Well, more or less about sex, anyhow. Sex, gender, and so on.
Polyandry is, of course, the fraternal twin to polygamy. It is the practice of women being able to marry more than one man, and in the survey of world cultures, it is considered to be extremely rare.
It is certainly rare compared its twin polygamy, where men can have multiple wives. But it should be stressed that both of those are relatively rare compared with single marriage as we recognize it in most of the world today.
Regardless, according to the article, there seems to be some evidence that polyandry exists in a larger number of societies than previously thought, and this merits attention.
Conventional wisdom has held that polyandry was rare because men are inherently jealous and aggressive and domineering, and would never consent to share a wife except under the strangest of situations.
But that would suggest that men are more jealous than women, and I think one would have trouble establishing this as true in any non-anecdotal sense.
Myself, I have always considered the tendency of human societies to enter a polygamous phase to be an evolutionary throwback to our more primitive arboreal primate ancestry. We are still, weakly, a “hareming” species. Our pair-bonding mode is very strong (that’s why we fall in love, after all) but it is a fairly recent evolutionary addition, and our previous mode, where dominant males collect harems of females and guard them zealously, is always there, waiting in the wings.
And the evolutionary argument is simple. One male impregnates many females, his genes are spread further than with a single pair-bond.
So where does that leave polyandry? My guess would be that it evolves in societies where death during childbirth causes the number of males to outstrip the number of females by enough of a margin that young men are willing to share a wife because half a wife is better than none.
We also must keep in mind that in a lot of less advanced societies, the link between sex and paternity is not as well understood as it is in the modern world. The idea of one father per baby is one that is relatively recent, and a lot of these societies barely grasp that sex and babies have anything to do with one another, let alone grasp that each baby has a single father.
And speaking of babies, here is a hilarious story of religious excess from the world of Islam.
Seems that last year, some ambitious imam decided to suggest in a television interview that baby girls should have to wear the burka.
And predictably enough, the world went apeshit over the very suggestion, which I find quite interesting. It shows the power of our taboo against putting sexuality and children in the same context at all that the reaction to this notion, which to my mind does not seem any loonier than a lot of other religious practices, was so universal and vehement.
The guy sited worry about the molestation of babies, which is a curious thing to worry about. I hardly imagine there has been an epidemic of baby groping in the Islamic cultural world to justify such a move.
Although I have to wonder… if the only recognizable, unbagged female forms that are around for males in these societies to imprint upon are preteens, that could plausibly be linked to a rise in interest in preteen females. Sexuality tends to seek the “closest thing available”, after all.
So maybe this foolhardy fellow had a point. Maybe all this sticking girls in a bag the minute they show any sexually stimulating characteristics is leading to a rise in child molestation.
Of course, from a Western standpoint, the obvious solution would be to let the girls out of the damn bags and let the primacy of appropriate sexual response sort things out.
But that would be letting common sense into the room.
And speaking of common sense as it fails to be applied to human sexuality, let’s talk about the tragedy of the media freaking out about little kids touching each other’s bathing suit areas.
Apparently, at some preschool in Carson, California, some little girl was caught with her mouth on the penis of a little boy, and people are, predictably, freaking out over it.
Pedophilia is the moral panic of our age, and as is always the case with moral panics of the past, the main motive force is the public’s appetite for occasions to enjoy the thrill of being shocked and titillated while also engaging in the fun ritual of everyone assuring everyone else that they are “normal” and “not at all like that” and that “those people” are nothing like us good, normal, wholesome people.
As such, the pathology of a moral panic always follows the same route as any thrill-seeking and addictive decadence. It seeks larger and larger doses of the stimulus. But unlike traditional decadence, moral panic also contains a pressure to lower the threshold for offense which works in the opposite direction.
This is how you end up with the Edwardian sex panic and women wearing a dozen layers of clothing in order to conceal any trace of femininity, or for that matter, the burka.
This all said, I do not quite agree with the Jezebel commentator’s stand that this is just children innocently exploring one another’s bodies. It might be that, but it might be… worse.
See, investigators into child abuse know that one of the signs of sexual abuse of children is that the child is sexually precocious, in other words, that the child seems to know a lot more about sex than would be normal for someone their age.
So I would have to ask, who taught this girl about oral sex? Usually, with the little ones, you get touching and rubbing and that is about it.
So there might be something there for people to be angry about after all.
And with that happy thought, I sign off for today.