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24 June, 2008

The Dangerous Woman Shortage

Noli Irritare Leones writes about monogamy, marriage, and the lack of the impending decline and fall of civilisation. (The basic point of which I am greatly in agreement with, that people keeping commitments is a good thing, and that not making them or running out on them is much more a threat to the universe as we know it than people not promising sexual exclusivity ....) It's a good post; go have a look at it.

It reminded me, though, of one of those things that I see crop up consistently.

Whenever I see acceptance of multiple relationships come up, especially the concept of legalising polygamy, someone pops up with "If that's possible, then all the wealthy and powerful men will have all the women and there will be none for ordinary guys like me."

This argument blows my mind, and I want to take it apart a little.

First of all, there's the thread of Figleaf's "no-sex class" analysis in there -- that women will trade their sex for money/power access, rather than desiring their own sexual relationships. If "all the women" are being collected by those elites, "all the women" are going to be spending a lot of time cuddled up with their vibrators.

(I actually have a vibrator ... somewhere. I prefer real penises.)

And that comes with the presumption that the only form of polygamy that's likely to exist is polygyny, that women like me don't exist. (I obviously find this problematic. And at least for a while I knew more women who considered themselves orientationally nonmonogamous than I knew men.) That these women who have one zillionth of their movie star or bazillionaire will be satisfied with that and not have any other relationships of their own -- that such women will automatically be unavailable to other men, because women are the Monogamous Class.

And, also, the failure to actually follow through on the assumption that women are the Monogamous Class, and might therefore insist on having relationships with men who are willing to be monogamous. Which will raise a bunch of those ordinary guys a bit higher on the list than the gazillionaire movie star playboys who already have a woman for each day of the week and two for Sundays. Apparently the lure of having a fraction of Mr. Uberpowerful is more important than the Monogamous Class values that might require exclusivity.

And then there's the idea that these wealthy, powerful guys actually want to collect women. I hear this from people who claim to be monogamously oriented, not interested in more than one relationship -- but apparently that trait corresponds with "ordinary joe" status, and the elites by whatever standard will claim enough of these plentiful monogamous-but-doesn't-care-if-you-are women to cause a shortage. A girlfriend to match each car, perhaps. Quantity over quality. Pokemon partnership, gotta catch 'em all.

Not to mention that mostly movie stars date other movie stars, to the perpetual delight of the tabloids. The Beautiful People mostly hang with other Beautiful People; even if I'd accept an offer from Golden-Boy Heartthrob if I got one, he's never going to make me an offer, because I'm some random housewife living in a swamp in Massachusetts, I don't have a fairy godmother to Calgon-take-me-away to a place where I'd meet the guy, and I have no illusions about this sort of thing. I hang out with nerds. That means that the people I might hook up with are probably going to be ... nerds. Fortunately, I'm pretty much exclusively attracted to geeky boys with nice shoulders, which means that "nerds" is a better stalking ground than "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" for my actual preferences (which also don't come into this scenario, notice that?).

And really, we're already in a world where the elites can have all the women they want, and in fact do ... to the perpetual delight of the tabloids.

And sure, there are people -- of all sexes -- who like a lot of reasonably casual liasons. But one of the traits of that is that one isn't marrying them, and thus they're not "off the market", if one wants to go all transactional like that. Once one gets into more serious relationships, one starts hitting limited resources -- even if one has infinite money, infinite desirability, and infinite sexual stamina, one has limited time. Women are people; if a person is settling into some sort of serious relationship, that will include some level of support. I'm sure there are a few women who'll trade a quick poke once a month for a nice allowance and the opportunity to go to the ball and meet Prince, but I can't imagine that is a major grouping. Even a ridiculously low-maintenance wife will need a certain amount of time, and if she doesn't get it and the gold-diggy stereotype is being played, she's not gonna stay married -- she's gonna play for the severance package and see what she can get in a divorce.

I know people who have sustainable relationships with a day a month where they might see their partners -- and the thing is, those people aren't considering those relationships marriages, primary-level, or whatever your word is. They're secondary relationships, dating, satellite, more peripheral, fun on the side, whatever you want. The majority of the actual poly people I know aren't terribly interested in marrying more than one person; a fair few aren't big on marriage at all. Which also cuts into the odds of monopolisation; if a huge number of the people doing multiple relationships are doing so at the "something mostly on the side" level, then even if the whole population suddenly goes polyish overnight because multiple marriage is available, the majority of people seem likely to be only having one marriage in the first place.

All these women are presumed to be really after the wealth and power and willing to trade sex to get it. And this isn't just the "I can't get a date" crowd -- I've heard this from people who are apparently happily married, and I can't help but wonder if they really apply this to their wives and presume that they'd be abandoned if "something better" came along, if only it were possible for more than one person to be the wife of Superstar.


thene said...

"If that's possible, then all the wealthy and powerful men will have all the women and there will be none for ordinary guys like me."

Did you see the bit where they said everyone's heterosexual? Didyoudidyou? :(

(It's interesting to wonder if bisexuality would be more visible if your everyone-turns-poly-overnight scenario occurred, too.)

Vieva said...

but REALLY! you KNOW the only reason I'm staying with my husband is because I can't get a 1/100th share of Mr. Moviestar! That's the ONLY reason I'd stay with a guy that - changes diapers in the middle of the night, takes care of me when I need it, that I love .....

yup. only staying with him 'cause I can't get a share of Mr. Moviestar. That's it. Because I'm not a person, I'm a tradable object for the right price. :P


Tony said...

My wife and I have had pretty much this conversation once or twice. It's boggling how some people think.

And I have to say, when I first saw the title, my first thought was, "There's a shortage of dangerous women? Oh noez, quick where's mine?" ;)

Anonymous said...

Of course, patrilineal polygynous societies also instituted physical control over women's bodies, resulting in the creation of the harem/serail as a locus of control. Control not only over women's bodies, but men's, given that only the kizlar agha, or Chief Eunuch, was going to get close to the vast majority of women in the serail, besides their owner. And in modern polygynous societies, whether Sub-saharan African, FLDS, or Saudi, this is indeed the apparent mechanism and result: "Big Men" hoard women, leaving a whole bunch of "hittistes" ("those who hold up the walls", i.e. unemployed youth leaning on the walls) as fertile ground for radical movements (cf. Saudi, Algeria) if they are not driven out tout court (FLDS).

Graydon said...

The argument supposes women are chattel, and that fair distribution of access to sex is utterly required to prevent revolution.

Now, it's blessed obvious that women attaining civil equality (at least de jure) has made things much tougher for low-attractiveness men who want to marry; if women don't have to marry, fewer of them do. (and this freaks out a certain segment of the male population.)

Why no one from that segment manages to turn this argument around and points out that if women have, like, actual civil rights and standing in law on their own, the whole 'high status men will stockpile them all' argument fails.

Don't seem to be thinking about the whole thing from the viewpoint of the women, even the fictional women of the argument, though.

Unknown said...

The thing about gold digging is, however much women themselves may prefer rich and powerful men (sometimes), their families, when they're the ones doing the arranging, are much more interested in such. After all, the families get much more of a share in the "wealth and connections" advantage than they do in good looks, or humor, or monogamy.

So the times and places where the wealthy and powerful men really monopolize all the women are likely to be the times and places where women's marriages are being arranged by someone else. Otherwise, not so wealthy and powerful men have other things to offer.

Anonymous said...

Or, rather, there is a positive correlation between "ordinary joe status" and lack of attention from women and mating success. There are some rather freaky just-so sociological essays ("Sexual Utopia in Power", The Occidental Quarterly, 6:2 (Spring 2006)) that try to argue that the availability of women for *casual sex* with "Big Men" results in ordinary men being squeezed out of the *marriage* market because of women's increased drive to hypergamy. "After all, why wouldn't she 'catch' an Alpha Male? She slept with one!"

Anonymous said...

Thanks for deconstructing this argument so brilliantly. Every time I try to think about it, I end up wanting to beat my head against a wall, there's so many sexist assumptions implicit in it. And it's not even usually trotted out, in my experience, by the sullen undateables--rather by genuinely nice, yet insecure guys.

Why doesn't it ever occur to them that women have individual preferences, just like them? They don't ALL like fake-breasted blondes; why would we all like inattentive, rich power-brokers?

If they could just have that thought occur to them, maybe they'd see that they aren't just "ordinary joes"--they're men with DIFFERENT gifts to offer women than just wealth. Instead they seem to think that if they can't offer wealth and power, that they don't have a chance, so they just kind of give up and embrace their "simplicity".

I see a lot of guys wasting themselves, simply because they can't force themselves to have the belief that women are individual people with distinct preferences. And I wonder if some guys do this because it's easier than developing themselves.