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Apr 05, 2006



I hated that article and found its argument really spurious and sexist. I am not property to be distributed equitably for the purpose of appeasing apish males and averting civil unrest.


I agree with Rauch, and would never consider being offended by the idea that a lifetime of loneliness and sexual deprivation - particularly among men - might lead to societal problems.

Anyway, Rauch gave a pretty good demonstration of the brutality of polygamy in the Arizona Mormon story.

We've been saying this - that polygamy and gay partnerships have nothing in common - for years. It's about time somebody finally listened.

John Wilkins

The idea that desire has an economic aspect, I think, is troubling but true. It is more important to those who are poor. I think parsing out the particulars - how sexual desire is mediated, created or tempered by economic necessity is much more interesting than trying to figure out how the parts "fit."

Owning property is not the same as making someone a slave (A slave must be one's property, but one's property might have a mind of its own). Marriage does (or relationships that look like marriage), however, help create and manage resources.


If sexual desire can be mediated, created, or tempered by economic necessity, Rauch's point disappears. In that case, a society with an excess of single men would no doubt find some solution: celibate priesthood, or polyandry, or an increase in male homosexuality. The fact that I could find no evidence that he thinks these are plausible outcomes suggests to me that he implicitly assumes male desire is The Problem and it's society's job to solve it by throwing women at it. Screw off, Rauch. The same argument could be made to justify the existing bias against gays. All you lesbians out there are depriving some man of needed attention! Get on your knees and back to work if you don't want to see this country go to the dogs! And what about nuns? We can't allow women to marry no one at all, can we? After all, Men have Needs!

For what it's worth, I agree with the general point that gay marriage is not a "slippery slope" to polygamy. It's been argued more convincingly and less offensively by other people. Specifically, in a stint at Andrew Sullivan's blog, guest author Julian Sanchez wrote a piece on 12/29/05 that I really liked. You can read it in the AS archives here (you'll need to scroll down to see it).

Incidentally, I know a handful of people who have or prefer to have multiple partners, and the gender ratio is about even. I can think of a few circumstantial reasons that might explain the historical rarity of polyandry: 1) if you want to maximize the number of children created, polyandry is not the way to go; 2) when women are always pregnant, they are more dependent on men for resources and protection. I see no particular reason to assume that these truths would be quite so relevant in the modern West, where women can avoid pregnancy if they want to, and where families don't need to pump out a dozen or more children to make sure a few live long enough to keep the farm running.


P.S. I should note: in my point about female dependency on men due to continual pregnancy, I meant to add "...and this gives women very little bargaining power." Obviously it would be to a pregnant woman's advantage to have two champions rather than one, but how to convince the men it's worthwhile when your main asset is already in use is a hard problem.

John Wilkins

" a society with an excess of single men would no doubt find some solution: celibate priesthood, or polyandry, or an increase in male homosexuality." I think this is a very interesting question. What we should be doing is examining these as real possibilities. Bring in the behavioral economists! Can we quantify the benefits of choosing the priesthood over being the second in a marriage or having a male partner? At the very least Rauch introduces the question, even if his complaint smells of misogyny. He's obviously never read Judith Butler.

Is male desire different than female desire? And is there something inheretnly equalitarian about monogamy? These are important questions.


First of all: there are probably twice as many gay men as there are lesbians. And there are about 400 nuns. So let's move on from those issues, shall we? Besides which, the natural ratio of women to me seems to be about 51-49.

Second: do the other points count for nothing, I wonder? That no polygynous society is a liberal democracy? That polygynous cultures are brutal to their own male offspring due to competition for women? Doesn't it seem perfectly obvious that something like this would happen? So isn't the simple solution to recognize that polygamy is bad public policy - whether this offends some people theoretically or not?

It's really not theory, anyway. Gay people used to spend nasty, brutish, and short lives destroying themselves, out of despair of ever being able to find love and family life. And yes, male desire is very different from female. Don't the pages and pages of sex ads directed at men in the back of newspapers like the Village Voice kind of make that obvious? There's no equivalent for women, you know.


(I don't really think it's a matter of "throwing women" at the "problem," BTW. It's a matter of the prospect of decent lives for all members of a society. Meaning, that everybody has an equal chance at the good things: love and family.

In polygynous societies, this chance simply isn't there, and it's a recipe for trouble. I don't understand why this should even be controversial.

Who wouldn't be angry and despairing about the idea of never finding happiness? Again: this isn't theoretical. It's happened, with horrible results.)

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