Hypergamy & Polygamy

Tuesday I complained that the main argument against polygamy (men with multiple wives), that it creates more unmarried and hence unhappy  men, also argues for polyandry (women with multiple husbands), female prostitution, stronger punishment of wife affairs, and for forbidding women who never marry.  Many complained that I neglected to consider intrinsic gender asymmetries, which would induce more polygamy than polyandry, and more gays than lesbians.  Then there is Steven Landsburg:

Robin has it completely backward: When the wife of a 30 year old man (who is well past the prime age of violence) has an extramarital affair with an 18 year old, she is alleviating the problem, not contributing to it. Besides, most extramarital affairs do not deprive the husband of a long term sex partner.

Well there are several factors here to disentangle.  If the problem was just that some men never got any sex, well then yes women having more partners couldn’t hurt.  And if the problem was instead inequality in male sex, and if women had affairs with random men, then that couldn’t hurt either.  But if the problem is sexual inequality and if women are hypergamous, preferring the very best men, then we should expect it to be the same few, most likely married, men who repeatedly benefit from affairs.  An affair-occupied wife tends give less sex to her husband, which increases male sex inequality.

Now if you assume that women who want affairs, lesbian relations, or husband sharing would, if denied their favorite option, simply refuse to have sex with anyone, then allowing these things can’t reduce any guy’s sex. But allowing such things can make a difference when women would substitute other options.

So yes, banning polygamy could be part of a larger coherent strategy to reduce male sexual inequality, to resist natural female hypergamy.  But banning polygamy and also polyandry and prostitution, while allowing lesbian relations and preventing natural punishment of wife affairs, well that looks nothing like a coherent strategy to reduce male sexual inequality.  We should look elsewhere to explain our pattern of what we ban and what we allow.

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  • But if the problem is sexual inequality and if women are hypergamous, preferring the very best men, then we should expect it to be the same few, most likely married, men who repeatedly benefit from affairs.

    But there’s plenty of evidence that the criteria women use to choose long term partners are different from the criteria they use to choose short term partners. The men who are very best by one criterion will not in general be the very best by another. So it seems likely that when married women have affairs, they are making sex available to men who are undesirable in the marriage market, and hence reducing male sexual inequality.

  • Steven, the very best cads may differ from the very best dads, but both groups are still pretty small.

  • These days, those days

    Couldn’t most of these be explained by the social conservatives’ stated goal of supporting the nuclear family? Polygyny and polyandry are the greatest rivals of the nuclear family. Forbidding homosexual marriage, homosexual relationships, and homosexual acts would make sense to those who buy the argument that if you ban these things, the gays will just stop “choosing to be gay” and settle down into marriages. (For that matter, patriarchal assumptions may explain why gays are oppressed more by society than lesbians. If the husband controls the wife, then it’s his responsibility to make sure his wife doesn’t turn lesbian. But if the husband is gay, and he is dominant over his wife but subordinate to the community, then what’s needed is a social norm that pushes him into giving up homosexuality, rather than one that expects his wife to change him.)

    Prostitution is similar, if a bit more ambivalent. Opponents of prostitution argue that it is presents great danger to the nuclear family, but it’s sometimes argued that it prevents the greater evil of affairs and desertion by the husband. That latter argument is unfashionable today though.

    A really pro-nuclear family policy would be in favor of requiring each woman to marry someone, or better yet, marriages arranged in the interest of the patriarchs or of society in general. This is too obvious an infringement on women’s freedom to be allowed in modern society, though.

    Tougher punishment of wife affairs, like arranged marriage, is a concept that supported the nuclear family in patriarchal times, but is no longer workable today. Traditionally, there would have been a set of punishments that deterred the wife’s affairs and also made sure that the family stayed together after the affair takes place. But ito do that, you’d have to tolerate a double standard that punishes female adultery worse than that by males. Remove the double standard, and the result is that men want lighter punishment for their own affairs, and so they must live with more affairs by their wives. The system that evolved, where both parties can enforce mild punishments for each others’ affairs, also resulted in a higher divorce rate even though no one wanted this result. If we allowed polyamory, there might be far fewer children growing up in single-parent homes, but society hasn’t seemed to consider this option. They won’t even legalize prostitution in hopes of achieving this same end.

    • Abelard Lindsey

      Yes, but the whole purpose of the nuclear family is to reduce male sexual inequity. It is true that the nuclear family is best for raising kids. But this purpose would not apply to those who chose not to have kids or (in the examples of gays and lesbians) are not capable of natural reproduction. Thus, the real purpose of the nuclear family is to reduce male sexual inequity.

      • These days, those days

        Most people, and certainly most social conservatives, believe that the more important purpose of the nuclear family is to raise kids and do it better than the alternatives. The reduction of male sexual inequality is normally considered a less important goal, and whenever they come in conflict, it’s the nuclear family and its childrearing.

        Take first the obvious example of gay marriage. Gay marriage doesn’t pose a practical threat to the straights who are maintaining their nuclear family, but it poses a great ideological threat when gays are allowed to adopt children and prove that they can raise them just as well as a straight couple. And antigay conservatism, when it succeeds in its goals, always has the result that gays are pressured into the institution of straight marriage (because remember, “they can choose to be straight”). What you have is conservatives pressuring gay men to take on a wife that they don’t want, pressuring lesbians to get married even though they have far less sexual desire for the husband than a straight woman. Obviously this leads to greater sexual deprivation, but it certainly has at least the appearance of supporting the nuclear family.

        The debate about prostitution leads to a similar conclusion. When a form of prostitution is available to non-rich clients, it is of obvious benefit to the sexually deprived. Some would argue that it functions as a useful outlet to prevent husbands from being discontent with their marriages, but let’s suppose that the argument is decided against this proposition and the conservatives remain convinced that it harms the nuclear family (on net) by draining off the husbands’ money, creating a class of permanently unmarried and childless women, and promoting promiscuous values. Surely the conservatives would (do) still oppose prostitution, even though it keeps men from being sexually deprived.

        In this context, note that polygyny obviously isn’t trying to make sure that men–or women for that matter–don’t suffer from this kind of unequal access to sex. But polyamory/free love is a different kind of rival to monogamy, for it claims to be a far more effective way of ensuring that men and women can be successful in sex and love with a minimum of obstacles. It can only be criticized for failing to deliver on its promises, not for working toward the wrong goal. Again, however, polyamory tends to be confused or conflated with polygyny by those who have little familiarity with it. Peole don’t tend to think in terms like “Monogamy is a way to make sure every man has a wife, and polyamory may be an even better way to make sure that anyone can have a spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend/casual sex partner/whatever.” This suggests that while the reduction of male sexual inequality is one of the true purposes of the nuclear family–and I completely agree with this claim, as long as it’s properly understood–the average person doesn’t consciously appreciate this goal. The typical attitude toward monogamy is exemplified by a beta man who has a wife, who would never be getting laid if he lived in a society like ancient Mesopotamia or modern Iraq, but who believes that society has forced him to give up his chances of being a successful adulterer in order that he shall be a good father and husband.

  • Nick Walker

    Roissy theory: a cheating wife/girlfriend will have sex with her long term partner during the weeks she is not fertile and will have affairs when she is fertile.


    Roissy also argues women “social proof” men and are attracted to men other women are attracted to.

    My proposition is the cheating wife increases the problem because she reduces the value of the 30 year old and augments the value of the 18 year old. That is a zero sum game as the 18 year old becomes more attractive to other women since the cheating wife chose him and the 30 year old becomes less attractive to other women as the wife rejected him.

    In a vicious circle, the wife loses attraction, the cuckold loses social proof, the wife loses more attraction, which eventually leads to paternity fraud or divorce, depriving the man of a partner. In that situation 30 year old men are plenty violent and dangerous.

    • antlet

      No I honestly don’t think rejected men loses value, if not by overly conformistic women.

  • Nick Walker:

    While I am a huge follower of Roissy, that theory of his doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. Its more probable that women, at the peak of ovulation, would have sex not only with her “first man” but with others as well. she won’t neglect the first, she’ll merely increase the magnitude of copulations with other men. If she’s good at lying and hiding things, the first man won’t notice a change in her sexual behavior. Its sperm competition theory.

    • Nick Walker

      Hi Chuck. Roissy also argues women focus on one man at a time. He says it’s a carousel where instead of trying to ride all horses in one turn, a promiscuous woman leaves the ride, gets in line, and gets back on repeatedly.

      If a woman is focused on one man, and women in general are attracted to the highest status men (hypergamy), then its reasonable women are focused on the SAME men, which results in inequality unless you enforce monogamy.

      • Women will often have sex with two men at the same time:

        1. An Alpha Male (HMV)
        2. A provider

        Of course, she is more likely to pursue sex wit the Alpha during ovulation and with the provider during the rest of her cycle. Robin Baker theorizes that a woman will often also want to have sex with the provider right after having sex with the Alpha because it helps disguise paternity.

    • Fructose

      First of all, this isn’t really Roissy’s theory. It’s something psychologists have known about for quite a long time. Women are more likely to have affairs when ovulating, and shift sex with primary partners to less fertile periods.

      Women also “reorient” to more masculine faces while ovulating, but prefer more feminine male faces while infertile (when their sex drives are lower).

  • curious

    hearing complaints about “natural female hypergamy” as if men don’t behave this way cracks me up.

    no one seems to be holding her breath waiting for the day when legions of men start rejecting hot women in favor of ugly ones.

    if there’s anyone here of either sex who would not choose the best possible partner you can get your hands on (according to whatever criteria you consider relevant), but instead would reject that person in favor of a partner you consider inferior (again, according to your preferred criteria), please pipe up and explain your reasoning. we’re all ears.

    the fact that men rely on a somewhat different set of traits (more focus on youth & looks) to measure overall female status hardly changes the fact that both sexes are always on the lookout for the best deal they can get.

    • Jess Riedel

      I think you may just be confused as to the way “hypergamy” is being used here. There is, in fact, an extreme asymmetry between the sexes: genetic studies indicate that more than twice as many of our ancestors are females then males. That means, in the past, a relatively small group of men are reproducing with a large group of women.

      It seems clear that the societal norm of monogamous marriage, a relatively recent development, counteracts this to some degree.

      • curious

        i think i’m pretty well aware of how it’s being used.

        by the way, if you’re implying that this is evidence for “female hpergamy,” you seem to be imposing way too much behavioral interpretation on the ramifications of such an asymmetry (if it indeed exists — i haven’t seen any such data myself). if your claim about female ancestor ratios is true, all it would mean is that in the distant past, some men were relatively more successful at producing offspring that survived to reproductive age.

        it says nothing about what led to that fitness differential. maybe many men at the time died young in warfare, or hunting, or activities that might have raised male mortality, meaning the remainder who lived had a much longer reproductive life. or maybe a subset of men were better nourished and more fertile, and thus more likely to actually impregnate a women when they had sex. or they were better parents/protectors, so their kids didn’t get killed by the big beasties of the wild. or they were simply of higher quality genetic stock, yielding healthier children that were more likely to survive the environmental challenges of the time. etc, etc. any of these scenarios could explain the same data without claiming that many women had sex with only a few men.

    • Nick Walker

      The difference is men will settle for average women. Women would rather stay single than date an average guy. If women don’t settle for average men, then our population, economy and power decline.

      • curious

        hey, thanks for being awesome, nick. i love this argument. and yet, somehow, 70% of men aged 30-34 in this country had been married at least once as of 2004, as had 86% of men aged 40-49. in the over 70 age group, only 3 percent of men had never married (and let’s keep in mind that some of these never-married dudes are happily paired off with each other).

        so somehow, despite the machinations of the evil, hypergamous women conspiring to keep average guys sexless, even a bunch of way, way below-average guys are able to find ladyfriends eventually (maybe the 22-year-old supermodels they had their hearts set on, but hey, we all make compromises).

      • do a Google on women marrying down

    • Mitchell Porter

      I’m with “curious”. It’s not as if male attention to women is uniformly distributed!

  • yay!

    Hey… here’s an explanation… sounds weird I know but… maybe those social rules are really about encouraging people to form cooperative, fair, sustainable, and mutually rewarding partnerships? Maybe both sexes are ultimately happiest when they have the love, support and lifetime loyalty of one committed partner. Maybe we don’t traditionally punish people for affairs via harsh legal methods because we understand that relationships are too complex and personal to be governed by simple rules of punishment and reward?

    Could it actually be possible that some cultural rules are good guidelines for human happiness, and that they get perpetuated because old people see their benefits through experience and teach them to the young?

    Of course not! We must all be constantly dedicated to screwing each other over in every possible way! We wouldn’t be Americans if we didn’t!

    • Fructose

      Wow, wrong on so many levels. These aren’t guidelines they’re laws. It isn’t that old people “teach” monogamy to young people, the government enforces it. Which implies that some people want these relationship types, but the government considers them harmful.

      And society did, traditionally punish women’s affairs with harsh legal methods. Try reading some history, sheesh.

      • antlet

        If you read well he talked about a change achieved via an eventual, possible cultural change. Thus people coming to the conclusion that is more convenient not screwing each other, but much less more the influence of the law (semi uneffective), but actually as a whole society.
        And why do you assume he didn’t know that societies actually punished it harshly. It simply said it was cruel, forced and uneffective and i want to stress it, i don’t think those law were in anyway ideally meant to reducing “male inequality” or sex inequality, rather to keep more firm the relationships of power, dominance and property.

    • Abelard Lindsey

      This sounds like the argument for reducing male sexual inequity.

  • When the charter of your society is free market capitalism and survival of the (financially?) fittest, that massive influence reduces any alleged genetic predisposition to anything, to the status of mere attribute.
    In an environment of impulse dominance bound to increased opportunity there is just no grand sense to it.
    Robin has my vote when is asserts : “We should look elsewhere to explain our pattern of what we ban and what we allow.”


  • Sewing-Machine

    It could be that the best explanation for inconsistent sex norms applies also to inconsistencies among general norms, and has little or nothing to do with sex per se.

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  • Nick:

    I fully agree that there is sexual asymmetry. The whole 40% of men, historically, have reproduced while 80% of women have thing was true during eras of human history when hypergamy (I call it, free market sexuality) was the norm.

    Over the past couple of centuries, with religion and Victorian ideals, the sexual market is less asymmetric. As those cultural monoliths erode, hypergamy reasserts itself as the default mode of female sexuality.

    Thus the rise of Game blogs and PUAs.

    • AlphaOmega

      Outstanding point. By the way, what a lot of people don’t know is game is anything “naturals” do. The original pickup artists observed guys like Brad Pitt in “Fight Club” and designed game to mimic their behavior. Presumably a guy like Brad Pitt is alpha, and the hope is correctly copying his behavior will result in positive alpha male association. Women don’t like game because they don’t want beta dressed as alpha, they want the real thing.

      • antlet

        I don’t think there really are betas and alphas, at least we can not be reduced at this. I think some girls really don’t find what’s commonly described as alphaness, alpha. So it is relative.

  • Re: “banning polygamy and also polyandry and prostitution, while allowing lesbian relations and preventing natural punishment of wife affairs, well that looks nothing like a coherent strategy to reduce male sexual inequality.”

    According to:

    Same-sex marriage is illegal in most places. Since marriage is the main way states express approval of such relationships – and it was actually polygamous *marriage* that was under discussion in the first place – that pretty directly reverses the sign of the evidence in that area.

  • Eric Falkenstein

    I think sociological implications are from mens access to uteruses, not vaginas. Prostitutes, masturbation, homosexuality, pedophilia (I’m not recommending this!), all can provide an outlet as needed, so you have lots of substitutes for nubile women on the pure sex front. But there’s always been only one way for a man to make a baby, and it’s a positional good.

    • Jeffrey Soreff

      Has anyone started preserving their genes by having them sequenced and putting copies on the internet? (I’m not particularly advocating this – I’m childfree myself). Still, the cost of sequencing is down to 20k, which is already well below the cost of raising a child. After all, if someone’s genes are going to be selfish, shouldn’t they at least be efficient about it? 🙂

      • Yes: “HuRef Genome Browser. This browser enables access to the diploid genome sequence of J. Craig Venter as recently published in PLoS Biology” – http://huref.jcvi.org/

  • So yes, banning polygamy could be part of a larger coherent strategy to reduce male sexual inequality, to resist natural female hypergamy. But banning polygamy and also polyandry and prostitution, while allowing lesbian relations and preventing natural punishment of wife affairs, well that looks nothing like a coherent strategy to reduce male sexual inequality. We should look elsewhere to explain our pattern of what we ban and what we allow.

    So, because society isn’t making an all out effort to reduce male sexual inequality, therefore the ban on polygamy can’t be about reducing male sexual inequality. The conclusion doesn’t follow from the premise.

    The ban on polyandry, for example, is just window dressing so people can say they are being logically consistent. But it is almost completely unnecessary. People might have other reasons (whether they are good reasons is a secondary) to ban prostitution, allow lesbianism, not punish adultery that they think are more important the goal of reducing male sexual inequality.

  • The 40%/80% stat is correct, but we don’t know how much of that was due to each of the following:

    1. Female choice
    2. Alpha male (HSS) hoarding
    3. Higher male death rates

    • I remember seeing something recently about men living longer than women until the 19th century, so the death rates for women had to be higher than men’s until recently. Historically, death in childbirth was not at all uncommon.

  • What Landsburg also doesn’t seem to get is most men don’t just want sex, they want exclusive sexual access.

  • OhioStater

    It’s unclear how “hard” or “soft” are female hypergamous preferences.

    1. does the guy need higher status than her? (soft)
    2. does the guy need higher status than other guys? (hard)
    3. does the guy need higher status than her best lover?
    4. does the guy need higher status than her dad?
    5. is acting high status adequate, or do you need to prove it?

    If hypergamy is soft, then theoretically all men can learn game and attract women. If hypergamy is hard, then the male dating pool is limited to the highest status top 10 or 20% of men.

    As 40% of men reproduce the truth is somewhere in the middle.

  • The US professor who writes “preventing natural punishment of wife affairs” is a shoo-in for membership of the Brave Position Club.

  • Psychohistorian

    Your formula for “controversial topics” appears to be as follows:
    1. Find some controversial thing.
    2. Find a single criterion on which to evaluate that thing. Pretend no other criteria exist.
    3. Completely ignore all practical considerations with all proposals involved.
    4. When possible, decide that “status” is responsible.

    To illustrate the basic problem that I feel keeps recurring, consider this:

    We fluoridate our water supply. Therefore, we care about people having good dental health. But if we cared about people having good dental health, we’d tax sugar because it causes cavities. Also, if a government inspector went to everyone’s home every night to make sure they brushed and flossed, that would also increase dental hygiene. Therefore, we actually fluoridate our water supply because scientists are high-status and we like to follow their high-status recommendations.

    This is a bit of a caricature of your arguments, but it’s a whole lot less of one than it should be.

    In this particular case, forcing women to marry, or banning lesbian relationships, or legalizing blackmail all create rather massive costs and practical considerations, as well as enforcement issues, that likely justify our failure to adopt all of them, particularly the first two.

    Human behaviour is complex, and if you want to prove the proposition “This particular custom is not wholly explained by this particular reason,” you will never run out of low-hanging material.

    • I’ve become quite an admirer of Robin’s work and I’m glad he raises a lot of these questions, but you have pretty much nailed the worst tendencies in how he thinks.

    • Sewing-Machine

      Hanson’s best insights come at a slower rate than is required to run a successful blog. The repetitive nature of the lower-quality posts is easier to caricature because 1. Hanson is a reductionist and 2. he chafes at offering pro forma disclaimers on controversial topics.

    • Aron

      Here’s how I’d put his argument model:

      “Observe that A is used as an explanation for B. Argue that explanation A is insufficient to explain B because if A is true it would have effect C, and C doesn’t occur.”

      I think we can almost always estimate that an explanation for human activities is oversimplified in some manner or another. This supports ‘A is insufficient to explain B’, but creates problems in the reverse part ‘if A is true it would have effect C’. This latter part likely trivializes the complexity of causes for C.

    • I would like to see some discussion of flouridation. It was used as short-hand for paranoia in the days of Dr. Strangelove, but I’ve read the occasional piece recently arguing that it has actually been bad for our health.

  • Abelard Lindsey

    This does bring up the question why straight males tend to have hostility towards gay men. Theoretically, the more gay men there are, the more available women there are for the straight men. Based on this, one would think that straight men would welcome the presence of gay men in society, since it increases their chances of getting laid. Yet, they do not.

    Why not?

    • Straight males tend not to like gay males because:

      1. Gay sex is generally disgusting to most heterosexual men.
      2. Gay sex has been used to assert the dominance of one male over another.

      • antlet

        3.Sadly some people thinks these 2 are good reasons. They are abysmal reasons, but if you think about it often discrimination stems from abysmal reasoning.

    • cos people ain’t rational man. they go “eeew, that’s ‘orrible” and that’s that. personally, i think “eeew, that’s ‘orrible”, but i make an effort to be rational and try to work past that with reason and all that good stuff. of course, it’s not entirely successful, and i still find myself to be afflicted by traces of homophobia, especially when talking to a friend of mine who’s male and far more touchy feely than i would like. if he was a she, it wouldn’t bother me.

      which perhaps relates to thursdays point of male dominance. i don’t feel threatened by a woman, but i do by a man.

      would being somewhat touched up by a weaker man make a guy feel uncomfortable? or pity?

    • This is something I discussed yesterday on my blog. The thinking that homosexuality effectively decreases the sex ratio (for all intents and purposes more gay men means that there are more straight women for every straight man) doesn’t take into account the concurrent sexual behavior of women. If there are a lot of gay men and therefore a surplus of straight women, those straight women will “morph” into gay women.

      I’m convinced (I’d really love it if a scientist took this theory under their wing) that a large portion of the increase in homosexuality post-Pill stemmed from a general acceptance of homosexual behavior along with a knock-on effect whereby the least hetero individuals fell under the net of homosexuality as their options for “normal” mates decreased. In other words, homosexuality in each gender was caused by increased homosexuality in the other gender. They developed in tandem.

      I’m not sure if its even possible to determine the causality of this; it’s a hunch feeling.

      • Jason Malloy

        “I’m convinced (I’d really love it if a scientist took this theory under their wing) that a large portion of the increase in homosexuality post-Pill stemmed from a general acceptance of homosexual behavior”

        Just for those who are interested in having the numbers on hand; I checked the GSS data for male and female homosexual behavior across the 20th century by birth cohort here.

        Interestingly, both male and female homosexual behavior decreased for those born between 1920-1949. Then for men there was a flat increase for those born between 1950-1979. However male homosexuality has noticeably declined for men born since 1980. It would seem that the current rate of male homosexuality is lower than it has been in (at least) 100 years.

        The trend for women has been very different. There has been a steady increase in female homosexual behavior and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. The current rate of female homosexuality is higher, by far, than it has been in (at least) 100 years.

        I suspect these fluctuations are all cultural, except the apparent decline in male homosexuality among Millennials, which is more likely biological.

      • Interesting factoid Jason! Anyone blogged about this?

      • Abelard Lindsey

        If there are a lot of gay men and therefore a surplus of straight women, those straight women will “morph” into gay women.

        Is there evidence that this occurs?

      • antlet

        Determining the ratio of homosexuality in past, with much less acceptance of it is close to impossible i think, so I simple think that the increased acceptance made it more visible. I also don’t think it’s given by the decreased options of mating, many girls say about gay guys they would have liked “wasted men”. So they are often handsome guys much desired.

  • god

    Heres an idea.

    Once 3d porn starts getting REALLY good,guys will start caring about actual chicks less.

    Im sure you have read about this idea from Roissy.

    And, god, i look forward to that future.

    • Artificial Sweetener

      “Once 3d porn starts getting REALLY good,guys will start caring about actual chicks less.”

      They’ll also get filtered out of the gene pool, unless those artificial chicks come with functional artificial wombs.

  • AlphaOmega

    Let’s play devil’s advocate: what would be the positive consequences of hypergamy, which I define as nerdy men providing the financial support needed to raise another man’s more athletic and handsome kid. This can happen directly (paternity fraud) or indirectly (government transfer payments like WIC).

    1. The population gets better looking over time.
    2. The population gets more athletic over time
    3. The population gets dumber over time.

    Broadly speaking monogamy skews toward K selection whereas hypergamy skews toward r selection.

    It’s hard to track intelligence trends, but points 1 and 2 we can see with our own eyes. Models today are better looking than before and athletes are definitely more impressive than in prior generations. Most top athletes and I suspect many models come from broken families, which is not surprising if the father was desirable, had options, and didn’t want to settle down.

    From a superficial point of view at least, it seems hypergamy could increase the pace of human evolution.

  • heraclitus

    I think we should be strongly encouraging arranged marriages and marriage among cousins (or some arrangement where you already know who you will marry while still young) if we are interested in decreasing sex inequality. But western and modern values would be strongly against these ideas.

  • Artificial Sweetener

    “Of course, she is more likely to pursue sex wit the Alpha during ovulation and with the provider during the rest of her cycle. Robin Baker theorizes that a woman will often also want to have sex with the provider right after having sex with the Alpha because it helps disguise paternity.”

    Maybe it did in the past, but given modern contraceptives, most women are following behavior that no longer has an actual evolutionary advantage. They’re firing blanks.

    Even if they do take the risk of unsafe sex with a stranger and conceive, given the ubiquity of genetic testing, it will be the “Alpha” rather than the “provider” who ends up paying child support. So male fitness will be limited by income.

  • John Maxwell IV

    “We should look elsewhere to explain our pattern of what we ban and what we allow.”

    Given that what is banned and allowed varies between cultures, I think you should be careful not to see a pattern where there is none.

    At best I would look for a pattern in how norms have been changing since the industrial revolution to try and predict where we will eventually end up. If the Zulus had experienced the first industrial revolution, things would probably be completely different today… but they might end up converging by the year 2500.

  • Oligopsony

    1) Where is the evidence that monogamy has a “purpose?” It’s a social phenomenon, not an individual action. (Remaining faithful is an individual action, albeit a socially mediated one, but that’s obviously not what we mean by monogamy.) Perhaps it might be said to have a purpose in people’s reasons for upholding and enforcing it, but you seem to specificially deny that people think about male sexual inequality, as opposed to other hypothetical positives of the arrangement, like heightened paternal investment. At most I think you might be able to suppose that (in the conditions under which monogamy became common) monogamous polities were able to outcompete and incorporate (previously) non-monogamous ones, perhaps due to paternal investment. (The just-so stories for male sexual inequality seem just as intuitively appealing either way. Maybe it leads to greater pointless conflict and maybe it leads to greater incentives for innovation and dynamism. Or both. Which one is more important under the social conditions in question. I can’t think of a decent just-so story explaining why higher paternal investment would disadvantage a polity’s ability to grow and incorporate others, but give me an hour and I probably could. A truly clever person would note that this methodology can explain everything and should be discarded.)

    2) It doesn’t seem to follow from the fact that most of our ancestors were women that historical male sexual inequality was all that great (much less reflect high innate desirability differentials among men, such as is required for “hypergamy” to make sense.) In an arbitrarily large panmixia in which every woman has exactly two children that grow to reproductive age, a significant portion of men won’t reproduce – not because they had less sex (everyone has exactly the same amount) but due to entirely random factors regarding which sperm met which egg. In a society in which female sexual preferences are totally individual – Alice’s have nothing to do with Bertha’s, each’s subjective hierarchy of male desirability is totally random – and every woman decides to be sexually exclusive with her favorite man, a little under 40% of men will be left bachelors. Anyone with a little math can see how under iterated processes small differences can become large ones, especially if we let all of curious’ important factors (survival rates, parenting quality, &c.) in.

  • Φ

    that looks nothing like a coherent strategy to reduce male sexual inequality.

    Well, sure. If you want a coherent strategy, read the Old Testament: it looks pretty much like you would predict.

    You appear to be assuming that the present rules represent an end-state. On the contrary, the rules are hotly contested and much in flux, and I predict that demands for the legalization of polygyny will be heeded once gay marriage is secure.

  • Andr

    Shouldn’t the practice of women preferring high status males be called ‘hyperandry’?

    Also what do you make of the argument that I’ve heard recently that polygamous practices are exploitative of women?


  • TomM

    I’m intrigued by the notion that 40% of men have reproduced while 80% of women have done so. I found this assertion in an address by social psychologist Roy Baumeister called “Is There Anything Good About Men” but he cites no reference and gives no bibliography. Searching the web I can’t find any reference to such a difference.

    Can anyone direct me to some legitimate resources where the basis for this claim is revealed?


  • sisterwives ummm isn’t polygamy against the law? why does TLC continue to bombard us with weird/freakish people?… The Zombie Queen is watching a polygamy show. She asks the Zombie King if he would have other women. Zombie King Says No..

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  • We have a common phrase for “sexual inequality”. When more desirable, more successful men attract more and better mates, we call it natural selection. Regulated monogamy, enforced fidelity, financial support to the mass breeding of those who have not earned the right,  and any other attempt of unnatural equality leads to another common phrase. The downward spiral. Now please exuse me. I’m gonna go make some money and follow that with some much earned sex. If you do the same, then maybe your wife wont be waiting for me when I begin.

    • he he, funny.
      For me I would be jealous of a woman loving my eventual money and not me :D.

      As for prostitution my point is that I could not have sex with a woman not sharing my sensations – equal masturbatio > doing it alone, rather than in two.
      Yes, law enforced equality can be uneffective, if not interiorized by people, the social equality of women is obviously a different thing rather the forced, it’s simply the removing of most social and juridic obstacles women used to endure in past.
      Life struggle has been reduced to an extend, though and things could get better, so sexual inequality might lower as well and sex will become more ludic.

      •  Sorry, I can be hard to understand. When frustrated, my tongue gets stuck in my cheek. I greatly respect prostitution though I haven’t tried one. I get people to lie to me for free. Masturbation on the other hand, so to speak, is a great way to relax.
        My point was that both polygamy and hypergamy are not only natural, but healthy and widespread. The animal chooses the mate most likely to produce good offspring and provide for the family. It’s not fair. I’m bald, potbellied and poor. Angelina Jolie chose Brad Pitt instead of me. It’s not fair but see the line about masturbation.
        Lonely men, like slow zebras, hate natural selection. Here are the results of the western experiment. Zebras don’t have religion or congressmen to skewer natural selection so they don’t make many retarded baby zebras, and that’s that. We in the west want fairness. We forbid fit parents from mating with multiple partners but we give extra pay to unfit parents who do so. We ostracize women who actually choose a mate based solely on his success but we applaud those who have sex with loosers for true love. Autism rates are increasing at such speeds that republicans are denying it faster than evidence of global warming. No one knows why. It’s a mystery. It’s not fair.
        One more point. Female penguins don’t like shiny rocks but they do like the male that can gather the best pile of them. Perhaps if women were scarcer due to polygamy and or hypergamy perhaps we men would strive harder for success.

      •  In fact I was saying that masturbation was better and more sincere than prostitution, that said I wasn’t against it or disrespect, especially if women doing it are in necessity.
        I also adverse forbidding polygamy, but just for the sake of freedom, not because i have the natural selection or survival of the best myth.
        I think cooperation and solidarity is better for society, because people trusting each other are more united against oppression, a society with few rich people is the result of poor people struggling with each other for “selection” imho, while a few people take the tastier fruits of these fights :), indeed they have interest on perpetuating the war amomg poors – medium class.
        That said i don’t adverse well endowed men or women going for the aesthetically or intellectually more pleasing partner, though maybe perfection has not to be so much mythized (i find it boring sometimes) and average people maybe should delude themselves less in striving for the apparently “better endowed” and invest more in cultivating the potential of excellence in “average” people. Because excellence, or geniusness to me is not completely innate, it depends also on the terrain it grows in, which is the society.