Saturday, April 23, 2011

Anthropology and Non-Monogamy

The allowance of multi-partner marriage, as well as the creation of social support services for these arrangements in addition for current monogamous heterosexual marriage support services has the potential to create a greater social bond, stabilize population growth, and improve women's rights.
Non-monogamy has been shown, anthropologically, to strengthen the social bonds between individuals and a society. These increased social bonds also help to promote a more communally-oriented sharing arrangements, where resources, workload, and even parenting, is distributed (Ryan & Jetha, 2010). This kind of arrangement has many similarities to polyamorous families of today. From a familial level, the family has more resources, and a distribution of workload, including child care (Sheff, 2010; Pallotta-Chiarolli, 2010; Easton & Hardy, 2009).
In addition, non-monogamous cultures tend have less of a power struggle amongst males of the group. When sex is freely available for men, they tend to 'make love, not war' (Ryan & Jetha, 2010). This improves women's social influence, and when women have a stronger place in society the national replacement rate gets closer to the optimal 2.1 children per women (Goldberg, 2009).
As we live in a mono-normative patriarchal western world, it's not like we can just flip a switch and say "Ok everyone, you can be poly now." and it will all change overnight. Existing in a mono-normative society means that the general population will still see monogamy is the 'normal' and 'natural' option for relationships. The goal, then, should be to normalize multi-partner relationships to be at the same level as monogamous relationships. This requires many of the same services and legislation that the LGBT community has, anti-discrimination laws, community and support services, legal allowance for multi-partner marriage for taxes, insurance benefits, visitation rights, parenting, etc.
It's one of those things that'll take a long time, but will have an impact.
Easton, D. & Hardy, J. (2009). The ethical slut: A practical guide to polyamory, open relationships & other adventures. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts.
Goldberg, M. (2009). Skirting the issue; Debates about population growth are missing the point: Women need more control over their fertility and lives. Los Angeles Times, A-34. Retrieved from ProQuest Database on June 19, 2010.
Pallotta-Chiarolli, M. (2010). 'To pass, border or pollute': Polyfamilies go to school. In M. Barker & D. Langdridge (Eds.) Understanding non-monogamies (pp. 182-187). New York, NY: Routledge.
Ryan, A. & Jetha, C. (2010). Sex at dawn: The prehistoric origins of modern sexuality. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.
Sheff, E. (2010). Strategies in polyamorous parenting. In M. Barker & D. Langdridge (Eds.) Understanding non-monogamies (pp. 169-181). New York, NY: Routledge.

1 comment:

  1. Based on this and others of your posts here, I'd be fascinated to discuss these issues with you. I'm exploring similar territory from a different sort of anthropological perspective; initial notes here: - with some other notes on marriage as a non-universal kinship framework to be posted tomorrow. Care to get in touch?