Friday, September 18, 2015

Fractional Husbands. On How To Define Polygyny.

This post is from the imaginary series of what weird stuff Echidne's mind latched onto when it was supposed to do real work, and has to do with the way polygyny is traditionally defined:  One man with more than one wife, ranging from two to some very large number.

But suppose we flip that around, without changing the truth value of the definition at all:  One woman with a fraction of a husband, the size of the fraction depending on how many women have to share him.

Isn't that fun?  The first definition of polygyny sounds like a potentially good thing for the lucky husband*:  lots of sexual variation, lots of opportunity to make the wives compete with each other for attention, lots of power.

The second definition (mine) shows why polygyny may not be a good thing for any woman who would prefer at least one whole husband. 

All that is simplified.  But the basic nature of polygyny is that the women are expected to share, and not only the one husband, but also his resources, including any inheritance he might one day leave behind.  And all the children must compete for the one man's attention.

Then there is the traditional division of power in polygyny:  The lion's share of it goes to the husband.  But even if that aspect was fixed the general sharing problem would remain.

*But not for all those heterosexual men who won't find even one wife because someone else is taking more than one.  That's a real problem, given the fairly equal sex ratios at birth, at least in the absence of enough warfare to kill lots of men.