United States, U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, http://www.census.gov/prod/www/statistical-abstract-02.html. Lloyd, K.M., South, S.J. "Contextual Influences on Young Men's Transition to First Marriage," Social Forces, 74 (1996), page 1108.
  67. "Health Information for Minority Women: African-American Women: Substance Abuse," The National Women's Health Information Center, http://www.4woman.gov/minority/index.cfm?page=177. "Persons Arrested by Charge and Selected Characteristic: 2000," Table 299, 2002 Statistical Abstract of the United States, U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, http://www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/01statab/stat-ab01.html. Alcoholism and alcohol arrest rates are similar for whites and blacks.
  68. "Family Groups with Children Under 18 Years Old by Race and Hispanic Origin, 1980 to 2000," Table 54, 2002 Statistical Abstract of the United States, U.S. Department of Commerce.
  69. Kilbride, Philip L. Plural Marriage For Our Times: A Reinvented Option? (Bergin & Garvey, 1994, ISBN 0897893158), p. 98.
  70. Lloyd, K.M., South, S.J. "Contextual Influences on Young Men's Transition to First Marriage," Social Forces, 74 (1996), p. 1107.
  71. "Marriage Prospects Highest for Urban Women Who Frequently Attend Church, According to Penn Study," Penn News, July 8, 2002, http://www.upenn.edu/pennnews/releases/2002/Q3/religionandmarriage.html
 
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Added by: Lucian
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  jessica,  11/09/2008

Monogamy is at present the most popular type of marriage in the Western civilization. However, in China, Tibet, in most parts of Africa the polygamous relationships - where one man has more than one wife - are acceptable. It is not an easy task at all as one man has to maintain many wives and many children; e.g. In Africa such a man – if he wants to live in polygamy – should have an adequate social and financial status and not everybody can afford it.



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