The Genetics Of Concubinage

That the natural interest of women is in high-minded monogamous marriage while the natural interest of men is a brutal free-for-all is an assumption that is more repeated than thought about; it is more prejudice and tactics than good reproductive economics.

To be sure, it has been proven that modern Mormon polygamy is not in the best interests of most Mormon women, but no general principle can be derived from this. It all depends on the economic “territory” held by the male in question. There is a certain threshold beyond which it pays a woman to become a second wife on a good territory, thus obtaining access to excellent resources and the protection of the alpha male, rather than to take up with an inferior bachelor commanding fewer resources. Such second-rate males can, after all, be relied upon to help her bring up her children if the alpha dies or throws her out; patiently waiting for this to happen may in fact be their best reproductive strategy. Funnily enough, both in ourselves and in some allegedly pair-bonding avian species, the genetically superior male exhibits a marked lack of enthusiasm for the hard work of nesting. This creates an arbitrage opportunity for the B-team. Moreover, where official polygamy is illegal, but divorce is permitted, rich and powerful men will simply dump their wives whenever they want a new one. Which party gains from this depends on who has the better lawyer.

For the few men rich enough to afford it, polygyny carries the cost of insanely complex lineage politics and an atrocious level of conflict between the co-wives over their children’s inheritance. At the same time polygyny is, or logically ought to be, desired by any male strong enough to get away with it, because of the huge gains in reproductive fitness. That is, a whole heap of grandchildren, more than any monogamist can hope for. But few males are in fact strong enough to get away with it, not least because it is in the best interests of all the males deprived of women by harem-holders collectively to control reproduction and prevent monopolisation of women by the alphas.

The real question is, therefore, whether women have a common interest with weaker men in a coercive social mechanism to assign one woman to one man, and one man to one woman; or whether women have a common interest with the alpha males in an antinomian free-for-all. Perhaps the female sex divides in the same way as the male, so that polygyny versus monogamy lines up the alphas of both sexes against the rest of us.

Posted on May 12, 2009 at 09:56 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: AGAINST NATURE, "Love" Contra Social Stability

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