Saturday, May 10, 2008

Thoughts on The Duggar Family and Polygyny

I read yesterday that the ultra-fertile Michelle Duggar is pregnant yet again with her 18th child. That's right, 18th. Feel free to shudder now. The Duggars are believers of the "Quiverfull" philosophy, where they believe that it's up to God how many children they should have.

As I sat there yesterday contemplating on how she and her horny, but clueless husband even manage to find the time, privacy, and energy to do the horizontal bop in a house bursting with 17 children, my thoughts drifted back to the recent raid on the FLDS ranch, then to the idea of polygyny in general. I couldn't help but make a few comparisons.

Before I proceed further, let me make it clear that my remarks about polygyny apply to the concept in general and where it is practiced between fully consenting adults and does not include the forced marriages of underage girls to old men.

In ancient times, polygyny, one man with multiple wives, often occurred in areas where population growth was desired and/or needed, such as in agricultural societies where many hands were needed to do the necessary work, and where women outnumbered men.

This is because polygyny is a much more efficient system than monogamy if the goal is to produce large amounts of children. One woman can produce only so many children regardless of the form her marriage takes, but one man can easily sire hundreds of children with multiple women.

Compared to the most fertile monogamous women, such as Michelle Duggar, a polygynous male can sire the same 18 children with, perhaps, six wives, with each woman bearing only three children each, which has to much easier on each woman's health than one woman bearing all 18. Plus each woman has five "sister wives" to help out with the child care.

Polyandry, one woman with multiple husbands, is suited well for societies where population growth needs to be halted and where men outnumber women. Polyandry limits population growth, as several men are sharing the limited reproductive capacities of one woman. Today's China is a society that would be ideally suited for polyandry, as China both desires to curb its rampant overpopulation and currently has a surplus of 30 million males.

Monogamy seems to split the difference between polygyny and polyandry. It limits the reproductive capacities of men compared to polygyny, but not as much as polyandry would. As a reproductive strategy for women, there are no inherent differences for women, especially in societies that do not need or encourage large families, as she can bear the same amount of children, regardless if she has one or multiple husbands.

But getting back to the original point of this entry, in a society that desires large families, the practical reality is much harder on monogamous women than polygynous ones (again making the disclaimer that I'm talking about polygyny between consenting adults only). It's harder on their bodies, their energy, and their time.

However, for most of us, this is a moot point, as very few people today desire such large families, nor does the world need that much population growth. And many people today desire to have no children at all and/or no wish to enter into any form of marriage. People are, or should be, able to choose whichever relationship form suits them based on personal criteria unrelated to reproductive strategy.

But I still can't help but feel sorry for Michelle Duggar, who probably hasn't had a full night's rest in 20 years.



Old Lady Lincoln said...

Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday Dear Will,
Happy Birthday to you!

Jay said...

First of all, thanks - I've learned a new word! I thought 'polygamy' was the only one that meant multiple wives, but I was wrong!

Secondly, your comment about societies such as China benefitting from polyandry is a good one. I never thought I'd EVER find a reason I might ever want to go there, but if they instituted polyandry ... ? Hmm. Mmmmmaybe! So thanks for that too!

'Horizontal bop'! *sniggers*

Yeah. Michelle Duggar probably wishes she could share the love, too.

*C* said...

Polygyny works for us. lol

Interesting post. :)