Polygyny refers to the marriage of a man with several women.
It is the most prevalent kind of polygamy, simply meaning marriage with many partners. Polyandry is the counterpart in which a woman has multiple men, which is historically quite rare, being generally practiced in resource-scarce areas where women had more economic power.
Polygyny has been quite common throughout history, either as a formal or informal institution, with the majority of documented human cultures practicing at least some form of polygyny.
Humanities closest extant animal ancestors, the apes of the Pan Genus (Chimps and Bonobos) are polygynous, though the type of polygyny practiced by them is often called polygynandry. Though the 'Alpha' Chimps attempt to monopolize their multiple female partners by force, this is often a futile venture, with the females of those species being highly promiscuous.
Human's proportionately smaller testicle size, and lesser degree of sexual dimorphism between the sexes (compared to other great apes) implies that cuckoldry was not as common among human's ancestors as it is among their closest living Great Ape relatives. This is due to the fact that mammal species with more promiscuous females typically evolve larger testicles to produce greater amounts of semen in an attempt to displace male competitor's sperm, to win the battle to fertilize the female partner's egg.
Historical evidence[edit | edit source]
Humans are a moderately polygynous species. In the Ethnographic Atlas, of 1,231 societies noted, 588 had frequent polygyny, 453 had occasional polygyny, and only 186 were fully monogamous. Even fewer, just 4 were polyandrous. Hence, 84.6% of societies were at least mildly polygynous. In traditional societies, men's reproductive variances are approximately 2–4 times those of women. Also the highest lifetime reproductive success is over 1000, whereas the female maximum is 69, which implies greater sexual inequality for men. In average forager societies, 21% of married women are married polygynously. Women may have reproduced twice as often as men throughout history as a result. Women prefer partnered men over single men which may be related to women's preference for high status, but may also be an adaption of women living in harmes.
Relation to female hypergamy[edit | edit source]
Polygyny naturally ties in with the topic of hypergamy as women's greater choosiness, and their greater tendency to demand a potential romantic partner to have resource provision capabilities or high social status compared to men, implies an overall tendency for women to date up.
An example of this would be the fact that a man's social status is positively associated with his potential fertility and ability to become polygynous, that is, that wealthier and higher status men have a much greater 'potential' copulation frequency. Status was in fact found in one large scale study to explain up to 62% of the variance in men's potential copulation frequency, much higher than the typical effect sizes for other male traits in relation to this topic in psychology.
There is also strong evidence that the historical selection pressure on male wealth has been fairly large, with this selection pressure being the strongest in cultures with institutionalized polygyny. This historical selection pressure on male wealth strongly suggests that greater male wealth historically increased a man's chance of being polygynous, with a man's potential to become polygynous becoming mediated more by a man's access to resources, as opposed to brute physical dominance, as human societies increased in complexity.
These selection pressures on male resource provision potential, while weaker in societies with monogamous marriage norms, are still existent due to serial monogamy and institutions that subvert strict monogamy by allowing high-status men access to concurrent female partners. An example in Western culture would be wealthy men often maintaining one or several mistresses. Serial monogamy would be expected to benefit wealthier men, as these men often remarry younger, fertile women.
Remarriage rates are consistently higher in men than women, wealthy men are less likely to be childless primarily due to them being more likely than poorer men to be in stable unions (marital or non-marital), and serial monogamy benefits men more than women (likely due to men's more lengthy potential reproductive careers).
This evidence suggests that wealthy men are more likely to practice de-facto polygyny, even in modern countries with greater gender equality and still extant (though often weakly observed) monogamous social norms.
Growing acceptance of polygamy[edit | edit source]
According to a 2017 survey by Gallup, the acceptance of polygamy is on the rise with now 17% of U.S. American's being accepting of it. There is also evidence of increased sexual inequality as summarized in the hypergamy article and the Scientific Blackpill.
References[edit | edit source]