Monogamy Versus Polygamy

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SSC 101-2 Research Paper Monogamy versus Polygamy Nobody ever said marriage was easy. Marriage is a vow to remain honest, true, and faithful, and a promise to always love and cherish the chosen one. In many cultures worldwide, young girls dream of the day that her knight in shining armor will come to her, sweep her off her feet, and propose marriage in a rush of romance. This dream of love is instilled in cultural values and beliefs that affect the child throughout his or her upbringing, which result in her expectation of her one-and-only.

There are, however, cultures in which young girls have a different expectation for the moment that marriage will come for her. Rather than a dream of love, acceptance of an understanding of a woman’s role in a marriage is the focus in the minds and beings of young girls from the very beginning of life. These girls do not understand the notion of faithfulness or exclusivity because it is not their trained way of life. In some cultures, a wife is but one of her husband’s many wives, a role she must share with numerous other women.

Different systems of culture create different systems of marriage, whereas some cultures value the power of a two-person marriage, some see marriage as the more, the merrier. A thorough understanding of the rationale for each view is necessary to effectively compare and contrast the two-lifestyle choices. Monogamy “By the power invested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife. ” These words are frequently repeated throughout the world in order to officially seal the bonds of matrimony throughout a variety of cultures. The idea of a man and a woman marrying each other for an eternity is the idea of monogamy.

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Webster Dictionary Online provides three different definitions for the word monogamy. First, a historical definition of the word defined it as “the practice of marrying only once during a lifetime. ” This first definition does not mesh well with today’s society, which is rampant with divorce and separation. A more accurate definition for modern society is within the second and third definitions: “the state or custom of being married to one person at a time” or “the condition or practice of having a single mate during a period of time. ” (www. m-w. com, 2005) Demographics Demographically, monogamy is widespread and rather clustered.

Interestingly, the globe is divided into “regions” of monogamy. “Western and Oriental cultures form a monogamous axis that spans the northern hemisphere (Orientals are far more monogamous than Westerners are), but a large part of the remaining world practices polygamy. ” (Tucker, 1993, p. 37) On a global level, monogamy is most often found above the equator, and polygamy is most often found below the equator. Role of Women versus the Role of Men The roles of men and women in monogamous relationships are typically traditional roles that have created and decided the path of our society.

The women’s suffrage movements and successes of the twentieth century have caused a slight deviation from the Western society’s norm; however, the expectations for each gender role do remain strong as indicators of good parenting and partnership. In traditional Western monogamous relationships, a male takes a leadership role in the family. His role is one of provider and protector. The man’s main function is to provide monetary essentials for the support of the family in order to have shelter, food, and other life essentials. In addition to being the main provider, the man is responsible for his share of child rearing.

In fact, studies have shown that “monogamy is better adapted [than polygamy] to the task of rearing offspring. This is particularly true where living conditions are harsh or where the offspring go through a long period of early dependency. Two parents had better handle the task than one. Quite literally, a species adopts monogamy ‘for the sake of the children’ (Tucker, 1993, p. 32). Women traditionally play the role of nurturer. Naturally seen as more sensitive, understanding, and empathetic than men, often the majority of the childrearing experience is upon the woman; however, the man’s role is equally as important in this role.

As in the hunter-gatherer societies of previous ages, women are responsible for gathering supplies needed for the family survival, cooking, caring for the sick, and nurturing in general. Issues with Monogamy Monogamy is difficult to uphold, and there are many reasons for its failure. “Marital infidelities, the pursuit of younger women, the ‘bimbo’ and ‘trophy wife’ syndromes – all are essential breaches of the monogamous social contract. ” (Tucker, 1993, p. 35) Both men and women commit the crime of infidelity. Once the crime is committed, it is often difficult to maintain the monogamous relationship, and the union ends.

Physical and natural urges are best suppressed within a monogamous marriage to protect the security of the relationship. Another issue with monogamy is the rise of women’s rights and movements to further the possibilities for women in the working world. As women become more empowered, they find themselves dissatisfied with their monogamous partners. “The rise of single motherhood is basically the expression of female discontent with monogamy. ” (Tucker, 1993, p. 36) Women are now breaking out of the traditional roles and are able to provide for themselves what traditionally they had to rely upon men to provide.

Therefore, the main function of the male as provider is not as attractive to women anymore, and therefore, not enough to keep them in a monogamous relationship. In addition, nature itself proves a disservice to men. “The two favored characteristics – physical attractiveness and willingness to be a good provider…often seem mutually exclusive. The peacock, the most beautiful of male birds, is notoriously a philanderer and a poor provider. ” (Tucker, 1993, p. 34) This proves that within nature, with the ability to choose, women are deciding to seek that perfect combination, even at the ultimate cost of one monogamous relationship.

Polygamy Polygamy is practiced by numerous cultures and societies throughout the world. Polygamous relations are never taken lightly; the decision is a decision often by a divine being, which has laid down these rules for purity and goodness. “According to Mormon theology, polygamy was no mere alternative lifestyle choice; it was an essential aspect of the divine plan, to be set aside by the faithful at their eternal peril. ” (Kaveny, 2005, p. 7) The Koran of the Islamic culture allows polygamy, albeit under strict rules.

All wives must be cared for in equally dispersed economic conditions, which in reality constrict the practice of polygamy to the wealthy. Demographics Interestingly, polygamy is often found in clusters throughout the world, with the Utah Mormon culture in the United States as an exception. The majority of cases of polygamy are most often found in the southern hemisphere. Large societies that tolerate and even promote polygamous marriages are the elite of the Muslim societies and the majority of native tribal cultures in sub-Saharan Africa. “In parts of West Africa, more than 20 per cent of the marriages are polygamous. (Tucker, 1993, p. 37) Role of Women versus the Role of Men The role of the man is central in a polygamous relationship. Women are often seen as subservient and as existing for the pleasure and continuation of the man. Possessing all the power in a polygamous union, the men tend to have their way with the women. In addition, “polygamy tends to produce a high level of male violence. ” (Tucker, 1993, p. 37) Men completely dominate the women. In polygamous Arab cultures, the role of women is strictly defined and adhered to. “Women’s status is strongly based on being married and rearing children, especially boys.

Arranged marriages occur frequently, and women are expected to devote much of their time to the care of their family. It is common for women not to have careers outside the home. ” (Al-Krenawi, Graham, and Slonim-Nevo, 2000) The women of polygamy are indoctrinated to respect the male counterpart in the relationship. In fact, in a twentieth century attempt by American Congress to outlaw polygamy and further the rights of women, there was dissent among the polygamous Mormon population. “Many Mormon women supported polygamy, and as a consequence Congress abolished women’s suffrage in the Utah territory. (Kaveny, 2005, p. 7) Women not only accept their role in polygamy, but they also encourage and desire it as well. Issues with Polygamy Women do not always completely agree with polygamy. However, when a woman’s man runs astray to another woman, divorce in many parts of the world is not an option. In Arab-Israel, polygamy is an alternative to divorce. “Polygamous family structures offer an alternative to divorce… A divorced woman’s marital prospects may be poor; in many Muslim societies, they are usually restricted to becoming the second wife of a married man or the wife of a widower or older man. (Al-Krenawi, Graham, and Slonim-Nevo, 2000) Women are not always in accord with a polygamous lifestyle, but when they have no support system within their societies to defend their rights, there are no other options. Another major issue with polygamy is an internal one. From within a polygamous marriage of one man and several wives, human emotions are still present. Imagine the scenario where you “spend Saturday nights having rowdy carnal relations with your wife’s sister while your wife sits quietly next door tending your children.

And then to smile at both women over breakfast the next morning. ” (Boyles, 1999, p. 144) The mixed emotions within the soul of the human being of jealousy, shame, embarrassment, and rage must be ever-present. Polygamy forces men and women alike to suppress their true emotions and feelings, which is unhealthy for the human character. Personal Belief Statement As a member of Western society, I believe that monogamy is the only acceptable method of marriage for American culture. The very nature of the American dream gives hope, chance, and opportunity to each and every individual, including women.

Polygamy by nature eradicates these rights and opportunities to women. In addition, monogamy tends to be one of the factors of economic success as well. “It is probably not too alarmist to note that societies that have been unable to establish monogamy have also been unable to create working democracies or widely distributed wealth. ” (Tucker, 1993, p. 38) Proof enough for me to dismiss the limiting, sexist, and unjust principles of polygamy. Sources 1. Al-Krenawi, Alean; Graham, John R. ; Slonim-Nevo, Vared. Mental Health Aspects of Arab-Israeli Adolescents from Polygamous Versus Monogamous Families” Journal of Social Psychology, 0022-4545, August 1, 2002, Vol. 142, Issue 4. 2. Boyles, Denis. “How to Keep Your Wives Happy. ” Men’s Health, March 1999, Vol. 14, Issue 2, p. 144. 3. Kaveny, Cathleen. “Remember the Mormons. ” Commonweal, January 14, 2005, pp. 7 – 8. 4. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved from the World Wide Web on April 1, 2005, at http://www. m-w. com/cgi-bin/dictionary? book=Dictionary=monogamy. 5. Tucker, William. “Monogamy and its discontents. ” National Review, October 4, 1993, pp. 28 – 38.