Monogamy for the ben[e]fit of women?


I found this post here and just had to copy it to my blog. It’s pretty good and it brought up some ideas I hadn’t considered before.

Probably the most irritating thing to me when I read about things against polygamy is the constant assumption that monogamy is better for women or somehow in womens best interests. Are people really so naive to think that monogamy and womens lib went hand in hand or had anything to do with each other? Monogamy was not implemented for the benefit of women, why is there so much talk as if it was? Weather we trace it to Roman Law to prevent too many full citizens or popular early gnosticism that viewed sex and marriage as of the devil or slightly better than hellfire we don’t have a woman friendly policy.

In the 300′s we see monogamy mandated for clergy. In the 600′s we have it for everyone, and in the same century we have the view that women are not even to touch the altar and that the Eucharist was too holy to be touched by a woman’s bare hands, she had to wear white linen gloves. We hardly have time where monogamy would be established for womens sake. Even up to the 1700′s we have writing on how monogamy hurts women, its only in the last century that its been seen as something for them or for their benefit.

Even in more recent history we have monogamy working directly against women. Among the Mormons we have Martha Hughes Cannon, the first woman in any state senate in the States. She was the wife of a polygamist. We have women gaining the right to vote in Utah in 1870, then that right being taken away in 1887 by the Edmunds-Tucker antipolygamy act. That’s right, women lost the right to vote in an antipolygamy act… It took them 8 years to get it back. Monogamy once again is against women, its simply not to their benefit, its to mens benefit. Frankly most men prefer girlfreinds, mistresses, or worse than wives. They certainly don’t want to be outnumbered by wives, it becomes much harder to promote total top down control of women.

To whit many would respond that polygamy usually practiced with that kind of control in our time. Well, yeah, but its because in deeply Islamic countries the law directly opposes women. Women aren’t kept down by the family but by society at large. Without the law backing him the husband doesn’t have total top down power in polygamy, he has less power since he loses the strength advantage and he has more views and reasons to consider.

Put it this way, in monogamy if a man is head of the house and has veto power, any split vote is 1:1, his veto power wins, he is an automatic dictator. In a house of a husband and 3 wives you have much more of a republic, the man as head of house might resolve 2:2 votes but he ought to hesitate if there is a 1:3 vote against him. He should believe his wives to be intelligent and responsible and realize that he would be leading the family into trouble by ignoring their council.

If a man is abusive is he really going to have a use for polygamy? 2:1, even though men are much stronger than women if they support each other he is in trouble.

The only way polygamy goes wrong is if laws or culture prevent women for standing up for themselves. At present thats what polygamists cultures in the medias limelight either actually do or are accused of doing.

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26 Responses to Monogamy for the ben[e]fit of women?

  1. Cool, Glad you got some use out of my post. My blog is so badly unmaintained :).

    Anyway, drop me an e-mail sometime if you like, I actually have quite a lot of poly related information, but I usually wind up talking to people about it in person or email and have never really gotten around to blogging.

  2. Justin says:

    The women=property history of monogamy is what I think Joseph Smith was trying to get away from by the implimentation of a new and everlasting of marriage. The Subjection of Women by John Stuart Mill outlines many arguments for why and how the legislation of marriage and roles for women rendered the status of women as “less than slaves” in the late 1800’s.

    The principle that regulates current relations between the two sexes (the legal subordination of one sex to the other) — and can only be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege to one side or the other.

    It is strange that the male nature is so strong and aggressive that it typically dominates in both monogamy and polygyny. One would think that a man having multiple wives would be outnumbered, that the women would have their way with him by outvoting him in everything – but it doesn’t work that way. The unfair arrangement only works as long as the wives are totally submissive to him, otherwise, he won’t enter the union. So, patriarchy dominates in polygyny.

    Only polyandry evens the playing field and creates (when in conjunction with polygyny) true egalitarianism — where women and men share their power thru their respective councils. Simultaneous polyandry and polygyny (the tribal, multihusband-multiwife plural marriage system) brings women up to the level of men without reducing man.

    It is the solution Mormon feminists seek, but fear b/c of their rejection of anything related to polygamy. Mormon male chauvinists likewise fear it b/c they hate the thought of one’s wife being with another man and strict paternity being unclear to track, etc.

    PS — good to see a new post.

  3. Justin says:

    Prairepolyguy (or anyone else for that matter):

    I’d ask that you please check this post out (GEMTAM Book Collaboration) — and the two links at the end of the post:
    One is for a FastPencil book project — anyone is free to read and comment on the material there, and if you’re interested — you can participate as an editor or reviewer or whatever.
    The other is for a Facebook group page for discussion the tribal polygamy model (whether one is for or against it). If you are on FB, then check it out — we like to have as many voices speaking on the matter as possible.

  4. Tribal polyandry is pretty dang rare, about 1\10 the rate of tribal monogamy, and thats the minority…

    Where it did happen, there was nothing particularly egalitarian about it. In some rare cases it was reserved for the ruling class, which is the antithesis of egalitarian, in many others it was restricted to brothers sharing a woman, which doesn’t give the woman any particular favor.

    It’s not a reproductively benificial setup, polyandry hurts mens reproductive potential without helping womens. Polygyny doesn’t hurt women and benifits men. Having kids is the fundamental reason for the relationship in the first place, so this SHOULD be very important, though I understand kids are not important to most people nowdays, so that argument usually doesn’t matter. Note what I said before about many cases of polyandry being limited to brothers, that particular setup is very intelligent in this respect. But that isn’t the setup you’re advocating.

    But the thing that really gets me about this is that it is ignorant of the same thing the anti-polygynists are. A strong, healthy, respectful relationship comes from the individual members participating in the relationship, not the structural dynamic itself. Even in polyandry it is entirely likely that a dominant personality will arise and bring all the problems you want to avoid into the relationship, and the woman doesn’t have any particular edge at being that personality. This is how human society works, certain personality types take the lead over others, and that is good so far as the person is good and bad as far as the person is bad.

    As to open marriages which allow multiple of both sexes, that something you’ve just not thought through. It has no history that has lasted over a century and if you really thought it out it would have to be really rules oriented and ruled iron fist top down to ensure everyone needs are met without weaker personality types being sidelined.

    • Winnie Jacobs says:

      Men were designed with a much stronger sex drive than women for a divine purpose, I believe. To propogate the species and raise seed unto God. I don’t see how this could be accomplished with polyandry. It would not only defeat this purpose, but it would cause horrific emotional and physical distress to a woman, who would not be able to perform to the demands of several husbands sexually. What happens when a woman gets pregnant? Is she to be laid on the sacrificial alter of continuous sexual advances from multiple husbands during this time when due reverence for her condition should be paid? Where does that leave the unfulfilled man, whose role it is to propogate and raise up seed? Polyandry is the antithesis of the plan of God, and goes against the very nature by which the sexes were designed in their physicality and psyches. It would be abuse in the highest degree to women.

      • Justin says:

        Men were designed with a much stronger sex drive than women for a divine purpose, I believe.

        That “horny man” and “woman with a head-ache” are out-dated cultural cliches that simply don’t accord withe the common reality today of men with low libido — and sexually-frustrated wives.

        To propogate the species and raise seed unto God. I don’t see how this could be accomplished with polyandry.

        That’s because you don’t know the science — you just know your gut-reaction against the “icky”-idea of men sharing the same wife. Polygyny decreases the average number of children per woman — while polyandry increases her reproductive success.

        And besides — marriage is about more than producing children anyway.

        Polyandry is the antithesis of the plan of God, and goes against the very nature by which the sexes were designed in their physicality and psyches. It would be abuse in the highest degree to women.

        The issue of polyandry is the one place where the Mormon fundamentalists and the mainstream LDS see eye-to-eye — they are both disgusted by it equally.

        Lol.

        I’m wondering Winnie — have you read the GEMTAM book chapter on Multihusband-multiwife [it’s linked above]? It might enlighten you a bit.

      • zo-ma-rah says:

        IIRC a lot of the men have higher sex drive than women propaganda came from the work of Alfred Kinsey. Mr. Kinsey was a sexual deviant whose intent was to mainstream pedophilia and homosexuality. He was a child rapist and encouraged men to rape their children and send data in to him. Mr. Kinsey’s research has become the basis for the modern Sex Ed program in schools and is commonly sourced for modern understanding of sexual behaviors among men and women. I reject his work completely!

  5. Justin says:

    Where it did happen,

    The model is gospel-based (if you checked out the FastPencil or Facebook description of it) — not historically-based.

    It’s not a reproductively benificial setup, polyandry hurts mens reproductive potential without helping womens.

    Funny that the wikipedia entry for polyandry says that, “It is easier to ensure reproductive success (i.e. it is more likely that the female will have offspring)”.

    This is how human society works, certain personality types take the lead over others, and that is good so far as the person is good and bad as far as the person is bad.

    Right — as I said, men will always dominate over when in monogamous and polygynous arrangements.

    I’ve found that it is always the inclusion of polyandry (which Joseph Smith did with the D&C 132 revelation and his sealing practices) that really gets polygynists and monogamists together on something. Not wanting to allow women the freedom to express their love to plural spouses seems to be the one thing they both agree on.

    Which is probably why it’s my favorite subject to talk about…

  6. Justin says:

    Oh yeah — prariepolyguy — I forgot to address:

    Tribal polyandry is pretty dang rare

    Polyandry is essentially only found among tribal communities. In societies where there is a more established idea of property and the like — the patriarchal structure all but slams the door on any chance of multiple husbands. It threatens their flimsy paternity lines of inheritance. And is always a no-go.

  7. Pingback: Sunday in Outer Blogness: Pioneers and Polygamists Edition! | Main Street Plaza

  8. Well, my blog was talking about history, if you’re making a case about Mormon gospel then you’ll have to do it with someone else.

    Wikipedia is funny, and its funny when people quote it like that. It’s funny enough when people quote it period, but when someone takes an opinion from it without any substantial argument its worthy a laugh…

    It only makes a difference in the case of infertility, and even then it doesn’t help much considering how easy cheating is, and that quite a few cultures had fallback anyway (such as a night with the husbands brother)

    It’s entirely nieve to think its only men that can have dominant personality types, you’re statement is more of an odd misoandry than an argument…

    As for the other post, did you see that I noted it is far rarer than even tribal monogamy? If you paid attention you’d note that Polyandry is NOT only tribal, like I said before, there are some cases where it was something the ruling class did, tribal setups don’t have ruling classes, and ruling class have VERY established rules of property. Though, to be fair, polyandry has never survived the test of time in an established civilization or world power.

    The kind of polyandry that’s worked and the kind you’re talking about are two very different structures. As far as it goes, my efforts ultimately contribute to allowing all forms of polygamy, but come seven generations from now I’m not too worried about polyandry hanging around as a major phenomenon. What you miss is that marriage is about much deeper things than sex and authority. As long as you see it as a power struggle you’re not going to have the understanding to make a stable culture that lasts generation. I’ll say it one more time in attempt to emphasize it properly,

    A strong, healthy, respectful relationship comes from the individual members participating in the relationship, not the structural dynamic itself.

  9. Justin says:

    Wikipedia is funny, and its funny when people quote it like that.

    You do know that wikipedia is not a source right? It’s a source for sources — a place to begin a stream of research — etc. It’s actually the perfect place for the kind of surface-level conversations that take place at venues like blog conversations.

    I noted that your comment that, “It’s not a reproductively benificial setup…” was funny considering another source observes quite the opposite. I wasn’t quoting wiki. as this be-all-end-all authority of all things — just thought the two opposite views on polyandry was funny.

    It’s entirely nieve to think its only men that can have dominant personality types

    I didn’t say that only men have strong personality types — I said patriarchy typically dominates in both monogamy and polygyny. As a student of history, I thought this point would be a no-brainer for you to admit.

    So — if:

    polyandry has never survived

    then how can there be a

    kind of polyandry that’s worked

    to contrast with the kind of polyandry I’m talking about?

    Where in the gospel-based, egalitarian, multihusband-multiwife, tribal anarchy model of marriage families did you get the impression that I think, “marriage is about…sex and authority.“?

    Was it that my thesis is that strong families [the kind that can establish a Zion community] will be based on marriage between one man and one woman — where neither gender excersises exclusive property rights over the other, but that both are free to enter into plural marriage covenants with other spouses — so long as consent is honored in all things?

    Pretty extreme huh?

  10. Richard says:

    A people cannot say they are living the the law given in D&C 132, and then say they NEVER will allow any man to have plural wives. For one thing, verse 44 requires it at times.

    The main reason, however, is that eternal marriages must be confirmed “by revelation”. (verse 7) One simply cannot tell the Lord what He can and cannot reveal. I continue to believe revelation is being given independent of the Lord’s Gentile church, preparing for it to be cleansed as prophesied. These revelations begin in 1961 saying:

    Thus saith the Lord God: Not until the church
    again lives the New and Everlasting Covenant as
    revealed to them in plainness by My servant the
    Prophet Joseph Smith, and verified from time to
    time by others of My holy prophets, will I instruct
    and guide this church with further enlightenment.
    2 For if ye will not receive the word ye have, what
    profit will it be if I reveal more to you? For you
    will treat it as naught and trample it under your
    feet.
    3 Repent therefore, both the sheep and the
    shepherd, and I will reveal more of the mysteries
    of My kingdom, for I will give here a little and
    there a little, line upon line, and precept upon
    precept, if ye will have it, until you have all truth
    and are able to stand in My presence.

    Richard

    • Zach Loggins says:

      Hi Richard. I was just wondering where you found that revelation by the Lord. I’ve never heard of it before.

  11. Noah says:

    I see polygamy as just another way of doing things. You have a monogamist system, and a polygamist system, and each has their respective advantages and disadvantages. However, I do think polygamy–plus polyandry–would be a better system for today’s society, simply because of what the author said: “Frankly most men prefer girlfreinds, mistresses, or worse than wives.” To take the point a little further, modern, independent women are doing the same thing. The reason we treat polygamy as so distasteful is because we don’t want to be responsible to the people we have illicit affairs with. Or, if you’re like me (a faithful monogamist, you just don’t want the headache). But I agree, it isn’t inherently oppressive towards women, and there is ultimately more danger of it oppressing men with it.

  12. Noah says:

    PrariePolyGuy said, “Even in polyandry it is entirely likely that a dominant personality will arise and bring all the problems you want to avoid into the relationship,” and I think he’s totally right. It seems you’ve only doubled the possibility of the wife being oppressed. Oh, and in my prior post I rather ignorantly had polygamy and polygyny confused. Sorry, everyone.

  13. Justin says:

    Noah:

    It seems you’ve only doubled the possibility of the wife being oppressed.

    In a male-dominated situation, (like we see in many monogamous and polygynous households and in the church), there is neither patriarchy or androcracy. What exists is an androcratic oligarchy. Rulership by a few men. These few men rule over the women (men and women in the case of the church). Androcracy assumes that all men have power, while patriarchy assumes the same plus that men have the father-right. So, true androcracy and patriarchy do not exist (in families or in the church).

    The author that Zomarah copied this from assumes that plural wives are able to out-vote the man — however, I haven’t seen polygyny work that way. The unbalanced arrangement only works as long as the wives remain totally submissive to him — otherwise, he won’t enter the union. So, the male still dominates in polygyny (as well as in monogamy). This is why feminists hate both so much, and see them as oppression. Women look at the androcratic oligarchy that we have, and are told (as the rest of us are all told) that it’s “patriarchy” (which it isn’t). They don’t like the “patriarchy” that they see (which is really androcratic oligarchy) and cannot conceive of a solution being to form a true patriarchy — by allowing all men to share the male power and authority, because they see this as being worse than just having a few men with centralized power. This is the mistake I think Noah made in his comment.

    The truth of the matter is that for true equality to exist, there must be matriarchy along side patriarchy and gynocracy along side androcracy. There must be a balance of power, and power must be shared — never concentrated in the hands of a few.

    Matriarchy and gynocracy are tribal functions and typically don’t exist outside of one. Therefore, the tribe must be established. But what has power to establish the tribe? Patriarchy does, which doesn’t currently exist among us.

    Most attempts at equality are really just seeking a changing of the hats — keeping the power structure just changing who’s in charge. When really, we must seek to be like Moroni, who:

    [sought] not for power, but to pull it down.

    Which is why I think that only polyandry evens the playing field and creates (when in conjunction with polygyny) true egalitarianism — where women and men share power through their respective councils. Simultaneous polyandry and polygyny (a tribal, multihusband-multiwife plural marriage system) brings women up to the level of men without reducing man’s standing.

    What it doubles is not the opportunity of oppression (it actually halves those odds) — rather it doubles the number of stewards who are responsible for maintenance of the woman. It doubles the number of men who have a covenant obligation to love and serve a woman (while polygyny only cuts those odds in half).

  14. Noah says:

    I thank you, Justin, for clarifying one matter for me. You are right, the LDS Church is an androcratic oligarchy, and much of the inequality/oppression we suffer arises from that fact. I’ve rather haphazardly been calling it a patriarchy myself, and you’re right, labeling it such quite misses the point.

    As far as your main argument, I simply don’t see how polygyny and polyandry practiced together might rectify inequality, because I think we need to look at the reality of household dynamics here (You’re remark about men not entering into certain polyandrous relationships was well-taken, btw). If you look at my monogamous marriage, one of the reasons I don’t get to treat my wife like shit is because society affords her too many opportunities to get out of the relationship relatively unscathed. But if, for whatever reason, if you’ve got an already existing polyandrous relationship, it seems to me that–before the messy divorce anyway–you’ve got the interests of two or more husbands potentially dominating over the interests of one wife, because that’s just how group dynamics work. The only thing that changes that (and I think we might agree) is society as a whole, i.e., external factors. Looking at things another way, if society can get it’s act together (and be egalitarian), monogamy seems like the most egalitarian approach, polygyny seems to make men slightly vulnerable, and polyandry seems to make women highly vulnerable. Polyandry plus polygyny may appear to rectify certain forms of inequality, but will it actually hold true on a household level? Forgive me if I haven’t gotten the gist of your argument. I read your post about five times, so I tried my best.

    I’m just saying that if we happen upon a hypothetical society that treats all people as equals, the minority group in any household/marriage is going to be the most vulnerable. This, of course, is in contrast to the assumption that wives with multiple husbands or husbands with multiple wives will own them as property and magically control them like a herd of cattle. An egalitarian society isn’t going to allow for that, our society doesn’t allow for that, and I don’t think early Mormon society allowed for that. In fact, if you look at the amount of power the RS wielded before and after polygyny, the correlation makes one pause. Given the society I live in, if I had multiple wives, chances are they would each be university educated with high-paying jobs and their interests could easily dominate mine. However, if I lived in an FLDS community, where where the broader social structure is entirely different (and the religious aspect entrenched), then I guess, I might conceivably herd them around like cattle. However, men being men, I’ll say it one last time, the danger of polyandry has got to be two or three fold that of polygyny.

  15. Justin says:

    If you look at my monogamous marriage, one of the reasons I don’t get to treat my wife like shit is because society affords her too many opportunities to get out of the relationship relatively unscathed.

    But, you see, that’s not monogamous. Present society has prevalent cheating, serial monogamy, and pornography use — all three of these things are not monogamy.

    The danger of [inequality within] polyandry has got to be two or three fold that of polygyny” — to me this assumes a narrative where in polygyny, there are more women to “outvote” the will of the man and in polyandry, there are more men to tell the woman what to do.

    I don’t see this narrative holding water. The kind of men who like to tell women what to do would never enter a polyandrous union b/c they can’t stand the thought of their wife being emotionally and sexually satisfied by another man. As I noted, hatred of polyandry is the one place where monogamists and polygynists can both agree.

    In other words, I would say that polyandry naturally selects for men who are more likely to manifest charity than polygyny does. This is probably why I would say strong families [the kind that can establish a Zion community] will be based on marriage between one man and one woman — where neither gender excersises exclusive property rights over the other, but that both are free to enter into plural marriage covenants with other spouses — with consent being honored in all things.

  16. Justin says:

    ^^ The formatting of the above comment seems to be a bit messed up — hope it makes sense in less than five readings.

  17. Noah says:

    “The kind of men who like to tell women what to do would never enter a polyandrous union b/c they can’t stand the thought of their wife being emotionally and sexually satisfied by another man.”

    I can only agree with this statement, the polyandrous relationship I spoke of earlier being purely hypothetical. As much as I try NOT to tell my wife what to do, I certainly can’t stand the thought of her being emotionally/sexually satisfied by another man (although she can’t stand the thought of me being with another woman either–and probably more so). However, you’re certainly right in saying our society no longer practices monogamy. I think, perhaps, we agree on more than we realize (or maybe we don’t; idk). That is, I did say “polygamy [polyandry AND polygyny] …would be a better system for today’s society…[BUT] we treat polygamy as distasteful [at least partly] because we don’t want to be responsible to the people we have illicit relationships with….”

    • Justin says:

      polygamy [polyandry AND polygyny] …would be a better system for today’s society…[BUT] we treat polygamy as distasteful [at least partly] because we don’t want to be responsible to the people we have illicit relationships with…

      Yes — I like that.

      I thought of something else about your monogamous marriage example I commented on previously — where you said your wife would just move on if you were to try to boss her around. I realized that she would be acting polyandrously — it’s just because of the present cultural climate, she’d divorce you and seek another, separate marriage when she was feeling unfulfilled by your marriage covenant. We’d call that monogamous b/c it would be one-at-a-time, but it’s still polyandrous in nature.

      I would just say that instead of divorcing you if you treated her like shit — she should still be free to find another husband — which perhaps would stir you to repentance and your marriage could be reconciled.

      • Noah says:

        I think I see what you’re saying. In a polyandrous relationship, the men are potentially in a competitive relationship for the woman’s approval (and everything that entails). They’re not going to gang up on her; they’re going to keep each other in check (or fight each other). Those are some crazy family politics. Good point if I understand you correctly.

      • Justin says:

        (or fight each other.) Those are some crazy family politics. Good point if I understand you correctly.

        Except for the fighting — yes.

  18. Noah says:

    By the way, Justin, I’m enjoying your blog. I’m not an anarchist (well, I’m a libertarian socialist, which is a kind of anarchist), but I like what I see so far.

    • Justin says:

      That’s what’s great about anarchy — you don’t have to be an anarchist to enjoy it. Glad to hear you are getting something good out of what you’re reading.

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