Polygamy leading to more metrosexuals

Here’s another post from me on the economics-marriage combination, it’s caught my attention now.

This interesting article: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/16/business/16scene.html on polygamy and the marriage market has a nice view on the subject. While the general view against polygamy is because of its undermining role for women, this article turns it around, making males the victims.

If polygamy existed, and say a man would have 3 wives, this would lead to men having to win the attention of ‘scarce women’. The ‘positional arms race’ creates an inefficient situation that we also see in the world of animals (in which 96% is polygamous). Frank discusses the example of elephant seals that, when larger, are favoured by natural selection in getting females for the harem since their size helps then win the battle for females against other male seals.  But, at the same time, their enormous size makes them less mobile and more vulnerable to predators.

Frank argues that allowing polygamy in humans would ‘unleash [similar] competitive forces’ with women being in shorter supply. And funnily enough, this would lead to even more metrosexual men, who would be facing pressure to look good & be fit, as well as buying more expensive gifts to win over the women (yes, plural) of their dreams. Even then, some men would be left out. Naturally this would even be the case if only a small percentage of the population chose to be polygamous, and the rest monogamous.

So, the law of monogamy (at least in most countries) functions as a control to spare men this kind of trouble for us women (at least somewhat).. 😉



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2 responses to “Polygamy leading to more metrosexuals

  1. Alix

    Hmm.. is the article ignoring those women that prefer scruffy-looking men?

    In Burkina Faso there’s still quite a bit of polygamy, and from my (distant and limited) observations, it’s the financial position rather than the looks of the guys that matter. Not so much to buy expensive gifts, but to support the wives and their families. Of course polygamy in Burkina is in a different context than it would be in The Netherlands.

    Marriage is definitely interesting from an economic point of view and not as romantic as it appears. One friend said that he’d much rather have one wife and some girlfriends, than several wives, because with a wife comes her whole family to support (although girlfriends also expect gifts, but it still comes out as less- and the girlfriend can be dumped more easily than an entire family if she gets too expensive). This was still in Burkina Faso, but I don’t think that economic considerations of marriage are limited to developing countries (as we discussed in class, e.g. cost-benefit analysis of getting married if you might meet someone better later).

  2. yvris

    I agree with Alix’s analysis, it beats the weak points of the article. I also prefer scruffy-looking men 😛

    But why is polygamy viewed only from the guy’s point of view? How about polygamy equality, in the sense that one woman can also have many husbands? (or wives if you prefer, or even both!) 🙂
    Especially in the Netherlands, I don’t think that the average woman is still expecting her husband to feed her.

    If we are talking polygamy not in the sense of marriage but in the sense of having many partners simultaneously though, in that case the looks might indeed play a part. But since this is already something “allowed” (although in some cases still not ethically acceptable) I don’t think it would change many things towards that direction. After all there is still competition in the sense that your partner might leave you for someone else. So if polygamy becomes more acceptable then your partner can have *both* you and someone else, therefore competition is less!

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