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The Polyamory Political Rift - Elf M. Sternberg
The Polyamory Political Rift
Capitalism Magazines's Paul Blair has a rant in their on-line blog (which they somewhat arrogantly call their "news" page) in which he takes on James Taranto and Andrew Sullivan.

Echoing Santorum, Kurtz raises the possibility of a "slippery slope" leading from same-sex marriage to polygamy. But one can easily draw a distinction. The widespread practice of polygamy would have great social costs. It would distort the sexual marketplace by creating an undersupply of marriageable women. The result is the creation of what Jonathan Rauch calls a "sexual underclass" of "low-status men" whose prospects for marriage are virtually nil...

What business is it of the government whether or not someone "reduces the marriage pool"? [...] This is completely antithetical to any notion of individual rights, let alone human decency. This is yet another example of conservatives' willingness to dispense with rational principles.

While normally my liberatarian principles are in full display, I'm afraid that I must agree here with Jonathan Rauch. Legalized polygamy would lead to a sexual underclass of men who will have no possible reproductive outlet. Blair asks, "What's wrong with that?"

The answer is simple: the end of civilization. Not "as we know it," but the end of civilization, period. Monogamy is the mechanism by which prosperous civilizations in times of relative peace guarantee that any disparity in available reproductive partners is not too great.

The evolutionary heritage of young men between the ages of 15 and 30 don't care about civilization. Those are the ages during which most young men are seeking reproductive partners-- and there is no controversy that young men who have not found one are forty times more likely to commit a violent crime than those who have.

Polygamous societies are traditionally exceptionally militaristic and continually at war. They have to be: they need to (a) kill off their surplus males or (b) provide those males with an opportunity to get laid, usually at the expense of a vanquished nation. Monogamous nations, on the other hand, don't have this problem; their male population is pacified by the awareness that every man stands a reasonable chance of acquiring a mate.

Blair objects that this sounds like some "feminist caricature," but Blair's objection is straight out of the "social studies" left-wing anti-science screeds: because you cannot really say what one person believes in his heart, it's unreasonable to try and model a society on what you cannot know. But that's simply wrong: although we can't know the state of any one mind, people in large groups do respond in predicatable ways, those ways are well understood, the mechanism of stimulus and response quite valuable and repeatable.

On the one hand, Blair's objection is understandable: in a perfect world it would not be the government's role to dictate what kind of relationships we should have. On the other hand, Rauch is likewise correct: legalized polygamy would have a devastating effect on our civilization. A large underclass of men with nothing to live for, no hope of establishing a family, none of the pacifying and civilizing effects of the companionship of women, will take out their anger and retribution on the rest of us.

Current Mood: cynical cynical
Current Music: Linkin Park, Lying From You

8 comments or Leave a comment
From: technoshaman Date: May 1st, 2003 06:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
OTOH, straight polygamy would violate the 14th Amendment, so you'd have to legalize polyandry as well... and from there you go to no restrictions atall on gender or number. This means them as are good enough to get some can get some, and them as are not get left out, and if you take the Libertarian stance, anybody that messes with a community gets to face down .44, and that ends the problem.

Wish they would just totally abolish traditional marriage in favor of domestic corporations with a "short form" for those as don't care to get their knickers in a knot.... there is a LOT of stuff that is law that violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments with respect to establishment of religion, and marriage as we know it under the IRS codes is one of'em.
kyriani From: kyriani Date: May 2nd, 2003 06:41 am (UTC) (Link)
That is my wish as well, I would love to see traditional marriage abolished and something else (something much much more flexible) in its place. However, while there are large majorities of people such as those in the area I live in currently (Midwest ugh), this will not happen. Sigh.

Personally I would like to have gender totally redefined, where you can choose both your physical gender and your self-identified (psyche?) gender. But then again maybe thats just my screwed up sexual identity speaking...
From Elf's post: "the pacifying and civilizing effects of the companionship of women"... Hmph. Indeed. But how do you define women? I certainly have the opposite effect on my partners and I'm supposedly a woman. I hate blanket statements like that, even though I'm sure I'm guilty of them at times.
From: catamorphism Date: May 1st, 2003 06:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
So what you're saying is that polyandry should be legalized too, right?
elfs From: elfs Date: May 1st, 2003 07:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Robert Wright points out in his book, The Moral Animal, that legalized polyandry would not change the essential problem. Men are fertile for much, much longer than women, and can have multiple "reproductive projects" (pregnancy) going at the same time, so a man monopolizing the attention of more than one woman has a much greater reproductive imbalance than a woman monopolizing the attention of more than one man.

Sullivan also points out that polyandry as a phenomenon is so minor as to be insignificant, statistically, compared to polygny. He's essentially right: the number of polyamorous couples looking for another woman outweigh the couples looking for another man by orders of magnitude.
wolfwings From: wolfwings Date: May 1st, 2003 07:47 pm (UTC) (Link)

That's interesting...

Of the poly-whatever groups I know of first-hand, the majority of them are two males and one female as the core relationship foundation. All but two in fact, one of those groups broke up after 21+ years and two offspring to show for it, one of which is the the core link in the other such relationship I know of, the one I'm in currently. The other offspring from that relationship is also female, and has two males.

Guess I learn something new about the reality of poly every day, like finding out that what I thought was common turns out to be the reverse.
From: catamorphism Date: May 1st, 2003 08:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm somewhat skeptical that legalizing either polygamy or polyandry would encourage people who aren't already engaging in poly relationships to try it. I know it's not quite the same situation, but it doesn't seem any more logical than saying that legalizing same-sex marriage would encourage people to be gay. Most people in this culture just seem to prefer monogamy -- I doubt that lack of legal recognition is the reason for that, and so I doubt that legalization would make people significantly more likely to become poly. Besides, assuming that you're right about polygyny being much more likely than polyandry, how many women would voluntarily enter into a polygynous marriage? Some, sure, but AFAIK in most cultures where polygyny is the norm, women don't have much of a choice in the matter.
rowanf From: rowanf Date: May 2nd, 2003 03:39 am (UTC) (Link)

matter of choice

I think you've hit it on the head here. If poly(whatever) is a choice rather than enforced by (usually) religion, then I don't think it is any more pernicious than recognizing same-sex marriages. Not every union has to lead to reproduction... in fact it is better if it doesn't in the current world overpopulation. But legalizing the relationships that people *do* have would make it easier to provide for children and such. Oops, my time on this pc is running out. Bye
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 20th, 2003 08:20 am (UTC) (Link)

From the source

It would be great if the people who voiced such strong objections actually had a clue about being in a poly relationship. I'm in a poly relationship with two men (I'm female) so I'm not jepordizing the abilitu of some poor guy to get married and have kids. And the simple fact is that if you can't find someone then the problem lies with you as a person, not your gender or the pool you have to draw from. Sorry, I don't buy into the "Straight, Single Man's Plight" on this one..*L*..

A massive overhaul of the marriage and sex laws in this counrty are long over-due..
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