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Polygamy and adult sex ratio

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indianroads

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The world of my WIP is a female-dominated society – only 20% of the population is male. I’d like to hear some opinions regarding the likelihood of polygamy in such a world. Also, what are the benefits and detriments of this sort of arrangement?

The articles I’ve read indicate that the male would have less parental investment and the females would compete with each other for male attention.

My personal bias is toward monogamy, but in a dystopian world with a shrinking population, the need for genetic diversity polygamy could take precedence.

What are your thoughts?
 

MythMonger

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The power from modern day polygamy flows from the husband, at least in part because it's a male dominated society.

Since you're writing a female dominated society, I don't think polygamy would work the same way as it does now.
 

indianroads

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The power from modern day polygamy flows from the husband, at least in part because it's a male dominated society.

Since you're writing a female dominated society, I don't think polygamy would work the same way as it does now.

Would it be accepted as the norm though?
 

lonestarlibrarian

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You might look into a matriarchal society.

Think of it as something like the human equivalent of a tiger society or a bee society. The strong communal bonds are through the maternal line, and women don't leave their matriarchal clans in order to split off and have a family. Rather, the women live together and raise their children. The men are important for reproduction, but otherwise aren't really part of the family structure. They might live in "bachelor pods" for most of the year, and do whatever their work for the community is-- whether it's field work, or being hunters or warriors or whatever-- but they're more outsiders/neighbors rather than participants in that inner social/family life. The identities of the fathers rarely mattered-- it was your maternal line that gave you your connections/status/influence.

Likewise, in Heian Japan, they generally didn't have marriage in the same way we do in the West. A couple could be considered married if the man visited three nights in a row; and the marriage continued until the man stopped visiting. But again, the mother continued to live with her family, and the children were raised by her family, although the father had a more important financial contribution to the household expenses, and an influential man recognizing his offspring made all the difference in that offspring's future chances in society. So in that case, it's not a matriarchy--- but it's an example of how you didn't necessarily have that culture of splitting off into 1:1 households, but the focus was rather on the clan than the individual.
 

indianroads

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You might look into a matriarchal society.

Think of it as something like the human equivalent of a tiger society or a bee society. The strong communal bonds are through the maternal line, and women don't leave their matriarchal clans in order to split off and have a family. Rather, the women live together and raise their children. The men are important for reproduction, but otherwise aren't really part of the family structure. They might live in "bachelor pods" for most of the year, and do whatever their work for the community is-- whether it's field work, or being hunters or warriors or whatever-- but they're more outsiders/neighbors rather than participants in that inner social/family life. The identities of the fathers rarely mattered-- it was your maternal line that gave you your connections/status/influence.

Likewise, in Heian Japan, they generally didn't have marriage in the same way we do in the West. A couple could be considered married if the man visited three nights in a row; and the marriage continued until the man stopped visiting. But again, the mother continued to live with her family, and the children were raised by her family, although the father had a more important financial contribution to the household expenses, and an influential man recognizing his offspring made all the difference in that offspring's future chances in society. So in that case, it's not a matriarchy--- but it's an example of how you didn't necessarily have that culture of splitting off into 1:1 households, but the focus was rather on the clan than the individual.

Thanks, that's good information, and is similar to one of the societies is in WIP - but mine is much less kind. Male children are sold by their mothers, never given a name, and used as breeding stock. MMC escapes this environment.

Another isolated community with the same sex ratio, will come into play - and I'm considering polygamy as the way their society is set up. Another way would be for males not to form permanent relationships until late 20's or early 30's - producing children through casual relationships and having no role in the child rearing. After that a partnership could be formed and children created that way... but I'm debating whether these would be the traditional 1 man 1 woman relationship, or if it might be different? Maybe 1 male and 2 or 3 women? But why would women want to enter into that sort of relationship?

I'm out of my depth here and still thinking it through.
 
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lizmonster

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Given that even in today's restrictive patriarchy women tend to be more comfortable with sexual fluidity than men, I'd think you'd see a lot of f/f romantic relationships. Neither sexuality nor gender is binary, and in a scarcity situation I'd suspect evolution would compensate accordingly.

Also, artificial insemination is actually a pretty easy thing to do from a tech perspective, so you could consider sex to be an entertainment-only activity, rather than something done to produce children.
 

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I agree with Liz, I think there would be a lot more fluidity and mainly f/f relationships. Depending on societies some could use men to be "milked" and then women inseminated artificially or you could have brothel style house that women can visit when they are ovulating in order to have sex with a man to reproduce, you can have a Handmaid style when a man stays within a house until a woman is pregnant, etc...
 

indianroads

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I agree with the f/f relationships becoming prevalent in that world. Even beyond the physical, emotional intimacy is important - we all crave that.

I read about a horrible experiment years ago, where a monkey was fed but deprived of the comfort of a mother. The poor creature ended up clinging to a burlap covered doll even though it could not provide nutritional sustenance. What an awful thing to put another living creature through.

Depending on societies some could use men to be "milked" and then women inseminated artificially or you could have brothel style house that women can visit when they are ovulating in order to have sex with a man to reproduce...

That's pretty close to the situation my MMC escapes from.
 

lonestarlibrarian

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Also, artificial insemination is actually a pretty easy thing to do from a tech perspective, so you could consider sex to be an entertainment-only activity, rather than something done to produce children.

One of the important things to remember is that when you get into AI technology, you're able to gender-select, so your 20% would go out the window (unless you're dealing with a culture that prioritizes females to the point of infanticide).

Even in dairy cattle, you're able to purchase sexed semen to select for heifer calves (industry standard is 90% accuracy), and use conventional semen for your beef cattle for a 50/50 split.

But even as early as the 1980s, researchers were able to differentiate between X and Y-chromosome-carrying sperm cells in rabbits. It took another few years to be able to segregate the two types of cells, and then a few more years to work with IVF technology.

So if 20% of the population is male because Some Big Disaster Happened Killing Off All The Guys And Things Aren't Normal Yet, that's one thing, but if it's because 8 out of 10 babies being born are female, because Plot, giving them access to AI technology is probably going to cause more problems than it solves. (Unless, again, infanticide.)

But why would women want to enter into that sort of relationship?
--Historically speaking, women enter into polygamous relationships because of high mortality rates. Life was short and brutal, so the clan would band together for their mutual survival-- ie, if A was killed, A's wife and small children might be absorbed into his brother's or his father's protection. In practice, few except the richest and most powerful men were economically capable of supporting three or more women/households, even if the law permitted infinite wives. In some cultures, the law would actually restrict how you kept your senior wife + junior wives-- the households had to be kept roughly equal, rather than spending all your money on your favorite wife and then making your other ones subsist on chicken feed.

Often times, because polygamy (3+ wives) was concentrated amongst the elite and powerful, it was a way to control the spread of wealth, land, and power. Rather than diluting it, polygamy would concentrate it.

In the modern era, however, polygamy is mostly found in poor, rural cultures, such as the Igbo of Nigeria. (Colonial-era anthropologists recorded that most men had 3-5 wives; the most powerful men had over 100.) "Women were considered sensible investments" (because they came with a bride price) "and reflected the man's social standing." But some women were married for interventive reasons--- ie, marrying someone else's widow so that she would be cared for.

The women went along with it, because the man's social status was her social status as well; women didn't like being the sole wife, because they found it humiliating to have the entire household on their shoulders, and they wanted someone to share work and keep company with; or they could be in a vulnerable position, and marrying into a powerful household would solve their problem.
 

indianroads

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I'm taking artificial insemination and AI off the table because this is a dystopian society, and most of science has been forgotten.

I think I have what I need - thanks to all, your input has been very helpful.
 

Elle.

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I'm taking artificial insemination and AI off the table because this is a dystopian society, and most of science has been forgotten.

I think I have what I need - thanks to all, your input has been very helpful.

Bearing in mind that the first artificial insemination (of a dog) took place in 1784, you don't need advanced science. All they need really is a syringe.
 

indianroads

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Bearing in mind that the first artificial insemination (of a dog) took place in 1784, you don't need advanced science. All they need really is a syringe.

This is a society where male children are sold by their mothers, never given a name, and used as breeding stock or for recreation.
ETA:
And the F:M ASR is only 4:1.
 
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lizmonster

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This is a society where male children are sold by their mothers, never given a name, and used as breeding stock or for recreation.

I know you're trying to construct a society that reflects a specific moral structure, but Elle's point stands. Artificial insemination requires something to transfer semen, and that's it. It's not high tech or mysterious or unusual. If you want your worldbuilding to be credible, you'll need a reason they're not using it.
 

indianroads

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I know you're trying to construct a society that reflects a specific moral structure, but Elle's point stands. Artificial insemination requires something to transfer semen, and that's it. It's not high tech or mysterious or unusual. If you want your worldbuilding to be credible, you'll need a reason they're not using it.

Could a credible reason be that there's limited refrigeration, so storage problems? Or - that it's more fun to do it the natural way?

The story is single POV of MMC. He was given drugs given when purchased for the evening, so he doesn't remember anything that happened. He just wakes up sick afterward. Fertilization is one of those things that occurs outside of the POV, so I think I can leave it as is.

The plot follows his life after he escapes that life - he has flashbacks, but nothing specific. That's his internal struggle to get through.

The second society they encounter has the same F:M ratio, but they handle the issue differently. They live in arctic conditions, so cold storage would be no real problem (although regulating an exact temperature might be). In that society younger males are free agents - some prostitute themselves, others just sleep around a lot. In that society, males are not allowed to partner until they are late 20's. I'll probably go with monogamy there, both in M/F and F/F relationships.
 

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A problem could be not the storage of semen, but transferring it and using it. With so few males you could have the most highly prized semen from the most desirable male set at a value far too high to be afforded by the average woman. So as a way to show their anger or frustration, a select group (male or female) might sabotage the semen. Thus making AI very risky.
So storage could be done, but trying to use or transport it could be very risky.
 

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Your original question is getting a bit lost.

I think what I'd suggest is thinking about what the advantages/disadvantages of polygamy and monogamy are in your society. There's a school of thought that says monogamy is entirely a social construct; there's another that says some people are naturally monogamous and some aren't. I think the issue of how often polygamy occurs in your society is a somewhat different question than the scarcity of males.
 

jjdebenedictis

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If men are treated as livestock in this society--and you're certainly describing that--then women would NOT be competing with each other to attract the sexual attention of men.

Women would be competing with one another to BUY men.

That is to say, the desires of the men would not be relevant or respected in such a society: Men would be a product that is purchased and raped.

You just have to look at human societies where women were historically seen as property to see how this would shake out. Women were sold, from father to husband, and unless that woman happened to have a loving father, her wishes weren't respected, and marital rape was seen as the right of the husband.

There's nothing magical about women; they're just people. So if you set up a society where one segment of the population is not treated as fully human, then the same kinds of abuses will arise as have always arisen when such a society exists. And if women are the ones who are seen as fully human, and men are not, then men will be the ones who get abused.

So: No ladies competing to impress the boys in your world. Just ladies competing to enslave the boys, who they see as cattle. And maybe a few anti-slavery activists tossed in.
 
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veinglory

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If males are chattel there would be no need to manage their use by females through a relationship structure. They could simply be owned. leased, borrowed, rented etc.
 

Cobalt Jade

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Have you thought about religious reasons for any of this? Perhaps only naturally conceived children are thought to contain a soul, or having sex to create a child is sacred, or whatever. Which would make the creation of baster children taboo, which might make up a whole other plot.

As for the sex ratio, that might be explained as simply as the uterus of the females being more conducive to the X-bearing sperm, perhaps through something they eat, or genetic drift.
 

CWatts

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I agree with the f/f relationships becoming prevalent in that world. Even beyond the physical, emotional intimacy is important - we all crave that.

I could see this setting having a gender flip of Ancient Greece: the main relationships/love affairs/social bonds were same-sex, though often with an age and power difference.

(Have to say I like the idea of them being unjust without being outright Drow-type villains.)
 
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Roxxsmom

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So: No ladies competing to impress the boys in your world. Just ladies competing to enslave the boys, who they see as cattle. And maybe a few anti-slavery activists tossed in.

And in fact the women could be competing to impress the mothers of the men. If men are a desirable resource due to scarcity, then the mother of a son would likely expect a lot from a woman, or family of women or whatever, who was looking to take ownership of that son. Economic and political alliances, land, political connections, resources etc. are all things that have accompanied marriage historically, and in strongly patriarchal cultures the wishes of the daughters in particular had little relevance (fathers often made their sons marry for the family interest and not for love too, but men generally had the option of taking mistresses or forcing or purchasing sex directly from women with no families or from women of lower social status whose families didn't have anything to offer them).

There may also be a tendency to see men in terms of their genetic traits in terms of the children of all genders they could ostensibly turn out. "Oooh, this healthy, strong man will make strong, healthy babies" and so on.

If men are rarer in this society, even males of low social status may be of some value to their families. So a poor family might get some benefit from selling a son to a wealthier woman or clan, if not as a husband to secure an alliance, at least as a boy toy or something, or such men could be exploited as male prostitutes or entertainers or brute laborers or whatever.

Though it's likely many of your women would form romantic or other strong emotional bonds with other women when there's a general scarcity of men.
 

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