Sunday February 25 2018

Are men wired to be polygamous?


By Eugene Mugisha

It was interesting to note people’s reactions when news broke that Tanzania’s president had endorsed polygamy as a way to solve the gender imbalance in the country. The newsflash was shared as a link on a WhatsApp group, and generally, the men seemed to take it with amusement; like one of those things that just cannot happen, not in our societies at least.

The women on the other hand immediately went feminist, the first one asking ‘will women be allowed to marry more than one man as well?’ I doubt this one had even read the article to understand why polygamy was being encouraged in the first place. She just thought that whatever men should do, women should do as well.
The interesting part came later on when some of us from the group met, and somehow the conversation turned towards polygamy and men’s nature. The question was ‘are men naturally polygamous?’ The context was, with the restrictions of society and religion stripped away, are men naturally inclined to relate to more than one woman?

All the men - we were five- agreed that given the chance, they would be okay with multiple partners. All the men except one, who said his upbringing had probably ‘suppressed’ him so much that he would not want to relate to people with whom he could not have a deep and meaningful relationship. The word ‘married’ was dropped because apparently marriage is a construct of society and it does not happen naturally. Take for example a pride of lions.

The women objected. They could not imagine that we had lowered ourselves to the level of animals - lions. That a man was a much more complex creation, not just flesh and blood that should yield to the two primal instincts; to feed and to reproduce. The men were not convinced. They said that the ‘complexity’ referred to was self-imposed; give a man free reign and he rapidly deteriorates to nothing much more that a wild animal.
While I found this to be extreme, it was an open discussion, everyone had a right to their opinion.

The question was flipped and posed to the women; Would they want to have many partners? None of the women consented. None thought they would want to relate with several men at the same time. There was no value proposition, and of course, love could not grow in such an environment. They said they would not be happy. They could not imagine such an existence.

What I noticed was this; the women talked about ‘love’ and ‘happiness’ as the reason why they would not want polyandrous relationships. Men talked about ‘natural instinct’ as their motivation for wanting to be in polygamous relationships. If there were no consequences such as religious and societal disapproval, men were mostly okay with it.
When the women were asked if they would date a man who was openly relating with several other women, they all said no. When the men were asked if they would get into a relationship with a woman who was openly seeing other men, they all said ‘no’. Reason; ‘men are naturally territorial, they would not want to share...’