Ah, a clickbait headline. I don't create many. And even though I am going to go on at excessive length with many links and digressions - and will break this in to multiple parts - that's pretty much the takeaway right there. You can all probably stroke your chins and do the work yourself after that.
I found that even a problem that does not affect me directly has allowed me to rethink some older material. I will even be adding to my Arts & Humanities Tribe thoughts here.*
There will be continuing pressure from Muslims and Africans to allow polygamy. I have no clue whether that has any hope of succeeding, though I suspect the trend will be to some sort of carve-out. But the intuitive belief of my generation that it would be impossible because we think it is universally disapproved of may be deeply mistaken. Not everyone, not even everyone who has children gets married anymore. On the Tinder dating scene which is a large part of the overall, 10% of the males get 60% of the likes, and a small group sleeps with 100 women a year, which has traditionally (like, forever) only been possible by physical or financial force. We might suspect that the growth of serial monogamy and increase in expectation of sex when meeting online - what I loosely call the polygamies - might soften the opposition to Old World polygamy.
Does it matter when we are not talking about marriage? I think it still does count as a polygamy discussion. In fact, the unmarried come to dominate the discussion.
Let me have a go at definitions, even though the categories do bleed into each other. The series of posts will include first a discussion of the demographic changes that led to NW European culture and thus to American colonial culture - in specific the changes in nuptiality leading to wide-ranging changes in other aspects such as economy, violence, women's status, religious changes...pretty much everything, really, so no surprise that mating behavior is a major part. There will be a lot of discussion about male and female reproductive strategies, how they are playing out in this era, and how that might look under increasing polygamy-like customs. This will include a discussion of market vale in mating, which sounds callous or even demeaning, but I think is absolutely necessary when discussing the genetic contribution to our behavior. Peer pressure will get its own post.
BTW, I have one son of the five still on the dating apps, and of course I root for him and bristle at unfairnness. I know other young men and women in the same spot and their frustrations. Another son found a wife on a dating app, though he was very glad when he finally got to delete all his apps because they had decided they were the ones for each other. I will use Tinder as a proxy for all the dating apps because it is the largest and most notorious.
Formal polygamy is rare even surreptitiously in America owing to our European heritage. It is common throughout the rest of the world. Yet even then it is not what popular imagination tells us, with visions of powerful chieftains with many wives, Kings David and Solomon with hundreds of wives and concubines, etc. I have had several patients and worked with staff from sub-Saharan Africa over the years who had wives back in Africa they could not bring here because you can only bring one by American policy. They would send money back to the other. Sometimes the relationship pattern does travel here, but it is kept on the down low because of our laws. Even when it is a member of Congress https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilhan_Omar you have to pretend it’s not there. It does not involve batches of ten wives. Two is usual. That is also the pattern historically, except for the few most powerful males. Biblical kings had hundreds, other patriarchs had one or two.
Hypergamy - when a woman leaves one husband for a higher-status/higher resourced one. I have two up-close views of this one. Frankly, my mother and my sister both did this in a pretty pure sense, age difference 48-36, resource difference over previous attachment large. Going forward I will use the example of 50 y/o male, 35 y/o female even though I know 35-25 is more common. I think the former better captures issues about raising rather than having children, and career success versus career potential (for both). I fully grant that milder versions are more common, and that resentful males might exaggerate the departure of a girlfriend, of no formal commitment and/or a woman whom they also have mistreated, which is not the same thing as a mere opportunistic upgrade. During the shopping and courtship phases, men also upgrade for a host of reasons. I imagine there is a particular sting for men when it is resources, yes. But that seems to be an even tradeoff. I am not going to side with the PUA/Game crew over the feminists that often. But the latter's insistence that this is just a resentful myth is not going to fly with me. There is a continuum, but the reality is absolutely there. Also, I know women who ended up happier trading down in terms of resources, though it usually was not welcomed at the outset. But those women, and the men who also engage in attempts at such monetary/status upgrades are far less common.
Mistresses – I had forgotten all about mistresses in the whole discussion. It seems like an old-fashioned thing to even mention at this point they are so out of our culture. Yet perhaps not so. To be a mistress was always to have only the power of influence, never the power of authority, and now women have power of their own in income, connections, security. Yet...
okay, this one is going to upset people, including ones I like...Never mind. When the power is more equalised, when the (probably) younger attractive woman who is replacing the wife actually holds more status cards than the husband, we would no longer use the word mistress, no. Even trophy wife is not much used anymore, I don't think. (Though how would I know?) But I won't back down from this entirely. Modern acquisition of second spouses has some similarities, at least. Whether one is sharing living quarters may influence what we call things. A little more later.
Serial Monogamy - A very common, perhaps even the most-common pattern now. This is a series of marriages and living-together relationships, some involving marriage and some not, which involves the pooling of resources, helping the other raise children, and emotional support even when the other is draining from the common emotional fund. I need look no farther than my siblings, nieces and nephews, high school and college friends for varieties on this theme. The point drives home sharpest in Catholic and Evangelical understandings, where the doctrine is not so much that divorce is wrong, but that it does not really happen at all. The law of a country does not remove the spiritual fact that the marriage still exists. Secular people, and now even most protestant and Orthodox groups dismiss this as simply silly, a refusal of some odd old religious people, mostly male, they say, though this is untrue, to accept the obvious reality of the situation. It is so common in our culture, and the people burdened by this doctrine often so nice and blameless-seeming that we simply reject it. Yet I suspect it is we moderns who are in error here, bending our truth to meet our preferences. I can name five friends without hesitating who regard their first marriage as something of a mistake, a practice run, not really, really Real. That is a big change.
Of note. It might be a first marriage for one and a third for the other, clouding the definition more. Yet I think anyone participating gets the title. Discussed later.
Multiple sexual partnerships, sometimes overlapping rather than strictly consecutive. No further definition needed, but that is part of the polygamy discussion, even if no one involved is getting married. When marriage was sacrosanct, a few stolen episodes of sex over two years was considered an Affair, not a relationship. But as the lines dissolved around marriage and people insisted "it's just a piece of paper" a funny thing happened. Those six-month relationships suddenly became a bigger deal in memory.
"Two girls ate too many, three's a crowd, and four you're dead!"
The irony is that because of changes in the culture since then, even though Dandy is old and grey now he might not think he chose wrongly after all, despite the prediction.
*For readers not around a decade ago and more, coming to grips with the change in the Arts & Humanities Tribe I grew up in dominated my thinking in the 1985-2005, and finalising that was a large topic here in the blog's early years. I don't often put much new into it now. That tribe has shown a huge change in sexual behavior in my lifetime.