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Polygyny
August 29, 2004 9:00 PM   Subscribe

Adam and His Eves. Genetic research suggests that polygyny was the norm for most of humanity's past. [Via the Intersection.]
posted by homunculus (14 comments total)

 
Previous posts on polygyny and polygamy, which are often used synonymously.
posted by homunculus at 9:08 PM on August 29, 2004


LiveJournalers are going to love this news.

It kinda makes sense, if you look at modern day Africa. A friend in school went off to the peace corps and ended up in Niger for two years. After a year or so he sent a videotape over that he made of his village. In it, the "richest" man in town (rich meaning he had cattle and land for growing yams and things) had seven wives. So much of the animal kingdom works in this way, I wouldn't be surprised to find out ancient homo sapiens lived in this manner.
posted by mathowie at 9:25 PM on August 29, 2004


fascinating, makes sense. altho' no one's ever going to convince me that most people stopped living that way due to the pressures of religion or social mores - i can imagine it was incredibly irritating in a million different ways and the moment we didn't need to do it for survival's sake it was on it's way out. just like most other human "traditions".

LiveJournalers are going to love this news.

i know nothing of this creature you call live journal, pray tell, why will this make it happy...?
posted by t r a c y at 10:28 PM on August 29, 2004


Of course, it could have been that a group of women would keep one man around, having decided that one man was enough and that having more just caused trouble.

I'm just sayin'.

No, I'm not particularly serious. I just get irritated when speculation about our human past so often seems to reiterate certain types of present-day power relations. I'm the first to argue that the nuclear family is unnatural, but I don't necessarily think that in the past every high-status man was a de facto Hugh Hefner, either.
posted by jokeefe at 10:42 PM on August 29, 2004


i know nothing of this creature you call live journal, pray tell, why will this make it happy...?

Just a joke. If you've ever read a lot of sites at livejournal.com, you'd kinda get the vibe that a lot of people are (or claim to be) in open relationships with several people at once.

I can never wrap my head around imagining myself in any sort of polyamory situation, but I imagine there was a time when survival depended on it and we didn't have the luxury of "being in love" or hanging out with one person and ignoring others.
posted by mathowie at 10:50 PM on August 29, 2004


altho' no one's ever going to convince me that most people stopped living that way due to the pressures of religion or social mores

Could have also stopped because the men who weren't chiefs weren't too happy about it.

Its instructive to read the comments to that post since genetics implies only that men "get around" more than women and nothing further about social structures and marriage-pairs (how could it?)
posted by vacapinta at 10:51 PM on August 29, 2004


... as in the title of this article: "Adam and His Eves". What about "Eve and the shared Adam"? There's another clue in the text itself:
It's possible that polygyny was an open institution for much of that time, or that secret trysts made it a reality that few would acknowledge.
The statistics on the likelihood of children being fathered by men other than the legal husband of the mother have recently been shown to be higher than most people thought... so it would seem that women have historically exercised their discretion, in secret, when it comes to affairs and conceiving children outside of marriage; which might go some way to explaining the idea of the institution itself, as far as it was constructed as a way of ensuring that property was passed down a genetic line by socially and legally confining a woman to one man's bed and household.
posted by jokeefe at 10:53 PM on August 29, 2004


FWIW, the personal ads link I've posted below notes that the only Arab country that currently bans polygamy is Tunisia, which means that it's currently practiced in at least Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, etc.
posted by onlyconnect at 11:02 PM on August 29, 2004


Big Love - historical re-enactment on HBO?
posted by Sinner at 6:48 AM on August 30, 2004


Polygyny doesn't always have to be seen as anti-woman. In fact, it can leave women better off; if I remember the argument correctly: In a village with monogamous pairing, the most desirable guy goes with the most desirable girl, then the second with the second, etc. (Yeah, that's rough & you can argue what equals desirability & so on.) However, it would probably be preferable to be #1's second wife that #52's only, and in that way polygyny can leave women better off as a whole. Of course, this wold piss off the men at the bottom, who are left with no one, and they would start wars and generally be useless.

I'm not sure what I think about this way of looking at it overall. It seems only to work in a society where men have the resources; in a group where women had the resources, the same argument would apply to polyandry (mmmm...lots of boys). So it's predicated on injustice, but it could have the net effect of leaving women better off.
posted by dame at 7:13 AM on August 30, 2004


If you've ever read a lot of sites at livejournal.com, you'd kinda get the vibe that a lot of people are (or claim to be) in open relationships with several people at once.

A lot of people on LJ are polyamorous, mathowie, but I think you may just be reading a small portion of the larger whole. Like the rest of society, polyamory isn't any more popular on LJ than it is in life. The only exception is that geeks tend to be more liberal and open to such possibilities, and therefore more likely to use LJ (although most of the geeks I know use MT or Wordpress). So while there may indeed be a lot of poly people on LJ, there are more people on LJ who are monogamous. It's all a matter of which journals you read.
posted by etoile at 8:13 AM on August 30, 2004


And actually, the "Polygamy 101" site linked to by homunculus would turn a lot of those people off as it includes the phrase:
Polygamy.com does not approve of "polyfidelity" and/or "polyamory" which is a verbal facade trying to legitimize sexual promiscuity.
In fact, pretty much everybody I know - poly or not - would find that statement utter bullshit.
posted by etoile at 8:15 AM on August 30, 2004


Polygamy = lots of unhappy adult males = societal instability = slight ability to prevent conquest by monogamous society.

Just a guess. Human nature hasn't really changed in the last 10,000 years or so.
posted by mygoditsbob at 2:36 PM on August 30, 2004


Previous posts on polygyny and polygamy…and from the MeFi 80th century. I do like that thread 26938 though. Thanks Homun.
posted by Dick Paris at 3:42 PM on August 30, 2004


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