When someone states, “Men are polygamous by nature”…
[Polygamy: The practice or custom of having more than one wife or husband at the same time]
You have probably heard this statement: “Men are polygamous by nature.”
I’ve come across this idea several times when reading various Christian marriage/sex blogs. Usually, it’s someone in the comments making the statement, and it’s put forward as a kind of explanation for some aspects of male behaviour/thinking. I read someone say that polygamy gives men sexual gratification and diversity of women.
It is usually argued (by the people making the statement) that polygamy is a natural tendency for men, but not so for women (women are normally labelled as being monogamous by nature).
What are your thoughts on this?
Do you think there is any truth to the statement? If yes, how do you think that natural tendency plays out in a man’s life when he is still single? What about when he is in a monogamous Christian marriage?
Is it something that men need to actively guard against in order to be faithful to their wife? Or is it not really a big deal at all?
Is it something that wives should be mindful of? If yes, why? And how?
I will say that, as a woman, I have no desire whatsoever to have a second husband. So I guess I fall in line with the monogamous female argument. I know there are obviously men in various parts of the world with multiple wives, and also those in the Bible who had multiple wives. However, I don’t know if that necessarily means it is a natural tendency of men in general – what do you all think?
I’m asking because I read it again recently in a comment on a blog, so it’s been on my mind a bit lately and I thought, “I should ask the folks here on TMB”. 🙂
I believe God made us to be monogamous. I would say that is naturally how Adam and Eve were. So I don’t agree that “Men are polygamous by nature.” Nor do I believe women are.
What I’m saying is that I don’t believe God makes any of us that way. And to think that He does or that we are that way for some other reason is a valid excuse or reason for living that way, goes against what God intends for humans and specifically for marriage.
Men, without the moderating influence of a commitment to a single woman, will tend toward promiscuity. That is not the same thing as being naturally polygamous. And just because we will tend that way on our own does not mean that promiscuity is most natural and therefore best. The heathiest arrangement in life is for one man and one woman to marry (or mate, if you want to use nature terms) for life. If polygamy were natural for men, it would be natural for women too; women’s natural inclination would prepare them to be just one wife among many, or one woman in a harem. We know that women are not naturally wired that way. They are made to have an emotional commitment towards one person. They, too, need the moderating influence of a man, or else they will tend towards over-commitment and over-attachment.
Men and women need each other. It is no accident that there are roughly as many of each in the world. To mistake a tendency towards promiscuity with a polygamous nature is a dangerous category error, and an excuse for destructive behavior. We don’t have to accept it.
You say “This is contrasted with women, who are usually said to be satisfied with one partner sexually.”
I disagree with that. On the comments I have seen where people tout the “polygamous” argument for men, they’re often simultaneously pushing the “hypergamous” argument for women. As someone with deep insecurities about my husbandly/manly/fatherly/loverly (is that even word?) performance, the “hypergamous” argument caused me much angst until I realized how absurd the “polygamous” argument was for men and realized the <b>source</b> pushing these arguments was garbage.
For me, the easiest way to evaluate the “polygamous” argument is to look at my sin habits and how they align with this. I struggle with lust/porn desire, and I’ve distilled down the problem to two main sources: (1) I want to see women enjoying/desiring/really getting into sex, and (2) I want to see a wide range of body sizes/shapes/colors/ages. The first has nothing to do with male polygamy (if anything, it’d be the opposite, female polygamy), but some might argue the second does. But at least in my case, it doesn’t. Instead, it’s a voyeuristic curiosity to see all those different body types. [TRIGGER WARNING] This can be seen in my porn preferences. If I had a polygamy-like fantasy, wouldn’t I want to see things like two-girls-on-one-guy threesomes? Or even more women on one guy? But that’s definitely not what I was drawn to. If anything, it was the opposite…types of porn where the woman, a single woman, was the focus…at times with more than one man or men that were “better” than her husband/boyfriend. [END TRIGGER WARNING]
Now I can see how men wanting to watch porn can fuel the polygamy argument. And I can see how women wanting to read erotica can lead to a hypergamous argument. But the reality is that most of us, men and women, don’t actually want those things. They’re just a shortcut to a good feeling that is a pale mimic of the real God-given marriage blessing.
Do you or any of the other women here at TMB actually go around looking for upgrades over your DH’s?
I love statistics, and I disagree with your conclusion. The best way to get the enthusiastic sex he wants would be to find a nymphomaniac and “share” her when he can’t keep up. That way he gets all the enthusiastic sex he can have plus see more of her enthusiastic sex on top of that. Note: I’m being a bit tongue in cheek. 😀
More seriously, I think the answer gets right to the crux of the matter–I, and I would guess most males too, would prefer a deep, enthusiastic knowing of ONE woman rather than multiple, shallower ones. Her owning my sexuality and I hers in a mutual “one flesh”. Dividing that up amongst other women is diluting the real deal. [HARRY POTTER SPOILERS] If you’re familiar with Harry Potter, think of what Voldemort did with his soul and the horcruxes–by splitting it up into 7 pieces, he wasn’t even really recognizable as a human…I’m thinking of the repulsive creature in the “death” scene of King’s Cross Station near the end of Deathly Hallows. [END HARRY POTTER SPOILERS] I’m thinking that’s what we innately desire…a true “one” flesh with no dilution, sharing, envy, etc. But our own sinful nature, sometimes bolstered by our spouse’s sinful nature too, looks for shortcuts when we aren’t getting that. That shortcut can be porn, lustful thoughts about others IRL, affairs, or other things. I’ve read enough on secular forums to see it clearly–almost every relationship that is “opened” in some way ends up either crashing and burning OR goes back to being mutually monogamous. In essence, all this clamoring and wailing/gnashing of teeth to get us what we “want” only takes us farther away.
Maybe I’d do better to phrase my number 1 as “a woman” rather than “women”.
And I think it predates you, but you can see the desire for enthusiasm from the wife in answers to this question SOA asked. That question was asked shortly after you joined, but I don’t know if you’ve seen or remember it.
Hope that helps,
@LBD’s question to me in a comment, brought up something that I have thought about since reading the OP, and I actually have the time to write it out, at this moment. I have wondered how much of this “polygamy/polyamory nature”, may have to do with the “love styles”, particularly with the “vicillator”?
As I was reading “How We Love” (which I brought up in my own question), I saw a thing or two that I could relate to, but this question reminded me of some of what I had just read. Could this point to a desire for more? “Vacillators have a stronger than normal need to feel special. When someone is important to them, they desire an exclusive place in that person’s life. They want to feel as though they have the greatest access to and privileges with the person, and they are deeply hurt if they see that time and attention directed elsewhere. They become threatened and jealous when they don’t hold a central, exclusive position. When people in their life want to have a variety of friendships or interests, vacillators become agitated, feeling undesirable and unwanted. They may end a relationship rather than tolerate the agitation.”
In instances of “love at first sight”, it’s often because that person is a vacillator. They can “plunge into relationships with tremendous intensity and a strong desire for constant connection because any hint of separation and space does not feel good to them. Connection can sometimes take the form of intense sexual seduction and charm, which is often mistaken for intimacy.”
Or what about the phenylethylamine (PEA), and a chase for it? “Scientists have found that phenylethylamine, or PEA, is a neurotransmitter chemical in the brain that causes you to fall madly in love with someone. It is a natural form of amphetamine that floods the regions of the brain involved in sexual excitement……. “Marriages don’t last on PEA alone,”” (quoted from A Chemistry Lesson For Lovers)
Yes, culture makes a difference. There are still many cultures that practice polygamy. But the desire, or nature, that is spoken of in men, within the cultures that don’t (e.g. American culture), could it be the desire to fulfill something in them that is missing, and they just don’t realize that they are chasing to fill that void?
Rarely do I suggest using a Wikipedia reference, but so much could be shared about the belief that ‘men are polygamous by nature’ and this entry is worth reading. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polygamy_in_Christianity
God created man and woman for heterogeneous, monogamous union. Under the New Covenant, the Apostle Paul is crystal clear about God’s design and intent. Sin is why a covenantal union between a man and woman is broken – not because men are polygamous by nature. There is much information about this topic in the above reference.
@Claymore may have it right.
I agree – promiscuous is a better description. But not sure I like it either. Promiscuity is a sinful nature. So maybe it is still not the perfect description. When I draw the circle big enough, I see that in general terms, it has almost always been men who have done the “big things” in society. Build things, engineer things, create things including ideas, philosophies and areas of intellectual study. I am NOT being sexist here, I am married to a doctor. I am just making a historical observation. When I ask myself why this is, the answer becomes obvious. Women, we all here would agree, have a God given privilege and responsibility to be the primary caretakers of the future generations. Most certainly for the first 10-16 years. And the opportunity to mold the home for all who dwell there. This is an awesome task and unlike any other in the world of mankind. The house would crumble without them.
But here is the man, sitting around with this overbearing urge to mate, and the female of the species able to do so at any time. There is no estrous to wait around for like in other species. We all agree there is a bonding element that goes with this and it is important to the pair to utilize it because the female needs the male around for security and providence. And the male needs her around for much of the same, just slightly different applications of the same. Yet this desire and drive can be a little overwhelming and the man needs an outlet. Hence we have the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Eiffel Tower. The Mona Lisa and quantum physics. Not that women can’t do any of those things, they certainly can and do. This drive and “energy”, if you will, has led to great and not great. War and violence and terrorism can be listed as well. Men have been at the forefront of all these things historically. Is there any wonder why it is often after a man is about 40-50 and later that we really start to come into our own? Before this, where is our mind mostly….yep, between our and someone else’s legs.
As you study the Bible, it becomes apparent that there are three basic drives in man that the Bible warns us about and tells us how and why to keep them in check – pride, wealth and sex = “lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, pride of life.” King Solomon spent a lifetime working this out, trying all the options, and in the end, he found the answer.
“My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.“ Ecclesiastes 12
Thinking about this a bit more, I think that Scripture makes plain that God’s design is for men to marry and enjoy lifelong, heterosexual, monogamous marriage.
However, since the fall, God’s design has been corrupted and our desires (including our sexuality) are broken and fall short of this.
This mainfests itself in a variety of ways, which affect different men to different extents. One way this affects men is the desire to be polygamous and have multiple wives. This doesn’t affect all men equally – some desire homosexuality or even no sex at all, whilst others desire promiscuity rather than polygamy.
In short, the desire to be polygamous is one manifestation of sin corrupting men’s sexual desires. It affects some (maybe even most) men, but probably not all, and leads to temptations against which we must guard.
What does the scripture say?
Genesis suggests that man and woman were originally made to be monogamous. However, as a result of the fall, sexuality (along with the rest of human nature) was corrupted leading to men becoming polygamous. Polygamy seems to have been reasonably common throughout the Old Testament, and is still common in many cultures today.
This never seemed to end particularly well, and the New Testament is clear that God’s design is that men either be entirely celibate or else monogamous.
From a reproductive point of view, polygamy makes more sense for men than women. Basically, the more women a man has sex with, the more likely he’ll have children that survive into adulthood. However, if a woman has multiple sexual partners, how do you know who the father is?
I therefore think there is at least some truth in the claim, although it’s not the whole story. Clearly this is a source of temptation to many men and needs to be guarded against. If that weren’t the case, men wouldn’t have affairs!