“A major trait distinguishes the African family models as a whole from their European, American and Asiatic equivalents: widespread polygyny, which is only one central element of a whole system. The numbers of men and women in any community being roughly the same, a proportion of polygamous marriages of 30 per cent or more of all unions implies the existence of peculiar demographic mechanisms. One of these is a wide age difference between husband and wife. Women marry much younger than men and on average have more years of married life: the excess of ‘female married years’ is what makes general polygamy possible. To create a demographic balance, remarriage has to be frequent. Often it is not a question of remarriage but simply of inheritance, a widow being automatically transferred as wife to the man designated by the rules of succession. This implies a certain weakness or even the non-existence of prohibitions on marriages between affines; a man can inherit wives from his brother and from his father, although naturally his own mother is excluded. This practice, which is fairly frequent in Africa, flagrantly contravenes bothe the Christian and the Muslim teaching on incest.” [The Explanation of Ideology, pg. 192]
so, i think i may have been on the right track re. solving the “polygamy problem” (i.e. that if some men hoard all the women, other men will be cheated out of a chance to get a wife/wives). the trick must be to recirculate the women as much as possible. i suggested divorce as a possible strategy. in african societies, some men just inherit wives from male family members.
perhaps other men are still left out, tho. maybe women just circulate around the “alpha male” circles. getting your hands on some captive, slave women (as suggested by greying wanderer) is probably another solution.
previously: solving the “polygamy problem”?
update 06/22: see also side-effects of polygamy in three african societies
(note: comments do not require an email. stay away from those sabine women!)