monogamy, serial monogamy, and polygamy

laura betzig makes a convincing argument that, especially for the elites — both secular and clerical (think popes and bishops) — marriage in medieval europe might have been monogamous, but mating wasn’t. not only were the elites not all that monogamous in their mating practices, many of them were also incestuous [pgs. 185-86]:

“In the same vein — and maybe richest of all accounts — is Lambert of Ardres’ ‘Historia comitum Ghisnensium,’ the early thirteenth-century pean to his benefactor, Count Baudouin. Marc Bloch calls Baudouin ‘hunter, toper, and great wencher’ (1961, p. 104), and Georges Duby has made a lot of the last. As he puts it: ‘Life in a noble household was a hotbed of sex’ (1983, p. 70). Or, as Lambert says: ‘”From the beginning of adolescence until his old age, his loins were stirred by the intemperance of an impatient libido…; very young girls, and especially virgins, aroused his desire”‘ (Duby 1978, p. 93). Roissy Baudouin and his kinsmen are said to have preferred pretty women; no matter how casually sexually encountered they are all described as ‘beautiful.’ And, evidently, fruitful: This count was buried with twenty-three bastards in attendance, besides ten living legitimate daughters and sons (p. 94).

“Even these might have been just the fruits of the family tree’s primary limbs. As Lambert notes, Baudouin by no means kept account of all his bastards. These were usually scattered far and wide. And, as Duby notes, noble men would just as soon have the ignoble women — the servants, slaves, and whores — who begot so many of them. The lovers noble men did remember may have included their vassals’ daughters, ‘but there is more evidence that they were the family’s bastard daughters, who formed a kind of pleasure reserve within the house itself’ (Duby 1978, p. 94). This kind of sex was, then, endogamous. Noble or half-noble women begat noble or half-nobel children, ad infinitum. ‘Illegitimacy was a normal part of the structure of ordinary society — so normal that illegitimate children, especially males, were neither concealed nor rejected’ (Duby 1983, p. 262). They always had the right, at least, to bed and board in their father’s house. ‘That house was always open to them’ (p. 263.) Bastards like these, the cream of the illegitimate crop, are most likely to have made up the twenty-three who watched when Baudouin was interred.”

so, not a big surprise, powerful men in the middle ages tried to maximize the number of offspring they had. and they even mated somewhat incestuously sometimes.

this made me wonder how different marriage or mating patterns affect relatedness within a society — apart from mating with relatives or not, that is. i mean: how does monogamy or polygamy affect the relatedness between the members of a society?

so, forget about cousin marriage and all that jazz for a second. here’s what strict monogamy looks like (think christian europe). (yes, i know there’s always a little hanky-panky — the milkman and mrs. jones, for instance — this is just schematic.):

first of all, triangles are men and circles are women. i colorized only the men ’cause it just got too confusing to colorize everybody. the women have been numbered instead. the point is that, here in strict monogamy land, there are six men and six women, none of whom are related, who marry/mate, and each pair has two kids. each pair of kids, then, (barring any hanky-panky) is related to their parents and each other, but not to anybody else in their society. each little nuclear-family is a discrete, “atomized” group. (this isn’t completely the case in a real population, of course. in every natural society, the members are related somehow, even if it’s distantly.)

in contrast, polygamy narrows the gene pool since one man can have several wives. thus there are several sets of half-brothers and half-sisters within polygamy land who are (obviously) all related to one another (think arab and many african countries). and some men fall out of the gene pool altogether. here mr. green marries contestants women numbers 3, 4, 5 and 6, while messrs. red, orange and yellow are out of luck:

so, with polygamy, the gene pool within a society narrows. in reality, what typically happens, at least in arab/muslim societies, is that the polygamy occurs frequently within the extended family, so that the gene pool narrows even more within the extended family. the other thing that often happens — particularly in arab countries — is that there is a lot of divorce, so in reality you have something like a serial monogamy, only it’s a serially polygamous society.

(whew! this is gettin’ complicated. *hbd chick wipes brow*)

finally, serial monogamy (think the amhara of ethiopia — or modern western society):

here in my schematic serial monogamy land, each of the men has married twice to two different women and has had one kid with each of them. so, each kid has one half-sibling via his father AND one half-sibling via his mother. so, the relatedness is not quite as narrow as in a polygamous society (every man does get to produce offspring) — but at the same time, there are more genetic connections between the members of the society than in a strict monogamy. (in reality, serial monogamy is often more like polygamy since many women vie for the chance to mate with the best men, while the whiskeys of the world are left out in the cold.)

in strict monogamy, in the second generation, each child shares (probably) 50% of their genes with their one and only sibling. in serial monogamy, each child shares (probably) 25% of their genes with two siblings. the connections look like this (plus the kids of mr. blue and mr. yellow at the ends are also related):

complicated, huh?

(btw — in polygamy, each child shares (probably) 50% of their genes with the sibling with whom they share a mother, and (probably) 25% of their genes with their half-siblings via their father.)

so, if we recall again that in a natural population the members of a society do, of course, share a lot of genes in common, then we can see that a strict monogamy would keep the genetic ties between non-family members “broad but shallow”; a population practising serial monogamy has somewhat narrower and deeper genetic ties between non-immediate family members, i.e. extended familiy ties within the society are stronger; and polygamy leads to narrow and deep genetic ties within the extended family, which becomes somewhat cut-off from the larger society. (this is even more so the case when you recall that cousin-marriage is common in polygamous societies.)

i think that the coporate and individualistic nature of western europeans (especially the english!) is connected to the (somewhat) strictly monogamous, non-cousin marriage mating patterns which have been around since the early medieval period in much of europe. these mating patterns set the stage for the selection of certain personality traits — individualism + clark’s traits — since western european families were mostly discrete and independent units making their own way in the world. these traits made western european man what he is today was yesterday.

the fact that europeans (including those of us in the u.s., australia, etc.) are now adopting serial monogamy must mean big changes are in store.

edit: boilerplate and boilerplate 2.0

(note: comments do not require an email. strictly monogamous.)

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9 Comments

  1. I am of the (perhaps minority) opinion that the institution of marriage is all about the children, that the purpose of the family is the nurture and acculturation of the next generation, and that therefore a liberal society has an interest in fostering stable marriages and the procreation of children. That would include special tax incentives, for example, to make having children more financially affordable (within limits of course).

    With those “premises” and in light of this post, it makes me think that maybe the legal and/or constitutional definition of marriage should be a union between one man and one woman “who are not closely related,” emphasis on the last phrase.

    Of course divorces will occur, homosexuality is not a choice, and therefore any discriminatory laws in favor of married couples with biological children would have to include same-sex marriages in which children present in the household are biologically related to one or the other partners, as often is the case. (This is not about bigotry).

    Reply

  2. @luke – i’m with you. it’s all about — or should be all about — the children.

    @luke – “Of course divorces will occur…”

    yes, they will. i think they do need to be made more difficult, though. so many women of my generation have divorced their husbands really at the drop of a hat — it’s not good. it’s not good for anybody — and it’s certainly not good for the future of western society.

    @luke – “…homosexuality is not a choice, and therefore any discriminatory laws in favor of married couples with biological children would have to include same-sex marriages in which children present in the household are biologically related to one or the other partners, as often is the case.”

    i don’t know what to think about gay marriage. personally, i have no problem with it. doesn’t matter to me at all if people are gay and whether or not they marry. but so many conservatives whom i respect (not crazy, loony religious types) seem to think it might put young people (young men, especially) off marriage. that would be a disaster. if they’re right, then i’d have to say no to gay marriage, too. mind you, i’m happy that there should be some sort of civil gay union, then, with all sorts of economic rights and so forth.

    Reply

  3. The thing which worries me about gay marriage is that the norms surrounding gay long-term relationships will be imported into the concept of marriage.

    http://inductivist.blogspot.com/2010/07/gay-couples-teach-us-that-open.html
    http://inductivist.blogspot.com/2010/02/gay-couple-promiscuity.html

    “In a study of 566 gay couples, only 45 percent had even made the promise to be monogamous.The findings are so essential to the welfare of American society, the NIH forked out 3.5 million additional dollars to continue the study for five more years.

    And these coupled gay men generate catchy memes for the rest of us. Dean Allemang, who just started a new relationship, dispensed this gem: “I don’t own my lover, and I don’t own his body,” he said. “I think it’s weird to ask someone you love to give up that part of their life. I would never do it.” ”

    I don’t know many men who would sign up to an institution where the partners are expected/morally obliged to be emotionally faithful but not sexually faithful. It is much easier for women to get casual sex than men, so any man signing himself up to that deal would be signing himself up for cuckoldry and cuckoldry is the absolute worst thing that can happen to a man pursuing a long-term mating strategy, and it is the evolved moral norms surrounding the long-term mating strategy which marriage as a cultural institution is/was developed around/for.

    Of course, if people became more knowledgeable about evo-bio/evo-psych and instead started calling marriage essentially what it is, the social-codification of the long-term mating strategy in humans, then this concern wouldn’t really matter. (no worrying about importing norms anti-thetical to the reproductive interests of one party in the relationship and subsequently which disincentivises the pursuit of the strategy from that party as its definition is strictly evo-bio/evo-psych.)

    “seem to think it might put young people (young men, especially) off marriage.”

    The easiest way to get young men to avoid something is to make it seem ‘gay’.

    Reply

  4. “The easiest way to get young men to avoid something is to make it seem ‘gay’.”

    There’s a lot, a WHOLE lot of truth there. Somewhere, Amelia Erhart said something to the effect that men are not women and do not seek to be women, and whatever women are, men will be anything else. Well, that goes double for gays. I mean, look what’s happened to Broadway in the last 40 years – from mainstream entertainment to lavender ghetto. Personally, I couldn’t care less about who marries who, and I wish gays well, but there’s more to the whole anti-gay marriage thing than just religious bigotry.

    Reply

  5. http://www.massresistance.org/docs/marriage/effects_of_ssm.html

    read this article and tell me you really think that gay marriage has one thing to do with equality

    this is about normalizing pathological behavior, damaging lines of tradition, and destroying enemies of the revolution through legal means.

    “homosexuality is not a choice”, as opposed to what other mental illness? whether it is is chosen or not does not make it healthy behavior. homosexual men have a anonymous, and frequently unprotected sex with random people they contact on the Internet and smartphone “dating” apps like Grindr on a regular basis. Lesbians usually stop having sex altogether a few weeks into their mock relationships. Read how a gay man talks to other gay men about their activities:

    http://www.advocate.com/Politics/Commentary/Oped_Live_in_a_World_Where_Everyone_Has_HIV/

    The subtitle:
    “Gay men accounted for 64% of all new HIV cases in 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Michael Lucas offers a solution.”

    The lead paragraph, and his solution:
    “Here’s a sentence I never thought I would write: I’m in favor of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Not in the military, of course — those days are behind us — but in the bedroom. What I’m talking about, specifically, is HIV. And my point is that, at least when it comes to sex, we should talk about it less.”

    Read the whole thing and the comments at the end too–and then ask yourself if marriage equality should really be the priority for these people. They need mental help, not special legal protection.

    We have media elites committed to the belief that HBD does not exist and that a random Englishman is equally related to a random Indian as to another Englishman. WHY WOULD YOU BELIEVE THEM ON THIS ISSUE? (sans any scientific evidence, by the way)

    Reply

  6. @chris – “The thing which worries me about gay marriage is that the norms surrounding gay long-term relationships will be imported into the concept of marriage.”

    very good point — and exactly the sort-of thing i haven’t thought through re. gay marriage. thnx!

    @chris – “…any man signing himself up to that deal would be signing himself up for cuckoldry and cuckoldry is the absolute worst thing that can happen to a man pursuing a long-term mating strategy, and it is the evolved moral norms surrounding the long-term mating strategy which marriage as a cultural institution is/was developed around/for.”

    i would add one caveat to that and that is to say that you’re (we’re) obviously talking about western marriage here — or maybe eurasian marriage.

    our evolved norms related to our long-term mating strategy clearly didn’t evolve in, for instance, most sub-saharan african societies. and that’s ok. (if it works for them, let them carry on, i say!) but, if you start adopting the mating strategies of sub-saharan africans (or any other group of people), you will probably start acquiring other of their societal traits as well. i’m thinking of serial monogamy or serial polygamy here, not gay marriage.

    Reply

  7. @bleach – “homosexual men have a anonymous, and frequently unprotected sex with random people they contact on the Internet and smartphone ‘dating’ apps like Grindr on a regular basis.”

    obviously men in general are more driven to have more sexual partners than women, so maybe that’s all there is to the high numbers of partners that gay men have … but the very careless behavior of gay men really makes me wonder sometimes if greg cochran doesn’t have it right and that homosexuality is caused by some pathogenic agent.

    the extreme behaviors of too many gay men could really sound like the effects of some sort of mind-control parasite.

    it’s a possibility anyway.

    Reply

  8. I defo wonder if monogamy vs polygamy is the other big aspect to this whole inbred vs outbred thing side by side with the cousinage.

    If you take the limiting case i.e. where it takes two adults to provision themseves and offspring with zero leftover surplus then you have the case for enforced monogamy. Any surplus allows for the start of polygamous practises (including the unsanctioned one of the lord of the manor impregnating all the servants).

    A population who spent a long time in that limiting environment and were (mostly) strictly monogamous for a long time as a result not only might develop different traits that supported monogamy but also become more outbred – not as much as avoiding cousin marriage maybe but some.

    If so then (farming only?) populations in places that have been that way for a very long time in remote places (so populations with a surplus didn’t conquer and rule them) might have developed some of those outbred traits like the Amhara seem to ahve done.

    Reply

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