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The case for polyamory Not every polycule is born of narcissism

Does the future lie in polycules? Threesome/Mubi

Does the future lie in polycules? Threesome/Mubi


May 1, 2024   5 mins

The world seems to be awash with new ways of being in a relationship — or so a flurry of articles examining polyamory would have us believe. Last month, The New York Times featured a 20-person “polycule”; earlier this year, The Cut published a “practical guide to modern polyamory”, which distinguished between fleeting “comet partners” and monogamish “nesting partners”. We’ve read about “one-penis policies” and the risk of becoming “polysaturated”.

While the lexicon does invite ridicule, critics of the movement warn that far from being a joke, polyamory is a threat to a healthy society rooted in stable two-parent households. The rejection of any constraints on sexual freedoms has been described as a selfish individualism dressed up in therapy speak of self-growth. It is “literally just being a narcissist without any of the guilt or suffering or personal responsibility… it’s a deeply troubling anti-social behaviour,” say Dasha Nekrasova and Anna Khachiyan on their podcast Red Scare. The contemporary philosopher Byung-Chul Han is more extreme, arguing that our era of capitalism is characterised by a narcissism so overwhelming that we are incapable of real love. Love is replaced by sex and the marketisation of dating creates a freedom of choice that threatens desire itself. In this view, non-monogamy is a product of capitalism, consumerism and individualism that is potentially unique to our time.

But non-monogamy is nothing new: romantic and sexual partnerships involving more than two people have been incredibly common throughout history. In G.P. Murdock’s canonical 1967 Ethnographic Atlas, an anthropological encyclopaedia of around 1,100 pre-industrial cultures from across the world, 80% of societies were recorded as allowing polygyny, the marriage of one man to multiple women (marriage meaning a long-term, socially recognised union that is not necessarily religiously sanctioned). Strict monogamy was a sizeable minority, occurring in 20% of societies.

It might appear, then, that while non-monogamy is not a radical contemporary invention, today’s style of non-monogamy — in which both men and women are free to seek additional partners — makes us a potential outlier in human culture. But while Murdock did record four societies as practising polyandry, the marriage of one woman to multiple men, he missed almost all of the 28 polyandrous societies in the Tibetan plateau alone, and the further 53 beyond it. And where polyandry is found, so too is polygyny, indicating that these groups have liberal sexual norms for both sexes, much like polyamorists today.

There are plenty of reasons why a pre-industrial society would encourage non-monogamy — and narcissistic individualism is not one of them. For the Irigwe of Nigeria, for instance, a mixture of polygyny and polyandry may have served to create alliances between different lineages and tribal groups. Women have primary husbands but are free to seek out secondary or tertiary ones. Soon after she leaves, her first husband will show up to try and get her back, at which point custom dictates that he is offered beer by his wife-taker. “It is considered bad manners for a prior spouse to sulk…but he never misses a chance to criticise the quality of the beer.” Given the overlap between non-monogamy and alternative lifestyles, it is conceivable that polyamorous couples today might still be insulting each other’s homemade beer.

Non-monogamy is a useful solution to other practical issues. Among the Inuit, men would marry their wives to their younger brothers to protect them from being kidnapped while they were off on long hunting trips. Fraternal polyandry also emerged in Tibet, where sets of brothers were married to the same woman to avoid land being divided between multiple couples. The European solution to this same problem was primogeniture.

Being poly can also be a survival tactic in harsh climates. Take the belief in partible paternity — the idea that multiple men can be the father of a single child — once common across lowland South America, such as in the Ache of Paraguay or the Bari of Venezuela. In these societies, a woman would marry one man, but on the birth of her child would name all her lovers. It then fell to all of them to provide additional support, often through gifts of fish and game. By betting on multiple fathers, mothers ensured their children were more likely to survive into adulthood.

On the whole, men tend to be more relaxed about female infidelity in societies where women contribute a high proportion of wealth to the household, and where fathers aren’t expected to do much childcare. In these sexually permissive cultures, a husband also tends to move in with his wife’s family rather than vice versa, which allows women to retain some sexual freedom, as they are protected from controlling husbands and in-laws. This is perhaps most apparent among the Canela of Brazil, who celebrate extramarital festival days during which women have sex with men who are not their husbands. If a girl is lucky enough not to fall pregnant in her young adulthood, which would cause her to give up some of her freedom, she becomes mẽ nkrekre-re — “an uncatchable one” — comparable, as one Canela man put it, to a greased pig in a pig-catching game. Similarly, for the Himba of Namibia, men and women get married yet have additional boyfriends and girlfriends, with nearly half of all children fathered by someone other than their mother’s husband. The men are not being cuckolded and are well aware who the actual father is, yet they invest in their biological and non-biological children equally.

Should we call the Himba, the Irigwe, the Canela and 80% of the world’s non-monogamous pre-industrial cultures narcissists? So why do we accuse people of it today? Because in truth, the accusation conceals a complaint about the behaviour of women. Monogamous societies have always tolerated, even admired, infidelity by men — and yet we consider it “unnatural”, undesirable and selfish for women to do the same.

“Monogamous societies have always tolerated, even admired, infidelity by men — and yet we consider it ‘unnatural’, undesirable and selfish for women to do the same.”

These examples may seem to have little relevance to our modern lives. Bride kidnapping is no longer, nor do we use polyamory to make peace between warring tribal groups. Yet these societies, while different, can help us understand two things about our own culture. First, that non-monogamy is not an aberrant behaviour and is entirely consistent with our evolved psychology. And second, that as humans try to rear children, pass on wealth or find love, they will engineer tremendously variable social arrangements to satisfy these impulses.

Perhaps the revival of polyamory is a sign of female liberation. Like the Himba, women today contribute greatly to family wealth. And like the Canela, a woman is no longer required to move into her husband’s home. Then and now, a woman’s independence may be a strong determinant of whether or not non-monogamy emerges. In this sense, maybe Tyler Harper was right when he wrote in The Atlantic that non-monogamy is currently a freedom that only the elite can enjoy. High earning women — who aren’t completely reliant on their significant other — can afford independence, flexibility and sexual freedoms.

Or perhaps contemporary polyamorists are seeking to create support networks in a difficult economic environment. Nine-to-five employment, increasingly expensive childcare and the loss of large networks of nearby family that were once a hallmark of human societies has made having children incredibly challenging. You would think this might lead to an emphasis on monogamy, as intensive parenting requires high investment and commitment. But we should remember the South American groups whose belief in partible paternity meant that multiple lovers helped to raise a single child. “Kitchen table polyamory”, in which all partners and their children have amiable dinners together, could be the modern-day equivalent.

Of course, there will be many ways in which contemporary non-monogamy differs from pre-industrial cultures. The rising number of childless individuals clearly changes the risks and incentives in seeking out additional romantic partners. And we are yet to discover what dating apps — offering seemingly unlimited choice in the largely anonymous context of urban life — does to the psychology of commitment. But to dismiss non-monogamy as a perversion of capitalistic individualism would be to misconstrue the patchwork of reasons that explain its emergence.


Olympia Campbell has a PhD in evolutionary anthropology from UCL.

OLKCampbell

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Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
15 days ago

There are plenty of reasons why a pre-industrial society would encourage non-monogamy
But I don’t live in a pre-industrial society. I don’t want to live in a pre-industrial society. I am baffled by the assumption that our aspiration should be to emulate societies that never invented the printing press, let alone electricity. And if we’re going to copy “pre-modern” cultures, why is our default always some hill tribe in Rajasthan? Why not pre-modern England, or France, or Germany, where, I might note, monogamy was the societal norm, and which eventually stopped being pre-modern and started being modern? Perhaps I’ve just answered my own question: the appeal of the non-Western pre-modern society is precisely that it does not contain within it the seeds of modernity, and therefore can remain in the utopian, idealized pre-modern state forever.

David McKee
David McKee
15 days ago

I agree. There’s more than a hint of Rousseau’s idea of the “noble savage” here. It’s all too easy for anthropologists to cherry-pick, highlighting relaxed sexual mores which appeal to the jaded Westerner, and ignoring the nasty stuff – perpetual war, slavery, child sacrifice, euthanasia of the disabled and the old, and so on.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
14 days ago
Reply to  David McKee

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here. My short definition of romanticism is thinking that involves an absence of logic, an abundance of sentiment, and is defined by a poorly justified or entirely unstated admiration for certain ideal states chosen for irrational, emotional reasons that may or may not be practical or desirable given current conditions, or any conditions. Rousseau is on my short list for worst human being ever.

A G
A G
14 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Surely that is a good description of a lot of the reactions here, an abundance of poorly justified sentiment rather than careful rational consideration of the arguments made?

Jack Robertson
Jack Robertson
14 days ago
Reply to  A G

Yup, quite. My less contained (flabbergasted!) instinct to is to shout very loudly: Guys! Oy, u morons! A hot smart expert woman is making a very good case for multiple shags as a civic and societal virtue…and you bloody dimwits are all shouting her down!?
Over-thinking, Unherd herd! Over-thinking!

Santiago Excilio
Santiago Excilio
14 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

I’m fascinated. Who else is on your shortlist?

Martin M
Martin M
14 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Rousseau is on my short list for worst human being ever.
Just as a matter of interest, who else is on the short list?

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
11 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

Chairman Mao, Stalin, and Hitler for the 20th Century. The anti-prophet Marx, and Lenin, of course, is the anti-Christ.
I suppose then the Bolsheviks and various French Revolutionaries.
Then a long list of Mongol conquerors.

Martin M
Martin M
10 days ago

Odd company for a philosopher to be in.

Katja Sipple
Katja Sipple
15 days ago

I know, right? This is one of the silliest articles ever written! I couldn’t even finish it, because I felt my brain cells shrivel during this laborious exercise. What is it with this focus on fringe sexual behaviours, and these desperate attempts to justify and seek acceptance for their weirdness? I am going to hit the pause button on this rather mediocre writer.

Archibald Tennyson
Archibald Tennyson
14 days ago
Reply to  Katja Sipple

There is one that seeks to invert and upend anything good and orderly, but the name escapes me… something like Lucy Fur or Satin.

Martin M
Martin M
14 days ago

Wasn’t Lucy Fur the bass player in The Cramps?

Martin M
Martin M
14 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

It seems that was Fur Dixon. My mistake.

Pamela Booker
Pamela Booker
14 days ago
Reply to  Katja Sipple

Not silly but thought-provoking. However, some may see it as a promotion of a particular lifestyle whereas I find it an interesting insight as to how some people live. It certainly won’t influence most people.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
14 days ago
Reply to  Pamela Booker

Some people live on the streets, some people live as criminals, some people live as grifters; must I accept their choices as equally legitimate to those of people who do NOT harm others or society in general?

Eleanor Barlow
Eleanor Barlow
13 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

I don’t think most people would expect you to approve of them, or accept their choices as equally legitimate. Nor do you have to accept the article as valid. What I welcome about Unherd is that it does publish articles which can be challenging. If I wanted an echo chamber, I’d head for the Guardian or the Telegraph. And not all polyamorists are guilty of harming others or society.

A G
A G
14 days ago
Reply to  Katja Sipple

As in any science, it is often the unusual, “fringe” phenomenon that is the most interesting because most informative about how and why the “normal: happens.
Asking how and why polyandry appears in some societies can tell us about why it has not been common in the past, but also why it may be reappearing today.

LeeKC C
LeeKC C
15 days ago

Agreed! I very much thought the same. I’m also very tired of this academic trope – “in ancient times”, when we were “cave dwellers’, – it’s not comparing apples with apples. We are all reduced to ‘instincts’ and evolutionary animal terms – such as x was x because nature wants to reproduce. Like that is all we are. I personally am Alot more complex than that.
In ‘ancient times’, it was very much rich men who surrounded themselves with a harem of women – to be on beck and call of the mans whims. Women had no choice. Interesting that examples used are only one particular type of ‘tribe’,. I put up another example, for instance ancient Rome. Here, before Christianity introduced monogamy for the sake of women, children and families, Roman men could ‘use’ any woman, child or slave on demand for gratification. Any orifice would do. They had no say. Only the very elite born women who were married were off-limits. I hesitatingly have to say – intriguing correlates….elitism. It is also worth stating, matter-of-fact, that it is so well documented that children always do better in a family unit. That is a fact and absolutely undeniable. That is the sacrifice we make willingly – or use to anyway. It also does not say anything about the downsides that must be addressed – jealousy for one amongst many others. Natural human trait.
Whilst this may suit a minority of people – it does not seem to be the mode of choice for the vast majority of people. I’m talking here, the ones who walk-the-walk and not just talk in agreement.
All SEX is not Love and not all LOVE is SEX.

El Uro
El Uro
14 days ago
Reply to  LeeKC C

You are wrong about Ancient Rome. If we don’t talk about particularly rich men, then most people lived in monogamy. There is no big difference from what we have now.

Guy Pigache
Guy Pigache
14 days ago
Reply to  El Uro

Maybe read Tom Holland’s book on the Romans and it confirms LeekKC’s description. Last time I looked Tom was one of the foremost Roman historians of our time

A G
A G
14 days ago
Reply to  Guy Pigache

From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity by Kyle Harper is another illuminating work of scholarship on the topic.

A G
A G
14 days ago
Reply to  El Uro

Roman society was very different from ours, in many ways, and the way they conceived of sexuality is one.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
14 days ago
Reply to  El Uro

Agree by and large. But there is genetic evidence going back much much farther that shows that we had on average twice as many mothers as fathers roughly; roughly half as many men reproduced over the long haul as women. One could make a case for this being effectively a “weak polyandry”, although I’m sure the mechanics were far different than this author would hope. Twice as many mothers as fathers is to say half as many fathers as mothers.

A G
A G
14 days ago
Reply to  LeeKC C

We are all reduced to ‘instincts’ and evolutionary animal terms – such as x was x because nature wants to reproduce. Like that is all we are. I personally am Alot more complex than that.
But that is precisely the author’s argument: that human beings and their societies are more complicated than the simple view of “human nature evolved to hard-wire women to be monogamous and men polygamous”, or “both sexes monogamous”, it’s in our genes.
Scientific evidence about the variety of ways humans have organized their societies tells us we are more flexible than that, and adapt our behaviours and social structures to deal with different conditions and problems in different ways.
Surely trying to understand how and why this happens is a justified and interesting scientific endeavour even if some people don’t like the results?

El Uro
El Uro
14 days ago

There are plenty of reasons why a pre-industrial society would encourage non-monogamy – Either she’s lying or she’s extremely stupid, or both, which is most likely

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
14 days ago
Reply to  El Uro

Well, she is doing a phd on this and so will have already been told what the outcome should be

A G
A G
14 days ago
Reply to  El Uro

Why? What are your credentials?

A G
A G
14 days ago
Reply to  El Uro

She is making a rational, well-argued point supported by evidence.

Are you? No. what is your evidence?

El Uro
El Uro
14 days ago
Reply to  A G

No. what is your evidence? The history of the mankind, stupid. The institution of marriage was present in societies of the millennium. It was only Marxists who created the myth of group marriage, which has always been an exception, and only now they invented gay marriage; such idiocy never occurred to our ancestors.

Jodie Willett
Jodie Willett
14 days ago

Excellent point. The case would have been stronger if an advanced, modern economy were polygamous or polyandrous. When Norway embraces polyandry wholesale for half a century, and the results are in, we might reconsider. I’d also like to see the rates of infanticide among poly communities. It has been suggested that monogamy was an evolutionary solution to high infanticide rates in more sexually liberal societies. That today’s sex has almost nothing to do with child rearing also tends to decimate the author’s case.

Paul
Paul
14 days ago
Reply to  Jodie Willett

I’m with you except for the increasingly common misuse of “decimate”, which properly means “reduce by 10%”.

Martin M
Martin M
14 days ago
Reply to  Paul

Yes! I hate that misuse too! A Legion that fought badly was “decimated” by the execution of every 10th man!

ChilblainEdwardOlmos
ChilblainEdwardOlmos
11 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

I agree. However, linguist John McWhorter would argue that the meanings of words change. I personally loathe “Impact”, “impactful”, etc. replacing the quite useful words “affect” and “effect”, etc. And don’t get me started on “literally”. Ugh.

A G
A G
14 days ago
Reply to  Jodie Willett

Not really. Her argument is simply that human nature is a lot more flexible than we think, and that evidence shows societies adapt their sexual norms and behaviors to solve the problems at hand, which vary depending on local and historical conditions.
Maybe our current conditions are as different from those of even a generation or two ago, as that society was from some tribes in Tibet or elsewhere…

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
14 days ago

Less ‘Hippe’ than ‘Right-Wing’.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
14 days ago

Love the downvotes.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
14 days ago

why is our default always some hill tribe in Rajasthan? ”
Rajasthan, or India overall in fact, is far more monogamist, at any point in history, than Europe.
Something that is directly correlated to academic and professional performance of children, incidentally, so your underlying point is valid, just not exactly the right example.

A G
A G
14 days ago

She isn’t saying we should “copy” some ancient culture, she is arguing that studying how societies adapt to different conditions in different ways suggests “human nature” is more flexible than many think (e.g. the “we evolved to be this way because we were hunter-gatherers and our DNA says we must act this way” is wrong), and therefore our society can adapt to our new conditions in different ways. We are no longer hunter-gatherers, but we are also no longer agricultural, or even industrial, societies.
And this new polyamory is different from the polyandry of small agricultural or hunter-gatherer cultures, too.

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
11 days ago
Reply to  A G

Modern polyandry is driven by antibiotics, birth control, and abortion , reducing the necessity of female sexual continence.
There’s a corresponding drop in birth rates, well below the replacement level, which will leave us older, weaker, and poorer.
Severing sex from childbirth hasn’t been an unalloyed good.

Obadiah B Long
Obadiah B Long
15 days ago

It’s not the variety of relationships, nor their antiquity or lack thereof. It’s the obsession and visibility with all kinds of sexual topics, including obsessive heterosexuality. Societies do this when they believe they have nothing more urgent and basic to worry about.

Katja Sipple
Katja Sipple
15 days ago

And how well are these societies working in a modern world? Namibia has relatively high poverty, a 34% unemployment rate, and poor access to basic services; not exactly a beacon of economic and social growth and success! I see very little worth emulating in these cultures which are pre-industrial, often tribal, and frequently based on subsistence farming. No thanks! I want monogamy and exclusivity in my marriage, and I would not recommend that anybody try to get in between my husband and me! I am a ginger, and I have quite a temper!

Jeremy Brown
Jeremy Brown
15 days ago
Reply to  Katja Sipple

Yes Olympia. My Anthropology department was packed with ex-public school wannabes called Olympia…

R Wright
R Wright
15 days ago
Reply to  Katja Sipple

Monogamous German Namibians do much better than the tribes around them.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
15 days ago

Is enough hassle keeping one partner happy, let alone several. These days I just enjoy a cup of tea in the evenings, having to keep multiple women occupied instead sounds exhausting

John Riordan
John Riordan
15 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I was going to make exactly the same point.

Martin M
Martin M
15 days ago

Good article, which shows that the Judeo-Christian way is not the only way. None of these “Poly” things is for me (I have on a couple of occasions made hard work of having even one wife), but I am generally supportive of the concept.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
15 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

Each to their own. If you enjoy then fill your boots. Maybe 25 years ago I might have given it a go but I’m too old now for that carry on

Archibald Tennyson
Archibald Tennyson
15 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Matthew 7:13-14

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
14 days ago

“Last Orders”

The Landlord 11:59

Martin M
Martin M
14 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Blessed are the cheesemakers….

Arthur G
Arthur G
15 days ago

No mention of the fact that the 20% of societies that are monogamist ended up dominating the world? And all meaningful technological and scientific advances of the last 1000 years come from monogamist societies?
It’s pretty obvious why. When virtually every man has a wife and family to protect, they’ll all line up to fight for that society. When a small number of wealthy men can monopolize young women, more than half the men in a society are actively rooting for its demise.

Arthur King
Arthur King
15 days ago
Reply to  Arthur G

But people behind this movement are more interested in humping lots rather than building societies. The future requires sacrifice, duty, commitment… foreign ideas to these arrogant children

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
15 days ago
Reply to  Arthur King

I do enjoy the elderly ranting about how selfish/entitled/arrogant (delete as appropriate) the youngsters are today.
This is a generation that sold off everything the generations before such as the utilities and council houses and pocketed the cash, never building new for the generations that followed. A generation who put nothing aside to pay for their end of life care and now expect the youngsters to fork out to pay the health costs and triple lock pensions.
A generation that has left a tiny army that will cost billions to replenish and a vast infrastructure deficit that they didn’t want to fund

Martin M
Martin M
15 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Oh, I don’t know. Arthur King has convinced me to start “building societies”. In fact, I think one of them gave me my first home loan.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
15 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

“Put nothing aside”?

You’re spouting nonsense.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
15 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

There’s a pot of money put aside to cover the pension costs of today’s retirees is there, despite the decades long warning about an upcoming pension timebomb? Likewise they’ve built no infrastructure in preparation for large numbers needing hospices and end of life care, preferring instead to simply pass the cost on to today’s youngsters.
The silent generation built it up, the baby boomers sold it off

J Dunne
J Dunne
14 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

By ‘they’ I assume you mean the tiny number of people who actually had a say in these things.

I didn’t sell anything off, and like the vast majority of the population I have been relatively skint for most of my life.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
14 days ago
Reply to  J Dunne

You voted for it

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
14 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Ageism; the last, acceptable prejudice.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
14 days ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

Is what I’m saying incorrect? I’m not a youngster but the financial mess they’ve been left with is disgusting in my eyes

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
14 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

In which case they will need a whole lot more polygamy and a war or two to generate the kind of social capital necessary to put back together again

Vesselina Zaitzeva
Vesselina Zaitzeva
14 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You forgot to mention climate and being robbed of your childhood, I am afraid.

LeeKC C
LeeKC C
14 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Not entirely true. The boomer generation, which is who l assume your alluding to, are also in vast numbers taking on varying degrees of raising their grandchildren, sometimes full time, contributing ( those that can afford it) money towards a deposit or some are moving back home to assist. Some grandparents are doing this whilst still working. Most now are not retiring at the once golden age of 65 and playing golf. I agree with some of the criticisms but definately not all. The cost of housing and and time we are in now is more complex than just one group. Had to do with circumstances of post WWII.

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
11 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Also the generation that stopped having children at replacement level, thought the nuclear family unnecessary or even undesirable, and began the trends that have now led to throuples, polycules, gay marriages, and God knows what else.

A G
A G
14 days ago
Reply to  Arthur King

Sure, but why is that? That is the question.
The author suggests that because our society is very different from the kind of agricultural or industrial society our ancestors lived in, too, and that will have effects on how people understand their emotional, family, and sex lives.
Obviously there is no biological imperative to monogamy, if there were, this would not be an issue.

Martin M
Martin M
15 days ago
Reply to  Arthur G

“Rooting for its demise”! Love it!

LeeKC C
LeeKC C
15 days ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Agreed.
“Monogamous societies have always tolerated, even admired, infidelity by men — and yet we consider it ‘unnatural’, undesirable and selfish for women to do the same.”
Nonsense and rubbish!!!! Any man who was known to be a ‘player’ was known to have was actively disliked and dismissed by most women. They would caution other women about him and spread the word. No he was not admired at all.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
14 days ago
Reply to  LeeKC C

Not from my experience. Despite those lads being caught doing the dirty numerous times they never struggled to find another woman daft enough to think this time they’ll be the one to change him

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
14 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

True, but they usually had to shift social groups once all the women in one clocked them. They were hated by most blokes as well as they would most likely try and tap up your girlfriend, fire into the girl you fancied in a nightclub or had treated women you were friends with badly. The price of all that humping was ostracisation, but I doubt that bothered them much.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
14 days ago

You kick around in very different social circles to me then. Nobody cares what they got up to, as long as they didn’t knock the women around no bloke was going to stop talking to another just because he was a bit of a cad

Vesselina Zaitzeva
Vesselina Zaitzeva
14 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

“Daft” is the key word here.

A G
A G
14 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

The two are not incompatible.
Mainstream society may disapprove of a certain behaviour yet tolerate it, or at least only a certain segment of society, i.e. “bourgeois” society” may ostracize those who do not follow social norms, yet not punish it legally.
Those men used to be able to leave an trail of illegitimate children behind and not be forced to support them, and get a reputation as a rake, a playboy, etc., but that only made them more appealing, again, to a certain segment of society that admired the rebel.
Just as using drugs, smoking pot, etc. was illegal, but millions did it anyway and got away with it.

edmond van ammers
edmond van ammers
14 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Some ladies, a very small minority, do all the hard work of sleeping with these men

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
15 days ago
Reply to  Arthur G

To put it in Australian terms, more than half the men are not rooting at all.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
14 days ago
Reply to  Arthur G

It’s very important to be dominant. The keys to happiness and success.

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
14 days ago
Reply to  Arthur G

How vote the sheep?

D M
D M
14 days ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Comment of the week.

J Bryant
J Bryant
15 days ago

I don’t know what the emergence of polyamory in modern society means, or whether it’s helpful, but the article certainly provided an interesting history of the practice. I imagine O. Campbell will pass her Ph.D viva with flying colors.

John Murray
John Murray
15 days ago

Lots of interesting info about various tribal societies and how they do things in the article, which I did appreciate reading about. However, I do have a suspicion that if any given one of those examples is examined in greater detail, you would find that the non-monogamy going on is a great deal less “free love” than the article is implying. Some of them seem pretty clearly about keeping female reproductive capacity within the clan grouping, not whatever she fancies.
I’d still say history suggests that monogamy as a norm, alongside not marrying your cousin, produces the best societal results, and there is no reason to treat “polycules” as anything other than horny weirdos.

Guy Pigache
Guy Pigache
14 days ago
Reply to  John Murray

Very funny. I think I read an article in Unherd that classed this as a luxury belief. Something that somebody else thinks is a great idea for other people to do. Like single parenting, living in a ghetto, open borders, …

A G
A G
14 days ago
Reply to  John Murray

She implied no such thing, she specifically says those societies were dealing with very practical economic problems, for example.

It wasn’t about pursuing erotic satisfaction, it was about ensuring economic survival under difficult conditions.

Today we live under very different economic and social conditions, not only from those societies, but from our own parents’ societies, and she is suggesting that has effects on sexual norms and behaviours.

John Murray
John Murray
14 days ago
Reply to  A G

“men tend to be more relaxed about female infidelity in societies where women contribute a high proportion of wealth to the household, and where fathers aren’t expected to do much childcare. In these sexually permissive cultures, a husband also tends to move in with his wife’s family rather than vice versa, which allows women to retain some sexual freedom, as they are protected from controlling husbands and in-laws. This is perhaps most apparent among the Canela of Brazil, who celebrate extramarital festival days during which women have sex with men who are not their husbands.”
She implied it in the above passage in which she suggested that where females had greater wealth-earning capacity the culture was more sexually permissive. Which also has implications for our society, in which women have wealth-earning capacity and can have people to do the daycare, educating, etc.

Archibald Tennyson
Archibald Tennyson
15 days ago

Olympia’s back, and she’s found a whole new supply of copium!

It’s hard to plumb the depths of self-serving nonsense expressed here. Our society is collapsing because of luxury beliefs like these. Olympia glibly describes feminism, childlessness and rampant promiscuity as happy enablers for her worldview, sources of liberation.

No. These are signs that our society is in catastrophic freefall.

Christ loves you too much, Olympia, to see you – or any of us – so lost and confused. Repent and be baptised.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
15 days ago

Hang on a minute: Christ loves Olympia in addition to all the rest? That’s shocking!

Archibald Tennyson
Archibald Tennyson
14 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

Christ even loves you and will forgive your persistent blasphemy. You’ll have to drop the pride, though, same as anyone.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
14 days ago

I’ll forgive him for being his father’s son (how did that happen, then?) and i’ll forgive you for your religious straightjacket. I’m sure you mean well.

Archibald Tennyson
Archibald Tennyson
14 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

There’s nothing for which to forgive Christ; you should be begging Him for mercy, same as the rest of us.
Again, your insistence that faith in God is somehow a straightjacket is simply believing the lie of the serpent. Faith is not slavery; it’s true freedom.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17

Martin M
Martin M
14 days ago

I for my part am prepared to drop the pride, provided I can hang on to the sloth and gluttony.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
14 days ago

Given the choice between spending my Sunday morning getting my end away with an array of different partners or being stuck in a cold church listening to the vicar droning on about how I’m going to hell, I think I’d choose the first option personally

Archibald Tennyson
Archibald Tennyson
14 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

When’s the last time you went to church? It’s not like that. Besides, God won’t send you to hell; the gates there are locked from the inside. Ask yourself honestly – do you want to be separated from God, the source of all truth, beauty, and goodness? If the answer is yes, there’s only one destination for you. And the choice was yours.
As to your point about a lifetime of promiscuity…are you sure that will even last a lifetime? When the sex dries up and you’re an old, lonely man, what then?
“The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” 1 John 2:17

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
14 days ago

I’m entirely separated from any god, yet have an appreciation of truth, beauty (not sure about goodness!) that’s at the very least as spiritually nourishing as yours.

Archibald Tennyson
Archibald Tennyson
14 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

We’ve been over this, laddie. Your atheistic worldview has zero foundations for justified true belief. Without God, all of your appreciation is utterly arbitrary and meaningless. Your truth isn’t really true, your beauty isn’t really beautiful, and goodness – well, you’ve admitted you haven’t got a clue about that.
That’s not nourishment. That’s starvation.

Martin M
Martin M
14 days ago

“God” comes in many forms. The Judeo-Christian bearded guy is not his/her only manifestation. I personally like those Hindu ones with lots of arms.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
14 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

That is because you seem to be your own god.

Martin M
Martin M
14 days ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

I don’t claim to be a “god”, but I am the High Priest of the Church of Martin M.

A G
A G
14 days ago

Do you really think that this kind of online preaching will actually convince anyone? Seriously?
It’s more likely to be a turnoff to most people. The kind of thing they are happy to have escaped from.

Archibald Tennyson
Archibald Tennyson
14 days ago
Reply to  A G

It already has convinced people, and it’s got you to comment when you could have just remained silent.

Something on your conscience perhaps?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
14 days ago

The last time I was in church was a funeral, and like the bulk of society the only time I go in is for weddings and funerals. I’m also married so unless I finally annoy her too much and she runs off with the milkman (a strong possibility admittedly) hopefully I won’t be dying old and lonely.
I’ll also take my chances of enjoying life while I’m here thanks. It’s a gamble we’re all taking after all. You’re betting on the fact your lifetime of piousness is rewarded by an eternity in heaven, while I’m risking it in the belief that once I’m dead I’m simply worm food so I may as well enjoy myself now.
One final question, what does heaven entail for you? Do you finally get to indulge in all the fun things you’ve abstained from throughout your life?

Archibald Tennyson
Archibald Tennyson
14 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

To address your point about enjoying life: why do you think I’m not enjoying mine? It’s not a binary choice between hedonism and misery, you know.

Nor is it “lifetime of piousness” that gets us to heaven. No human is truly pious compared to God. What gets us to heaven is faith in Christ, in whose righteousness we are cloaked and by whose blood we are washed clean of our sin. Very big difference. Paul realised he could never keep the law, and that all his moral virtue was nothing next to Christ’s.

The point is, once we acknowledge the scale of Christ’s sacrifice, the depth of His mercy, we no longer wish to live life “taking our chances.” We want to follow Him however we can. To you, that might seem like ascetic foolishness, but to a Christian, it’s perfect freedom.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
14 days ago

I’ll just do it on my deathbed then. As far as I’m aware there’s no time frame for getting in so the life of sin followed by a last minute repentance should get me through the pearly gates without too much hassle.
If not I’ll just swap jumpers with someone else in the queue and try again

Archibald Tennyson
Archibald Tennyson
14 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Sure, you can do that. Two things to bear in mind:

– not everyone has the luxury of a deathbed. You may not have time to repent.
– Christ will know if your heart isn’t truly repentant. There is no hiding from Him.

It’s your choice, of course, but this is a dangerous strategy.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
13 days ago

So if I’m a good person, always do my best to help others where I can but simply don’t believe in the Almighty I’m going to hell? Whereas a murderer who finds God and religion in prison is going to heaven?

Archibald Tennyson
Archibald Tennyson
13 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

That’s now how it works. You’re not a wholly good person, and no one has ever been entirely sinless at every moment, only doing things to help others.

Therefore works are not what gets you to heaven. We’re all sinners, have all fallen short of God’s glory.

What gets you there is faith in Christ, who will share his righteousness with you. Only then can you enter heaven.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
13 days ago

I’ll give it a miss then. The thought of spending eternity stuck in a place full of self righteous hypocritical sinners who are only there through blind faith rather than being decent people doesn’t sound like heaven to me. I’ll stick to doing what I’m doing and enjoying myself in the here and now

Archibald Tennyson
Archibald Tennyson
13 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

The sin is washed away. There are no sinners in heaven, nor self-righteous hypocrites. That’s what makes it heaven.
Don’t argue yourself out of paradise.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
12 days ago

So murderers or noncy priests have their crimes washed away and waltz in as if nothing has happened? The fact they’ve ended and destroyed lives on earth counts for nothing as long as they ask Jesus for forgiveness, and I’m supposed to share paradise with these monsters if I can sneak in?
Meanwhile a couple who spend their days fostering needy children or helping the homeless would be refused entry just because they didn’t have faith?

Archibald Tennyson
Archibald Tennyson
12 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Your heart is hardened so there’s no point really going over this. But I will address your points:

1) repentance must be sincere
2) the transformation is complete. Anyone who was a monster in life is fully redeemed in heaven- not by their own righteousness, but by Christ’s
3) these “good” people aren’t perfect, so they aren’t worthy of the Kingdom. They were too self-righteous to ask for forgiveness from the one who made them, to humble themselves and admit they’re not perfect. But they can’t do that. It doesn’t matter if they did some good deeds. They’re utterly incapable of recognising the source of all goodness. You can’t see that either, hence the arguments you make.
4) once you realise our fallen nature and the perfection of God, you realise there is no human being worthy of heaven. That’s why faith matters. It’s the acknowledgement of that fundamental fact.

And then, on an aside. You condemn God’s law, but by what standard? Your own arbitrary whim? How can you condemn anything? You’re using the divine law to argue against it. This is fallacious.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
12 days ago

So if the Lord can forgive those of heinous crimes that have destroyed the lives of others and let them through the pearly gates, why can’t he do the same for good people whose only crime was to be unsure of his existence?
That sounds incredibly narcissistic rather than all loving and forgiving, that he only wants those in heaven who revere him (irrespective of their behaviour) rather than rewarding those who have actually lived their lives much more closely to the rules he set

Archibald Tennyson
Archibald Tennyson
12 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You’re making the same point that I answered above. It’s not about sticking closely to the rules; the standard is complete perfection. To God, if you have broken one commandment you have broken them all. Heaven is white as snow. Jesus said that merely thinking ill of your brother was enough to put you in danger of judgment. Seen in that way, repentance is all that matters. No one is getting to heaven based on works alone. Our only route is Christ. That is why He is the way, the truth, and the life. This really is the essence of Christianity – that with man it’s impossible, but with God all things are possible. This is why a repentant murderer can go to paradise but a self-righteous person who refuses to humble themselves cannot. A sceptic will be judged based on what they knew, and whether their scepticism was honest or rooted in pride.

I see that you didn’t answer my final point, so I’ll ask it again. You’re full of condemnation of God, calling him a narcissist etc. But by what standard do you condemn Him?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
12 days ago

I condemn him as I would anybody else who acted in that manner. Why should I ignore in him what I’d consider to be bad behaviour in anybody else? In the Bible he regularly indulges in collective punishment for instance, why is this to be applauded when committed by somebody supposedly all knowing and loving, while roundly condemned when carried out by various despots around the world?
Your description of how to get into heaven also implies that I could never get in, irrespective of how I lived my life on earth. I’m simply unable to FORCE myself to believe something I don’t believe to be true, as I imagine you do too (do you believe that a man can become a woman for instance?).
If God knows what’s truly in my head and I’ll be punished for my scepticism then why would I bother to treat the church and religion with anything but ridicule? I could become a monk and build several churches in his honour, but if I couldn’t lose that nagging doubt that he might not really exist I’d be getting punished at the end anyway.
Your definition of religion certainly doesn’t inspire me to give it a go, in fact it does the exact opposite. You’ve essentially condemned me to an eternity of fire and poking with no chance of redemption unless I can completely alter my beliefs based on nothing but blind faith, therefore I may as well live a life of hedonism, break every commandment and indulge every sin because it won’t affect the final outcome anyway

Martin M
Martin M
10 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Do you believe that a man can become a woman for instance?
Don’t we all believe that nowadays? It is 2024 after all!

Martin M
Martin M
14 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

One final question, what does heaven entail for you? Do you finally get to indulge in all the fun things you’ve abstained from throughout your life?
Isn’t that the Muslim one? It contains lots of virgins, doesn’t it?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
13 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

I’m with Billy Connolly on that one though, 40 virgins sounds like a nightmare. Give me two fire breathing wh0res any day of the week!

Martin M
Martin M
14 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You make a compelling argument. I myself am leaning in that direction too.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
15 days ago

There seem to be a number of these “polycules” (must not laugh at the lexicon, must not laugh at the lexicon) in the local council estates where I live. They don’t look very glamorous and I don’t think the NYT will send a reporter.

Martin M
Martin M
14 days ago

Perhaps you can undertake your own investigation, and report back.

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
15 days ago

Does polyamory infringe on my rights? Not so far as I can see. Live and let live. This is a non-issue; just one of those things that gets a certain contingent of the Right to choke on their cornflakes.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
15 days ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

I wouldn’t describe it as a non-issue, but it amuses me to read the insularity of many of the comments, whilst imagining some kind of overarching knowledge in such matters.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
14 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

It is amazing how upset people can get about consenting adults doing something that doesn’t affect anybody else

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
14 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I know. I suggested having my own polycule to my wife. She ain’t having any of it.

A G
A G
14 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

But it does, that is why people get upset.
That is how social movements that eventually change the world for everybody else, e.g. feminism, the sexual revolution, the LGBTQ movement, etc. start.
Then everyone else feels the pressure to adapt to changing social norms.
Just as cars, telephones, then home computers, smart phones, dating apps, etc., started small, but have changed social norms and conditions for everyone.
You can’t just ignore them.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
14 days ago
Reply to  A G

No they don’t. I’m not going to suddenly turn gay because bum fun is now legal, likewise I’m not going to suddenly start having multiple wives because a few couples choose to

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
12 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Eccellente.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
12 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

With you on that one, BB.

Martin M
Martin M
14 days ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

Excellent comment! Agree totally!

Emmanuel MARTIN
Emmanuel MARTIN
12 days ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

Does air pollution infringe on your rights ? Neither.

R Wright
R Wright
15 days ago

“Monogamous societies have always tolerated, even admired, infidelity by men — and yet we consider it “unnatural”, undesirable and selfish for women to do the same.”

It’s almost like there are biological reasons for this.

Martin Goodfellow
Martin Goodfellow
14 days ago
Reply to  R Wright

This version of men’s sexual behaviour is the one we hear most about, and is often used as an excuse to say women should do the same, but the psychological idea that seeking multiple lovers is rooted in an insecure personality is mostly overlooked. The latter theory makes good sense, however, as promiscuity does not bring about personal satisfaction, nor to improved social abilities or cohesion. (Not that saying this will make any difference.)

A G
A G
14 days ago

That may be true, but since there are a lot of emotionally damaged people out there who cannot all be “cured”, the dysfunctional behavior is a fact we have to live with.

LeeKC C
LeeKC C
14 days ago

Well said. I agree with the lack of…

A G
A G
14 days ago
Reply to  R Wright

Her argument is that the evidence does not support that statement.
Human behaviour and societal norms are more flexible than that, and can change depending on the circumstances.

Martin M
Martin M
14 days ago
Reply to  R Wright

All of that doesn’t seem to have stopped women from doing it though.

Paul T
Paul T
15 days ago

Olympia, having discussed it with her friends Scheherazade, Clytemnestra and Ptolemy, declared that fusty old people had never been young so would never, could never, understand what the flexibility of real love meant. Ptolemy was especially enthusiastic in xir’s support for this empowering view.

Chris Whybrow
Chris Whybrow
15 days ago

That’s 80% of pre industrial societies, not 80% of the pre industrial population. How large are these societies exactly? I’m getting the impression they’re pretty small population wise compared to the monogamous societies around them.

A G
A G
14 days ago
Reply to  Chris Whybrow

Yes, but that’s not the point.
The point is their existence tells us human nature is not as fixed as some like to think.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
15 days ago

The Case Against the Sexual Revolution by Louise Perry is a very good read, that might interest anyone feeling at all unconvinced by this article..

Thomas Donald
Thomas Donald
15 days ago

Love it.
It’s gonna make Unherd’s reader base explode in rage. But I’m here for it. My kinda clickbait.

Thomas Donald
Thomas Donald
15 days ago

Also, this is the smartest talk on monogamy and non-monogamy I’ve ever heard. Before you all clutch your Union Jacks, give it an open-minded listen: https://open.spotify.com/episode/2NrMUBNw3Hz0nTImbj12hH?si=Nw9uy_ynRX-U_1qUEqn1YQ

John Callender
John Callender
14 days ago

Sorry to spoil the polyamorous party, but there’s an uninvited guest in the form of sexually transmitted disease.

Polyamory is an example of what has been called ‘long term concurrency’. In this arrangement, men and women usually have a primary partner and also one or more secondary partners (who will also have a primary partner who, in turn, has secondary partners and so on). The other main pattern in Western societies is serial or exclusive monogamy.

As soon as one person acquires an STD, long term concurrency creates chains of transmission that allow rapid spread, the so-called ‘concurrency superhighway’. In serial monogamy there is usually a gap between relationships. This often allows the detection and treatment of disease before it is passed on to the new partner.

A recent tragic example of this process in action was HIV/AIDS. The only societies in which this took hold in heterosexual populations were those in which long term concurrency was widespread. Campaigns to discourage concurrency were effective in reducing the spread of HIV.

A G
A G
14 days ago
Reply to  John Callender

And yet the gay subculture practices promiscuous sex at a rate heteros find amazing, even when paired up and married.
They are a lot less interested in monogamy than heteros, and seem to get divorced less as a result…

Martin M
Martin M
14 days ago
Reply to  John Callender

In serial monogamy there is usually a gap between relationships. 
Indeed. Sometimes that gap can be hours long.

Bruce Thorne
Bruce Thorne
14 days ago

Are polycules really going to work out long-term in modern western atomised societies?
I would say they are more likely to be narcissistic mini-sex cults, not at the service of wider society, and people in them will hurt each other.

A G
A G
14 days ago
Reply to  Bruce Thorne

A lot of “traditional” marriages are miserable and not-so-monogamous, despite whatever the social norms may be.
Any social arrangement has its pros and cons, and advantage some people at the expense of others, and make some people happy and some others unhappy.
Yet they persist. Why?
The role of social sciences is to ask, why do societies differ in how monogamous or polygamous they are?
And what role do economic conditions, religious beliefs, social structure, etc. play in this?
What you or I or the author would like the answer to be is irrelevant. What does the evidence show?

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
14 days ago

What’s the difference between this and an orgy?

And if a ‘polycule’ is a straight pile-on, I suppose the gay equivalent must be a ‘molly-cule’.

A G
A G
14 days ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

The difference is these people have long-term emotionally invested relationships.

Martin M
Martin M
14 days ago
Reply to  A G

Exactly! An “orgy” is just a one-off thing!

El Uro
El Uro
11 days ago
Reply to  A G

There are no deep emotional connections between a few men and a few women in such a community. This is simply impossible and to say otherwise is to say nonsense.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
14 days ago

Why would anyone care to imitate some primitive tribe’s social habits? What’s next? The case for installing huge plates in one’s lips like the Mursi?
Given what is taking place on college campuses across the US, reading this silly piece from a PhD candidate explains rather a lot.

El Uro
El Uro
14 days ago

I don’t understand. Reduce a human to the level of a f.cking machine

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
14 days ago

Instead of choosing one man or one woman, we can all have our cake and eat it too.

Martin M
Martin M
14 days ago
Reply to  Bryan Dale

Yes, of course we can. Even if you are monogamous, you can be serially monogamous on quite a high rate of rotation.

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
14 days ago

Seriously – go away. This person is simply not versed in the relevant literature. It’s millennial wish-think. This is unherd indulging in click bait. I’m sure next on the menu will be the queer pagans of 6th century Kent because…… The fact of the matter is that monogamy with male (and occasional female) cheating is built into the structure of human evolution; it was the norm for 2 million years for our Palaeolithic hunter gather ancestors; for 10,000 years the norm of agricultural societies has been strict regulation of marriage and child-rearing….polygamy where power and tribal hierarchies allowed it sometimes, marriage within extended families…..never polyamory though (those Polynesian girls were taking the piss out of Margaret Mead – as Derek Freeman showed rather definitively). Polygamy has always been unstable and associated with cycles of violence, expansion and collapse driven by young low status males without a mate). The version of anthropology being pedalled here is of the same ilk as the invention of ‘two spirited’ people in the 1990s which has now become an article of faith in accounts of all indigenous cultures….not because there is any evidence, but because it supports the Rousseau-esque radical social constructivism and iconoclasm of teenage academics and activists who want to bring ‘down the west’. I bet this woman doesn’t have kids. 100%. There is a massively significant relation between feministy-wish-thunkers and latter-day Rousseaus and not having kids. If more than one kid comers along, they tend to shut up.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
14 days ago

Unlike other apes whose babies can cling to their mothers as she goes about her business, feeding etc, human babies are a lot more dependent and helpless and require more than one adult to rear them i.e a father. I can’t see how we could have evolved as a species by anything other than predominant monogamy, as a father surely would only invest in his own offspring.
I so often read that we’re not naturally monogamous as a species, but fail to see how.
Please enlighten me if I’m wrong..

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
14 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

You are exactly right. And there isn’t anybody in the field who would challenge it. On the other hand, the Canadian and American anthropology associations full, have just banned any discussion or research on sex as a category…. And apologized for nearly having a panel on the subject [a panel which was duly he canceled.]

Martin M
Martin M
14 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Except that in pre-history, we lived in tribes, where duties were shared.

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
13 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

Even cooperation between males is much much more extensive among humans as a result of predominant monogamy. It doesn’t happen in other primates because of sexual competition. Male cooperation and male investment in family (given the vulnerability of human infants and mothers) was literally the thing that made possible the meat diet that in turn allowed brain growth, which in turn made human babies have larger heads, which meant earlier and more difficult birth (cf Genesis and the consequences of eating from the tree of knowledge for Eve and descendants) ….which created much greater dependence on male fathers…but also social groups….groups of intergenerational women, and cooperating brothers/fathers/sons…..a kind of prototribalism. This is all really well established in the literature

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
13 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

Yes but if you fell out with the neighbours, or your extended family, then what? They wouldn’t have the same investment in a child that wasn’t theirs, unlike a father.

A G
A G
14 days ago

She is more versed in the relevant literature than you are, evidently.
She is providing evidence for her well thought-out and articulated argument, whether or not we like the conclusions.
What are your credentials? You seem to be the one guided by your emotions and wishful thinking.

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
14 days ago
Reply to  A G

A PhD, two masters degrees, six books, more articles than I can count, teaching in five universities on two continents. Research mostly at the interface between biological ecological and social processes. I’m very qualified – as it happens. Although I think it’s a relevant because most people have pointed out in the comments this piece is appallingly thin and would barely pass muster on an undergraduate program

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
14 days ago
Reply to  A G

And if you’d like some books to read, a list of the bunch in a comment below

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
13 days ago
Reply to  A G

You don’t like books AG?

Tom K
Tom K
14 days ago

This reads like an undergraduate exercise in defending the indefensible, just for the sake of the exercising skills in making an argument. Unsurprisingly then, it’s not terribly persuasive – indeed, comes across as the same sort of facile, self-justificatory (or even self-deluding) guff that libertines have spouted in defence of deviant proclivities throughout the ages.
Louise Perry with her ‘back to the nuclear family’ argument can go a bit over the top at times, expecially with her implications for women, but it’s far more persuasive as a route to a rewarding way of life than the nonsense outlined above.
I don’t doubt that for some people there’s a sexual frisson in a threesome though personally I’ve never seen the attraction. However, as an alternative to traditional, hopefully enduring relationship structures, it’s a non-starter.
The stumbling block? Basic human nature. The tribal shennanigans I’m sure are far more complicated (and far darker from a male dominance perspective) than painted here, and in any case they tell us nothing at all about how contemporary Western societies should be ordered. .

A G
A G
14 days ago
Reply to  Tom K

I don’t see the attraction either, but that is irrelevant, obviously many people do.
What matters is the evidence, and that tells us some societies have been polyandrous, adapting to their own conditions, and so human nature is more flexible than thought, and so the argument is that maybe our society has changed so much that we are also living under unique circumstances that may make polyandry possible, adaptive, attractive, etc. in the future, whether you or I would prefer it that way or not.
Things are not always the way we think they should be, the scientific question to ask is, “why not”?

Martin M
Martin M
14 days ago
Reply to  A G

Things are not always the way we think they should be, the scientific question to ask is, “why not”?
Exactly! I don’t think any of this sort of think is for me, but I applaud the people concerned for exploring ways of doing things that don’t correspond to Judeo-Christian norms.

LeeKC C
LeeKC C
14 days ago
Reply to  Tom K

Yes, one could speak to the proliferation in universities ( a whole other conversation) of ‘gender studies’…….

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
14 days ago

I hope she hasn’t done her comps yet. But I would put these on the list if I was her supervisor
https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B0744MPYY5/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_image?ie=UTF8&psc=1
https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B00EGWEYTG/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1
https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/0060157917/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_image?ie=UTF8&psc=1
https://www.amazon.ca/Family-Civilization-Prof-Carle-Zimmerman/dp/1933859377
https://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/02/science/monogamys-boost-to-human-evolution.html#:~:text=From%20what%20they%20found%2C%20they,evolved%20to%20be%20strictly%20monogamous.
“Once a monogamous primate father starts to stick around, he has the opportunity to raise the odds that his offspring will survive. He can carry them, groom their fur and protect them from attacks.
In our own lineage, however, fathers went further. They had evolved the ability to hunt and scavenge meat, and they were supplying some of that food to their children. “They may have gone beyond what is normal for monogamous primates,” said Dr. Opie.
The extra supply of protein and calories that human children started to receive is widely considered a watershed moment in our evolution. It could explain why we have brains far bigger than other mammals”
If the New York Times says something so reactionary, then you can probably be sure there is more than a grain of truth

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson
14 days ago

What a pile of rot. The writer says, “In G.P. Murdock’s canonical 1967 Ethnographic Atlas, an anthropological encyclopaedia of around 1,100 pre-industrial cultures from across the world, 80% of societies were recorded as allowing polygyny, the marriage of one man to multiple women (marriage meaning a long-term, socially recognised union that is not necessarily religiously sanctioned). Strict monogamy was a sizeable minority, occurring in 20% of societies.”
OK, fine. That’s 1000 years ago. There are NO pre-industrial cultures today. So this is all a pile of nonsense.
This article is basically another justification for unlimited fcking. It’s well-known what a complete disaster polygamy is – for young men and young women. The only ones who do well are older men.

Vesselina Zaitzeva
Vesselina Zaitzeva
14 days ago
Reply to  Paul Thompson

It’s a huge disaster for children, too. To develop as a healthy adult, a child needs stability and predictability, not a crowd of people coming and going, all of them with a very unclear relationship status.

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson
14 days ago

None of these “polyamory” situations appear to connect “sex” with “reproduction”. For these fck-obsessed hedonists, it’s all about pleasure. There are no consequences. What an empty world.

Vesselina Zaitzeva
Vesselina Zaitzeva
14 days ago
Reply to  Paul Thompson

Exactly!
And this makes the author’s examples even more irrelevant.

Martin M
Martin M
14 days ago
Reply to  Paul Thompson

Welcome to the 21st Century!

Michael Walsh
Michael Walsh
14 days ago