Author: Segun Akinfenwa
One debate that will continue to dominate our public space for decades to come is the issue of polygamy. With different school of thoughts for and against the idea of polygyny or polyandry, it is quite clear to us that this is one controversial issue that will continually generate conversations, arguments and debates on many fora.
While researches and studies conducted by many historians and genealogists have shown that truly from the days of the early men who were gatherers-hunters, men have been found to be more polygamous than women due to the lifestyle of then. It was easy for these early men who were nomadic in nature to have multiple partners at the same time, this lifestyle afforded them the luxury of mating with as many females, impregnating them and moving on without any responsibility of child rearing or romantic affection attached to any of their female partners.
As human evolved from gatherers to the agricultural age, the lifestyle began to change from roaming from one place to another planting seeds of offspring and leaving the care and rearing of these children totally to their mothers to what many historians tagged pre-modern marriage that changed the status quo, this saw men and women going into marriage and cohabiting as husbands and wives with sense of responsibility and emotional feeling attached to the relationships. However, this pre-modern marriage, though brought some level of sanity to human mating psychology, but it did not stop the issue of polygamy from being dominated by men.
Although we still had some women who engaged in polyandry, but the number was quite few for the fact that polyandry was a system of marriage that was considered unfavourable to men while polygyny was far more advantageous to them owing to the following reasons:
Men have been more economically aggressive than women from time immemorial, hence, they have usually been more financially buoyant than women in any society, and since the agricultural age was more of wealth accumulation, this trait in men gave them a better chance to acquire as many great flocks of livestock and plantations for themselves thereby making themselves a centre of attraction to as many women as possible. More women were seen competing to marry a successful farmer with great resources, they preferred being one of the wives of a very wealthy man than being a single wife of a man with a little wealth or success; it gave them a better status in the society.
During the time of old and even until now, it was and still is a general belief that men were naturally leaders and are in better position to head the family unit. This belief made polygyny to thrive over polyandry in that many women would rather be wives to a man and being under the leadership and control of the man than many men being husbands to a woman and being under her leadership and control. As a matter of fact, in some societies, a single lady of marriage-able age is considered to be ‘crownless’, it was believed that until a woman is married, she remained unsuccessful and unprotected. This made some women to settle for polygamous marriage even they when desire to be in a monogamous one but when their choice suitor wasn’t forthcoming and the age is no longer on their side, coupled with the pressure that comes from the society, they would decide to opt for a polygamous marriage.
Among some cultures, it was forbidden for a woman who has once married to become single again through whatever means. It was forbidden for a woman whose bride price had been paid to go back to her father’s house. For this reason, women who married their husbands as the first wives and also with the mindset of being the only wives ‘till death do them apart’ as it entails in modern day had no choice than to stay put, allow and support their husbands if he, along the line chose to acquire more wives. Any attempt to raise an eyebrow would be met with criticism and condemnation from the society, she would be labeled ‘embittered and jealous’. Another angle to this cultural belief was that a man with only one wife in the pre-modern age was considered to be timid, unimpressive and unsuccessful, so the more successful a man was, the more wives he acquired to reach and maintain the status of the elite in the society. This same cultural restraint that gave men chance to acquire many wives forbid women from having more than one sexual partner, in some societies, it was a capital punishment for any woman caught in an extramarital affairs. So, this made the thought of polyandry a no-no in some societies.
Another prominent factor that promotes polygyny ahead of polyandry was the issue of intimacy which is an integral part of any marriage. Polyandry was considered to give very little sexual satisfaction compared to polygyny. It is easy for many women to share one man amongst themselves sexually than for many men to share one woman among themselves. For instance, in a polygyny setup, when your husband impregnates your co-wife, he can still continue to have sexual intercourse with you, whereas, in a polyandry setup, when one of your co-husbands impregnates your shared wife, that means no more sex with her until after nine months of pregnancy plus six to eight weeks of postpartum recovery. With this, a man will rather be a husband to many wives and enjoy sexual satisfaction from every one of them than being a co-husband in a polyandry setup which will automatically reduce and put his sexual satisfaction at the mercy of his co-husband(s).
The above factors are what largely responsible for men’s domination of polygamous life, however, as human kept evolving, the idea of polygamy began to become old fashion and gradually being replaced by monogamy. For instance, in Western civilization, polygamy is considered to be totally intolerable and unacceptable but many have questioned the moral status of this because despite the seemingly proscribing of polygamy and prescribing of monogamy, polygamy is still being practiced among the Westerners in many forms. Take for instance, serial monogamists like Larry King and Donald Trump in a bid to monopolize their lush years of multiple partners divorced their older wives and got married to younger women (the same thing that polygamy would accomplish). Also celebrities like Charlie Sheen and Hugh Hefner explicitly enjoy the company multiple girlfriends, and many sport personalities, musicians and actors accumulate hundreds or thousands of sex partners (Price, 2011).
This further lays credence to the fact that though polygamous marriage is not tolerated in Western civilization, yet, it is still largely in existence in different guise with many men and women still having multiple partners. Another question many are asking is whether polygamy is morally wrong as Western civilization is trying to portray it? A poll conducted by an online site shows that 66% of British people and 56% of Americans share the view that polygamy is morally wrong. Also, is it natural for men to have only one sexual partner at a time? Although the majority of the country’s populations are of the view that polygamy is morally wrong, 46% of men still believe that it is unnatural to have only one sex partner at a time. In divergent view, only 32% of women agree that human are not monogamous by nature. However, both genders are in agreement that polygamous relationships are not unfeasible. (Polygamy.com, 2015)
While the argument on these would keep going back and forth based on individual’s perception and preference, it is important to note that many societies are still practicing polygamy successfully unhindered and unrestricted by any legislation or socialization, and those involved living a normal life. It is also worthy of note to state that men’s domination of polygamous life is solely influenced by social belief that is totally devoid of nature or science, it is a cheer work of societal belief and lifestyle that has been existing since the days in the claves and up until the dawn of the next day. At the same time, by choice and by preference, there were and are men who have chosen to tread the path of monogamy, there are also women who have, against all odds, opted for polygamous life either in a polyandrous marriage or having multiple sex partners even as singles.
In conclusion, the fact that more men are more polygamous than women doesn’t mean all men support or engage in polygamy, just by the same token, the fact that less women engage in polygamy doesn’t mean all women are monogamists either. Hence, the claim in some quarter that ‘ALL men are NATURALLY polygamous’ is a fallacy, generalization and myth borne out stereotypic and narrow thinking which this article aims to constructively demystify.
(ARE ALL MEN NATURALLY POLYGAMOUS? Demystifying The Long Held Myth is one of the outstanding articles of a creation of Mathsthoughtbook.com called Thinking For You Series.)
See Also: Dreams, Visions, and Empowerment; Multiple Intelligences; The Etiology of IQ; Thoughts; Stop Teen Cosmetic Surgery; Your World and You; Human Development and Aging; How to Stop All Your Bad Habits in just 21 Days; Thinking for You Series; The Black People: We Need A Change; Logical-Mathematical Reasoning for Teens; Regenerative Mathematics and Dimurelo Puzzles for Children; The Thoughts You Need to Think; Mathematical Discoveries; The Foundation of American Constitution: A Lesson for All
Polygamy.com. (2015). Are men naturally more polygamous than women? www.polygamy.com .
Price, M.E. (2011). Are people "Naturally" Polygamous? The human mind evolved in a polygynous world.