Polygamy, Polygyny, Polyandry and Polyamory

Polygamy has come to the attention of the masses through the TV, but let me correct myself, it’s not really polygamy, it is “polygyny.” Polygamy is the practice of having more than one spouse. Polygyny refers to a union of one man with more than one woman. Polygamy has become the common word for polygyny.  Polyandry, the union of a woman with more than one man, is for all practical purposes non-existent as far as the media is concerned.  You would either have to search for it in documentaries of distant primitive tribes or in the triple X-rated videos section.  Polygyny on the other hand can be seen on prime time TV in such shows as “Sister Wives” and “Big Love.”

Kody Brown, the husband and father in “Sister Wives” says that he is monogamous with each one of his four wives.  Sorry Kody, I have to disagree. Just because you are intimate with only one of them at a time, does not mean you are monogamous. However the wives are seemingly true to Kody in the bibical sense.  Why is this scenario of one man with multiple wives becoming acceptable if not desirable, while the opposite, one woman with several male mates, is not even acknowledged as a possibility.  In one episode, Kody is confronted by his first wife.  She asks him, “how would you feel if I were with other men?” Kody admits that although it doesn’t make any sense, he couldn’t accept it. “It’s disgusting to me” he said.

It does make sense on one hand. There is a simple anthropological theory why polygyny is moving into the realm of acceptability and polyandry is “disgusting.”  Polygyny and monogamy both, in their ideal form, ensures the passing on of the genes of the husband. Polygyny upholds the foundation of marriage in this sense, whereas polyandry shakes the very foundations of the patriarchal lineage.

On the other hand, Kody is right in that it doesn’t make sense when you look at it from a sexual perspective. While the male of our species seems to have a far greater sexual appetite because he is so much more visible in the “hunt,” we know now that the female’s sexual capacity is far greater than the male’s.  It is only because women have been cut off from their sexuality, sometimes literally, in almost every society.  The extreme takes place to this day in certain parts of Africa where girls undergo clitorectomies, the removal of what is defined as the most erogenous part of the female anatomy. All over the world and throughout history, women have been dissuaded from the full expression of their sexuality.  This has included burning women as witches, shaming, ostracizing and threatening or beating them into submission. In the more “progressive” societies, we call the sexually liberated woman “whore” and “prostitute.”  Why is women’s sexual pleasure such an issue? What is the fear that evokes such reactions?  I think it is that women’s sexuality is so much more powerful than men’s.  Women have the ability to be multi-orgasmic and actually gain energy from their orgasmic experience.  Men tend to lose energy (not to mention their erections!) when they orgasm with ejaculation.*  This is a huge issue (no pun intended).  How many women, after a sexual encounter,  have lain in bed totally disappointed and frustrated? How many have felt there must be something wrong with them?

If women were to realize their power in their sexuality, would they become total “sluts”? I believe so, but only in the best sense of the word.  Do read “The Ethical Slut” by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt if you haven’t done so yet. “Slut” is defined in this book as a person of either gender who has the courage to lead life according to the radical concepts that sex is nice and pleasure is good for you.  In this context, people who are trying to be more conscious in their lives are learning not only lovemaking skills but inter-personal skills that bring joy, pleasure and respect into relating. So much is becoming possible as we look more realistically at the male-female dynamic and get beyond the societal and religious prohibitions and limiting concepts.  Men and women can approach sex in new ways, not from a place of domination and ownership, but from a place of love which allows freedom and exploration.  I believe we would see more joyful relationships taking form in the way that is right for the individuals involved, both monogamous and polyamorous, both heterosexual and homosexual.


*Tantra, the study of Sacred Sexuality that originated in India, teaches various techniques in which men can experience orgasm without ejaculation and therefore not lose their vital energy.

This entry was posted in Fear, Heterosexual, Homosexual, Monogamy, Pleasure, Polyamory, Polyandry, Polygamy, Polygyny, Relationships, Shame, Women's Power and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Polygamy, Polygyny, Polyandry and Polyamory

  1. Great and important distinctions made in this article. Your observations about the sexually literated woman often being branded a slut, I couldn’t agree with more. In my own writings I describe the “empowered slut” a woman who is celebrated for her full sexual expression. It is in advoating for and embracing sexual icons such as these (the ethical slut, etc) that men and women can create an authentic sexuality for all people by joining together in creating what is mututally possible in our sexual expression.

    • Naima says:

      YES! YES! YES! It is wonderful and supportive to know that you are also writing of relating, sexuality and a way of life that blossoms out of freedom. .

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