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Polyamory Is Not Polygyny

[Content warning: polyamory, brief quote of weird Heartiste stuff]

The objections I hear to polyamory tend to separate into two narratives sharing a common thread.

The first narrative is supposedly concerned about women, and typified by National Review’s Polyamory Is A Modern Name For A Backward Practice. It asks:

What happens to women in a world where we scrap the “binary axis” of monogamy? Women suffer, that’s what. Nobody is asking for a show called “Brother Husbands.” Nine of ten pictures for polyamory involve one man with multiple women. The other one in ten is usually just a crowd of people. Men may sleep around, but they don’t tolerate the degradation of being a part of a modern male harem, nor have they ever, really. Polygamy uniquely subjugates one sex; it’s like an institutionalized form of the hookup culture — with women on call for male pleasure, just with some boundaries and a relationship status.

The second narrative is supposedly concerned about men, and typified by Heartiste’s Polyamory Is Disguised Polygamy:

Polyamory — multiple and simultaneous sexual relationships — means, in practice, a few high value dudes hording all the pussy. Multitudinously and concurrently. Polyamory cheerleaders, like Christopher Ryan, note the shape of our penis heads and go on to weave a happy utopia of free love where all the men and all the women get their rocks off whenever and however they wish, like the bonobos (who, by the way, are territorially squeezed compared to their more prodigiously successful chimp cousins). But he has to ignore female hypergamous mate choice and male jealousy to concoct this vision of a peaceful hedonist paradise. The reality would be considerably darker; women would still want to bang the alpha, leaving the beta male out in the cold, clawing and scratching for rode-worn scraps, but now shackled with the obligation to help provide for kids that are likely not his own.

Despite the different focuses, they both have the same theory. Men – especially high-status men – are going to date lots of women. But women aren’t going to date lots of men, so all the women will end up dating the same few high-status men and ignore the low-status men. Therefore, women (NRO’s concern) and low-status men (Heartiste’s concern) will lose out.

I got so tired of trying to explain that this doesn’t match reality that I started digging back in old survey data to see if I could just disprove it. The latest SSC survey didn’t have enough questions on relationships, but the 2014 LW survey did. I got a sample of 53 poly women, 164 poly men, 70 monogamous women, and 690 monogamous men.

I interpret NRO and Heartiste’s theories to predict that more poly men than mono men would be single, that the median poly woman would have more partners than the median poly man, but that there would be more poly men with very high numbers of partners than poly women with the same. None of these hypotheses were confirmed.

For poly men, 29% were single, 47% had one partner, 17% had two partners, 4% had three, 2% had four, and only 0.5% had five or more.

For poly women, 8% were single, 44% had one partner, 23% had two partners, 15% had three partners, 8% had four, and 4% had five or more.

For both sexes, the median person had one partner. But the average number of partners was higher for women, and there were more women with very high numbers of partners than men with the same.

Poly men were more likely than poly women to be single. However, poly men were still less likely to be single than mono men. 45% of the mono men in the sample were single, suggesting polyamory doesn’t hurt low-status men’s chances of getting a date.

This sample is pretty skewed since it has three times more poly men than poly women. This at least partly corresponds to there being many more men than women in the community it was sampling. Poly men might either date women from outside the community, or have one poly woman date multiple poly men in order to even the odds. I think this second factor probably explains some of poly women’s higher number of partners.

There’s another possible skew: I’m not sure how people decided to identify as poly or monogamous (the question itself asked whether you “prefer polyamory” or “prefer monogamy”). If single people defaulted to monogamy, and some people only claimed to be polyamorous insofar as they were actually dating somebody, that might skew the percent of single people in each style. People who said they were “unsure” whether they were poly or mono were more likely to be single than people with either style (70% of unsure men and 58% of unsure women).

This doesn’t seem compatible with NRO and Heartiste’s theory, but it’s also not great data. If some supporter of theirs wants to tell me what I have to do in the next SSC survey to get results that they’ll be willing to believe, then let’s talk.

[EDIT: Many people are pointing out I’m looking at actually-existing-polyamory, not polyamory as it would be practiced if it hypothetically took over all of society. But actually-existing-polyamory is the thing at issue here, and the practice that has to defend itself. I consider the idea of polyamory taking over all of society maybe somewhat more probable than the idea of homosexuality or transgender doing so, but not probable enough to be very likely.]

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791 Responses to Polyamory Is Not Polygyny

  1. sconn says:

    It seems that polyamory is composed of two things: wanting multiple partners, and being okay with your partner having multiple partners. Probably the largest proportion of people want the former but not the latter. As monogamists, they accept the sacrifice of not getting to sleep around in return for the fidelity of their partner; if they go poly, they accept the sacrifice of letting their partner sleep around because they get to do it too. (For strictly monogamous people, getting to sleep around wouldn’t be an advantage, and for strongly poly people, letting their partner sleep around doesn’t cost them anything. But I’d say most people are as I described.)

    Polygamy, on the other hand, is completely onesided — one person gets the benefit (sexual freedom) and the other has to pay the price (sexual fidelity). And it is absolutely no surprise at all that in most societies in history (where women, as we well know, had a lot less power, due to being physically weaker and being pregnant most of the time) men chose to give themselves the benefit and expect the cost of their partners. But that isn’t evidence at all that in the modern world, where women are liberated by jobs and birth control and given rights by law, things would at all go the same way.

    Now I don’t think polyamory is ever going to catch on as a universal expectation. I think that, like homosexuality, those who want it are a minority anyway and everyone else will continue as normal. But if it did, I don’t think it would result in polygyny.

    As regards kids … I’m a parent myself and am *all about* alloparents (non-related adults who have a parental relationship) in my kids’ lives. I think kids can only benefit from that. But I think there’s an *absolute necessity* of thorough vetting before introducing them to a kid, and of commitment from that person afterward. Too often, parents who would expect multiple references from a babysitter don’t think nearly so hard about introducing significant others to their children (or having a child with that person). That’s a problem already, and would continue to be so in a polyamorous scenario. Likewise, polyamorous people who have kids and involve their partners in parenting should have *committed,* long-term relationships. A kid does not benefit from an endless parade of stepdads who come and go. Both of these are problems among the serially monogamous which might be exacerbated by polyamory if people aren’t careful. If polyamory did somehow become the standard, one would hope for the development of lots of cultural rules about how you shelter your kids from bonding with sleazebags who date their parents and then vanish, never to be seen again. But I imagine that will be about as successful as the rules we have today — too often ignored because people are in love, only to result in disaster.

    I myself am thoroughly monogamous. I can barely manage keeping a few friendships going at once, let alone multiple romantic relationships. I would be happy with sex once a week with my spouse till we both are too old to care. And since we have four kids, I have learned that love actually *does* have some limits …. you *can* be spread too thin. I already spend a lot of energy making sure my spouse invests enough time at home as it is, because between work, activities, and children, it’s a difficult balancing act. If they were off in a hotel somewhere sexing it up with a hot stranger, I would be somewhat upse about the cheating and VERY upset about being left alone to put all the kids to bed by myself!

    But that’s me, and some people like being poly. It sounds like a nightmare to me, but I don’t want to turn my own tastes into an ethical rule,

    • Ozy Frantz says:

      I agree with this comment, but I’d like to add that there are benefits both to not having more than one partner yourself and to your partner having more partners. For the former, you get free time and time to yourself where you don’t have to feel guilty that you’re neglecting one of your relationships (not to mention the obvious benefits to the person who only wants to date one person). For the latter, your partners’ partners are probably really cool people that you’ll get along with (people tend to have consistent taste in partners), it can smooth out otherwise troublesome mismatches in libido or sexual interests, and it also gives you some time to yourself.

      I’m not sure that Actually Existing Polygyny is actually that desirable, either. Having to handle all the relationship and sexual needs of three people strikes fear into my introverted heart.

      In my experience of poly parenting (so far, only as a secondary to poly people who are parents), it’s really common to have an early-afternoon date where you hang out and talk while keeping an eye on the kids. I think this is partially because the poly people I know tend to have hanging-out-and-talking dates a lot anyway, so it’s easier to do that with kids. So the burden on the other parent is only watching the kid for like twenty minutes so the first parent can have sex, not an entire date. 😛

      I think there’s a big difference between polyamory and serial monogamy, which is that a secondary partner in a poly relationship is much more likely to be perceived by a kid as “mom’s friend” rather than as “my new dad.” So the inevitable breakups that happen are much less traumatizing, particularly if the breakups are amicable, so Mom’s Friend doesn’t just suddenly disappear from the kid’s life for no reason. That said, bad breakups do happen, and I’m not sure I have a good way of dealing with them.

      • sconn says:

        I’d say the best way is probably not to introduce partners to the kids too early on, and when you do introduce them, to keep it low-key, like you said. Just because you’re in love with someone and want to get very intimate right away doesn’t mean your child should. They should probably see them as a more-distant aunt or uncle, an occasional babysitter, that sort of thing …. not a new family member. Not till the relationship’s been going on for awhile and you know they’re decent people who won’t stomp off in a rage and never call your kid again.

        • Ozy Frantz says:

          I don’t actually think waiting for the relationship to go on for a while is the right course. If you date someone for a couple weeks, the breakup is pretty much always going to be amicable, and if they like your kid and your kid likes them you can be like “yay, here’s forty bucks to babysit.” But if the relationship goes on for a year or two, sometimes the breakups are going to be really nasty, even if everyone involved is a decent person. Sometimes the two exes not talking to each other is the best course for everyone involved, even though it might be stressful for the kids.

          But of course it would be very logistically difficult not to have my children meet my partners at all.

          At this point I’ve just said to myself “yep, this is a bad part of having a poly parent, but I would go mad being monogamous and it is much more important that my children have a happy parent than it is that they avoid this one particular pitfall of polyamory.”

    • Matt M says:

      Polygamy, on the other hand, is completely onesided — one person gets the benefit (sexual freedom) and the other has to pay the price (sexual fidelity).

      Above people have been debating whether they think individuals are “naturally mono” or “naturally poly.” I think this is closer to the truth. We’re generally naturally selfish. Poly for me (if I choose to want it) but not for thee (unless I choose to allow it).

    • Aapje says:

      @sconn

      And it is absolutely no surprise at all that in most societies in history (where women, as we well know, had a lot less power, due to being physically weaker and being pregnant most of the time) men chose to give themselves the benefit and expect the cost of their partners.

      You are making the mistake of equating an elite group of men with all men.

      Polygamy benefits a group of elite men. It can also be argued that it benefits women who don’t have to settle for a poor schlub, but who can share a successful man.

      • sconn says:

        I thought that went without saying. Obviously only the elite men are getting any sort of benefit, because there aren’t enough women to go around.

        Women only benefit in a society where wealth is extremely unevenly divided; in America 100% of an average man’s resources is worth a lot more than a third or a quarter of an above-average man’s resources. (Even in polygamy, I doubt I could hook a one-percenter.)

  2. GregQ says:

    But actually-existing-polyamory is the thing at issue here, and the practice that has to defend itself. I consider the idea of polyamory taking over all of society maybe somewhat more probable than the idea of homosexuality or transgender doing so, but not probable enough to be very likely

    1: Really? I’m sure the 60’s swingers said the same. Taken a look at the “baby momma” culture recently?

    2: “Sure, this would be destructive if it became widespread, but me and my friends can handle it” sounds like a strong argument for “society should disadvantage polyamory, to make sure it doesn’t become widespread”.

    3: So, no one’s going to be pushing Hollywood to start normalizing poly the way they normalized gays? And if they do try to normalize it, you’ll be on the front lines fighting against that?

    No?

    Then “how would this affect society if widely done” is, IMAO, an entirely relevant question.

    • Stationary Feast says:

      Right. Scott’s post sounds a lot like Elite Liberation, mentioned in Steve Sailer’s elite-liberation theory. In short, a lot of post-60s social changes and memes have benefitted upper-middle-class adults but have been horrible for people who aren’t as smart, moneyed, and/or childless.

    • wiserd says:

      ” sounds like a strong argument for “society should disadvantage polyamory”

      Does ‘society in general’ have to? There’s so much discussion in poly communities about proper behavior. So many workshops. So much internal regulation and barriers for community membership. And it’s often an actual community or group of communities, so people talk. Small communities can be regulated by shame.

      “So, no one’s going to be pushing Hollywood to start normalizing poly the way they normalized gays?”

      Normalization of homosexuality didn’t mean that everyone started dating people of the same gender. It’s still very much a minority practice, just less closeted. Similarly, normalization of polyamory wouldn’t mean that most people would do it. I have one poly friend (female) who wanted to be in a poly relationship, but a lot of potential boyfriends were jealous and wanted monogamy.

      Further, normalization of homosexuality went hand in hand with a lot of increased behavior regulation. The most rigorous STD testing clinics, I’ve been told, are those that serve the gay community. The gay rights movement went from Folsom’s “We want the right to suck dick in public” to the modern “we want the right to marry and adopt kids.”

      “And if they do try to normalize it, you’ll be on the front lines fighting against that?”

      I think there are a lot of poly people who, if polyamory became more mainstream, would be in the front lines in terms of promoting consent workshops, arguing against people who practiced a ‘one penis policy,’ or who violated any number of behavioral norms. They would be willing to identify harms associated with polyamory, discuss them, and work to address them within the context of their local communities. The joke is that swingers have sex with multiple people and polyamorous people write books about relationships.

      • Creutzer says:

        I think there are a lot of poly people who, if polyamory became more mainstream, would be in the front lines in terms of promoting consent workshops, arguing against people who practiced a ‘one penis policy,’ or who violated any number of behavioral norms. They would be willing to identify harms associated with polyamory, discuss them, and work to address them within the context of their local communities. The joke is that swingers have sex with multiple people and polyamorous people write books about relationships.

        All of which will have zero impact beyond high-IQ obsessively reflective and conscientious subpopulations.

        • wiserd says:

          “All of which will have zero impact beyond high-IQ obsessively reflective and conscientious subpopulations.”

          So the next question is; what portion of the poly population does not fit this criteria and is that population growing?

      • hlynkacg says:

        @ wiserd

        You seem to be operating under the assumption that that relationships are purely sexual. I also feel like your definition of “society” is overly narrow. As Creutzer points out above; your proposed “remedies” might work fine for obsessively self-reflective and childless 20-somethings, but what about the rest of the population?

        How do “consent workshops” and “arguing against a one penis policy” help the stereotypical “dedicated dad” who now has to compete with the “handsome players” for attention from the mother of his children?

        • sconn says:

          How many mothers of children have either the time or the libido to go looking for hookups? Most of the moms I know (whose kids are all still young) don’t have much of a social life apart from playdates and the occasional moms’ night out. They’re hoping for a good shower and maybe some Netflix before bed, not having to exert a bunch of effort to go find a man when they’ve already DONE that?

          Seriously, I actually surveyed all my girlfriends and they all said they’d rather have a sister wife than another man they had to sleep with. It is possible that as they got older, they’d want more partners, but by then they’re no longer as “high value” as they were before and they’re not likely to have much luck.

          The average woman who has managed to get and keep ONE man is perfectly happy to quit while they’re ahead. Childless 20-somethings aside, I think normal people after a certain age really crave stability, kids, and a person who thinks they’re attractive in their sweats. If they want an “open marriage,” it’s so they can step out a few times a year, maybe. But I think most people don’t really even want that.

          • hlynkacg says:

            How many mothers of children have either the time or the libido to go looking for hookups?

            A fair number if my own dating pool (as a fit 35 year old guy with a decent job and an interesting backstory) is any indication. Likewise “wife has fling with pool-boy or tennis instructor” is a cliché for a reason.

          • Matt M says:

            A fair number if my own dating pool (as a fit 35 year old guy with a decent job and an interesting backstory)

            No kidding. Go on an online dating site and target the 30+ crowd. Refusing to date moms (single or otherwise) eliminates about half your potential pool instantly.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Matt M

            Precisely.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            That doesn’t prove anything. Most women over thirty are moms– for instance, about seventy percent of women age thirty to thirty-four are moms. If refusing to date moms eliminates half your dating pool, then moms are in fact much less likely to date.

          • Matt M says:

            ouch

            that statistic makes me want to cry 🙁

            also doesn’t seem to fit the whole “the west is dying because nobody is having babies anymore” narrative that gets thrown around quite a bit

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Ozy
            It proves plenty. The question was not “how often do moms date?” the question was “How many mothers of children have either the time or the libido to go looking for hookups?” and the answer is “enough to form roughly half of the dating pool for guys in their thirties”.

            A naïve first-order estimate based on your own 70% figure would suggest that as many as 42% of moms go looking for hookups.

            @ Matt M
            There’s more to posterity than pumping out bodies.

          • Vorkon says:

            It’s also worth pointing out that the 50% figure was a) just a ballpark figure meaning “a lot,” and b) probably underestimated to the point where it couldn’t be easily falsified by just looking at a random sampling of profiles.

            In my experience, the vast majority of the profiles of 30+ women on dating sites that do not explicitly identify themselves as mothers are either fake profiles intended to get the responder to sign up for some website (though, to be fair, that describes the majority of female profiles, period), or actively hiding the fact that they are mothers.

        • wiserd says:

          @ hlynkacg
          “You seem to be operating under the assumption that that relationships are purely sexual.”

          I can promise you I don’t believe that. I apologize if I gave that impression. I felt like mainstream society would be less likely to recognize or concern itself with non-sexual poly relationships and wanted to speak directly to those concerns.

          “As Creutzer points out above; your proposed “remedies” might work fine for obsessively self-reflective and childless 20-somethings, but what about the rest of the population?”

          1. I don’t think that having children is an issue. There are people who raise their families in pods. It provides additional support and economic efficiency and seems potentially functional.

          2. I certainly don’t think age is an issue. Why would it be? I’d expect older individuals to be more likely to navigate complex relationship structures. Poly meetups tend to start with people in their late 20s and work their way up to people in their 50s.

          3. It seems worthwhile to ask to what extent the population of non-self-reflective poly people are growing, since that’s the group which is most likely to have problems with cultural changes.

          hlynkacg : “How do “consent workshops” and “arguing against a one penis policy” help the stereotypical “dedicated dad” who now has to compete with the “handsome players” for attention from the mother of his children?”

          I know a fair bit of people in the poly community. I’m hard pressed to think of any individual who matches your stereotype. People open up their relationships by mutual consent. The dad you describe is capable of weighing his own situation and voicing his own needs for attention, or just arguing against an open relationship. I’ve known couples where one partner wanted to be poly and the other didn’t. They don’t have an open relationship. Normalization of same sex relationships doesn’t mean anyone has to be in one. Normalization of asexuals doesn’t mean anyone is more likely to be compelled to be in a sexless relationship. It does mean that people can discuss the things they want and come to mutual agreements.

      • GregQ says:

        If poly is not good for society in general, and if widespread poly would be bad, then a sane society will act to disadvantage poly, so as to make sure it doesn’t become widespread.

        No?

        • Jack says:

          No, not in general: on this form of instrumental argument, you need to evaluate the costs of whatever disadvantaging measures you are considering and their effectiveness. People in this thread have argued that even without social and legal stigma poly will not become widespread. If that’s so, the disadvantaging poly only hurts poly people to no benefit. Even assuming that some kind of disadvantaging-measure could effectively limit the spread of poly, and assuming that widespread poly would be bad for many people, you would still need to know the cost of the disadvantaging measures (to poly people and others).

          • hlynkacg says:

            No. No. No. There are two sides to any cost/benefit analysis. Two sides; cost and benefit. Arguing that benefits of a particular change are obvious so long as we ignore the costs utterly misses the point.

          • Jack says:

            Of course?

          • hlynkacg says:

            Right, so you need to evaluate the costs of whatever disadvantaging measures against the benefits.

          • Jack says:

            Of course? It seems highly likely that you agree with me that the answer to GregQ’s question is no, not in general. Are you trying to say that I should have noted the possibility that disadvantaging poly, even if completely ineffective at actually curbing the spread of poly, might have unexpected side benefits? This is obviously the case but immaterial to GregQ’s comment?

          • hlynkacg says:

            No, I’m saying that you need to consider the possibility that purported benefits of monogamy actually exist and the possibility that normalizing polyamory might have a cost.

            Maybe I’m being overly optimistic here but I think that most people would still refrain from theft, rape, murder, etc… even if the legal and social stigma were removed. That doesn’t mean that having norms against such crimes only hurts people to no benefit.

            As Nabil said above, social mores work at the margins. You need to think about the number of relationships you’re opening up in terms of how many you just threw a live grenade into.

          • GregQ says:

            “People in this thread have argued that even without social and legal stigma poly will not become widespread”

            That’s nice. I’m pretty sure swingers argued the same in the 60s. The “baby momma” culture seems to show they’re wrong.

            What percentage of the US population is currently part of any “ethical poly community”? 0.01% (30k people)? 0.1% (300k people)?

            What’s the harm done to society if that number becomes 1%? 10%? What’s the likelihood of that happening if there’s no societal disapproval of poly, and Hollywood starts normalizing it?

            You’re going to need pretty major harm to the poly community, or -> 0% chance of it spreading, before E(disadvantage poly) < E(allow poly full freedom)

        • wiserd says:

          I don’t think we have a good understanding of how things will play out in terms of cost benefit. Genetic testing and birth control allow certain arrangements to be more functional than they were in the past, making history less of a guide. And not all polyamory is even polysexuality. I know quite a few polyamorous romantic asexuals. The term polyamorous covers a lot of very disparate relationship patterns.

          In particular;

          1. The percentage of the population which could be functionally poly isn’t really known, especially relative to the percentage of the population who would accept certain forms of poly relationships. Are marriages involving an asexual partner stable? Would some relationships be more stable or socially beneficial if they weren’t organized as a binary?

          2. Raising children in groups (with a core binary partnership which is uniquely committed) may be socially and economically advantageous, especially for some people.

          3. It would be bad if everyone wanted to be a firefighter. We don’t stigmatize firefighters. I differentiate between stigma and disadvantage. Should a person with two partners be able to get insurance for each? Maybe not. That seems a reasonable argument. Should they be denied a job or public office on the basis of their relationships or be personally subject to harassment? Probably not. Stigmatization generally has a social cost which is, itself, disadvantageous and needs to be weighed. STD rates among gays dropped along with normalization, as more stable relationships became socially accepted.

          4. I don’t know that we have a solid sense of the harms we’re looking at. Look at a society like China with more men than women. Such gender imbalance often leads to wars. Is widespread monogamy cheaper than warfare? Should nations discount the well-being of foreigners? Would people be less violent if they could be part of a partnership in which they didn’t raise exclusively their own children the same way that they are in conventional marriages?

      • GregQ says:

        Further, normalization of homosexuality went hand in hand with a lot of increased behavior regulation. The most rigorous STD testing clinics, I’ve been told, are those that serve the gay community. The gay rights movement went from Folsom’s “We want the right to suck dick in public” to the modern “we want the right to marry and adopt kids.”

        Yeah, they want the “right to marry”, but that sure appears to be far more about bulling Christians (“bake the damn cake”), than about settling down to long term monogamous relationships

        • Jack says:

          Anti-discrimination legislation ≠ equal marriage. You can have either one without the other.

        • wiserd says:

          I agree that people should have freedom of association and I’ve put some effort into opposing the Christian bullying that you describe.

          There are also quite a few same sex individuals who wanted to get married. The two things aren’t in any way mutually exclusive.

        • random832 says:

          > “bake the damn cake”

          Could it be perceived as an issue of shutting people out of the market? If some bakery in a city is allowed to refuse to sell wedding cakes to gay customers, they may be able to find another place to buy a cake, but it creates a norm that allows for the only wedding cake bakery in three counties in a rural area to also refuse. (This also highlights the flaw in arguments of the form “well how about if we just allow discrimination in red counties, and all the anti-gay people can move there, and all the gay people can move to the cities, and who gives a damn if any of these people don’t actually have the means to relocate” – businesses in low-population areas are inherently monopolistic and therefore have the greatest ability to do harm by discrimination.)

          • Jack says:

            This is one rationale for anti-discrimination policy. Even without complete shuttings-out, if a good proportion of suppliers in some market are refusing service to some group that group will be disadvantaged and the market will be skewed. Gay villages formed in a context where if you were identifiably gay you could not get a job or an apartment. One reason anti-discrimination is a favourite contemporary frame-work for addressing such inequities is that it fits into dominant market paradigms: baking the damn cake (or hiring the well-qualified outcast) is good for business. There are though other rationales than these for anti-discrimination policy, including literatures around justice and fairness.

          • wiserd says:

            Accusations of market failures tend to be way overplayed. If an anti-discrimination bill is popular enough, there’s generally enough people to defect from any kindof bigoted cartel to undermine the effect.

            Chains, which have to sell in multiple parts of the country can rarely afford such things.

            And a lot of these discussions are a bit facile anyways. Nobody is going to know if you’re gay if you just walk into a gas station. And legally, businesses with a private customer list can discriminate as they choose because they’re not public accommodations.

            Endless debates about whether one pizza store in an entire state has the right to not cater a gay wedding (while selling pizza to anyone who comes into the shop) really fail to demonstrate non-hypothetical harms.

            ” and who gives a damn if any of these people don’t actually have the means to relocate”

            I go where I can find work. Everyone does. If the mill or the mine closes, moving becomes inevitable for everyone. There’s no laws saying that the job I want has to appear where ever it is I’m living. So I don’t think a burden is being imposed that’s greater than anyone else has to face in their lifetime. If the issue is mobility, lets make sure people can vote with their feet.

          • Jack says:

            There should obviously be a correlation between the popularity of an anti-discrimination measure and how likely a boycott of an offending business will arise and be successful. It is not obvious to me though that the correlation should be so strong that the effect of anti-discrimination measures will “generally” be “undermined”. Do you have data on this subject? It seems plausible that both popular boycotts and anti-discrimination measures could have related and only-partially overlapping roles to play, and likely would tend to get at different business. If you are correct about this, it seems like an argument in favour of constitutional protection against discrimination (which many states have in various forms), so that anti-discrimination legislation can get ahead of public opinion. –Not that that is in the cards for the USA at the moment (need more progressive judges).

            Nobody is going to know if you’re gay if you just walk into a gas station.

            The issue isn’t “knowing” but “believing”. Homophobic discrimination and violence have as their targets people believed, for whatever good or bad reasons, to be gay. You might walk into a gas station holding your same-sex lover’s hand. Some people more readily conform to gay stereotypes than others. In employment settings, employers have more opportunities to decide their employees are queer.

            I don’t think a burden is being imposed that’s greater than anyone else has to face in their lifetime.

            This is probably not quite what you meant to write. If everybody occasionally has to move for some reasons but some people also have to move to avoid discrimination then that is a greater burden. But it is not clear by how much.

            Anti-discrimination measures have a hard time dealing with things like private customer lists, as you say. While this and the other points you raise limit their effectiveness, they do not mean anti-discrimation measures are not somewhat effective.

            I am not personally convinced at all that “market failure” is a good rationale for anti-discrimination measures (there are others…); but it seems to me your comment raises several empirical questions that would benefit from evidence. They are mostly reasons anti-discrimation is imperfect. I would also be curious what market distortions anti-discrimination measures might bring.

          • wiserd says:

            @Jack

            If everybody occasionally has to move for some reasons but some people also have to move to avoid discrimination then that is a greater burden. But it is not clear by how much.

            Alright, I mean that in this context we’re talking about some people potentially being imposed upon to a greater degree than others, but not of a different type.

            “Do you have data on this subject? ”

            I admit, I mostly don’t have data and I’m not sure what you’d accept. Mostly I have a series of anecdotes which I’d match with support for various proposals. Granted, this is weaker than it could be, but I feel that advocates for legislation bear the burden of proof.

            When I’m given an example of a single pizza parlor who won’t cater a gay wedding I view that as unpersuasive that a person is being denied access to a service. i.e. those trying to make an argument in favor of a proposal, and who bear the burden of evidence, seem to fail to carry that burden.

            I’d welcome a stronger version of the anti-discrimination legislation argument.

          • Jack says:

            Is your intuition that advocates for anti-discrimination legislation bear the burden of proof based on the fact that such legislation always costs money to operate, or on the idea that it is an imposition eg on bakers?

            If more the former, such legislation is not expensive (here in Ontario at least). The symbolic effect of it seems to be substantial: fifty years of the Human Rights Code is part of the fabric of the province (including fifty years of railing against its gross tyrrany).

            If more the latter, it is not clear to me that curbing discrimination is an imposition (on discriminators) in a way that enforcing it is not (on discriminatees). When the property and contract rights of a discriminatory baker are enforced by the state, that seems like an imposition on the happy couple–and if discrimination is wrong, then perhaps a wrongful imposition.

            Arguments about the wrongfulness of discrimination often tie it to a need to respect others in a certain way. If wrongful discrimination is the same kind of wrong as say a taking of someone else’s property, a just legal system will enforce anti-discrimination just like it enforces property rights. Thus we should legally require that citizens respect each other in the way that requires non-discrimination, just as we legally require that they respect each other by not engaging in wrongful takings. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy seems to have a good run-down of “more than a half-dozen distinct views” about why discrimination is wrong. It is a vexed question, but one with (in my view) many satisfactory answers.

          • wiserd says:

            @Jack

            “Is your intuition that advocates for anti-discrimination legislation bear the burden of proof based on the fact that such legislation always costs money to operate, or on the idea that it is an imposition eg on bakers?”

            I’d say that my beliefs are, first and foremost, axiomatic in nature; that people have a right to freedom of association and that actions based on such rights don’t require justifications, though they may fall in the face of an overwhelming social need.

            Yes, I also suspect anti-discrimination legislation has some symbolic value. Though I’ve never seen an attempt to measure such symbolic value in any tangible way. And such measurements would be difficult since dramatic changes in attitude frequently preceed such legal recognitions.

            It’s hard to quantify the value of an imposition. Imagine we replace ‘bake the damn cake’ with ‘say the damn prayer’ ‘deny the damn immigrant’ or ‘fuck the damn guy.’ People will have wildy varying valuations of such admonitions. Frequently, such issues are resolved, rightly or wrongly, by assuing that only one party matters.

            I’d also say that attempts to enforce anti-discrimination, such as with the imposition of Desktop Underwriter on the American mortgage industry and vauge regulations compelling loans to poorer individuals sometimes
            have a negative effect (increasing the # of fraudulent loans generated.)

            There are frequently harms associated with forcing people to express their beliefs indirectly. One impact of anti-discrimination legislation infrequently discussed is that it forces minority groups to deal with bigots when they might otherwise have avoided them or driven them out of business. We went to one restaurant for lunch that took an ungodly long time serving a black coworker of ours. It would have been nice to have just avoided the place if we’d known how they treated people. Making bigotry illegal doesn’t make it go away. People laugh at people who claim their country has no gay people. But there’s a perennial sense that coercion can persuade unsympathetic groups, while sympathetic groups are intransigent.

            “When the property and contract rights of a discriminatory baker are enforced by the state, that seems like an imposition on the happy couple–and if discrimination is wrong,”

            I’d say that consent is about the right to say no, not the opportunity to say ‘yes.’ Consent runs deeper than simple ‘property rights’ unless you include ownership of oneself and one’s labor under that label.

            “If wrongful discrimination is the same kind of wrong as say a taking of someone else’s property”

            To equate the first with the second is to imply the public has a sort of ownership of private individuals. Some people seem to believe in such ownership, but absent a tremendously compelling social need (coupled with the capacity of a law to effectively fulfill such a need), I don’t. And most discussions of this issue fail to demonstrate such a need, but rely on hypotheticals or single-business examples. I’m not sure of any way to objectively resolve the issue.

          • GregQ says:

            Then order your freaking cake on Amazon.

            A world where I don’t have the freedom to refuse to participate in your event is a world without individual freedom.

            Can’t find a place where you want it? Go someplace else. Your desires are no more important than anyone else’s

  3. Rowan Santry says:

    Maybe a few high status male rationalists are converting a lot of their female partners and ex partners – it certainly happened to me 🙂

  4. Jaskologist says:

    Preregistering: I plan to analyze the survey results for mental health vs polyamory.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Well, I had actually lost interest in this, but I did preregister, so I guess I have to.

      29.12% of the “Prefer polyamorous” folks are formally diagnosed as depressed, vs 14.97% of the “prefer monogamous.” Other answers were between those two.

      ~20% of each group had family member with depression. I don’t know how to tease significance out of that, but eyeballing it they all look about the same.

      14.29% mono vs 17.72% poly think they might be depressed, but have no diagnosis. “Other” was worst, with 23.64%.

      Breaking it down further by sex:
      33.63% of poly females are depressed, 27.78% of the males
      25.67% of the mono females are depressed, 14.05% of the males.

      Finally, breaking it down by “Relationship style” and “Relationship status”
      18.08% of the single monos are depressed, making them more depressed than “in relationship” monos (15.01%) and married monos (11.60%).
      25.19% of the single polys are depressed, making them the least depressed polys. Most depressed in this group are married polys (31.18%), but “in relationship” polys are close (30.15%).

      20% of the singles in both groups think they have depression, but aren’t diagnosed. 10% of the married in both groups thing they might have depression. The only divergence is the “in-relationships”; polys are 19.47% and monos are 10.84%.

      —————————

      Just going to give high-level numbers for the rest, because this takes a long time.

      Formally diagnosed anxiety:
      9.48% of monos
      18.74% polys

      Think they have anxiety:
      16.31% monos
      24.03% polys

      Basically nobody has OCD. 1.43% monos vs 2.44% polys, balanced out by 5.32% monos who think they have it, vs 4.89% poly.

      Eating disorders:
      Diagnosed: 0.48% mono, 2.24% poly.
      Think they have it: 2.05% mon, 5.30% poly.

      Alcoholism, drug addiction are also very low. Rates are higher in each case for the polys, but I’m not sure it’s significant.

      • publiusvarinius says:

        Well, I had actually lost interest in this, but I did preregister, so I guess I have to.

        +1 for following up and cultivating a good habit by seeing the project through to the end!

  5. Svejk says:

    [EDIT: Many people are pointing out I’m looking at actually-existing-polyamory, not polyamory as it would be practiced if it hypothetically took over all of society. But actually-existing-polyamory is the thing at issue here, and the practice that has to defend itself. I consider the idea of polyamory taking over all of society maybe somewhat more probable than the idea of homosexuality or transgender doing so, but not probable enough to be very likely.]

    This edit makes the post seem rather trivial. Heartiste and NR were discussing what would happen if polyamory became widespread, not what it looks like in a highly selected single group of practitioners. Here we run into a definitional problem, where polyamory as practiced by the lower classes and throughout human history – including elsewhere around the globe today – is excluded from the discussion.

    Additionally, I see no reason to expect that polyamory would be confined to strongly-predispositioned groups, as is the case for homosexuality and transgender. It is commonly accepted that humans are on average moderately polyamorous by nature, and – in situations where the existence of a resource surplus makes exercising polyamory practicable – have come to accept monogamy through a combination of cultural/religious pressure and appreciation for its stabilizing effects, particularly in inheritance and childrearing. This norm could easily change, especially since polyamory has built-in network effects.

    This thread has referenced ‘naturally monogamous’ persons, but these individuals are probably relatively rare. I think it is more likely that many or most happily monogamous individuals are mildly polyamorous by nature, but restrain these instincts because they prioritize the life-history benefits of monogamy, and/or the social benefits of living in a monogamous society. Unhappy apparent monogamists are probably externally constrained by social pressure or inability to exercise their preference for polyamory. Monogamy for most is a tradeoff, not an orientation.

    • Ozy Frantz says:

      My estimate (based on nothing more than personal experience) is that maybe 20% of people can’t be happy in a poly relationship, maybe 10% of people can’t be happy in a monogamous relationship, and probably 70% of people can be happy in either a poly or monogamous relationship. (To be clear, I’m not trying to claim that there’s a “natural monogamous personality” or anything– there are lots and lots of different reasons why someone can’t be happy in a mono relationship, and probably equally many reasons why they can’t be happy in a poly relationship.)

      That said, there are network effects, and one should expect the vast majority of the 70% to do whatever dating style their subculture does.

      It is no doubt possible to have the naturally monogamous suffer through being poly– I mean, naturally poly people have for ages, bringing unhappiness to themselves or others– but I hope I speak for the rest of the poly community by saying we don’t want this to happen and we would very much prefer everyone who is happier being monogamous to continue to be monogamous.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I don’t have any real numbers either, but from anecdotal evidence, I suspect your 20/70/10 should be more like 60/35/5. With large changes to our culture, I’d guess we might be able to get it down as far as 30/50/20, but even that’s a stretch. The even bigger problem is that a lot of people won’t realize which group they’re in until they’ve already gotten into a poly relationship and gotten emotionally and socially enmeshed in it – and then all the forces currently discouraging people from getting out of unhappy monogamous relationships will be working against their getting out.

        That’s why I’m opposed to polygamy becoming more socially-acceptable and widespread. If I agreed with your numbers, I’d be a lot easier about it.

        • Ozy Frantz says:

          Before I was a rationalist, I tended to date random single people, and I had exactly one case of accidentally dating a monogamous person (it ended on good terms) in spite of dating, IDK, maybe a dozen people and not doing any particular filtering to not date monogamous people. When my partners and I broke up, they often went on to happy monogamous relationships afterward. There’s probably a certain amount of selection bias here (weird nerds might be less likely to be constitutionally monogamous) but it still seems true to my experience that the majority of people can be happy either way.

          I expect there is a much much much bigger problem of constitutionally polyamorous people winding up in monogamous relationships: it’s really rare for poly people– even the most naturally poly people– to have never had a monogamous relationship in the past. And that leads to a lot of the situations you’re talking about: a person realizes five years into their marriage, “whoops, I definitely can’t be happy unless you’re dating someone else, sweetie” and then the monogamous person is put in a situation of polyamory or breakup. I hope we can agree that it’s a really good thing for the naturally poly people to discover the concept of polyamory before they wind up being married to a monogamous person.

        • John Schilling says:

          I think you both need to explicitly distinguish between “happy for a few months” and “happy for a few decades”.

  6. acrimonymous says:

    [EDIT: Many people are pointing out I’m looking at actually-existing-polyamory, not polyamory as it would be practiced if it hypothetically took over all of society. But actually-existing-polyamory is the thing at issue here, and the practice that has to defend itself. I consider the idea of polyamory taking over all of society maybe somewhat more probable than the idea of homosexuality or transgender doing so, but not probable enough to be very likely.]

    I don’t understand the point of this post. I take NRO and Heartiste to be addressing situations where polyamory spreads–would it be good or bad for people in general? Is polyamory in danger of being quashed by laws? Are you addressing yourself to people considering polyamory for themselves? Do such people usually consider their decisions as moving society in one direction or another? Why are you addressing objections to polyamory?

  7. gabeweil says:

    If high-status polyamorous male “hoarding all the pussy”, why would you expect the impact to be disproportionately felt by low-status poly men? If anything, my intuition is that higher status men who expect to fair well in a poly mating game would be more inclined to identify as poly. In any case, low-status men who identify as monogamous would seem to be just as disadvantaged if as low-status poly men by the mating success of high-status poly men.

    • acrimonymous says:

      The idea of high-status poly men seems misguided. Men who are “alpha” in the Heartiste sense (A) are just interested in getting more sex, not in polyamory, (B) don’t need social-accepted polyamory to get more sex, and (C) would not be okay with their partners being polyamorous as well.

    • GregQ says:

      In any case, low-status men who identify as monogamous would seem to be just as disadvantaged if as low-status poly men by the mating success of high-status poly men.

      I think part of the problem is that “low status” changes based on mono-v-poly.

      A 40 year old male with a decent job who’s a good father is a good catch in a mono world.

      In a poly world, he has little to offer anyone other than his wife. He’s not making enough to support two families, so no other woman is going to want to “settle down” with him.

      He’s not making enough to “Wine and dine and take on fancy trips” for multiple women, so he’s not going to be a big hit on the dating front, either.

      So, mono high status, poly low status.

  8. GregQ says:

    This doesn’t seem compatible with NRO and Heartiste’s theory, but it’s also not great data. If some supporter of theirs wants to tell me what I have to do in the next SSC survey to get results that they’ll be willing to believe, then let’s talk.

    1: I don’t think you can find societally meaningful results from an SSC survey. So I would challenge you to instead try to find a positive society that has widespread polyamory, and hasn’t become what NRO / Heartiste’s describe.

    2: If you really want to do the study, here’s the questions I’d ask of the “poly”:
    A: Was it your desire to be poly
    B: Has being poly be what you expected? Better? Worse?
    C: Are you someone’s Primary? Do you get as much attention as you want from that person?
    D: If you are not someone’s Primary, do you wish you were? Do you wish one of your current partners would make you his / her Primary?
    E: What % of your Primary’s sex is with you? What % of your sex is with your Primary?
    F: Are you hetero, bi, or gay?

    That would at least get to “relationship equality”.

    If you get honest responses, what I expect you’ll find is that a lot of heterosexual guys thought “going poly” would get them laid a lot more, but that the reality is that they’re getting laid a lot less, and their female partner is getting a lot more.

    3: Let’s consider a random hypothetical:
    Bob and Alice are married to each other, they have sex with each other 30 times a year.

    They decide to spice up their sex life by going poly.

    Last year Alice had two partners other than Bob. She had sex 30 times with each of them, and 10 times with Bob.

    Bob had 5 one night stands, and two longer relationships where he had sex 5 times (each) before they fizzled.

    Bob went from 1 partner to 8. Alice went from 1 to 3. Who is “more successful”? If your questions can’t tease out that situation, then it won’t have anything useful to offer

    • Wrong Species says:

      I think part of the problem is the pro-poly are thinking about this solely on the basis of preferences when it’s also a sort of power dynamic. If someone in a relationship could also get whatever they wanted on the side and that was it, then probably most people would agree to that. The problem is that they don’t want their partner to have that option as well. So even in a hypothetical where both partners were high status and could easily get benefit from a poly relationship, they still might not agree to it. Then add the inequality to the relationship, and it makes more sense that few people(especially men) are going to actually want this, even if they say they do.

  9. abc says:

    Despite the different focuses, they both have the same theory. Men – especially high-status men – are going to date lots of women. But women aren’t going to date lots of men, so all the women will end up dating the same few high-status men and ignore the low-status men. Therefore, women (NRO’s concern) and low-status men (Heartiste’s concern) will lose out.

    No, this is not an accurate summary of Heartiste’s theory. An accurate summary would replace the word “date” with “have sex with”. In fact Heartiste would predict that the women would sleep with the few alphas, while friend-zoning and seeking emotional support from the betas, i.e., “dating” them, while denying them sex.

  10. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Sooo, what do you all think of the rise of cuckold as a right-wing slur?

    • Drew says:

      Mixed feelings. I’m probably less opposed than other people. And I feel like I understand the analogy.

      “Cuckold” — as I understand its standard meaning — has fairly explicit notion of non-consent or extremely-reluctant consent.

      The insult is the implication that the man can’t “keep his affairs in order.” Either he’s willfully blind towards the cheating, or he’s aware of it (and opposed) but lacks the moral strength to say or do anything.

      The political analogy is citizens have a similar duty to their country. So, calling someone a ‘cuck’ is basically, “Some outside force is hurting your country. We’re pointing this out. You refuse to acknowledge the problem. So you’re either willfully blind, or you lack appropriate moral conviction.”

      I disagree with the alt-right on about every object-level policy. So, at an object level, I’d say, “you’re wrong about there being forces that hurt the country.” But that’s unsatisfying.

      On a meta-level, I find the term surprisingly hard to critique.

      One possible objection is that there’s a consensual fetish that’s also called “cuckolding”. And it’s wrong to sex-shame consensual things. But that seems deeply unconvincing. The point of the fetish is role-playing an act that would be disagreeable were it not for the consent.

      Another objection is that the “keep your house in order” framework is sexist and wrong.

      But I feel like my objections here are about the framework’s details, rather than it’s core. For instance, I think that people — of both genders — should find and mitigate any major problems in their personal or professional lives.

      Raging, untreated alcoholism, for instance, is a problem. Similarly, “my partner is cheating on me, I hate it, but I’m afraid they’ll leave me if I say anything” should merit a breakup or some kind of counseling.

      I’m torn here because, on one hand, I want to be supportive of mental illness or trauma. Poking fun at personal insecurities feels deeply cruel. On the other hand, there’s a good reason that, “She has her shit together” is a compliment.

    • hlynkacg says:

      I’m ambivalent. I think it’s a worthwhile concept for the reasons Drew describes above but it’s value is being rapidly depleted through overuse by morons.

    • Sooo, what do you all think of the rise of cuckold as a right-wing slur?

      My understanding of the political use of the term is that it’s specifically a white-nationalist/anti-immigrant slur, going back to the old cuckoo-bird meaning of diverting resources to another’s offspring, that is, immigrant populations receiving schooling, food stamps, housing, etc.

      An example of this type of thinking is “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” from Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa).

      Calling a Republican politician “cuckservative” is a way of expressing dissatisfaction that the target is insufficiently on board with that agenda.

      The connotation of weakness and unmasculinity is presumably just a bonus.

      Disclaimer: I’m a pro-immigration liberal Democrat.

      • Anonymous says:

        Commendable! That’s a coherent description. I’d add that in the cuckold metaphor, the husband is the right-wing voters, the wife is the establishment Republicans, and the lover is the Democrats.

        • acrimonymous says:

          It’s not that narrowly confined to voting. The Republican establishment is often described as “cucks”–their actions often being said to promote the aims of the Democrats rather than “true” Republican aims.

          • Anonymous says:

            Sure, sure. The metaphor is multifunctional. I’m just pleased that someone for once got at least one interpretation right.

    • Alexandre Z says:

      I find slurs distasteful in general. In this specific case, it seems to be a marker of racists and other xenophobes. I immediately assigns such a low value to their opinion that I can’t bring myself to care about their use of the word.

    • Anonymous says:

      A fascinating piece of memegineering.

    • carvenvisage says:

      In a civilised society you could kill someone on the spot for it.

      The same is true for past slurs like bitch and maybe before that faggot.

      What’s odd about this one is that it seemingly came out of nowhere, and how it was getting near 0 use before their adoption of it. aggressiveness of “bitch” usage ratched gradually up over years as people got desensitised to it, and a lot of people who said it didn’t appreciate what an insult it was. That doesn’t seem to be the case here.

      Also I can’t imagine calling someone a cuck would be viscerally satisfying like calling someone a bitch or a faggot could be (though that is a fact about my imagination). Seems like the latter two words were used as a vehicle to show how masculine you are by getting away with some heinous shit with a bit of plausible deniability (before they got desensitized). It’s evil, but understandable.

      In this case I don’t understand it at all. Seems like somehow they’re doing it out of pain? Like a vehicle to show how in pain you are?

      Or somehow like they genuinely think that will get people to ‘wake up’ rather than act to solicit murder? (which I’m not saying they’ll duly receive, but aiming to provoke a duel/summarry execution when both are illegal isn’t going to help your cause just because you get away with it in this day and age)

      Anyway I really don’t know, except that I don’t like it.I find the whole thing horrible and perplexing.

      I don’t consider it right wing, just an expression of people who have lost their minds, which you can probably expect to make up a significant proportion of any protest vote. It certainly hurts the right wing cause. The word marks any user as a bad, and broken or at least really severely cracked person and naturally sours listeners on any causes the person is associated to.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        I agree with your premises but would like to present an alternate conclusion by way of analogy.

        In Norse society, calling a man nið (an effeminate coward) was cause for an immediate duel. A man who killed over that insult didn’t have to pay any wergeld: it was considered a justifiable homicide.

        At the same time, the practice of ‘scolding’ or deliberately calling other men nið in verse was considered an important social duty. Because the real nið will never defend himself and thus naming him is proof that the charge is true.

        If you call someone a cuck and all they can do is whine about how unfair it is… congratulations, you’ve found a cuck. The natural masculine response of rage is lacking.

        • Ozy Frantz says:

          I don’t think I’ve ever found a lefty who whined about how unfair it was, I think this reaction is more typical.

        • random832 says:

          @Nabil ad Dajjal
          It seems awfully convenient for your argument that you get to generalize from a society where they will face no consequences (except from the person who has already delivered a grave insult) for indulging their “natural masculine response of rage”, and say that anyone who suppresses it in the face of the almost certain response of overwhelming state force (not present, as you said, for the Norse) is a coward.

          • SchwarzeKatze says:

            Also note that most of what is alleged about pre-christian germanic culture is almost always according to what their enemies said about them. Blood eagle? Reported by one single muslim. No archeological record whatsoever. Lindisfarne a massacre? Modern archeology raises doubts about this. The Edda? Written by a christian. Scandinavians/germanics who strangely have a lot of forager ancestry just woke up one morning and decided to amend their woeful ways by suddenly becoming some of the worlds most accomplished egalitarians…

          • The Edda? Written by a christian.

            ???

            Which Edda?

            We don’t know who wrote the Elder Edda, but it is a collection of pagan verse early enough to make it unlikely that the author was christian. Snorri’s Eddla, aka the Younger Edda, was written by a Christian, but it’s a handbook for skaldic poets containing lots of information about Norse paganism from the Elder Edda, so it’s the latter that is relevant to our knowledge of Norse paganism.

          • SchwarzeKatze says:

            @David Friedman

            The elder edda comes from the Codex Regius, a latin name, and is thought to have been written around 1270. That’s certainly not “early enough” in any way. This is well after christianity/romanization took a hold in the north. At least among the ruling class, which were the only ones who knew how to write. Early enough would have been when the romans started their wars of conquest against germanics or when charlemagne was doing his campaigns of ethnic cleansing. Pagans did not write things down, because they had a non-hierarchical decentralized society which does not require writing things down. Furthermore every group of pre-christian germanics must have had their own more or less different version of how to explain the world. When they had to defend against the encroachment of southern european culture, their culture changed. Furthermore, there was no such thing as the state, centralization, or any authority to standardize things. So any of the Eddas are just pretty much useless to produce a true picture of what pre-christian germanic culture was actually like. I’m pretty sure that’s also true of Celts and Slavs.

          • The elder edda comes from the Codex Regius, a latin name, and is thought to have been written around 1270.

            That’s when the text we have was written down. The question is when the poems were composed, and that’s a complicated issue on which people differ. I’m not aware of anyone who thinks the material was actually composed as late as 1270, but I could be mistaken.

            Early enough would have been when the romans started their wars of conquest against germanics or when charlemagne was doing his campaigns of ethnic cleansing.

            Iceland did not go Christian until the year 1000, about two hundred years after Charlemagne. Norway went a little earlier. Sweden went back and forth until almost 1100.

            Pagans did not write things down, because they had a non-hierarchical decentralized society which does not require writing things down.

            Consider Snorri’s discussion at the beginning of Heimskringla of how we can know things from the past. He argues that the best evidence is in skaldic poems composed at the times of the events, in part because the form is tight enough to hold up well with repeated oral transmission. That doesn’t require written texts.

            Furthermore, there was no such thing as the state, centralization, or any authority to standardize things

            Harald Haarfagr did a pretty effective job of unifying Norway about a century before the country went Christian.

        • carvenvisage says:

          so what’s the idea then? that’s like an Ayn-rand-villain attitude: testing people in the hopes that either you’ll get away with it or they’ll turn around and destroy you. Sounds like exactly what I said about doing it from pain (and without purpose or profit)

  11. One of my id’s objections to polyamory is that I see jealousy as part of love, and so I find it hard to understand how people in polyamorous relationships can truly love each other while tolerating their partners having other partners. I feel like if I were able to tolerate my partner having another partner, that would imply that I didn’t really like them all that much—if I liked them to the very high degree that I ought to like a romantic partner, I’d require their undivided devotion. It’s fairly likely that this is a very unrealistic and immature conception of love, given that I’ve never actually been in love with a real person.

    It’s maybe possible that I’d be able to tolerate being a primary in a polyamorous relationship. But I definitely couldn’t tolerate being a secondary. And unless I get a lot more self-confident about my attractiveness I’m going to always be highly insecure about being demoted to secondary position whenever I’m a primary.

    • Jack says:

      Gee it’s a good thing we have egos.

    • xXxanonxXx says:

      I met my wife in high school and immediately fell deeply, hopelessly in love. The idea of her touching another man drove me wild with jealousy, and continues to to this day. She feels the same. We’ve both stated in no uncertain terms that cheating would mean an immediate end to things. Admitting attraction to someone else wouldn’t be marriage-shattering, but it would be about as cruel as someone telling their partner they found them sexually revolting.

      We didn’t marry in high school (long story). She moved away. I joined the military. For the next 9 years I felt like I was cursed for ever having met her because relationships with other girls weren’t close to satisfying. There’s a bit of a chicken or the egg situation where I ask if I didn’t love anyone else because I didn’t feel jealous, or if I didn’t feel jealous because I didn’t love them. Any of the girls I dated in those intervening years could have cheated on me and I’d just have been happy to have a socially acceptable excuse to dump them.

      Anyway, it wasn’t an unrealistic idea about love. It was my reality. Maybe immature, but it’s not as if I didn’t try really hard to change during that time. My main hope was that with more life experience and the withering of hormones that comes with age I might figure out a way to engineer myself into a different person who could be happy with anyone other than her (I’d long given up hope on meeting another her). When you’re in your late twenties and you’ve made absolutely zero progress though… it’s very depressing.

      • Drew says:

        Admitting attraction to someone else wouldn’t be marriage-shattering, but it would be about as cruel as someone telling their partner they found them sexually revolting.

        This is seems to be a common thing (albeit, not in our sub-community). But it seems so odd to me.

        Are you saying that you literally don’t see other people as attractive? Or just that it would be a rude of shameful thing to admit?

        Noting that other people are attractive doesn’t seem particularly cruel or threatening to me. I’m married, not gelded.

        Saying it with a subtext that I’m planning to leave or cheat on my partner would be cruel. But there’s a big gap between my wife saying “Daniel Radcliffe is attractive” and “I’m unhappy in our marriage and planning to leave you for Daniel Radcliffe”.

        • I’m not the person you were immediately replying to, but “attractive” can mean different things—in the very strongest sense “Daniel Radcliffe is attractive” and “I’m unhappy in our marriage and planning to leave you for Daniel Radcliffe” can have exactly the same meaning.

          On the other hand, if “attractive” just means “visually appealing”, then I wouldn’t feel at all dismayed to hear my wife saying she found Daniel Radcliffe attractive. (I think, anyway—my guesses about what my emotions would be in this situation might be wrong.) I certainly find a lot of women attractive in this way even though I’ve never been in love.

          In between, “attractive” could mean “I feel a strong desire to be romantically involved with this person”. That’s not an insurmountable problem if my wife still also feels a stronger desire to be romantically involved with me, and is willing to prioritize her relationship with me, and is willing to go along with my requirement for monogamy. But it is a problem. I’m favourable to the idea that openly discussing such issues and working through them together might be the best option, but other couples might prefer to deal with the problem differently.

        • xXxanonxXx says:

          Are you saying that you literally don’t see other people as attractive? Or just that it would be a rude of shameful thing to admit?

          That it would be rude or shameful. It’s a taboo, and one that I know my wife knows exists (and knows I know she knows), thus it’s sort of a game we’re both happy to play.

          The further removed the concept of attraction becomes from the possibility of engaging with it in any way the more acceptable it is to state. I tell her all the time how incredibly erotic I find certain fictional characters like Barbarella (as in it has to actually be the real Barbarella, like from space), and she’s happy to play the movie for us when she’s in the mood. If it’s a famous person we’re slipping into taboo territory due to the possibility (however remote) that something could actually ever come of it. If it’s someone we know in real life I keep my mouth shut. If provoked (“Don’t you think she’s pretty?”) I’ll nod and offer a sort of clinical commentary, like I’m talking about a painting.

          In her case she really doesn’t have a lot of attraction for other men. Her first marriage suffered greatly due to lack of sexual interest. She does likes it when guys chop wood. Fortunately I have an ax and a backyard.

          Mostly I offered up the story since Thehousecarpenter was calling this kind of love immature and unrealistic. It might be both, but one anecdote is at least enough to prove it’s not nonexistent.

    • sconn says:

      Nope, not immature at all. I think some of us experience jealousy and some don’t. My husband and I are both strongly monogamous; I’d probably forgive him if he cheated on me, but it would be hard for me to do – and I’d never consider cheating on him.

      That’s why I think poly/mono is more like an orientation than purely a decision to do relationships a certain way. Some people can easily adapt between them, and others can only be happy with one or the other.

  12. Alex Zavoluk says:

    If most of the polyamorous individuals are single or have one partner, do the data really help you answer these questions? It would seem that over half of respondents indicated a preference for polyamory without actually having multiple partners.

    • Said Achmiz says:

      Indeed: out of 222 “prefer polyamorous” respondents in the public data set, 57 (~26%) indicated that they had zero current partners[1], and 101 (~45%) indicated that they had 1 current partner[2].

      [1] Note that 49 of these said they were “open to” or “seeking” additional partners; only 8 said they weren’t looking for additional partners. Also of note that this cohort contained only 2 cis women.
      [2] 84 of these said they were “open to” or “seeking” additional partners; only 17 said they weren’t looking for additional partners. 14 cis women were in this cohort.

      (In the “2 or more partners” cohort — 64 respondents in total — 20 were cis women.)

  13. gbdub says:

    I feel like there’s a bit of, maybe not quite no-True-Scotsmanning, but sort of a whiff of what you’d get from Communism advocates going on in poly-advocacy.

    Like communists with capitalism, poly advocates happy to point to failures of monogamous relationships as reasons why monogamy is too restrictive and more polyamory ought to be encouraged. On the other hand, failures of polyamory are dismissed as “not real poly people making dumb decisions, and if they simply practiced good polyamory they wouldn’t have those problems”. Or, because there is such a diversity of arrangements under the umbrella of polyamory, there will always be a subset to cherry-pick without the particular failure mode alleged.

    In reality, it seems like both mono- and polyamory have failure modes. Some of them are common to both, some are unique to one or the other. The seems so obvious as to boggle me if anyone objects. But there’s a reluctance to admit that uniquely-polyamorous failure modes exist at all. This is bad, because it means that practitioners are less likely to address/look out for those failure modes, and people might get into the lifestyle and be hurt by those failure modes they weren’t warned about.

    • Jack says:

      This doesn’t seem like an apt characterisation of the above conversation to me. Ozy Frantz for one has mentioned poly-specific problems under the headings of people who are “naturally” monogamous trying to get into it, people getting into for the wrong reasons, certain forms of jealousy… Polyamory is often defined with radical honesty and even gender egalitarian components, so you do get “that’s not polyamory” which can be accurate even if it is not helpful as a claim about what happens when people try to do polyamory but don’t manage it. Also it seems that polyamory has substantial stigma, and this might be a good reason for poly advocates to point out the imperfections of monogamy and focus on how poly can work. You are of course right that both can work sometimes and neither works always.

      • gbdub says:

        Ozy Frantz for one has mentioned poly-specific problems under the headings of people who are “naturally” monogamous trying to get into it, people getting into for the wrong reasons, certain forms of jealousy…

        That’s kind of my point though, those really are poly-specific problems and dismissing them as “not really polyamory” is dishonest in the same way that it would be if, presented with “cheating wife gets pregnant with another man’s child, now the husband is miserable”, I said, “well, that’s not a problem with monogamy, because they weren’t really practicing monogamy”.

        Also it seems that polyamory has substantial stigma,

        But that’s much less true here, and anyway we’re supposed to be rational, which is why it’s disappointing we can’t be more honest about it. People here are more likely than average to already be poly, or exposed to the poly community and considering it as a possible lifestyle, and are therefore more likely to be harmed by an overly optimistic portrayal.

        • Jack says:

          The poly-specific failure modes I mentioned have not here been called “not really polyamory” I think? (With the exception of the cheater who tells their mistress they’re poly without their partner knowing… but then that’s really not really poly.) Poly doesn’t work sometimes for reasons specific to the stresses of having multiple partners or one’s partners having other partners. The “not really poly” is the times when someone is eg just cheating or engaging in sexist polygyny (eg Mormonism–not just a gender distribution of partners but a thoroughly sexist ideology attached to it). It’s also used to distinguish poly from swinging, hook-ups, open relationships, and monogamish type arrangements that all have their own problems.

          As to stigma, I agree that the harm of overly optimistic portrayals is a bad thing to be avoided and perhaps more relevant here than in other fora. But it still seems to me there is stigma about. For instance, there’s a person above who seems to think polyamory is indistinguishable from … I’m not clear whether he’s talking about the fetish of cuckolding or the MRA/PUA idea of failed masculinity but it’s clear he doesn’t like it whatever it is. Whether this is a good time to focus on the positive or not seems to me hard to say.

  14. Spookykou says:

    Given the selection bias in SSC/LW readers, I doubt a SSC survey could ever give information that would generalize to the larger population. Isn’t this community suppose to be somewhere between the top 1-0.1% for IQ, etc?

    Edit: I posted this before reading the comments, oops

  15. Alex M says:

    This is complete idiocy. This problem with polyamory is not a disproportionate number of relationship partners, its the disproportionate amount of sex that different genders get.

    Here’s a simple experiment. Create a fake OKcupid account listing yourself as a poly man looking for a hookup. See how many responses you get. Then create a fake OKcupid account listing yourself as a poly female looking for a hookup and see how many responses that gets. Spoiler – the number of responses to poly women will outnumber the responses to poly men by at least 50 to 1.

    The problem with poly situations isn’t that women have more relationship partners. It’s that they have vastly more sex partners. So most modern poly women end up with a beta male breadwinner while they get plenty of one night stands with more attractive alpha guys, but the poly beta men on the other side of that equation actually get less sex because their primary partner is satisfying her needs with other guys, whereas other women are not interested in dating them.

    Your first problem Scott is that you are measuring the wrong thing. Your second problem is that you are relying on self-reporting polls when even the most basic scientific testing shows how wildly inaccurate your data is. Why ask irrelevant questions when the world can be your science lab?

    • Alexandre Zani says:

      So talk to your partner about the fact that you want to spend more time with them and have more sex with them. If your partner isn’t interested in working with you to make your relationship work for both of you, break up with them and find a partner who is interested in making a healthy cooperative relationship with you.

      • John Schilling says:

        Also, talk to your boss about how you want to spend more time with your family and have a bigger paycheck to share with them. If your boss isn’t interested in working with you to make your professional relationship work for both of you, break up with them and find an employer who is…

        Neither of these strategies is completely unrealistic, but please don’t oversell either of them.

        • Alexandre Zani says:

          Wait, if your partner is uninterested in making your relationship work for both of you, what are you getting out of it? Surely you’re not getting needs for romantic intimacy fulfilled by someone who you know doesn’t care about your relationship enough to work on it with you.

          • Schmendrick says:

            Fear of being alone + status quo bias + partial desire fulfillment + alimony.

            People are scared of being alone, and not without reason. Being alone sucks in many ways. We’re social animals, after all. Further, change is scary, even when the status quo sucks. The argument that “well, (s)he’s distant, and we only have sex once a month, and we only really spend time together once per week” can be countered with “so you’d rather have sex zero times per month and never spend time with anyone who shares even a small romantic connection with you?” Lastly, for married couples or those with kids, the legal system imposes strong material incentives to not end a bad relationship. In fact, the current trend in divorce litigation is to “go nuclear” and allege abuse maximally often (even if untrue or of dubious veracity) because the system maximally punishes purported abusers but doesn’t sufficiently deter those who are found to have made unsubstantiated claims of abuse.

          • John Schilling says:

            Wait, if your partner is uninterested in making your relationship work for both of you…

            …then you are probably exaggerating a situation in which your partner is inadequately interested in making your relationship work for both of you. If they were completely uninterested, they’d have dumped you.

            Same deal with your boss. And in both cases, even “inadequate” interest may be better than none at all, depending on how confident you are in your ability to find another job/partner and how much you are a self-reliant atomic individual who doesn’t need such things.

          • Alex M says:

            And this is the part of the discussion where you learn about the laws of supply and demand, which women sometimes phrase as “Dick is plentiful and low value.”

            In other words, you can either suck it up and continue in a relationship which offers you partial satisfaction, or get dumped and learn how easily replaceable you are. Most men with any self-respect will choose to get dumped, which is why most poly men are beta males who delude themselves into thinking that they’re happy – because the alternative is looking themselves in the mirror and realizing how pitiful they are. Here is an article that really exemplifies this typical self-delusion mindset.

            http://nymag.com/thecut/2015/07/what-open-marriage-taught-one-man-about-feminism.html

            TL;DR: “I’m happy! Really, really happy!” sob

            I have rarely met a poly guy who wasn’t a low value beta getting much less sex than his S/O. The few exceptions to this rule were guys who were either exceptionally attractive or exceptionally rich, and in both scenarios, the women they were dating were… fairly plain-looking, if I may be blunt. If those guys were looking for more typical relationships, they could easily have landed somebody much more attractive, which implies that in order to get more sexual partners, they were forced to adopt lower standards.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            “average poly man gets laid all the time” factoid actually just statistical error. average poly man a low-value beta male who has deluded himself into believing he is happy. Orgasm Georg, who lives in the Citadel and fucks over 10,000 women each day, is an outlier and should not have been counted.

            More seriously, if poly men are all low-value beta males who don’t get laid, who are the women fucking?

          • Alexandre Z says:

            “Dick is plentiful and low value.”

            Well yes. If all you brought to the relationship was your dick, you are easily replaceable. After all, there around some 3.5 billion people with dicks. That’s not a very impressive qualification.

            But let’s be brutally honest here. Your view of women is clearly that they are selfish and shallow. That all they care about is your looks and your money. You yourself seem to see their value as being mostly about their looks. (Otherwise, you would see how having sex with someone who is not a supermodel is not necessarily settling.)

            Given these facts about you, it is wholly unsurprising most women are unwilling to date or fuck you. The problem isn’t polyamory. The problem is that you see women as worthless receptacles for your dick. They sense it and strangely-enough, they would prefer to date and fuck people who think of them as worthwhile human beings.

          • publiusvarinius says:

            The problem isn’t polyamory. The problem is that you see women as worthless receptacles for your dick.

            Indeed, the only reason people think that polyamory is flawed or problematic is that Alex M refuses to change his ways 😉

            Wait… Alex M never said anything about having dating problems, that part is all in your head! For all we know, Alex M could be far more successful in dating than you, or indeed most people on SSC.

            Actually, even in the unlikely* scenario where your Internet psychoanalysis skills are reliable tools for analyzing Alex M’s relationship problems, that would still be insufficient for drawing conclusions about polyamory.

            Alex M’s romantic potential ultimately need not reflect on the merit of his arguments. Attributing evil motives to opponents is a natural tendency we all have: it makes us feel especially good for opposing them. It’s a fruitless habit that does not lead to convincing arguments: we should strive to avoid it.

            * this kind of reasoning goes wrong so often it has its own name, circumstantial ad hominem.

          • Jack says:

            I’m kind of amazed you posted that in response to the responses to the post about how poly men are typically self-delusional.

          • Jack says:

            Author of article: here is the story of my happy open marriage.

            Alex M: My systematic psychoanalysis has revealed that you and nearly all other poly men are delusional milquetoasts.

            Others: Whoah maybe you are projecting your desires on the author.

            LET’S NOT PSYCHOANALYSE STRANGERS ON THE INTERNET.

          • publiusvarinius says:

            @Jack:

            Alex M: My systematic psychoanalysis has revealed that you and nearly all other poly men are delusional milquetoasts.

            That’s a distorted and incredibly uncharitable summary. Alex M also pointed to a trend that he noticed, proposed an interesting experiment based on his observations, and suggested a potential error in Scott’s work. His second post was a follow-up, expanding on how he made these observations.

            Short-circuiting that with “Alex M fails at dating because he is a misogynist” is a bad idea (And that holds even if his second post was perhaps more inflammatory to the poly community than necessary. But then again, nobody made that particular complaint.)

          • Jack says:

            Alex M also pointed to…

            I was looking at, and I’m pretty sure those above me were reacting to, precisely the point at which Alex M went from making plausible-sounding claims about how easy it is to get a date to degrading people with different values through an apparent attempt at computer-chair psychoanalysis. Perhaps it wasn’t clear, but the article I was referring to was that they cited in their second comment–wasn’t trying to summarize anything that went before that.

          • Jack says:

            To be more substantive, I do not think this is a short-circuit because I think expressions of and responses to poly stigma are part of this conversation, and part of the “narratives” that SSC started off with in OP. This seems like an appropriate place to let all the psychoanalysis out. Heartiste and others think poly men are all insults they’ve made up. Others suspect that maybe poly men are what they say they are but Heartiste et al. have their own issues. No doubt you and I have revealed something devastatingly personal about ourselves. This is all part of the narrative, the stigma, and responding to the stigma.

          • Alex M says:

            More seriously, if poly men are all low-value beta males who don’t get laid, who are the women fucking?

            Single men who are not poly, obviously? Why does that surprise you? That is exactly why they have a much larger dating pool.

            Given these facts about you, it is wholly unsurprising most women are unwilling to date or fuck you. The problem isn’t polyamory. The problem is that you see women as worthless receptacles for your dick. They sense it and strangely-enough, they would prefer to date and fuck people who think of them as worthwhile human beings.

            Alexandre Z, you’re delusional. I’m in a relationship right now that I’m very happy with, but I never had much trouble getting sex before that. And I do view women as more than a “receptable for my dick”, but since you’re obviously one of these social justice idiots who thinks anybody that isn’t Feminist must hate women, I think that you’ve really revealed more negative things about yourself than me with that comment.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            Alex M: Putting aside for a moment my observations that most people have casual sex with other poly people, poly women have secondary partners! This is a very common thing for poly women to do! So are you not counting their secondary partners as poly for some reason, or are you claiming that poly women typically have a primary relationship and two or three secondary relationships with low-value beta males, none of whom they have sex with, and they instead have sex three or four times a week with guys from OKC? These poly women must have extraordinary amounts of free time to go on all those dates. One wonders when they get enough time to sleep.

        • blacktrance says:

          The critical difference is that a bad job is usually better than no job, but a bad relationship is usually worse than no relationship.

  16. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Posted before catching up on comments:

    I find it hard to believe in hypergamy because I just don’t seem to know women whose tastes run that way. I don’t know how typical my social circle is.

    I’m also not at all sure that a fully polyamorous society would be a worse deal for low-status men. Even supposing that a lot of the (more attractive?) women would rather share a high status man with three or four other women, those women have a good bit of free time that could be used for secondary relationships. This could be better for men than being completely closed out of more-or-less monogamous relationships.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      I find it hard to believe in hypergamy because I just don’t seem to know women whose tastes run that way

      A lot of people lack a good understanding of their tastes in romantic partners. It seems there is a subconscious mechanism which filters out a lot of people and those people end up being invisible.

      The classic illustration of this is the survey where you ask people to rate other peoples’ appearances as “above average” or “below average.” As I recall, women rate about 80% of men as below average in looks.

  17. Christopher Hazell says:

    A problem I have with pop evo psych like Heartiste talks about is that there are numerous modes of human sexuality that are clearly NOT reproductive strategies, and yet seem to be pretty historically stable. Homosexuality would be the big one; by definition it is non-reproductive. Heartiste brings up another one: Bastardry.

    Disowning your offspring and giving them less chance to survive seems like a peculiar reproductive strategy. I mean, yes, you could argue that it’s a method to prioritize the survival of offspring you have with more desirable mates by lowering competition with the offspring of less desirable mates, but let me pitch an even better strategy at you: Don’t have sex with less desirable mates.

    A large number of people, perhaps most of us, do not think or behave as though we were playing a game of trying to maximize our reproductive success; much of our sexual behavior at least appears to have other goals.

    Yes, you can come up with all kinds of just-so stories about how homosexuality and prostitution and bastardry are really hidden or delayed reproductive strategies (Explain how homosexual behavior is a reproductive strategy, I dare you) or how we evolved to want sex more than reproduction so some of our behavior will prioritize non-reproductive sex or what have you, but at that point the objection to polyamory just collapses, because the whole core of the argument is “polyamory limits reproductive success to a small group.” Once you admit that sex and desire have purposes other than reproductive success that ceases to be a convincing argument.

    The more generalized problem I have with pop ev psych discussions about how our behavior is based on maximizing reproductive success is that when you point out something that doesn’t appear to be a reproductive strategy, people tend to just go, “Oh, yeah, not everything is a reproductive strategy.” which means the whole theory is “Maximizing reproductive success explains the differences between the sexes, except when it doesn’t” and as far as I can tell there doesn’t seem to be any way of knowing which behavioral differences are reproductive and which aren’t, or which reproductive strategies work best in which environment, or how quickly strategies chance with the environment, or how equilibrium is found between competing successful strategies, or a million other things that would actually explain human behavior.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Bastardy makes plenty of reproductive sense, as long as the cost of creating the bastard is low enough. There are plenty of species which don’t provide for their young.

      • Christopher Hazell says:

        I didn’t so much mean just having an “illegitimate” child, I meant the whole social and legal stigma which doesn’t just allow, but often compel the parent not to provide for a child which they have had outside of wedlock.

        Also, you can’t actually just abandon a human child and expect it to survive. Somebody ends up taking care of it, probably the parent who isn’t already in a marriage. Reproduction is higher cost for a woman than a man, so what would compel a woman to reproduce with a mate whom she knows, due to social pressure, won’t provide for the child? It seems like a sub-optimal strategy.

        • Alex Zavoluk says:

          The individual incentives may not align with the “social” incentives. Or to be more precise, it may be in your best interest to do one thing and encourage everyone else to do another.

        • Deiseach says:

          what would compel a woman to reproduce with a mate whom she knows, due to social pressure, won’t provide for the child?

          News just in: women also experience sexual desire and often make stupid decisions, just like men do!

          To be less flippant, bastardry works like a cuckoo-in-the-nest scenario; have offspring but push off the cost of raising them onto others. The social stigma acts to try and push back against that, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it fails.

          Also, rape happens, even if it’s sometimes called seduction. And there are any number of ballads about “you promised you’d marry me, that’s why I had sex with you, now you’re married to the rich girl and I’m out here in the rain with our dead baby”.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Ugh, surely there’s a special place in Hell for men who lip-flap commitment and then let a baby die for want of resources.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Well yes, but that presupposes a Hell.

        • wiserd says:

          @Christopher Hazell – Usually, social castes seek to maintain themselves. So if men from a prefered caste have kids with women from a lower caste either the caste becomes diluted or else there’s a social emphasis on purity.

          It’s in the interests of all doctors to promote medical ethics, since the professionalization of their craft helps them earn money. It may also be in the interest of any particular doctor to be unethical.

    • Schmendrick says:

      The argument isn’t that polyamory restricts reproductive success; it’s that polyamory allows for a kind of “white flight” away from low-status individuals in romance. If you can scramble after a high-status individual and be one of a multitude of occasional partners, you can delude yourself that you, too, are high status and completely different from the troglodytic losers.

    • Anonnymous says:

      I present you three strategies brought to their extreme:
      S1. Have 5 children with your primary mate.
      S2. Have 5 children with your primary mate and 5 from random flings which you disown and spend no resources on.
      S3. Have 5 children with your primary mate and 5 from random flings and send half your resources their way.

      In your second paragraph you propose that S1 can be better than S2. I’d argue that S1 is strictly worse than S2, and S3 is likely to be worse too depending on how much resources you have and how much social backlash you incur from torturing your wife like this.

      S1 can be preferable to S2 if it’s expensive to have children from random flings (you’re a woman or an unattractive man) or if you can’t truly insulate your resources from the bastards, but yeah. Bastardy makes sense.

      • Christopher Hazell says:

        S1 can be preferable to S2 if it’s expensive to have children from random flings (you’re a woman or an unattractive man) or if you can’t truly insulate your resources from the bastards, but yeah. Bastardy makes sense.

        Well, this was actually my point.

        First off, of course, every one of these strategies involves men and women. You’re talking from the perspective of what makes the most sense for a man, but what’s unclear to me is what the reproductive logic is from any of the women in S2, who are left to then raise a child on their own under heavy social pressure with a lack of resources.

        Second, the question of whether you can or can’t truly insulate your resources from the bastards is usually going to heavily, heavily differ based on legal norms. Where do those legal norms come from? How much do they effect reproductive strategy?

    • wiserd says:

      ” (Explain how homosexual behavior is a reproductive strategy, I dare you)”

      1. Male homosexuality is often argued to be a side effect of increased female fecundity. Just like the mothers of some colorblind men are tetrachromats.

      2. What if bisexuality were adaptive in terms of increasing a person’s social connections and strict homosexuality were the extreme end. Just like sickle cell anemia isn’t adaptive, but being heterozygous recessive for the sickle cell gene makes a person resistant to malaria.

      Nobody’s ever demonstrated that any particular gene causes a person to have fewer relatives, in any case. Homosexualitiy could just relate to a condition in the womb and not be strictly genetically determined at all.

  18. MattW says:

    This is old heartiste, more recently he’s seen that polyamory is more often than not low SMV individuals grouping together, often multiple men with a single woman.

    And I seriously doubt an SSC survey would be able to capture the data you need to prove anything. You have a very particular group reading here, not the best for gathering society-wide representative data.

    • Svejk says:

      I was hesitant to bring it up, because it seems presumptuous and uncharitable, but I am curious as to the proportion of satisfied polyamorists that are asexual or asexual-adjacent, and whether polyamorists enjoy mating/relationship success prior to joining or outside of the polyamory community. I am also curious as to whether the observation of a relatively high percentage of bisexual women in polyamory is common in different polyamorous communities, as I could see this as functioning as a sort of jealousy buffer/tolerated emotional outlet.

      I would not necessarily characterize polyamorists as low-SMV, since SMV can be thought of as relative to your preferred mating pool, but these questions are relevant to predicting how polyamory would be expressed in a society where it was a broader norm.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Link to the relevant Heartiste piece?

      • reasoned argumentation says:

        https://heartiste.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/the-ugly-reality-of-open-relationships/

        Key items:

        Open relationships are almost never two-way.

        One party to the “creatively ambiguous” polyamory agreement is getting the metaphorical shaft, and the other the actual shaft. The shafted is typically, but not always, the male (no need to sully the word “man”), whose role is as the eminently mockable “beta bux” (or beta hugs) available for service during those three weeks of the month when the female’s libido goes into hibernation. That he may live with his openly open-legged girlfriend doesn’t mean he’s getting the lion’s share of her vagina. But he is getting the lion’s share of her feelings and tantrums and moodiness.

        Even males who manage to fulfill their implied rewards from an open relationship are rarely sole owners of the sexual excess. The first polyamorous couple described in this post survived on the male’s willingness to whore out his “primary” to fellow travelers at their favorite swinger spot. And as CH readers should know by now, the sexual profligacy of women is a far more serious infraction in biological (and hence, psychological) terms than is the sexual profligacy of men.

        Genuine, egalitarian, open polyamory for all practical purposes doesn’t exist among white Westerners. There’s always one or another party out in the asexual or anhedonic cold, nursing feelings of rejection and traumatic self-doubt. And if that party is a willing participant to his or her sexual/romantic exclusion, it’s a good bet he/she is psychologically broken, mentally unstable, physically repulsive, or suffering from clinically low sex drive. In other words, human trash.

        Open relationship participants are almost always hideously ugly.

        Polyamory is a mating ground for human rejects. Whatever else it offers, the open relationship ruse assists the comically low value sector of humanity to live amongst each other and experience pleasures of the diseased flesh.

        True open relationships are predominantly polyandrous.

        The general complexion of contractual open relationships — where all participants are voluntary and aware of proceedings — is one ugly to mediocre-looking woman on the pre-Wall fast track lavishing in the flaccid attention of two or more omega males. Invariably, the more masculine (and it’s all relative, so maybe it’s better to say “the less androgynous”) of the males would be the one who is actually porking her.

        For a visual of this reality, see here.

        Illicit open relationships are predominantly polygynous.

        “Open” relationships that form organically from the unspoken (and initially unacknowledged) impulses and romantic decisions of one or another partner nearly always manifest into polygynous arrangements: That is, illicit open relationships are distinguished by one high value alpha male discreetly juggling multiple concurrent female lovers. Pickup artists call the illicit open relationship the MLTR: Multiple Long-Term Relationship. Genghis Khan called it Tuesday.

        The MLTR exists in the gray area of the female mind where she senses a disturbance in the romantic force but can’t summon her courage, or dismiss her love, to disentangle herself from the web of lives. Illicit open relationships — soft harems in popular nomenclature — can have surprising endurance, because women’s love for an alpha male is stronger than their pride. For quite some time, a woman in love with a sexy alpha will sacrifice her pride and prejudice with a swiftness complete.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          That doesn’t seem like much of a change.

        • Deiseach says:

          Can somebody explain the logistics of this to me? So for three weeks out of four, a woman’s libido is in hibernation. But at the same time, in a polyamorous relationship, that same woman is fucking loads of men. Given that there is only one week in the month when a woman wants sex, it must be a very busy week indeed if she’s fitting in all these tens of studly Alpha men!

          Honestly, anything I read by Heartiste makes me wonder why he (and his disciples) want even so much contact with woman as is necessary to have sex, because they certainly don’t seem to like women in any way at all, even as providers of sex. I always come away from these articles thinking they’d all be much, much happier if they came out as leather men and just fucked other real manly masculine high-libido not human trash men like themselves.

          • SchwarzeKatze says:

            The ancient greeks which were highly mysoginistic did just that. Since reactionaries like red pillers more often than not seem to think that graeco-romans are the epitomy of “european” culture, maybe they should follow the example of their role models.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Evidently Deiseach hasn’t heard of Jack Donovan, who is exactly that.

  19. Thegnskald says:

    Also, for historical examples, do those take into account the effects of war on the male population, and slavery on male and female romantic prospects? That is, if harems come from war, and male slaves have no prospects, you could have a native social population that is exactly like ours except for some men taking harems from war expeditions and populations of uncoupled male slaves.

    Even if that doesn’t pan out, it could produce cultural seeds that produce societies, independent of biological explanations for the preponderance of polygynist societies over polyandrist societies.

  20. Deiseach says:

    the beta male out in the cold, clawing and scratching for rode-worn scraps

    Going off at a tangent here since this is not about polyamory, but the attitude expressed above is one I do not understand. It’s simultaneously “You’re a bitch if you won’t sleep with me and a slut if you do”. The men at whom it is aimed want sexual/romantic partners, and presumably more than one of them before they decide to commit and settle down to raise a family. Therefore, they want to sleep with more than one woman before they decide to marry. So unless they are expecting every single woman they proposition to be a virgin, that means they are going to be having sex with women who have previously had sex – the “rode-worn scraps”.

    And given that most of the men at whom this advice is aimed are likely not to be “alphas” (a concept I think is absolutely pulled out of the air) but “betas”, in effect this is saying “I despise the women I desire”. It’s the double standard dialled up to eleven – a guy has had twenty partners, he’s a stud and a playa. A woman has had twenty partners, she’s a slut, a whore and “rode-worn scraps”. Do they not recognise what they are doing – that if they are going out looking for casual sex that does not lead to a permanent relationship, they are going to encounter women looking for the same thing? That if they want a potential wife and mother, looking for her in the meat markets is not the place to go? That if you want to be a stud who has carved the bedpost full of notches denoting your conquests, this means that you are going to be sleeping with women who are, in the main, not sexually inexperienced?

    If you have a large (?) number of men who want multiple sexual partners but still want an exclusive partner who is not sexually experienced, this only leaves you with two options:

    (1) A small number of women sleep with all the men seeking casual sex but most women hold out for an exclusive partner. Calling the sexually available women sluts and whores seems like ingratitude, at the least.

    (2) You don’t get multiple sexual partners because women only want exclusive partners, not casual sexual encounters. This cuts against what seems to be your attitude that you are entitled to get as much sex as you want in your ‘prime’ before having to settle down in domesticity. Since you don’t want “rode-worn scraps” or women who have had several previous partners, pissing and moaning about women having too high standards and too high opinions of their own sexual value which is why they won’t sleep with you is stupid, because women refusing to sleep with you is a sign that the set-up you say you want is working, women are not sleeping around promiscuously and any future partner will retain her value as ‘unlikely to cuckold you’. This is also the system as it is, i.e. women are refusing to sleep with you due to choosiness, but you find that unsatisfactory so why then are you so displeased with the alternative – women who are sexually available to many (not all) who may ask?

    “I want to sleep with a lot of women but I still want to find a woman who has had no or at most only one previous partner to agree to be my doormat (you can’t call it ‘being a wife’), and the other women I have slept with, I insult and denigrate, even though they were doing nothing more than giving me what I was looking for”. I do not understand it at all. I mean, the market for this kind of help is “you can’t get women to sleep with you because they are too picky and choosy. Women who will not sleep with you because you don’t meet their standards are all evil bitches who laugh at you. This technique will teach you how to overcome their choosiness. By the way, women who are not choosy and who will sleep with men who approach them are all sluts and you should despise them.”

    tl, dr; it sounds like the complaint in actuality is “these whores will sleep with anyone – except me – so it’s the fox and the grapes once more and I didn’t want those sluts anyway”

    • Thegnskald says:

      Society doesn’t actually like men who sleep around a lot, either – it is regarded as an accomplishment, largely because it is somewhat difficult, but they are regarded as cads or “slut-puppies” or manchildren or any number of other negative things. It is regarded as immature; mature men settle down.

      They are regarded somewhat better than the equivalent woman, but again, this is because it is regarded as more difficult than the converse, rather than because the actions are well regarded in and of themselves.

      But even if it were genuinely well-regarded for (edit: men) to have many partners, this would be sufficient in and of itself to perpetuate itself; a man making such an effort would be working hard at what society expects of him, and men successful at it would be selected out of the most generally successful pool of men. A woman doing the same would be bucking societal conventions, and would be self-selected out of that group of women who wouldn’t be well regarded anyways.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      My shallow understanding of this is that the Greek letter lingo came from a men’s self-help movement designed around increasing your skill at getting dates or hookups at bars. Many men found this “game” psychologically unsatisfying because what they wanted out of dating was an LTR with a woman they could trust not to saddle them with legal responsibility for another man’s child, rather than STRs with promiscuous women.
      This mismatch then got aired on the internet and led to a lot of misogynistic language as well as terms like “day game” for attracting a monogamous mate.

      • Deiseach says:

        Well, even I know that if you’re looking for a serious relationship, you’re not going to find it by going out to the pubs and clubs on weekends, those are the meat markets where people are only looking for a bit of fun and a hook-up. I mean, it’s probably good practice to start out there because if you get turned down, it doesn’t really mean anything, but if you are looking for something more then moving out of that environment is the first step.

        If you need to be told that much, then yes, probably a self-help group is exactly what you need to get you started. Still no excuse for misogyny, though.

        • vV_Vv says:

          Realistically, once you are out of school, what alternatives are there?

          Dating at work is a big no-no, and online dating is even more of a meat market than pubs and clubs.

          Historically, people married young, and religious communities served, among other things, as places to find potential mates. Now in many social circles religion is outdated, and many structured communities have “code of conducts” that can get you kicked out if you dare to make an unwanted advance.

          Even universities are increasingly becoming like this, so even if you are still a student you are not safe.

          Experienced and attractive men can still pull it off: skirt the rules, bend them in their favor, but if you need to practice, pubs and clubs are pretty much the only reasonably safe playground.

          • Garrett says:

            I would very much like to see a solution to this. I’ve taken up several new hobbies over the past few years in an attempt to find a long-term relationship and haven’t ended up anywhere much past a second date.

          • Two obvious suggestions, both based on theory not data:

            Look for a hobby where at least half the participants are of the sex you want a relationship with.

            Look for a hobby that you would be interested in even if you were not looking for a relationship, because that makes it more likely that you will have things in common with others who share that hobby.

            Also, look for nonromantic friends as well, of either gender, because they will have friends who might be potential finds for you for romantic purposes.

    • Mengsk says:

      I think “road worn scraps” in their context doesn’t exactly mean “not a virgin”, but is simply another way of saying “low status”. It’s not only MRA types who do this.

      As the sociologists got to know these women, they watched as they stratified into what they defined as “high status” and “low status” social groups, with high-status women typically emerging from affluent homes around the country and rising through the Greek system, and low-status ones coming from local middle- and working-class backgrounds and coalescing into friend groups boxed out of sorority life. They found that the groups had different conceptions of what constituted a campus slut, with the low-status women pinning sluttiness on “rich bitches in sororities,” and the high-status women aligning sluttiness with women they perceived as “trashy,” not “classy.”

      Beyond that, it seems pretty normal for people to resent people who have a higher status than them while also craving their attention. Maybe not rational, but normal.

      • vV_Vv says:

        Maybe not rational, but normal.

        Why not rational? In most social settings, status is a zero-sum/negative-sum game.

    • Wrong Species says:

      You don’t get multiple sexual partners because women only want exclusive partners, not casual sexual encounters.

      That’s not really true. The idea of hypergamy is that women want the best available option to them right now. They are just as willing to have casual sexual encounters, they just don’t have more than one at the same time. Some of these red pill guys will say that it would be a better world if monogamy was still the norm and women were chaste but since we don’t live in that world, you might as well try to enjoy the ride until civilization self-destructs.

    • Schmendrick says:

      The “rode-worn scraps” can also refer to people (in actuality this doesn’t just apply to women) who tried damn-hard to be high-status, but for one reason or another failed, and so are obviously “settling” for Mr./Ms. Available. The assumption is that such people will always resent their spouse and treat them poorly because they secretly know, in their heart of hearts, that they’re just better than the troglodytic refuse to whose company they’ve been relegated. “I coulda been somebody, I coulda been a contender!” Of course, not all relationships play out like this. There is a counterexample where a formerly high-status individual forsaskes the rat race in favor of quiet domesticity and respectability which might not be as glamorous or as wildly stimulating, but makes up the difference in stability and warmth. Still, because people who regard themselves as having low SMV are probably more likely to have low self-worth in other areas, the fear of being disdained is more convincing than the idea that love, care, and stability can be worth jumping off the carousel.

    • Anonnymous says:

      Short description of the framework you’re puzzled about. Note that I’m not endorsing this worldview [would be a lot more comfortable posting this if we didn’t have to register..]

      Men choose women based on looks. Women choose men based on status which is a proxy for resources. This means that a woman’s value as a mate decreases as she ages, while a man’s value increases or at least doesn’t decrease as fast.

      Modern serial monogamy tricks women into giving away their value, aka their youthful years for free. Once they’re running out, they settle with a beta male. This is in contrast to the old days, when beta males could get a teenage bride and enjoy a decade of her being young and beautiful. So the thing a smart man should do is, get good at dating, reap the sex that young women give away freely, then when you get bored, find a young virgin and marry her. Losers in contrast are the guys who get locked into providing for sluts that gave away their better years to better men for free.

      It’s not all age, there’s also beliefs about a history of multiple partners having adverse effects on marriage stability in women but not in men, but that’s it for my digest. The people they see as immoral are women looking for an LTR after years of casual sex, especially single moms, as they’re “swindling” betas by playing hard-to-get and getting them to buy something they previously gave away for free.

      • Deiseach says:

        I too think it would be better if people settled for marriage rather than wild flings, but it still sounds like “sex is something that should be enjoyable and available for men, not women”.

        If women are sluts giving away for free what they should be holding onto, then what about men? If they’re looking for sex outside of marriage? There is a fundamental disconnection there that troubles me.

        Then again, I think it should be either chastity for both genders or freedom for both genders, not “this gender gets the freedom and that gender gets the blame”, especially as men’s sexual freedom to have sex outside of marriage, if they’re heterosexual, depends on women ‘giving it away for free’. Straight men can’t have promiscuous sex without women being willing to provide them with sexual access! Make up your mind: do you want a wife as soon as you can get one, or do you want to sow your wild oats then settle down later? Because if you insist on having it both ways, then you cannot call women who are sexually active sluts, since they are giving you what you want.

        • reasoned argumentation says:

          Because if you insist on having it both ways, then you cannot call women who are sexually active sluts, since they are giving you what you want.

          You absolutely can.

          Men value low partner count in women. Women don’t value low partner count in men, in fact the opposite is true and they’re at least interested when they find out that a man has been with loads of women.

          Declaring that men should have different preferences because you don’t like the ones they have is insanity.

          • allspoilersallthetime says:

            Declaring that men should have different preferences because you don’t like the ones they have is insanity.

            That’s not how I read it. The problem is that men have two conflicting preferences, which makes men unhappy. It’s men who don’t like the preferences that they have.

            It’s not possible for every man to have a large number of experienced lovers for casual hookups, and a virgin to marry. The numbers don’t add up.

            What Deiseach, and other women, object to (if I’ve understood correctly) is men lashing out at women with contempt and slurs like ‘slut’ when women fulfill one preference, and thus render themselves unable to fulfill the other. It is hardly the fault of women that all contradictory desires cannot be satisfied.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Culture, how does it work?

          • Deiseach says:

            It’s not possible for every man to have a large number of experienced lovers for casual hookups, and a virgin to marry. The numbers don’t add up.

            This. reasoned argumentation, given that the ratios of men to women are slightly in favour of women, even with that there cannot be “I can have six women as lovers and find an inexperienced virgin to marry” for every man. I see by the Wikipedia article that there are more females than males in the USA, so it may indeed be possible that Gorgeous George has six girlfriends while Sad Sam can’t get one, but even that is not going to be the ordinary run of things.

            For this scenario (men sow their wild oats and have high partner count before settling down with a low partner count woman) to work, you need a small number of women who are indeed having sex with every man that asks them, and the greater number of women in the community waiting until marriage. I don’t think the men would be very happy either with “I’m getting John’s cast-offs, she’s been with six other men before me whom I all know” because out of the fifty women in his environment, only ten are wiling to be sexually active with him and the forty-nine other men.

            So if the dichotomy is “a woman who won’t have sex with me is a bitch, a woman who will have sex with me is a slut”, what do they want? Do they want sex or not? Do they want a romantic relationship or not? If they can’t get both, which are they willing to settle for? And if they want sex, are sexually attracted to women, and an averagely attractive, averagely healthy woman is willing to have sex with them, why complain about it?

            I mean, we’d all like (those of us who are interested in sex and romance) to find Mr or Ms Right who is absolutely perfect in every regard and is the most attractive, intelligent, compatible, wealthy, accomplished, madly in love with us and sexually adventurous to our tastes partner, but we’re not all going to get that. And nursing resentful dreams of “I ended up with Ms Average when I should have got Ms Universe” is not going to help you lead a happy life, especially if you’re indulging “And she’s only using me, and probably having way better hot sex on the side with a stud than I’m getting from her!” persecution fantasies as well (and if she’s only average, how is she getting a stud to give her hot sex, anyway? isn’t she being out-competed by the hot chicks who want to bang that hot stud? And if hot studs are willing to fuck unattractive women, then the average guy can surely find less attractive women willing to have sex with him. A lot of the tone of these rants does come off as “All these ugly women will fuck anyone, but for some reason they won’t fuck me! And I should be getting Tens anyway because that’s what I deserve and find attractive, so I won’t entertain a Six or Seven even if that’s my market worth because they’re not up to my standards” – look, if even an ugly woman won’t fuck you, maybe you’re not up to the standards of a Ten, mate?)

        • Aapje says:

          @Anonnymous & Deiseach

          From what I’ve seen, the theory assumes that men and women have fundamentally different sexual attraction. Men’s sexual attraction revolves more around looks, while women’s sexual attraction revolves more around men taking charge and having high social status.

          Then there is a separate reason separate from sexual attraction why men and women seek each other out: each sex has something the other needs. More specifically, men have sperm and money, while women have wombs.

          The argument goes that it’s very common for women to build a relationship around that second reason: where they seek out a man to provide for them, even though this man is not sexually attractive to them. This man is the beta man. Women are willing to have a relationship with him to extract resources and to keep him willing to do this, the woman provides him with the minimum quantity of crappy sex needed to ensure that he provides, while if she can, she’ll have sex with alpha men on the side (who she actually finds attractive).

          The argument goes that if the beta man learns to act like an alpha, he can:
          – Have lots of casual sex without having to pay for it by providing
          – If he wants a permanent relationship, he can get a fair deal because the woman will not just want him for his money, but he will also be desirable sexually, so the woman will ‘spend’ her entire libido on him, rather than cheat with other men

          I too think it would be better if people settled for marriage rather than wild flings, but it still sounds like “sex is something that should be enjoyable and available for men, not women”.

          It seems to be very common argument by people who believe this that the opposite is true. Their argument is that our current culture is teaching men to be betas, so lots of women are sexually frustrated, because of a lack of alpha men, whom women find sexually attractive. So women end up not having sex or having sex with men who they are not attracted to.

          Men who turn themselves into alphas and have lots of casual sex are then providing a service to women, including to the women who are extracting value from beta man, by giving them the exciting sex that they can’t have with the many beta man that our society/feminism produces.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Then there is a separate reason separate from sexual attraction why men and women seek each other out: each sex has something the other needs. More specifically, men have sperm and money, while women have wombs.

            I would say that interest in sperm/wombs correlates with sexual attraction, though not necessarily consciously. Men are most attracted to women with looks that correlate with high fertility, women are most attracted to men with looks that correlate with high fertility and high genetic ability to hunt and fight. Some studies even show that women preference for masculine Alphas peaks during ovulation.

            So, according to the theory, the (conscious or unconscious) sexual strategy of a woman who can’t marry an Alpha provider is to marry a Beta provider, cheat him with one or more Alphas and have him raise their children.

            It seems to be very common argument by people who believe this that the opposite is true. Their argument is that our current culture is teaching men to be betas, so lots of women are sexually frustrated, because of a lack of alpha men, whom women find sexually attractive. So women end up not having sex or having sex with men who they are not attracted to.

            I’m not sure if this is commonly claimed, but it does not ring quite true. One Alpha can service many women, thus, perhaps with the exception of some extremely Alpha-deprived societies (Japan? Denmark?), women don’t face a sex shortage.

          • Aapje says:

            Men are most attracted to women with looks that correlate with high fertility, women are most attracted to men with looks that correlate with high fertility and high genetic ability to hunt and fight.

            The argument is that women can never love a man in full, because they require him to lead, protect, provide, etc. Any deviation from this reduces their love for the man:

            In the same way, a woman’s love for a man will never be equal to a man’s love for a woman. The natural order and a woman’s hypergamous nature dictate that the man must be on a “higher level” than the woman. A man can love a woman just as a woman can love a child, but the reciprocal love is returned only in the form of honour and respect. Just as a child instinctively expects its parents to take care of them, so does a woman instinctively expect her man to take care of her. It is a one-way street. A woman will never be able to equally return a man’s love for her. At best, she can honour and respect him for what he does for her.
            http://no-maam.blogspot.nl/2012/06/woman-most-responsible-teenager-in.html

            It’s a very sad and cynical world view, although the core of it is actually widely believed by both MRAs and feminists (that men are not allowed to be their true selves by society). Of course, most feminists tend to argue that this is set up to benefit men, while the people we are discussing argue that it is set up for the benefit of women.

            So, according to the theory, the (conscious or unconscious) sexual strategy of a woman who can’t marry an Alpha provider is to marry a Beta provider, cheat him with one or more Alphas and have him raise their children.

            Exactly.

            I’m not sure if this is commonly claimed, but it does not ring quite true. One Alpha can service many women, thus, perhaps with the exception of some extremely Alpha-deprived societies (Japan? Denmark?), women don’t face a sex shortage.

            The argument is that there is a huge imbalance in all women vs few alphas (top 10-20% of men). Those men raise their standards because they are so wanted. So the less attractive women lose out. Adding more alphas means a change in position on the demand/supply curve, so the women who were just out of the league of alphas have now become desirable.

    • carvenvisage says:

      I think the attitude is much simpler than that. Under the surface they consider pair bonding an important part of sex, as it has been considered for thousands of years, to the point even of things like intrusive virginity tests.

      The bed post notch attitude is then a reaction to the expectation they can’t find a woman who hasn’t compromised their ability to sexually pair bond with them by sleeping with loads of dudes some of whom are probably better and more memorable experiences in bed.

      Of course admitting this is horrifically low status, because the more to the left end of that particular bell curve, the more it hurts you, so instead they take an aggressive stance and embrace the ‘numbers game’ side of things.

      Iirc Rooshv in particular has occasional moments of lucidity where he comes close to or outright does spell this out.

      _

      Question: why do we expect people to reserve their sexual intimacy for their partner in marriage? what benefits does that bring?

      If you think the answer is something like pair bonding and intimacy, it’s pretty obvious why some people might be horrified at a free for all prior to that point, and have extreme reactions in turn, like this PUA nonsense. That’s my diagnosis anyway.

      • nimim.k.m. says:

        The bed post notch attitude is then a reaction to the expectation they can’t find a woman who hasn’t compromised their ability to sexually pair bond with them by sleeping with loads of dudes some of whom are probably better and more memorable experiences in bed.

        Thank you for this comment. I think it clarified to me some reasons why I feel depressed about the modern Western sexuality norms for young adults.

        Let’s add there the so-called friendship paradox. In short:

        Any given girl I might have a chance of relationship probably has more experience in intimacy (including both casual sex and also more meaningful relationships), and it’s pretty likely that some of those previous encounters have been of better quality than anything with me, as I’m terribly inexperienced at both sex and relationships, and I’m not either handsome or “interesting”.

        Now, let’s take a look at this in more detail.

        I’m very scared open poly / open marriages becoming more prominent in the Western culture. Sure, in an imaginary world where I’m a Don Juan instead of being me, I’d like to have lots of sex with multiple partners. In real life, I’d be happy to settle down with someone with whom I’d like to have serious, significant romantic relationship, and who’d like the same thing with me. I like playing with my cousins children and would like someday have children of my own, in addition to financial stability.

        The key thing is, I haven’t had much chances at intimacy (I’ve spent now about 8 years at the stage of life called “failing to get a girlfriend”). Suppose I meet someone and finally it goes well instead of “no I don’t like you”, except they want a polyamorous / open relationship. This hypothetical relationship would be very significant to me. But how on Earth the relationship is going to be as significant to girl who can also sleep with everyone else they happen to like? Does not that go against the any usual definition of significant?

        And because in this hypothetical scenario the relationship would be open instead of the current standard of serial monogamy, I’m now also competing against everyone they’ll meet every day, instead of competing against everyone they met previously. It simply does not compute.

        Maybe this what the people in this comment thread call an insecurity issue. But the idea that suddenly I should got rid of these feelings or “deal with them”, well, it sounds very scary to me, practically brainwashing. “You should learn to be happy about that to your significant romantic partner (lifetime expected amount E[X] < 3), you are not the significant special someone! Except in the sense that you get to play the bills and wonder if the kids are yours! Rejoice!"

        Now, you can argue that poly is always going to be a minority thing. I don't trust that. First, in this sort of societal things, extreme minority positions can suddenly became the established standard during the course of just one generation (or in even shorter time); consider the case gay marriage. (I don't have much opinion about it, but change from "unimaginable, not going to happen" to "it's a thing in large number of Western countries" was very fast. And where I live, for about 5 years, polyamory has now been a thing that has been discussed seriously in large newspapers, even more in the student newspapers at my university, and I'm used to seeing references to it in many places on the internet outside the rationality-sphere. If it gets any more traction, it's not going to be a small minority.

        Second, cheating is certainly a thing that happens quite much despite the widespread norm against it. Do we really know that it's a good idea to introduce a new norm of sexual behavior called "poly is OK"? Everyone who currently are on the margin to cheat (say, meets a hot person at the work) will have this perfect rationalization "oh, these conflicting feelings I'm having about what to do simply means I'm a poly person, and it's because of the unjust world that I have a partner who can't work around their feelings of envy and insecurity". Or even worse, if it becomes more common to start a new relationship on "open" basis, it's suddenly your fault (of being insecure) if you feel like you'd really like a monogamous relationship and propose that idea.

        Without free-for-all marketplace sex norm and with a more restricted dating behavior where everyone would be about as inexperienced while entering a relationship, this friendship paradox would not exist at the extent described above.

        • sconn says:

          I’m full of sympathy for this. But I expect there are lots of women who don’t want to be poly for some of the same reasons that you don’t want to be poly — they want somebody’s whole attention, to be the most important person to somebody. So even if poly became somewhat more widespread, I kind of think it’s self-limiting, like gay marriage — once all the people who want gay marriage can have it, the gay people get married and everyone else doesn’t get gay-married because they’re not gay. In the same way, I think polyamory is likely to spread to all of the people who really *don’t* mind being in poly relationships, and then stop … because there are lots of people who really don’t want that at all.

          I do prefer a society where the default is monogamy and social standards are all built for that, because that’s what I like myself. But I don’t really believe that a majority of people actually want to be poly. I think many people would like to have multiple partners while their partner is faithful only to them, and since that’s generally not an option, people pick monogamy. And then there are people like me who have zero desire to have more than one partner anyway.

          • One point I made long ago in another context that I don’t think has been made here …

            There are two obvious theories about male sexual jealousy. Both link it to men wanting not to end up spending their resources rearing other men’s children. One theory sees that as the objective of the individual, programmed into him by his genes. The other sees the desire for sexual exclusivity as the objective of the individual, programmed into him by his genes as a way of achieving the more fundamental objective.

            The reason this matters is that, with paternity testing and reliable contraception, we can have institutions in which sexual non-exclusivity was combined with reliable paternity. On the first theory, such institutions should become more common as people adjust their mating strategy to the new technology. On the second theory, not.

            Of course, there may elements of both in the male utility function, in which case how large the effect of technological change is will depend on their relative weights.

      • Deiseach says:

        But part of the trouble is that for men who have had affairs, whether the “it’s expected that I’ll take a mistress after marriage” historical sort or the “it happened on a business trip” sort, the justification was “it’s just sex, she means nothing to me, you’re the one I love!”

        That is, sexual desire can be separated out from romantic love and commitment, and that if accepted and not made a big deal about, any sexual dalliances are not going to be a threat to the marriage.

        So I don’t see it as really surprising that women should then adopt the same attitude when it comes to sexual affairs, that they can have a primary relationship with one person whom they love, and either casual sexual encounters or more permanent affairs that are mainly about sex rather than seeking a replacement boyfriend/husband.

        I can understand why men would feel anxious about this, and consider that there is a real risk of being emotionally displaced by a new lover. But I don’t understand the attitude that “men can separate out sex and love, can and should have lots of partners, but women should only want and have one main long-term partner”. As I’ve said before, where are all these women who are willing to have sex with the man sowing his wild oats going to come from, if not the pool of women who are also then going to want to marry and settle down once they’ve had their fun? There are not two planets of separate female populations, where one is for women who are sexually available to men who ask them, and the other is all the virgins who only accept one offer from a man for marriage!

        Either the men decide what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander and only seek to find a wife and then have sex after marriage, or they accept that if they’re out there looking for girlfriends who will be sexually accommodating to them outside of/before marriage, they’re going to encounter women who have had sexual partners before them.

        Being angry about women daring to have had sex before they came along is ridiculous. She didn’t even know you existed, you want her to sit at home waiting for you to arrive out of the blue?

        the woman provides him with the minimum quantity of crappy sex needed to ensure that he provides

        Also this. Do they not know that pornography is not reality? The attitude that there is some kind of astounding, amazing, wonderful sex out there that is just like all the porn that they should be getting but are not, and that the actual sex they are getting isn’t normal but is “minimum quantity of crappy sex” – yeah, being stuck at the mental age of fourteen is not going to help your chances with getting and keeping a woman. “I didn’t have six mind-blowing orgasms last night, that means my girlfriend is only giving me bad sex and keeping all the really hot stuff for her stud on the side!”

        • Aapje says:

          @Deiseach

          How is desiring more than a minimum quantity of crappy sex the same as expecting nirvana?

          You are arguing a straw man of your own making, mostly.

        • carvenvisage says:

          oh you’re right that their attitude doesn’t make any sense, but I really don’t think it’s an *intellectual* failing, so picking logical holes in the alleged premises seems like missing the point to me. -Note the word ‘diagnosis’ concluding my post. You’re right in the norm analysis, but imo these guys are just reacting to, and really in the thrall of, modern norms.

          That is, sexual desire can be separated out from romantic love and commitment, and that if accepted and not made a big deal about, any sexual dalliances are not going to be a threat to the marriage.

          So I don’t see it as really surprising that women should then adopt the same attitude when it comes to sexual affairs

          I actually find it really surprising that somehow men talked women into adopting their norms, calling it “feminism”, rather than people gradually accepting that it’s important to be faithful to your partner.

          I do think it’s at least a little worse if women do it though, with how men are a little more piggish and a lot less choosy about what they go for. You don’t expect them to be making as strong emotional connections with each random tree or sock or woman they have relations with. And, lets be real, you can’t judge a guy’s athleticism or penis size just by looking at them, so you can’t just eyeball them and be like ‘well ok he’s about on my level, this isn’t going to be way better than what I can provide’, like a woman could judge another woman’s good looks. Between these factors I think it’s quite different, but in any case the norm should have been getting men to behave and settle down, not “well the people we laugh at as pigs have the right idea”, and “i’m one of the guys too” etc.

          Either the men decide what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander and only seek to find a wife and then have sex after marriage, or they accept that if they’re out there looking for girlfriends who will be sexually accommodating to them outside of/before marriage, they’re going to encounter women who have had sexual partners before them.

          Right, and these people choose the latter option, but act really angry because they know the first option is better. Given that the first option wasn’t much of a choice in a preexisting hookup/casual sex culture, their choice of “#2 -and I’ll bitch about it all the way to the grave” doesn’t need any further explanation. They are just a manifested reductio ad absurdum of the dating norms circa ten years ago. (bit behind the times with tinder etc though lol). They serve as the canary in the coal mine. You’re not supposed to take them seriously.

  21. Thegnskald says:

    Playing contrarian/devil’s advocate: Would polygyny actually be a bad thing?

    Given the absence of effective natural selection, some form of selection is necessary just to fight entropy. Sexual selection seems as good as any other, and more plausible to play well with modern sensibilities. Maybe a better approach would be to encourage polygyny for high-performing men, and increase efforts on substitute goods (sex robots being the stereotypical example) for the bottom 75%.

    • Anonymoid says:

      Yes, some kind of difference in reproductive success is necessary in order to counteract the tendency of the genetic load to increase. But that’s sort of secondary. You can achieve it just by having some people have significantly more kids than others, or for that matter by serial monogamy. Going forward we can eventually decrease the genetic load, generation on generation, if pre-implantation sequencing and selection become widespread … but we need a few more bits and pieces of technology, like a robust way to measure the genetic load of a zygote, before we can quite do it. Soon though.

    • SchwarzeKatze says:

      It would certainly be an awful thing because I fail to see what’s “high performing” about males that have higher psychopathic traits. This certainly isn’t high performing :

      Testosterone makes men less likely to question their impulses
      https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170428154556.htm

      • Anonymoid says:

        Contraception and paternity suits deal with that particular evolutionary problem pretty well, actually. Except maybe in the underclass. I know guys who have had 50+ sexual partners and have no children. If anything I expect the equilibrium to swing in the direction of ‘people who really want children’ and away from men who are just really successful at having sex with a lot of different women.

    • vV_Vv says:

      Playing contrarian/devil’s advocate: Would polygyny actually be a bad thing?

      In a society where you want most men to work productively and not become criminals or start violent insurrections, widespread polygyny would be a bad thing.

      In a society where most people live off UBI, government (or government-subsidized) make-work jobs, etc., and there is draconian repression of anti-social behavior, then it may not be a bad thing, in fact it may actually make sense to have few “bulls” with high-quality genes father all the children, exactly how we do it with cattle (though possibly without killing off the lower-quality males).

      Some modern Islamic societies are polygynous, to some extent: in theory any man could have up to four wives, plus some concubines/prostitutes, but in practice only few high-status men do, most men marry one woman, and some men remain unattached.
      These Islamic societies are either high-conflict shitholes (e.g. Yemen, ISIS, Somalia), or high-GDP-per-capita but illiberal absolute monarchies (e.g. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar) where most citizens comfortably live off the profits of state-owned oil companies which the government redistributes to its citizens, while a majority of the population is actually made of immigrants who live in squalid conditions.

      This illustrates the point, I think.

      • SchwarzeKatze says:

        Which high quality genes that males on the far end of the sexual dimorphism spectrum allegedly have are you talking about? Monogamous species where the males’ phenotype and behavior is mostly indistinguishable from females do exist and they certainly don’t seem to be at at an evolutionary disadvantage since they still exist to this day. The whole strategy of monogamous species is to maximize the chances of offspring survival with better parental care (humans do that a lot) instead of just having as many offspring as possible in the hope that some will survive to reproduce. I’d love to see any actual hard science research about this claim of “high quality genes” as opposed to mere evo psych speculation.

        • vV_Vv says:

          Monogamous species where the males’ phenotype and behavior is mostly indistinguishable from females do exist and they certainly don’t seem to be at at an evolutionary disadvantage since they still exist to this day.

          Well, certainly they are not as common. Anyway, human closest relatives are generally polygamous, and predominantly polygynous, and human themselves tend to behave like this.

          The whole strategy of monogamous species is to maximize the chances of offspring survival with better parental care (humans do that a lot)

          If you have UBI, make-work jobs, government child support, or something like that, why would you need two parents to raise a child?

          • SchwarzeKatze says:

            Well, certainly they are not as common. Anyway, human closest relatives are generally polygamous, and predominantly polygynous, and human themselves tend to behave like this.

            Well not exactly, bonobos which are a tiny bit closer to humans genetically as compared to chimps are not polygynous. They’re plain polygamous because the females are very promiscuous (they most likely evolved that way as a strategy to thwart infanticide). Most likely the common ancestor of humans, chimps and bonobos was polygynous. Bonobos evolved away from this. Humans have also evolved in a less polygynous direction because of other constraints. The neurochemistry that makes monogamy possible also exists (more or less) in humans. I haven’t heard of any research that shows that this neurochemistry also exists in chimps and bonobos.

            If you have UBI, make-work jobs, government child support, or something like that, why would you need two parents to raise a child?

            Because after a while females also get tired of taking care of kids which need as much attention as possible, so sharing this duty gives them some time off to stay sane and patient and not abuse the kids. It’s even better when grand parents are involved in child care. Which is undoubtedly the reason why the rare phenomenon of menopause exists in humans. Chimps and bonobos don’t have that, Orcas do. Humans are not just some spicy variant of chimps and bonobos.

    • allspoilersallthetime says:

      Thegnskald says:
      May 18, 2017 at 11:58 am

      Playing contrarian/devil’s advocate: Would polygyny actually be a bad thing?

      Depends what you think of as ‘bad’, but yeah, polygyny is bad. It tends to make the people involved more miserable and poorer.

  22. Said Achmiz says:

    Of the 53 survey respondents who were women and poly, 14 were trans.

    This is surely relevant for any attempt at applying evo-psych or reproductive economics or similar thinking to this issue.

    (In theory, anyway. In practice the data set is too small and un-representative to be useful in any case.)

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Oh, wowe. Scott’s sample is so comically unrepresentative that 26.4% of women are actually male.
      That’s got to be unrepresentative even among kinky Bay Aryans.

      • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

        Quick search on the net suggests in general population about 0.3% of people are transgender (or at least say so in surveys, which I guess is the matching criteria) – not sure how accurate, but since it’s cited on many transgender-related resources, it shouldn’t be undercounting by a lot. So there’s two orders of magnitude difference? Of course, there are at least two additional factors (women + poly) so I’m not sure how much specific sample contributed.

      • hlynkacg says:

        @Le Maistre Chat
        I found that way funnier than is likely appropriate.

      • vV_Vv says:

        > Bay Aryans

        LoL!

    • Scott Alexander says:

      My results reported above were based on biological sex rather than gender to avoid this screwing with results.

      • Said Achmiz says:

        I see.

        (btw, correction: 9, not 14, sorry)

        Playing with the (public subset of) the dataset a bit more, the following things jump out at me:

        n=1429; of these, 451 put down “Uncertain / no preference” when asked about relationship style. Hmm. What sorts of selection effects lurk here?

        222 people put themselves down as poly.

        By sex/gender, these broke down as follows:

        36 F/cis
        1 F/mtf (this person seems to have been confused / protesting…)
        1 F/ftm
        13 F/other
        9 M/mtf
        142 M/cis
        19 M/other
        1 unspecified

        This really isn’t solid data to base conclusions on. :/

      • reasoned argumentation says:

        Separating out those numbers is transphobic. Do you believe that trans-women are women or not?

  23. vV_Vv says:

    (Heartiste:) The reality would be considerably darker; women would still want to bang the alpha, leaving the beta male out in the cold, clawing and scratching for rode-worn scraps, but now shackled with the obligation to help provide for kids that are likely not his own.

    (Scott: ) Despite the different focuses, they both have the same theory. Men – especially high-status men – are going to date lots of women. But women aren’t going to date lots of men, so all the women will end up dating the same few high-status men and ignore the low-status men. Therefore, women (NRO’s concern) and low-status men (Heartiste’s concern) will lose out.

    I think you are misrepresenting Heartiste’s position. He doesn’t claim that women date only one man.

    Most young women are attractive enough to have casual sexual encounters with high-value Alpha males, but often they are not attractive enough to lock them down in an exclusive relationship. So women ideally try to practice what TRPers/MGTOWs call “Alpha fucks/Beta bucks”: they stay in a relationship with a non-very-attractive Beta provider in order to get resources and attention, meanwhile they sexually pursue Alpha men in order to swing branches if they can or just to have a chance of getting pregnant with better genes. Traditionally this is accomplished by cheating, but in cultures where polygamy (hookups/friends with benefits/open relationships/polyamory/whatever you want to call it) is socially acceptable, it can be practiced in the open and it’s therefore easier.

    Alpha men that would traditionally either stay unattached (especially when young) or have a nominally exclusive relationship and then cheat (traditionally this is not considered an infraction as serious as a woman cheating) can also benefit from polygamy (at least as long the woman/women they are actually committed to is/are monogamous). Beta men, on the other hand, can either reluctantly put up with it or get lost.

    So polygamy benefits young women and Alpha men, and it harms the not-so-young (“post-wall”) women and Beta men who can’t keep up with the competition and either remain single or have to give up exclusive sexual access to their partners while getting nothing in return.

    • Deiseach says:

      So the situation is “I want to emulate the Alphas and have lots of casual sexual partners before settling down with a Beta female who will be content to be a wife and mother and won’t seek out – or won’t be enticing enough to attract – an Alpha for sex/pregnancy”?

      But don’t they see the contradiction there? This really involves a very split view of women: if only women were all chaste, faithful, loyal and beautiful and appealing according to my tastes and standards, then I could find a partner with whom I would be content to be monogamous and committed. Since women are not chaste and loyal if beautiful, or only make up for being ugly and unappealing by being chaste and faithful, and I don’t want to have sex with an unappealing woman, then I – poor, misunderstood Good Guy – have to play the game of winning the fickle, shallow attention of the slutty attractive ones in order to have the sex I want. But since I can put the blame for my lack of sexual success on women being sluts, whores, and cheats who want to run after the Alpha while exploiting the non-Alpha male, then I don’t have to have any respect for or gratitude to the women who have sex with me.

      They want as many sexual partners as they can get a chance of having, which means lots of different women to sleep with them on a short-term basis. But if they are having lots of casual flings, then once they dump one woman and go on to another, they are going to be succeeded by the next guy who approaches that woman for a casual sexual fling. If the woman refuses the guy, she’s being the ungrateful slut who is holding out for an Alpha because she thinks she’s too good for a Beta, so the Magic Techniques must be used to overcome and trick her. If she accepts the guy’s advances without needing to be tricked into it, she’s easy and she’s a slut and this proves the whole belief system at work here – that women are naturally sluts and whores and cheats.

      I am trying to be as sympathetic to the worldview here but I can’t understand it:

      (1) “Alpha fucks/Beta bucks” – that is, a woman has a dull but reliable partner in a committed relationship but has sex with more attractive men on the side. This is a horrible travesty and these women are manipulative, deceiving, exploiters. Because that’s how nature made women.

      (2) “Alpha men that …have a nominally exclusive relationship and then cheat (traditionally this is not considered an infraction as serious as a woman cheating)” – I want to emulate the Alphas whom I envy, so I have a less attractive partner in a committed relationship with me as a wife and possibly mother, and I get to pursue more attractive women on the side for sex. This is completely normal and natural and I am not manipulating, deceiving, or exploiting anyone. Because I’m a man and that’s how nature made men.

      I understand the concerns over paternity but with contraception and abortion being available and used, this is not such a danger anymore. If they really think women are all being driven by their biological clocks to have children, and seek out men with ‘superior genes’ to get pregnant by them, then why is there such a loud demand for “reproductive justice” (that is, abortion rights)? It’s women who are calling for control of their fertility, and the control they want is not “loads of kids by high-status guys”! Nevermind about what if they get one of their girlfriends/mistresses/flings pregnant, isn’t that also a challenge to their wife’s expectation of investment in her offspring?

      • Thegnskald says:

        Eh. I chalk it up to that same phenomenon that results in some women being convinced that all men are abusers.

        People tend to be attracted to certain qualities, which have a strong tendency to correlated with certain personality traits. This results in them having repeated similar relationships, which results in them concluding all of the people of their preferred gender being alike in some specific fault.

        So the guy convinced all women are cheaters is probably correct with regard to the subset of women he is attracted to.

      • vV_Vv says:

        But don’t they see the contradiction there?

        Who is this “they”?

        The MGTOWs mostly just want to jerk off to their anime waifus while bitching about how the “3D” women are all shallow whores and cheats. The Redpillers think that since all women are all shallow whores and cheats they could well take advantage of the situation by becoming (emulating?) the kind of man women are attracted to, and avoiding forming strong emotional, financial and legal bonds with them, so that when they get dumped they’ll find another one.

        I’m not a big fan of either group, but frankly they both sounds more appealing than becoming a proud cuck (NSFW).

        Since women are not chaste and loyal if beautiful, or only make up for being ugly and unappealing by being chaste and faithful

        I think the theory is that a beautiful and appealing woman is more likely to be chaste, since she can actually lock down a high-value Alpha, while a ugly and unappealing woman, in order to have a shot at the Alpha, has to compensate by slutting up, and even then she can never get anything more than casual sex with him, if she is still young. Past a certain age, a woman becomes chaste not by choice, but because she has troubles finding men willing to have sex with her: the Alphas disappear first, then the Betas also dwindle, and in the end her dating pool reduces to hideous desperate Omegas.

        This is a horrible travesty and these women are manipulative, deceiving, exploiters. Because that’s how nature made women. / This is completely normal and natural and I am not manipulating, deceiving, or exploiting anyone. Because I’m a man and that’s how nature made men.

        You are inserting value judgments that don’t need to be there.

        Consider running a business in one of those low trust, low rule of law societies:
        everybody is trying to rip you off, and you are tying to rip everybody off, and everybody expects to be ripped off by everybody, and everybody expects that everybody expects to be ripped off by everybody, and so on.
        It’s not that anybody is being particularly evil here, it’s just the way it works: you can either play by the (lack of) rules or get screwed.

        This is how the sex and relationships marketplace works in modern societies.

        In developed societies, the economy does not actually work this way because there are laws and regulations and social norms, enforced in part by a legal system, in part by a majority of people not wanting to do business with those with a shady reputation. Stop aggressively enforcing property rights and contracts and the society will quickly degrade to a kleptocracy.

        You can make the obvious parallel with the sex and relationships marketplace. I’m not saying that we should go back to an arrangement where women having pre-marital sex were considered prostitutes, no-fault divorce was not allowed and you could legally rape your wife. Sexual liberation had its benefits. But it is undeniable that the less monogamy is enforced, the more sexual and romantic interactions become intrinsically adversarial. And people who don’t realize this are poised to become proud cucks and crazy cat ladies.

        • Christopher Hazell says:

          But it is undeniable that the less monogamy is enforced, the more sexual and romantic interactions become intrinsically adversarial.

          Maybe? One of the things I see going on with your summary is that it’s left implicit what the end goal of sexual and romantic arrangements are, and if you have different views of what the goals are, you will have different views of what strategies will work best.

          In your first post, the logic seems to be that (heterosexual) men and women desire an exclusive sexual relationship with a physically attractive partner that still allows them an out if a more physically attractive partner arrives on the scene. Also that men have somewhat lower standards for what counts as physically attractive.

          Polyamory, then, is bad because it doesn’t allow less attractive men to create exclusive relationships.

          Actually, now that I’ve written it out, that argument seems way too complex, because, well, if you want an exclusive relationship of course you don’t want a poly one.

          Or maybe the logic seems to be this: For a woman, a relationship with an alpha male who has other women on the side is more desirable than a relationship with a beta male who only stays with her. For a man, an exclusive relationship with a beta woman who is devoted only to him is more desirable than a relationship with an alpha woman who is in dating other dudes.

          I’m not sure if those preferences are true in the first place, or if they’re likely to remain stable even if social conditions change.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Maybe? One of the things I see going on with your summary is that it’s left implicit what the end goal of sexual and romantic arrangements are, and if you have different views of what the goals are, you will have different views of what strategies will work best.

            Well yes, I’m assuming that most people have sexual and romantic goals that align with their reproductive fitness, or at least would have aligned with it in the environment of adaptation. I don’t think this is a very controversial assumption. Even if you don’t buy the evopsych stuff, the typical sexual behaviors of humans are well documented.

            In your first post, the logic seems to be that (heterosexual) men and women desire an exclusive sexual relationship with a physically attractive partner that still allows them an out if a more physically attractive partner arrives on the scene.

            People of both sexes have a drive to seek multiple partners while they generally desire these partners to be exclusive to them. Since the available partners are a scarce resource, this creates competition, and thus conflict, within the sexes, and since the partners have generally opposed interests, this creates conflict between the sexes.

            Actually, now that I’ve written it out, that argument seems way too complex, because, well, if you want an exclusive relationship of course you don’t want a poly one.

            As a general rule, you want to be poly with monogamous partners.

            The general rule applies to both men and women, but with a distinction: men generally care more about having sex with as many women as they can. If they have to commit to get sex, then they care that the women they commit to don’t have sex with other men, in order to avoid ambiguous paternity issues.

            Women care about having sex with high genetic quality men, and getting resources from highly productive men. The best men are both high genetic quality and highly productive, but there are few of them, so many women may be willing to settle for “Alpha fuck/Beta bucks” arrangments. Once they are in a committed relationship, women care that their provider does not divert resources to other uses, e.g. providing for other women.

            Therefore women are more likely to tolerate being cheated if it was just casual sex, but they get very jealous if they find out that their provider is pursuing another committed relationship, which may permanently divert resources or end up completely replacing them.

            Therefore both men and women want to be poly, but don’t want their committed partners to be poly. If polygamy is socially allowed, then what happens in this conflicting scenario is that people with more bargaining power, Alpha men and young women, benefit from polygamy because they can find monogamous partners willing to commit to them, while people with less bargaining power, Beta men and post-wall women, are harmed by polygamy because they have to settle down for poly partners without being themselves able to attract multiple partners for casual sex.

        • Deiseach says:

          I think the theory is that a beautiful and appealing woman is more likely to be chaste, since she can actually lock down a high-value Alpha

          The impression I get is that the theory says an attractive woman can hook a dumb Beta male into marrying her and supporting her with his hard-earned cash, while she is then free to run around after the bad-boy Alphas who only want to fuck her and then leave her and would never commit to her or be so stupid as to allow her to live off them. I don’t see, in what I’ve seen of it, that there is any “but some women do want marriage and a family and are not sluts”, it’s “most women are conniving bitches who will exploit you if you’re stupid enough to let them get away with it and the only defence is to learn how to exploit them first”.

          The problem I am referring to is simply that, if you are a heterosexual male who wants multiple partners before committing to one, then you are going to encounter women who have had other partners before you, and that classing the women who will have sex with you as sluts is ungenerous, ungrateful, and does not show any reflection on “if a woman who has more than X number of sexual partners is a slut, what does that make me since I want more than X number of sexual partners?”

          There is not an infinite supply of women whose status is “only ever had one previous boyfriend and only had sex with him once, in the most vanilla fashion, before he died in an unfortunate baling accident and who refused all advances from other men before I came along” for these men to encounter so that they can all have five/sixteen/one thousand fresh women as sexual partners they don’t have to ‘share’ with any other man before or after them so they can indulge their fantasies of being Don Juan before deciding to marry a simple virgin who will bear their children, keep their house and spend her life going “yes, dear” to everything they say.

          • hls2003 says:

            I think you’re missing the point of the objection. The Redpill folks don’t object to sleeping with non-virgins or very “experienced” girls. However, they would generally see a high “number” for a girl as a negative indicator for long-term marital / child-rearing success.

            In other words, depending on which endpoint they are seeking, they value different characteristics. That seems fairly straightforward.

          • reasoned argumentation says:

            The impression I get is that the theory says an attractive woman can hook a dumb Beta male into marrying her and supporting her with his hard-earned cash, while she is then free to run around after the bad-boy Alphas who only want to fuck her and then leave her and would never commit to her or be so stupid as to allow her to live off them.

            Your impression is wrong.

            Top women get commitment from top men – even if he occasionally steps out – which in itself isn’t that bad because it at least serves as proof that he’s a top man.

            Middle women get commitment from middle men and might be willing to step out with top men – if they think the risk is low enough. If polyamory is socially accepted it means that there’s no social pressure on her not to step out and lots of social pressure on her man to allow her to step out. He can’t step out because his value to women is that he’s not as attractive but is willing to commit.

            The rationalsphere contains men and women that are at the bottom of the desirability curve. The degradation that the women would have to accept to get sexual access to men above that tier is too extreme for them to accept so at least they get to be queen of their realm because the their desire for their bottom tier partners is so low that they get to dictate terms – since they can more easily do without. Even if they don’t get their taste for desirable men sated they get a reasonable facsimile of what it would be like to be a more desirable woman and experience multiple men chasing her. The men get to actually have sex – which is an extraordinary benefit to them seeing as how (for example) the host has stated in the past that he didn’t even have a date with a woman until he was 27.

          • vV_Vv says:

            at least they get to be queen of their realm because the their desire for their bottom tier partners is so low that they get to dictate terms – since they can more easily do without.

            Also, don’t forget the extreme gender imbalance (90% – 10%) in the rationalsphere. Even if bottom women were as attracted to bottom men as the other way round (they aren’t), the gender imbalance alone would strongly increase their sexual bargaining power.

  24. eddiephlash says:

    The latest episode of the Bayesian Conspiracy podcast had a great conversation about the differences between polyamory and polygamy in their latest episode.

  25. J Mann says:

    The National Review has a bit of dialogue about polyamory, although it’s all anti- so far. (IIRC, The Federalist posted a pro- piece a few months back.)

    The piece Scott linked to is a re-print of something published elsewhere. One of their regular writers, David French, reviewed the recent NYT article on open marriages and observed what Scott found, that polyamorous women seem to have more partners than poly straight men, and generally has some overlap with the Heartiste piece.

    Interestingly, [the NYT author] found that the open marriages she studied were typically initiated by the woman, and the resulting picture wasn’t so much exciting as pathetic and sad. The wife enjoys her new relationship while the husband, desperate to both save the marriage and equalize the arrangement, creates online-dating profiles in the hope that someone will take the bait.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/447593/new-york-times-magazine-polyamory-elites-nonjudgment-poisons-american-culture

    Without making a value judgment, I’ll note that that’s a recurring call on Dan Savage’s show as well – one partner calls in to say they tried the “monogamish” reform that Savage suggests, and that since then, the woman is swamped with dates and the guy is lonely and sad.

    French seems to be arguing that polyamory is bad for stable family formation, and it’s fair to say that its bad for families that include people who find they aren’t happy outside of monogamy, but I agree that it doesn’t seem to be bad for women in particular.

    • fahertym says:

      “Without making a value judgment, I’ll note that that’s a recurring call on Dan Savage’s show as well – one partner calls in to say they tried the “monogamish” reform that Savage suggests, and that since then, the woman is swamped with dates and the guy is lonely and sad.”

      I’d guess that’s almost entirely the product of the ease by which women can get dates compared to men, which only gets amplified later in life (unless the guy is exceptionally rich/handsome/charming). Maybe polyamory is a young person’s game.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Does it get amplified later in life? It’s generally acknowledged (when people are willing to acknowledge it) that the advantage in the heterosexual dating market when it comes to ease of getting dates shifts with aging.

        Regardless, I think it’s entirely relevant that Savage is gay. A same-sex couple isn’t going to have the differential ease of getting dates factoring into it. Given that, in couples in general, people tend to sort for overall (not just physical) attractiveness, a same-sex couple will see each person getting a roughly equal amount of attention outside of the relationship, whereas a heterosexual couple would have that particular problem.

        • fahertym says:

          Speaking conjecturally as a straight guy, I think older men are more attractive than older women to the opposite sex (there are plenty of male celebrity sex symbols in their 40s and 50s, but few female equivalents). But I still think an average looking 40 year old woman could pull her shit together better than an average 40 year old guy, especially after ten years of marriage. If only because there are more horny men who are willing to date an older woman for the sex than horny women who are willing to date an older man, at least not without the aforementioned combo of wealth/looks/charm. Sadly, I just don’t think there is much of a dating market for average looking 40 year old men, especially since the norms surrounding romantic availability at that age indicate low status (ie. he’s a fucking loser).

          Then again, I have 0 experience here so I could be wrong.

          Good point on the gays. I have no idea how that dynamic would work. I wonder if there is a differential age preference for twinks vs. tops or any other categorization.

          • dndnrsn says:

            So, the OKCupid data – which is old, has been called into question, etc – suggests that straight men prefer women in their early to mid 20s, while straight women prefer men their age, or a bit older.

            In your scenario – 40 year olds after 10 years of marriage, back on the market – a 40-year-old woman who is getting dates from horny men looking for sex – probably figuring “hey, she doesn’t have many options” – is hardly winning. If the situation is a couple in their 40s where they are both looking for random sex in an open marriage, she will have an advantage.

            Anecdotally, a gay friend of mine in his 40s told me that he still gets as much attention from men as he did when he was younger/fitter/less bald, but it’s attention from different men.

          • Creutzer says:

            which is old, has been called into question, etc

            Dumb question, perhaps, but: by what? Do you have references to a serious investigation of the question or at least plausible allegations of confounders in the original data?

          • dndnrsn says:

            I can’t recall the reference, but I recall reading with the “preferred age” thing that it was measuring what people clicked “like” on rather than who they messaged – men would prefer a 23-year old woman regardless of their age, but mostly message women closer to their age.

          • Creutzer says:

            I see, thanks. This yields a highly incomplete picture, unfortunately, because unless you find that women refused to message (or reply to) older men, this is not implausibly explained as social desirability bias and/or men wrongly thinking they have lower chances with younger women.

        • caethan says:

          Incidentally, Dan Savage pulled the same “Surprise! Our marriage is now open!” thing on his own husband.

          • Deiseach says:

            Yeah, that pissed me off in the middle of the fawning article on him where I read it; his boyfriend/fiancé wanted or expected a monogamous marriage, our hero told him “sorry honey, I get so many people throwing themselves at me when I’m on tour that this is just not going to work (because how can you expect me to turn down all that free booty) so it’s an open marriage or nothing” and he arm-twisted persuaded him of the advantage of being “monogamish”. Husband did said in the article that now he’s perfectly happy with the set-up and has had a couple of affairs of his own, and I have to believe he’s telling the truth, but it didn’t reduce my “Dan Savage is a narcissistic jerk” opinion any, I can tell you.

      • Deiseach says:

        Most of the stories of that kind I see (and I have no idea how many are genuine vs how many are somebody trolling) follow the pattern of: I have a girlfriend, we’ve been together a couple of years, she’s okay but nothing special, I always wondered if I was missing out or could have done better so I decided I’d like to try an open relationship. I talked about this with my girlfriend and she was very reluctant but I managed to convince her that I didn’t want to break up with her so she agreed to try it. Now she’s going out on dates every weekend and I can’t find anyone. I thought it would be different!

        How many of those are guys who over-estimate their appeal? That is, average looking guys in average situations who think they can pull above their weight because it does seem that men have a higher opinion of themselves than women. There’s all the sitcoms where it’s “schlubby guy with reasonably hot wife“, for instance. (Warning: that’s a TV Tropes link). So they go on the dating market and find “whoops, no, looks like I’m already at ‘best you can do’ level” while the girlfriend gets encouraged by finding out that she’s still got potential as a date and raises her game? Because I do think women are more aware of – or get more messages from society about – the danger of “letting yourself go once you get married” so they make an effort to keep themselves attractive, while guys tend to think “yeah, I’m all right, I’m still good to go!”

        I’m sure this works the other way as well, women who do stop “making an effort” once they’ve snagged a guy and men who keep themselves in shape and dress nicely and are interesting people; after all, the whole idea of “now we’re married she really let herself go” was popular so it must have been based on something in reality, but I do think maybe the pendulum has swung back a little and now women have more chance of getting back into the ‘dating scene’ (is that what the young people call it nowadays?)

        • dndnrsn says:

          Even if they have both gauged their appeal accurately, a straight woman looking for casual sex is going to have an easier time finding it than a straight man looking for casual sex. Generally, in a heterosexual context, women are the gatekeepers to sex, and men are the gatekeepers to relationships; men complain about not being able to get laid, women complain about men not committing. If a straight woman does not *want* more commitment – if she is in an established relationship and is looking for sex on the side, let’s say – then the fact that the guys she meets on the internet or whatever are not going to commit is not an issue.

          Conversely, an already-attached straight man looking for casual sex is going to have a harder time finding it than a single (or pretending to be single) man who can (to put it bluntly) lead women on, implicitly holding out the possibility of commitment to get access to sex, then finding some excuse to disappear.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            them finding some excuse to disappear

            In hindsight, it was a red flag when the hot guy I met at the bar told me his name was Gyges.

          • dndnrsn says:

            No need to feel foolish. We’re all suckers for philosophical experiments.

          • Nornagest says:

            This is why to hang out in bars and not at the crossroads.

      • notpeerreviewed says:

        Speaking from one not-exceptionally-rich/handsome/charming-man’s experience here, getting dates has gotten considerably easier as I’ve gotten older. I suspect that you’d find this experience is widespread.

        • fahertym says:

          Interesting. Do you have any insight as to why?

          I hate to be cynical, but my first guess is that older women lower their standards so they can get married sooner since they are being “left behind” by their married-with-children friends. Then again, a nicer thought is that older people have a better understanding of what they want emotionally and intellectually in a date, so they cut through the bullshit faster and aren’t distracted by shallow tastes.

        • J Mann says:

          I found that when I tried dating in my thirties, dating was easier, IMHO mostly because:

          1) Thirty somethings have a better idea what they want than college kids. I could meet somebody on Match or speed dating or whatever, and we would have a pretty good idea pretty quickly whether we liked each other.

          2) At that point, I had a good job, and got a few to several emails a week (albeit mostly from local single moms and purported foreign beauties looking for an American boyfriend – I didn’t respond to any of either group, so for all I know they were all fake). At a friend’s suggestion, I tried removing my salary from my profile and they dropped almost to zero. Then I tried writing a funnier profile, and I got a few more.

  26. Φ says:

    I think you should consider that survey data might be a poor predictor of what an actual polyamorous regime would look like. But I would nominate a question that would address the preference dimorphism that Heartiste alleges:

    Q: Which feature of polyamory appeals to you: (a) obtaining sexual access to multiple women (men) or (b) sharing sexual access to one woman (man) with multiple men (women)?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Ah, here we have the horns of the dilemna.

    • anaisnein says:

      Speaking as someone to whom both (a) and (b) hold significant appeal: if you decide to use a question like this then both (a) and (b) should be rated on a scale of 1 (no appeal) to 5 (strong appeal), and you should take the time to think through whether you might still be missing options (c), (d), (e) and more before finalizing the question. For starters, (c) obtaining sexual access to partners of more than one gender, (d)-(f) the same as (a), (b) and (c) but about emotional bonding versus sexual access (“access” is a bit skeevy as a term here), and probably more — I don’t have time to focus or brainstorm at the moment, this is just my quick offhand initial ideas. I also would consider just using “partner” rather than “man (woman)” unless you’re planning to try to cut the data generated by this question by orientation and gender, and if you are, you should consider a broader matrix of demographic identifiers in both respects; this of course greatly boosts the n necessary to get any granularity out of the data, even just qualitatively, but that’s the price you pay for asking that set of questions if you want coherent answers.

      • Φ says:

        Quite right, and I wasn’t attached to that specific wording so much as emphasizing that we would be comparing the responses from men against those from women. I was assuming the respondents’ heterosexuality, but given the potential pool it would be wise to break it out by orientation.

        I appreciate the skeeviness of this particular framing. I suspect that some number of respondents are approaching this issue with very ill-defined notions of “free love” and that its attraction to them as a personal lifestyle choice would drop when the choices are put them that baldly.

    • Tedd says:

      Both. Both of them appeal to me. (To be more precise, I feel no particular desire for my partners not to have relationships with other people, and have a preference that I be able to have relationships with multiple people. I also prefer that my parterns’ preferences are satisfied, so to the extent that they prefer to have multiple relationships, I prefer that they do as well.) Although “sexual access” is not the right term; you’re describing open relationships, which are much older and much more common than poly relationships.

      This reads like a straight person asking gay people “which feature of being gay appeals to you: (a) putting your dick in someone’s ass, or (b) having someone else’s dick in your ass?” It’s just… missing the point, in the least charitable possible way.

      • Φ says:

        you’re describing open relationships

        Yes, though in my defense, almost everyone on this comment thread is describing open relationships rather than closed relationships involving multiple ( > 2 ) people.

    • Deiseach says:

      “Access” is really not a great word in this context, and option (b) sounds more like a query about the cuckoldry fetish.

      I don’t know what is a ‘tactful yet would get honest answers’ way to phrase it. Maybe not so much “sexual access” as “the opportunity to have more and/or more varied sex”? After all, if your partner is broadening their sexual repertoire you are likely to reap the benefit of that in your own sexual relationship with them as they find out new things to try out with you!

      • Ozy Frantz says:

        There are reasons people can prefer that their partners have other partners other than cuckoldry fetish. For instance, I had a partner who felt obligated to have sex he didn’t want if his partners were monogamous, because they couldn’t have sex with anyone else if they wanted sex more than he did. So polyamory was very freeing for him because he didn’t feel guilty about saying “no”. There are also people who are asexual or low-libido, and of course sexual fetishes other than cucking. (It has puzzled me greatly that people talk about “cucking” but no one talks about the thing where dominant men get off on their girlfriends being dirty sluts, although anecdotally the latter seems to be far more common.)

        Expanding from sex to relationships in general, there are lots of benefits like not having to be your partner’s sole source of emotional support, friendships with your partners’ other partners, and having someone else who is as interested in the topic of how great your boyfriend is as you are.

        • Anonnymous says:

          The obligation thing is a good point.

        • xXxanonxXx says:

          It has puzzled me greatly that people talk about “cucking” but no one talks about the thing where dominant men get off on their girlfriends being dirty sluts…

          Isn’t… isn’t that cucking? I promise I’m not playing stupid. What’s the difference? Whether or not you get off on the humiliation versus the general sluttiness of it?

          • Deiseach says:

            What’s the difference?

            A pimping fetish rather than a cuckoldry fetish? The idea that you control sexual access to her and she’ll do anything to please you, so if you want her to service your friends, you can ‘use’ her like an object and she’ll put up no objection?

            I dunno, my fetishes revolve mainly about people doing such kinky things as telling someone “I really like you!” 🙂

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            You’re probably kidding, but sometimes I think things are getting so weird that “boy and girl live in the same neighborhood, realize they really like each other, say so and kiss” is becoming a kink.

        • Ozy Frantz says:

          Cuck fetish is a submissive fetish where you get off on your partner humiliating you by cheating on you. (As distinguished from the insult, of course.)

          • xXxanonxXx says:

            The information is appreciated, even if I’m still inclined to see it as one big group of guys who all enjoy watching their women get shagged by other men for one reason or another. Isn’t it odd that the latter category doesn’t have a name despite being larger by your count? Or does it, and I’m just showing my fetish ignorance again.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            To the best of my understanding, when people with this kink look for porn they look for gangbang or free use porn. (Of course, there are practical difficulties with both gangbangs and free use in real life.)

        • Thegnskald says:

          Personally, I enjoy knowing I am the best/preferred partner, a knowledge which is reinforced with other partners explored and found wanting.

          Of course, that may require a confidence that most people lack.

          • gbdub says:

            That does seem to be the difference – confident dominance (I’ve got what everyone wants) vs. submissive (jealousy gets me hot).

    • blacktrance says:

      Neither. I don’t want to restrict my partner from romantic relationships with others – if they make her happy, she should be free to have them. And I don’t want to be restricted myself, even if I never make use of that freedom. I care about the rules, not about either of us having multiple partners per se.

      • gbdub says:

        I still feel like labeling someone polyamorous implies (or ought to imply) someone who either:
        a) wants to pursue multiple relationships (or at least partners) simultaneously at least some of the time
        b) prefers a partner who meets a).

        A person with no interest in multiple relationships who is agnostic on whether their partner is monogamous or not seems to be more accurately described as “monoamorous with low jealousy”.

        I get that rules are important, but using the rules at least occasionally is also important.

        Like, I’m glad that the legal rules allow me to have sex with another man if I ever feel like it. That doesn’t make me a bisexual.

        • blacktrance says:

          Certainly, someone who actually wants to have multiple partners is a more central example, and those rules are usually the result of that preference, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Though I do think it’s somewhat stronger than not requiring monogamy of your partner – it also takes a desire to not be bound to monogamy yourself (even if you want to be functionally monogamous), which is unusual enough to put you in the polyamory cluster. If having sex with other men were illegal and you particularly cared about overturning that for reasons relevant to your own sexuality (but not out of a desire to have sex with men), we might draw the categories differently.

    • notpeerreviewed says:

      Obviously most people are going to like (a) better, but I think you’re underestimating the many reasons why (b) can be a net positive:

      1) Sex can feel like an obligation if your partner has a higher sex drive than you and can’t have sex with other people.

      2) Additional partners can provide your partner with more social and emotional support than you are capable of giving them alone.

      3) Sex with other partners can broaden your partner’s repertoire.

      4) When they’re out on a date you have the house to yourself.

      5) Group sex can be fun, even for many straight people.

      • Jack says:

        6) Compersion.

        7) Reducing one way you might control your partner. (It is a benefit when others are more free.)

        • Said Achmiz says:

          As far as I can tell, “compersion” is a term invented by the (modern) polyamory community, never used outside it, and the alleged phenomenon to which it refers has never been investigated in any academic context.

          Is this an accurate summary?

          • Jack says:

            The first two claims are accurate more or less. The third is false. The earliest investigation of compersion specifically I know of is from 2006, but you’d also have to deal with the fact that compersion is just a name for a sub-set of empathy, which has been investigated a lot in lots of academic contexts. Not sure what the relevance of any of this is. If you have some sensitivity to the term, the idea is just that some people are made happy by seeing their partners happy and that one time this can happen is when they are excited about someone else.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            The earliest investigation of compersion specifically I know of is from 2006

            You wouldn’t happen to have a link handy, or at least a citation, would you? 🙂

          • Said Achmiz says:

            This appears to be a thesis for an M.S. degree. It’s certainly not anything published in a peer-reviewed journal.

            A bit of work with Google Scholar reveals that this paper has been cited a couple of dozen times, but of those works which cited it, I was not able to find any that also deal with “compersion” or, indeed, even mention the word at all.

            I did a bit more digging. Compersion was mentioned in passing in this paper; the only source of the concept, there, is this self-published e-book (link goes to author’s website, which informs us that she is a “relationship coach” and “certified Myers-Briggs trainer”).

            This other diploma thesis (2009) also discusses compersion, noting that “compersion has not yet been researched academically”; the author evidently did a study, but the details are behind a paywall. A skim through the section on related/previous work reveals a mass of confusing and confused definitions in the literature.

            This paper mentions compersion once, in passing. The reference is to this paper (2006), published in some sort of online gender studies journal (I can’t tell how respectable it is, but it does seem to be peer-reviewed). The latter paper, however, turns out to only be about the fact that the word ‘comperson’ has been made up by the polyamory community (and subsequently argued about at some length, it seems).

            Finally, this paper (2014), published in the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality (a peer-reviewed journal which shut down in 2015 because, it seems, they received literally zero paper submissions, and which was run by an unaccredited institution labeled “questionable” by Quackwatch), describes a study (n=302) which compared (using a trait questionnaire taken from the previously mentioned paywalled diploma thesis) compersion and jealousy across genders, and investigated effect of compersion and jealousy on relationship satisfaction. (My skills in reading social science papers are rusty and so I leave it to others to give this paper the thorough treatment it deserves. The “outside view” characteristics I mentioned speak for themselves, however.)

            It is my view, on the basis of what I’ve been able to find, that compersion is not a real thing.

          • blacktrance says:

            It is my view, on the basis of what I’ve been able to find, that compersion is not a real thing.

            And the self-reports of poly people experiencing it are what – lies?

          • Jack says:

            I suspected this would happen. Yes, it has been investigated in a variety of “academic contexts” including peer-reviewed journals–but no, of course not “real” academic contexts. Of course I didn’t mean “real” academic contexts, just made-up academic contexts like sexual diversity studies and social psychology. The polyamory community is still consciousness-raising. There are still people getting together and sitting around talking just to make their sense of their own lives real. People in monogamous relationships don’t need to do this in our culture because mononormativity, just as men didn’t seem to need consciousness-raising back in the 60s-70s when feminist women started doing it. So far then, most of the empirical work into poly has been qualitative, focussing just on extracting poly people’s own experiences. So I don’t really expect people outside poly communities to believe the reality of poly experiences. History suggests this will be a long haul if it is ever partially successful. That said, research into all aspects of polyamory looks like it is starting to explode in the last couple of years. Sexualities’ special issue on polyamory from 2006 was a vanguard.

          • Aapje says:

            @blacktrance

            And the self-reports of poly people experiencing it are what – lies?

            There are quite a few self-reports that homeopathy works…

            People are bad at distinguishing random variation from actual effect.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            @Jack:

            Yes, it has been investigated in a variety of “academic contexts” including peer-reviewed journals–but no, of course not “real” academic contexts. Of course I didn’t mean “real” academic contexts, just made-up academic contexts like sexual diversity studies and social psychology.

            Please don’t strawman my comments, and let’s not gloss over the substance.

            My list of links above included just one — one — paper that was a) actually about compersion, and b) published in a peer-reviewed journal. And that peer-reviewed journal was — let’s be clear again — published by an unaccredited institution of highly questionable repute.

            The field of social psychology includes dozens upon dozens of reputable publications. Where is the research on compersion that’s made it into any of those?

            Attempting to make your preferred topic seem much more well-supported and mainstream-accepted than it is, by offhandedly mentioning “social psychology” (implying that my skepticism is the result of — what, some dogmatic rejection of social science in general?), simply looks dishonest.

            That said, research into all aspects of polyamory looks like it is starting to explode in the last couple of years. Sexualities’ special issue on polyamory from 2006 was a vanguard.

            And has this explosion of research yielded anything about compersion, that has seen publication in reputable journals or other mainstream venues? How well has it replicated? Have there been meta-analyses? Could you cite or link to any of it, so we can take a look?

          • Said Achmiz says:

            @blacktrance:

            And the self-reports of poly people experiencing it are what – lies?

            I don’t know. You and I both know that people say inaccurate, false, or misleading things for any number of reasons. Lies, motivated reasoning, lack of self-awareness, selection effects in the reporting or coming-to-prominence of self-reports, unexamined/unstated drastic diversity of mental make-up — these reasons come to mind in only the first ten seconds of me thinking about it.

            But, in any case, if the claim is based solely on self-reports, then you (the hypothetical “you” — the person advancing the notion that “compersion” is an advantage of polyamory) ought to make this explicit, so we can then examine these self-reports, and discuss openly how they may be explained, and just what there even is to be explained, if anything.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            Aapje: I have to say, I’m kind of confused about how random variation could cause me to think I believe my boyfriend’s relationship with his wife is suuuuuuper cuuuuuuuute, when in reality I do not. Is the claim here that perhaps every time I am around my boyfriend and his wife I am also around their very adorable cat, but I have mistakenly attributed my feelings of cuteness about the cat to the couple?

          • Jack says:

            Attempting to make your preferred topic seem much more well-supported and mainstream-accepted than it is, simply looks dishonest.

            My apologies if you got the impression at some point that I think any aspect of polyamory is “mainstream-accepted”. I tried to make it clear that it’s not, but it seems to be gradually building steam. You can type “polyamory” into an academic database as well as I can and note the increasing frequency of articles about it across a variety of fields. I also noted that research so far has been primarily qualitative, yet your closing questions reference standards usually applied to quantitative research (eg replicability vs reflexivity). You seem to be moving from “never been investigated in any academic context” to “never been the sole focus of a replicable quantitative investigation”, thus importing additional criteria that, as I have already explained, we shouldn’t expect to be fulfilled at this stage of a fledgling (attempted) social identity. But if your concern is whether compersion is “a real thing” among poly people, the best evidence we have is qualitative research of poly people.

          • Aapje says:

            @Ozy

            Polly Advocate tells Polly Curious about compersion.

            Mrs Polly Curious has a threesome and sees her boyfriend enjoy himself with Mrs Young Cute. Polly feels bad and Polly Advocate tells her that she is a monogamous person.

            Polly Advocate tells Molly Curious about compersion.

            Mrs Molly Curious has a threesome and sees her boyfriend enjoy himself with Mrs Young Cute. Molly is in a good & horny mood and has a really good time pretty randomly. Molly concludes that compersion works! When she later has a threesome that is less pleasant, she attributes this to her being tired, having bad chemistry with the third, etc, etc.

            There are a ton of fallacies that enable people to rationalize away any evidence that goes against a belief and feel that the belief is confirmed by random occurrences.

          • Spookykou says:

            @Ozy

            I’m confused, as I understood it random variation is why seemingly rigorous research can produce results where homeopathy works. Is the contention here that random variation is what causes people to self report that it works, because these seem like different issues to me.

            More to the actual conversation though, this seems like an extreme example of an isolated demand for rigor. A 7 point list of reasons why somebody might like being in a poly relationship, and we have to list twenty articles to establish that a possible emotion people might feel that might make them like being poly has not actually been rigorously studied.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            Aapje: That works if most people are only poly for a year or two, but by the time someone has been poly for a decade and had literally thousands of opportunities to experience compersion, the random variation washes out and they should have a pretty clear idea of whether they are compersive or not. (The homeopathy example doesn’t apply here, because most people don’t have literally thousands of colds.)

          • blacktrance says:

            This skepticism sounds really arbitrary. Taboo “compersion”. I hope the skeptics will at least not doubt that your partner’s happiness can make you happy. This is just a specific case when the cause of your partner’s happiness is one of their other relationships.

            If something good happened to my partner, such as them getting a bonus at work, and I report that it produced an enjoyable feeling in me, presumably you wouldn’t challenge that with “Where’s the data that it’s possible?”

          • publiusvarinius says:

            If something good happened to my partner, such as them getting a bonus at work, and I report that it produced an enjoyable feeling in me, presumably you wouldn’t challenge that with “Where’s the data that it’s possible?”

            If you said “my girlfriend stole my car and ran off with my winning lottery ticket, I’m happy that her financial problems are over”, a lot of people would challenge you about the sincerity of your feelings. Plausibly, the challengers see the scenario closer to the latter than to getting a bonus at work, so their skepticism is not arbitrary.

          • Aapje says:

            @Ozy

            People regularly persist in superstitious beliefs even in the face of many tests of those beliefs. People are built to find patterns and to be conservative in letting possibly useful beliefs go.

            Now, I agree with you that compersion sounds plausible, at least, in the more general sense of sympathetic joy (which the Buddhists call muditā).

            However, it is especially when something seems plausible that people tend to get epistemologically sloppy. For example, why would compersion necessarily be stronger when your partner is having sex with someone else than when your partner eats some ice cream, which (s)he loves. The latter seems to have far less potential for destructive envy.

            Yet I presume that pollyanna people would not commonly use the term compersion when their partner eats ice cream, but merely for sex. So there we enter the realm of motivated reasoning, by only applying a concept selectively. This can lead to the strong claim that polyamory provides unique benefits to people, even though this is hardly a given, as many of the benefits that you claim can plausible be achieved differently and perhaps better (for many people whose brains are not like yours or even for you).

            So if we are at that level of deconstruction, we know very little about whether it is a good choice for many people to be polyamorous or whether many people are better off to design their lives around say, playing cooperative games together that don’t involve sex. Why would polyamory be superior to that, if we look at compersion?

          • blacktrance says:

            If you said “my girlfriend stole my car and ran off with my winning lottery ticket, I’m happy that her financial problems are over”, a lot of people would challenge you about the sincerity of your feelings.

            There are at least a few relevant differences. First, compersion is being used as a point in favor of adopting polyamory, i.e. you think about what it would be like and whether you’d be happier under that arrangement, and decide to switch to it based on your conclusion. So, rather than your girlfriend stealing your lottery ticket, it’d be more like adopting a rule in which she may take it if it’d be good for her without needing your permission. Which would be weird, but if you’ve chosen it, insist that it’s good for you and give a sensible explanation for it, then it’s not so implausible that you’d be right.

            Another important difference that in the case of theft, your girlfriend would be imposing it upon you without your knowledge or consent, and a breach of that magnitude would presumably cause you to care about her much less. Polyamory would be more like if she appealed to you, making a case that your car and lottery ticket would be really good for her, that solving her financial problems would be a significant relief, and so on, but that you don’t have to give them to her and that she won’t take them without your permission. If you agree to give them to her in this scenario, it’s quite plausible that it’s good for you.

          • Jack says:

            There’s a reason polyamorous people invented a word for the sub-set of empathy that can occur when one’s partner is happy with another, and that reason is jealousy. The dominant narrative, one assumed through-out this thread in the face of the data we have of poly people’s self-reported experience, is that the natural or appropriate reaction to seeing your partner happy in this way is to feel bad about it. Turns out not everyone feels that way. It’s useful to have a word specific to this situation in order to more congenially process the counter-narrative. If getting possessive and upset about someone else eating their own ice cream were a major cultural force enforced by legal and social sanctions, maybe we’d need a word for empathy in that situation too.

        • Ozy Frantz says:

          It seems like if the academic evidence is shit, that doesn’t mean the emotion definitely doesn’t exist, it just means that the academic evidence can’t shed light on this question. For instance, positive psychology was founded in the late 1990s, but I think it would be a mistake to assume that happiness did not exist until 1995.

          So instead we have to look at other aspects of the question. It seems to me the emotion is prima facie plausible– we know that people are often happy when their loved ones are happy, and we know that “awwwwwww” feelings about other people’s relationships are quite common. And thousands of poly people from a variety of different backgrounds have insisted they had this experience. So this seems to me that, on balance, the correct conclusion is that this is a thing people experience (although probably not a distinct “emotion” as opposed to an extension of empathy).

          • Creutzer says:

            Now, you’re completely right that absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence when people haven’t even properly looked, as is the case here.

            And certainly, people reporting this emotion is prima facie evidence for its existence. But the comparison with happiness is very far off, because nobody would ever have thought “happiness? what a strange emotion, I’m pretty sure I could never feel that”. Not so for compersion, where we know that a diametrically opposed emotion, that of jealousy, is very common. As for the semi-public self-reports that we have in considerable numbers, this is an issue where I would expect social desirability bias to hit hard.

            So I think overall the prima facie case isn’t quite as strong as you make it out to be.

          • Jack says:

            @Creutzer This is the real question. It seems like compersion only arises in situations where we might expect jealousy, but is the opposite sort of emotion. There is a piece of advice you see in poly materials not to “fake” compersion–which is to say this is a real thing poly people are worried about too. It’s not just social desireability bias; there’s also the desire to rationalize one’s choices. That said, the idea that compersion is “not a thing” is baseless. It seems clear that reactions of jealousy vary widely between different people and contexts. Compersion is just empathy allowed to occur in those contexts or for those people where jealousy doesn’t arise or arises less. Doesn’t mean everybody feels compersion all the time, but it does seem likely that we can be trained to feel it more often and different relationship frameworks might help us feel jealousy less.

          • Creutzer says:

            I agree: it seems absurd to phrase the question as “does compersion exist at all, ever, or doesn’t it”. Given the variability of human minds, I’m sure some people experience it, so the “it doesn’t exist” position is more reasonably weakened to “this is a quirk of some weirdos’ minds”. The question of relevance is: how prevalent is this thing really?

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            Creutzer: I mean, when I experience “jealousy”, it is always really envy or insecurity. And I don’t think there’s much peer-reviewed literature on the subject. And certainly people aren’t going to want to admit “yeah, the reason I’m not polyamorous is because I’m really insecure and the idea of trying to overcome my personality flaws is scary.” But I don’t go around saying “anyone can be poly if they get over their envy and insecurity,” because I’ve listened to monogamous people about their experiences and decided the most logical explanation for monogamous people insisting that they feel jealousy-which-is-not-envy-or-insecurity is that they do, in fact, feel that.

          • Jack says:

            I’m open to the idea that it is quite a quirky thing to feel and will never be the most common response to one’s partner being with another, but I also suspect a lot of it is socio-cultural baggage (we are trained to feel jealousy, on top of whatever natural explanation of it someone wants to posit) that could be conceivably re-jiggered. And as Ozy Frantz notes, conceiving of a feeling as “jealousy” is itself worth questioning. I think it’s like masochism. Most people don’t like pain, some do, and others have experiences of getting into it in the context of a supportive community, and then they need to invent words like subspace to describe something that to others sounds alien and absurd. (Don’t ask me whether there has been academic investigation into subspace.) This is a pattern with marginal communities.

          • Creutzer says:

            And I don’t think there’s much peer-reviewed literature on the subject.

            Uhm. Type “jealousy” into Google scholar.

          • Jack says:

            Fairly sure they meant on the subject of disaggregating jealousy from envy and insecurity.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            Yeah, the research I’ve found on the subject is not careful to distinguish jealousy caused by envy or insecurity from other forms of jealousy. You might as well say that there’s been lots of research into compersion because people have regularly researched empathy.

          • Creutzer says:

            Maybe jealousy just is a mix of envy and insecurity about a particular subject matter. That would neither mean that it doesn’t exist, nor that we’d have any trouble identifying it.

            To say that because of that, you can say that compersion has been researched because empathy has been researched is ridiculous, quit being sloppy. Even if compersion is just empathy about a particular subject matter, what is under dispute is that empathy about that subject matter is something that people experience to a notable degree.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            I didn’t say that, I was using it as a comparison to show that the argument you’re making is silly.

            I disagree that the emotion we call “jealousy” universally consists of a combination of envy and insecurity, because envy and insecurity are both flaws that people can overcome with some hard work. I don’t think the only reason monogamous people don’t want their partners to sleep with other people is that they’re less good at handling their emotions than I am and too lazy to learn how.

          • random832 says:

            I disagree that the emotion we call “jealousy” universally consists of a combination of envy and insecurity, because envy and insecurity are both flaws that people can overcome with some hard work.

            Not everyone’s capable of overcoming all of their flaws all of the time, though. And, one could reasonably say what it actually is, is envy and insecurity combined with a social norm that says that these are not flaws in this situation (and thus non-rationalists don’t have much prompting to even try to overcome it).

      • Deiseach says:

        4) When they’re out on a date you have the house to yourself.

        Oh my God, you have just sold me on polyamory! Were I the marrying kind, this would be perfect: kick ’em out on a date so I can be alone by myself without having to pay attention to them and they can get their hand held (as it were) without bothering me! 🙂

  27. Gigg says:

    Sad to say this is one of the weakest blogposts you have ever written Scott, I do admire your blog a lot but everyone has their ups and downs.

    How could such a vanishingly small subset of the population as polyamorous men and women from a rational community be an indicator of what would happen if polyamory was adopted by society at large? I don’t think your sample proves anything to be frankly and you would be ridiculed if you draw such far going conclusions from such a limited and skewed sample in a peer-reviewed paper.

    I’m no fan of Heartiste but in this case he is not talking out of the blue. Let’s review the established science shall we?

    1. Polygyny has been universally far more common throughout human history than polyandry, while the latter is isolated to a few special cases in a few cultures among poor families with limited access to land the former has a universal history. This is proven not only by historic records but also by human DNA. Several studies have been done and all show the same result, variance in male reproductive success is much larger. One scientist commented the result of their study this way:

    “This suggests that over the long period of human evolution our choice of partners has not been a free-for-all, and that it’s likely that humans have practiced a polygynous system – where a few men have access to most of the women, and many men don’t have access – over our evolutionary history as a species. This is more like the gorilla system than the chimpanzee ‘multimale-multifemale’ mating system.”
    http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/press/press-releases/2016/february/ancient-chimpanzee-2018adam2019-lived-over-one-million-years-ago-research-reveals

    There are several historical examples of a few human males who have left an extremely large genetic impact on modern populations, no such examples of women.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/04/25/half-of-british-men-descended-from-one-bronze-age-king/

    2. Human physiology reveals a lot about ancient human mating systems, and this is yet another nail in the coffin of the far too common fantasy that humans are just bonobos who have forgot their true way of living.

    Human physiology shows evidence of a mating system with harem keeping males, not a free for all polyamory a la bonobos. In such species sexual dimorphism is generally small and males have huge testes for sperm competition. Human males though lack the morphology for sperm competition and when measuring muscle mass humans are far more dimorphic than bonobos and are in fact much closer to gorillas. The difference in upper body strength is 3 standard deviations which is about the same as found in the most sexually dimorphic and polygynous primate species such as gorillas and baboons. Looking at total body mass when measuring human sexual dimorphism is misgiving since human females have large deposits of body fat that other primate females lack.

    On humans lacking morphology for sperm competition
    http://www.jstor.org/stable/20798866
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352250X15002067

    Human sexual dimorphism
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352250X1500189X

    3. Every study ever done cross-culturally clearly show that when it comes to purely sexual relationships women are much more choosy than men are. This is to be expected on basis of Trivers’ parental investment theory and it holds up across cultures and societies. This is also consistent with the studies described above on human physiology and DNA testing, that this phenomenon would somehow magically disappear if we all became polyamorous is frankly quite far-fetched
    http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/1993-29295-001

    4. Monogamous norms were pushed for a reason, to decrease male violence. This is because polygamy in practice always tends towards polygyny and isolated cases of polyandry does not disrupt this very clear and established pattern
    http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/367/1589/657

    To summarize, you cannot seriously claim that your skewed and limited sample from an internet survey invalidates the sheer mass of evidence presented above. I’m no fan of Heartiste and would be on your side on most issues but on this subject I fear he is closer to the truth than you are Scott.

    • SchwarzeKatze says:

      While male bonobos do have larger testes relative to body size, males in genetically monogamous species such as owl monkeys don’t have larger testes either, so it’s certainly no criteria to decide whether a species is a tournament species or not. However twins and lower sexual dimorphism are some of the typical features of pair bonding species. It’s just plain wrong to compare humans’ sexual dimorphism levels to that of gorillas. I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to talk of humans as a whole as environmental selective pressures have pushed groups of humans in different directions wrt sexual selection. And of course this completely ignores the Hadza and other foragers that are highly monogamous.

      Robert Sapolsky – Human sexual dimorphism
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8a1-Eu7n0hs

      Equality for the sexes in human evolution? Early hominid sexual dimorphism and implications for mating systems and social behavior
      http://www.pnas.org/content/100/16/9103.full

      “Humans today display relatively limited sexual dimorphism (≈15%), whereas some of the other hominoids (gorillas and orangutans) are highly dimorphic (>50%) (5, 9).”

      “In contrast to the consensus, their analysis revealed only slight to moderate levels of sexual dimorphism, more like Homo and chimpanzees than gorillas.”

      Craniofacial feminization and the origin of behavioral modernity
      http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/677209

      Human origins and the transition from promiscuity to pair-bonding
      http://www.pnas.org/content/109/25/9923.abstract

      The Neural Basis of Pair Bonding in a Monogamous Species: A Model for Understanding the Biological Basis of Human Behavior
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK97287/

      Human Pair-Bonds: Evolutionary Functions, Ecological Variation, and Adaptive Development
      http://www.public.wsu.edu/~rquinlan/quinlan_EA_2008.pdf

      • Gigg says:

        Scott was speculating on what happened if we humans abandon monogamy for polyamory, and whether this would make us polygynous like gorillas and baboons or polygynandrous like bonobos. All evidence points to the former

        As I said in my post, measuring human sexual dimorphism by comparing total human body mass is misleading because human females are unique among primates by having large fat deposits. So total body mass dimorphism is comparatively low in humans because of more dimorphism not less. When we compare what really matters though whuch is muscle mass humans are highly sexually dimorphic. From one of the links posted above:

        “All of these types of evidence support the prediction that male contests have been important in human evolution. Men are larger, stronger, faster, and more physically aggressive than women, and the degree of sexual dimorphism in these traits rivals that of species with intense male contests. The relatively modest 8% stature dimorphism in humans (Gaulin & Boster, 1985) and a difference of about 15–20% in body mass (Mayhew & Salm, 1990) might suggest that male contests are reduced compared with our closest relatives. However, human sex differences in size underestimate sex differences in the traits most relevant to contests. This is partly because women are unique among primates in having copious fat stores (Pond & Mattacks, 1987), perhaps for building the large, fatty brains of human offspring (Lassek & Gaulin, 2008), and as sexual ornamentation (see below). When fat-free mass is considered, men are 40% heavier (Lassek and Gaulin, 2009, Mayhew and Salm, 1990) and have 60% more total lean muscle mass than women. Men have 80% greater arm muscle mass and 50% more lower body muscle mass (Abe, Kearns, & Fukunaga, 2003). Lassek and Gaulin (2009)) note that the sex difference in upper-body muscle mass in humans is similar to the sex difference in fat-free mass in gorillas (Zihlman & MacFarland, 2000), the most sexually dimorphic of all living primates.

        These differences in muscularity translate into large differences in strength and speed. Men have about 90% greater upper-body strength, a difference of approximately three standard deviations (Abe et al., 2003, Lassek and Gaulin, 2009). The average man is stronger than 99.9% of women (Lassek & Gaulin, 2009). Men also have about 65% greater lower body strength (Lassek and Gaulin, 2009, Mayhew and Salm, 1990), over 45% higher vertical leap, and over 22% faster sprint times (Mayhew & Salm, 1990). Contrary to earlier claims, sex differences in anaerobic sprint speeds are not narrowing (Cheuvront et al., 2005, Seiler et al., 2007).”

        That humans are a species with low levels of sexual dimorphism is simply untrue, this idea is popular among many and easy to believe when looking solely at total body mass and nothing else but sexual dimorphism is more complicated than that.

        This paper confirms that humans are among the most visually sexually dimorphic primate species that exist placing us in the 90th percentile tied with gorillas

        “In some animal species, the two sexes differ so greatly in appearance that they could be mistaken for separate species. Such was the case when Carl Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy, misclassified male and female mallard ducks as Anas boschas and Anas platyrhynchos, respectively (Andersson, 1994). Although men and women may not be as divergent in appearance as male and female mallards, they are not far off. By one subjective assessment, humans are the eighth most visually sexually dimorphic primates (tied with gorillas and white-faced sakis), placing humans in the 90th percentile for visual sexual dimorphism (Dixson, Dixson, & Anderson, 2005). The visual dissimilarity between men and women is partly due to men’s greater height and weight, but largely attributable to sex differences in body fat and muscle distribution (Lassek & Gaulin, 2009), along with conspicuous sex differences in body hair and, especially, facial hair. Not only do men and women differ in their soft tissue distribution, but they also differ in skeletal structure (e.g., Enlow & Hans, 1996). Besides the pelvis, probably the most obvious of the many human skeletal sex differences occur in the face. Men tend to have more prominent brow ridges and a longer lower face, including a larger, more angular mandible and squarer chin.”

        http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00224499.2012.658924

        • SchwarzeKatze says:

          With these psychology studies the devil is always in the details, let’s examine one of the claims here :

          Men have 80% greater arm muscle mass and 50% more lower body muscle mass (Abe, Kearns, & Fukunaga, 2003).”

          The cited paper is this one :

          Sex differences in whole body skeletal muscle mass
          measured by magnetic resonance imaging and its
          distribution in young Japanese adults (Abe, Kearns, & Fukunaga, 2003).

          http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/bjsports/37/5/436.full.pdf

          “Ten female and ten male college students volunteered for the
          study. All were physically active, participating in regular exer-
          cise (aerobic and/or resistance type exercise two to three times
          a week).”

          The sample size is far too low and the fact that the students volunteered is not the same as picking at random and more than likely completely skews the results cause these people were obviously highly into sports (a western cultural thing btw). The males typically obsessed with gaining muscle mass (resistance type exercise) while females will do aerobics and do not want to gain muscle mass.

          Then when you read the paper they cite it says :

          “Upper body muscle CSA (at P1, P2, B1, and B2) for
          women was about 56% (range 55.2–61.2%) of that for men. On the other hand, lower body muscle CSA (at P3, P5, and B3)
          for women was about 75% (range 68.8–84.4%) of that for men.”

          That is not “Men have 80% greater arm muscle mass and 50% more lower body muscle mass”. Which makes you wonder if the author of your paper actually read what they cite or just made this up completely.

          I’ve heard that the average upper body strength difference is more like 30%, on this sample there’s a 44% difference in upper body strength which is due to the sample population.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            You have an arithmetic error: “men have 80% more” is the same as “women have 56% that of men.” You should never say “44% difference.”

            However, “men have 50% more” is not the same as “women have 75% that of men.”

          • SchwarzeKatze says:

            Yep, you’re right. Thanks for pointing this out.

    • Nornagest says:

      There are several historical examples of a few human males who have left an extremely large genetic impact on modern populations, no such examples of women.

      This would be true under any history that allowed for multiple partners for men (even as rare exceptions), whatever the status of women, for obvious physical reasons.

    • Ghatanathoah says:

      isolated cases of polyandry does not disrupt this very clear and established pattern

      The pattern seems to be that cultures where the man is primarily responsible for the support and income of the woman, men who have the resources to support multiple women will engage in polgyny; unless prevented by laws or cultural norms.

      The cultures that buck the trend tend to be ones where someone other than the man is responsible for supporting the woman and her children. For instance, the Mosuo of China tend to have the woman’s extended family work together to support her and their children. First world countries, where women can work full-time jobs and institutions like day-care exist, seem more similar to the Mosuo’s situation than the situation of most polygamous cultures.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’m pretty against pushing to legalize polyamory, just because I feel like the least annoying equilibrium is one where the weird people who want to practice it do, the social conservatives don’t bother us, and we don’t bother them. Nothing’s stopping anyone from being polyamorous right now and I don’t think marriage benefits are worth the extra hassle.

      Also, you get weird stuff where you can circumvent immigration law by marrying the entire population of Mexico.

      • Ozy Frantz says:

        To be fair, it’s pretty easy to say the marriage benefits aren’t worth the extra hassle if you don’t want to marry more than one person.

      • John Schilling says:

        But what about the hospital visitation rights?

        Seriously, this is a healthy, pragmatic attitude that is probably the best near-term path forward for polyamory. I expect problems when there is nonetheless a non-trivial effort to push for legalized poly marriage, and every known polyamorist or poly advocate is asked (from both sides) “are you with us or are you against us”. Was it possible for a homosexual and/or progressive a decade ago to say “actually, I think quietly going with domestic partnership law would be best” and not lose friends?

        For added fun, toss socially conservative Mormons into the mix. Even some of the non-extremist ones who don’t presently practice polygamy may wind up on the pro-poly side.

        • Deiseach says:

          But what about the hospital visitation rights?

          I swear I recently read someone advocating for poly marriages on exactly this basis! Scott’s attitude is reminiscent of early gay activism, where it was “look, let’s just get the sodomy laws repealed and make it illegal to fire someone just for being gay and then we and the straights can live and let live”. Then down the line it becomes “The fight for gay marriage is on a par with the Civil Rights movement”. If there really is a poly activism movement, they will eventually go the “we want legal recognition of our families because Jane and Bob are just as much parents of my kids as me and Tim are” route.

          And because of traditional polygamy, it’s much less of a leap to try and get polyamory recognised. All the liberal Christians scrabbling for “David and Jonathan were gay lovers, Naomi and Ruth were lesbian lovers, the Scriptures recognise same-sex couples” backing will more easily find the examples of the Patriarchs to argue that “God accepts those in committed, loving, life-long relationships with multiple partners” when it comes to legalisation.

          • sconn says:

            But the property part of marriage law would be a nightmare! It’s hard enough for TWO people to get divorced. Many polygamists (read: the fundamentalist Mormons) don’t even want legal marriage, not because they’re trying to soften their argument, but because it actually makes a lot more sense for all the wives to be legally single, with their own bank accounts, cars, and houses, than to attempt to pool all that stuff.

          • In the traditional Islamic system, as I understand it, and I believe in modern Saudi Arabia, wives and husbands have separate property.

  28. j r says:

    A bunch of people have already noted that the rationalist community may not make a great stand-in for the world at large. Anytime you base analysis on a self-selected group, you’re going to have a fair amount of selection bias and omitted variable bias. Atheism may make a good analogue. If you looked at a bunch of self-identified atheists and compared their outcomes to the openly religious, you’d likely found that they compared very well. But what happens when you compare the religious to people who don’t practice any religion but don’t bother to call themselves atheists either?

    I also wonder about using “partners” as the observable variable. How much casual or recurring but non-committal sex is happening in polyamorous communities? And does sex tend to follow the female hypergamy model more than relationships? Anecdotally, when I think about hook-ups, they certainly tend to adhere to that model. If you look at a random cohort of people who hook-up with and date each other and map the occurrence of sex, you’re probably going to find that a smaller group of men than women was having most of the sex within that cohort.

    All that said, the NRO and Heartiste objections have plenty of other problems. The question of “what is best for society?” is entirely too abstract to be meaningful. For one, it completely ignores the cost of enforcing norms and punishing people who defect from those norms. In other words, if enforcing monogamy comes with a price, that price may very well outweigh any gains from the monogamy.

    • temp3402 says:

      All that said, the NRO and Heartiste objections have plenty of other problems. The question of “what is best for society?” is entirely too abstract to be meaningful. For one, it completely ignores the cost of enforcing norms and punishing people who defect from those norms. In other words, if enforcing monogamy comes with a price, that price may very well outweigh any gains from the monogamy.

      What is the alternative to thinking about the question? To let change happen without consideration? Obviously we cannot actually estimate the change in utility that would occur from changing our societal arrangements to ones that have not yet been tried at scale. The argument is one from risk aversion. Thinking about the question will at least heighten our focus and bring people towards assessing the magnitude of the risk and the probability of its occurrence. Useful survey data could verify or falsify whether: 3+ parent households are deleterious to a child’s wellbeing; informed polyamorous relationships are stable; polyamorous relationships are more happy than monogamous relationships; and so on. All of this would be helpful. (I doubt any of this would be decisive, as self-described polyamorous people are a very niche group and I doubt their experiences can be generalised to the parent population. It would still be helpful.)

  29. meltedcheesefondue says:

    Er, people? ravenclawprefect found another survey; we should definitely be using it, rather than speculating datalessly: http://www.lovemore.com/polyamory-articles/2012-lovingmore-polyamory-survey/

    Particularly interesting is that poly females report a higher number of sexual partners than poly males (whereas this is reversed in the “control group” General Social Survey). See “FIGURE 10: Number of Sexual Partners in the Past Year”

    • boragus says:

      This probably has a great deal to do with the fact that about 45% of poly females had partners of both genders, whereas only around 15% of poly males did the same.

      • meltedcheesefondue says:

        Sounds plausible (and not really in tune with the NRO/Heartiste complaints above).

        But let me reiterate: there’s a whole other survey! We have twice as many data sources as before, 2 rather than 1. Why is this not appearing in almost every comment?

        • carvenvisage says:

          Personally I’m a schlub who can’t stand data. I like Scott’s writing for many other reasons as well, but if I didn’t the fact that he’s 1. trustworthy and 2. willing to wade through it and explain it/himself, would be a huge draw for someone who lacks the will (or energy or time) to do so themselves.

  30. tmk says:

    It is interesting that there are many people here defending Heartiste’s theory, but nobody for the National Review theory. I suppose this place is full of Men’s Rights-style conservatives but no Family Values-style conservatives.

    • Anonymous says:

      Not unexpected. Unless I have a gravely inadequate image of the community, this place is hardly a young parents’ club. (And of those here who have children, I don’t expect many to have more than one.) It’s a pity that intelligent, prosocial and cultured people don’t breed. 🙁

      • Bugmaster says:

        Speak for yourself, man, I’m stupid, antisocial, and boorish ! Heh.

      • JonathanD says:

        I have three young ones myself, but I do imagine that I’m atypical. While I find this conversation interesting (mostly in a prurient sort of way), I doubt I have much to contribute.

      • sconn says:

        I have four kids, so I can make up for one non-reproducing member of this community. 😉

        Not a family values conservative, but I was raised one. Had a major change in values between kid 3 and kid 4, right around the time I started reading this blog.

        I definitely do get the impression that people here don’t seem to know a lot about kids. I figured it was because they’re younger than me/not starting families at 23 years old like I did. Though to have more than 2 kids on purpose, you basically have to be religious or a hippie — or at least, so say the randos I meet on the street who would like to speculate on why I have so many kids. (They are mostly right: I had the first two kids because I wanted them, the third because I was religious at the time, and the fourth by accident.)

    • eelcohoogendoorn says:

      Even if you are a Family Values-style conservative, it is not hard to spot the flaws in the National Review theory, cognitive biases aside. Under polyamory as scott understands the term, women have a choice to enter in the arrangement or not. Individuals do not always choose wisely, but by allowing polyamory, their options increase, which we should not expect to lead to a decrease in their average satisfaction.

      By contrast, the lower in the pecking order you are as a male, the more readily you see your options shrivel as society moves away from the limit where everyone is paired of one-to-one. Heartiste’s theory at least stands up to basic scrutiny.

      Why is the situation not symmetrical? As long as many women gravitating towards a single high status man remains a more popular arrangement than many men flocking to and being happy sharing a single women, this asymmetry on the lower end of the pecking order remains. And I think the national review is right on at least that part; women have only one womb, thats a fact. Hanging around it with ten dudes trying to fertilize it at the same time doesn’t make any evolutionary sense.

      It is this asymmetry that is fundamental; and definitely plays a role in the population at large. Mormons do not have multiple husbands. This asymmetry is obviously not so black and white for bay area polyamorists, and scotts data does suggest it swings the other way, all caveats aside. The more sexual demand either sex satisfies, the higher they will push the price of sex for those competing in the same market. And it seems the poly women are doing more to ‘depress the price of pussy’ than vice versa.

      But I think insofar that conclusion is valid, I very much doubt it generalizes to the population at large. Heartiste may well be wrong when it comes to subgroups such as bay area polymorists; here it is actually the women at the lower end who see their pool of blue-balled men eager to placate them shrivel. But his general calculus is valid. National review is just plain wrong.

      • Anonymous says:

        a more popular arrangement than many men flocking to and being happy sharing a single women

        It’s called prostitution, and it’s pretty popular. Not that it apparently provides much happiness all-around, just release.

        • eelcohoogendoorn says:

          Right. I suppose the mormons and bay area polyamorists are also very hard to lump together in any analysis, since for mormons, the arrangement is centered around raising children, whereas generalizing from the bay areans I know, they see it as a hedonism-maximizing institution. This adds another twist to the question of who stands to benefit and who stands to gain.

      • Svejk says:

        I think National Review overstates its case, but I’m not sure I would call them ‘wrong’. While women may have more choice of partners under polyamory, if it becomes widely established they may have less choice in terms of relationship dynamics. For example, mid-status women who can now reasonably expect to monopolize the attention and resources of one mid-status male for at least the duration of their reproductive career may have to share his attention with another partner. Women who do well under the traditional standards of the mating market – i.e. who marry a faithful middle-class high-paternal investment partner, and who do not have a preference for sexual novelty, might be disadvantaged under polyamory. These women probably form the core of the NR audience, and of stable middle-class society. I think historical evidence shows that low-status men fare worst under polygamy, but different demographics make different trade-offs, and NR is writing for its demographic.

      • Unirt says:

        women have only one womb, thats a fact. Hanging around it with ten dudes trying to fertilize it at the same time doesn’t make any evolutionary sense.

        This is exactly what female chimps do – when fertile, they copulate with as many males as are available. Makes perfect evolutionary sense, in social and survival terms; in particular, it’s good for the survival of the young.

        • SchwarzeKatze says:

          That’s what female bonobos do, not chimps. Bonobos evolved female promiscuity to protect against infanticide. Since the males can never be sure they aren’t their own offspring they don’t kill them. Alphas in chimps are only alpha for a while, and when there’s a new alpha he usually kills the offspring of the previous alpha.

        • eelcohoogendoorn says:

          And indeed that analogy would work perfectly well; if not for the fact that human females tend to be pretty hung up on securing male parental investment.

    • Deiseach says:

      I suppose this place is full of Men’s Rights-style conservatives but no Family Values-style conservatives.

      Ahem! Excuse you! Why, I recognised myself straight away in this quote used in Freddie deBoer’s latest article (thanks, Freddie!):

      William Burroughs summarized the whole social conservative movement perfectly as “decent church-going women with their mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces.”

      *reads this*

      *looks in mirror*

      Why, I never noticed before but – but it’s true, my face is Evil!

      🙂

    • bbeck310 says:

      There are Family Values-style conservatives, but the linked NR article is the weak Family Values conservative argument. Most Family Values-style conservatives are primarily concerned with family stability and the best situation for children, not whether the arrangement is particularly advantageous for adult men vs. women. There are lots of people on this thread making the conservative argument about family stability and child development.

  31. Unirt says:

    I suppose some of the critisism of polyamory comes from people assuming wrongly that there’s just one sexual strategy for all men (have as many partners as possible but guard them jealously) and one for all women (have one highly attractive partner to sire the kids and somebody – either the same or another male – to provide resources). But this is not necessarily true. I would guess humans have a whole bunch of sexual strategies that can be successful in different settings. E.g. there appear to be high testosterone-low jealousy males, low testosterone-low jealousy males, high testosterone-high jealousy males and so on; high promiscuity-high jealousy females, high promiscuity-low jealousy females, low promiscuity-low jealousy females etc, etc. Also, sexual strategies may be learned in humans to a high extent – not necessarily, but it would make sense. Many reproductive behaviors that other animals have good instincts for need to be learned in hominids, such as copulation and breastfeeding (I hope this information is not totally outdated).

    • Anonymous says:

      Is there a correlation between testosterone levels and sexual jealousy? Because I suspect there might be one.

      • Unirt says:

        Is there a correlation between testosterone levels and sexual jealousy? Because I suspect there might be one.

        I suppose there is, probably. Maybe a positive correlation in humans and a negative one in sparrows (I don’t remember which species, actually). Luckily, these things respond to selection and the behavioural traits that are not any more adaptive can be replaced in time. The point is that there is enough material for selection to operate on, since humans are so variable.

        The critic’s concerns could very well be justified if we made polyamory obligatory for everyone. Luckily, most polyamorians are probably selected to be mostly okay with it. Maybe selection will favour the psychological traits that support polyamory in the future, maybe not.

    • temp3402 says:

      I suppose some of the critisism of polyamory comes from people assuming wrongly that there’s just one sexual strategy for all men (have as many partners as possible but guard them jealously) and one for all women (have one highly attractive partner to sire the kids and somebody – either the same or another male – to provide resources). But this is not necessarily true.

      The issue is more that the mating strategies differ between men and women on average (and that this is in large part the product of our evolutionary histories). Nobody is making universal claims; there will always be exceptions.

      • Unirt says:

        It would certainly be terrible to make polyamory the norm for everyone at once (since most people are jealous), when natural selection hasn’t yet moved the populations toward more polyamoury-favoring traits. Which it can very well do, since our reproductive landscape has changed very much and the current behavioural traits are likely somewhat maladaptive.

        Of course the future may not be polyamory; maybe more likely some Galliform system where males don’t provide for the young at all, since the government helps the females to raise all the kids anyway.

        • Deiseach says:

          I think the problem of jealousy has been acerbated because of the movement in the West since the rise of Romanticism to put all the emotional eggs in one basket of “romantic love is the ultimate fulfillment of all humans”. Tying that to “you should only marry for love” and the notion of the soulmate (something I would dearly love to extirpate with fire), and you have a potent recipe for “I will find the One Perfect Real True Love and Destined Partner who will completely meet all my needs and we will be all-in-all to each other and there will be no infidelity or attraction or need of anyone romantically/sexually outside of our couple, and if it happens, that is immediate cause to end the marriage/relationship” which naturally makes for a steaming hellbrew of jealousy and possessiveness.

          I don’t think hip, modern, not-your-granny’s polyamory is going to cure that, not until we knock down Romantic Love off its pedestal.

          • Jack says:

            Congratulations, you have independently derived relationship anarchy.

          • … has been acerbated …

            Wow, I’ve never before seen that word used without the “ex-” prefix. And since it was you, I knew it was quite deliberate.

            And until this moment, when I looked it up, I had not noticed the direct connection to the Latin root for “acerbic”.

            I’ll say it once again: Deiseach, your contributions here are always very much appreciated.

  32. eelcohoogendoorn says:

    This strikes me as very weak data; I can easily see selection effects explaining all there is to see in your data.

    This is one of those cases where I am inclined to go with ‘dropping a cup of water in the ocean raises the water level of the ocean’, rather than with ‘I cant directly measure it so who knows’. Unattractive males should expect a better penile-wetting-coefficient under a system of strict monogamy than under that plus polyamory. And alphas a lesser one. It would take a lot of data to convince me otherwise.

    However, the more important point here I think is that polyamory, being the niche that it is, isnt really the concern of omega males. Rather, in current day practice, it is hookup culture / serial monogamy that is getting most women’s needs met without ever having to endure omega males in their presence. And the same goes for the female perspective. On first principle, serial monogamy is also the institution which is the much more toxic one to the market, for those who are in it to extract long term commitment from it. The intent of a typical mormon groom is to provide more than just his semen, even if he has to divide his resources. The same can not be said of the average tinder match.

    And either way, I dont think peoples lifestyles should be dictated by their supposed effects on some sort of abstract sexual marketplace; but I respect that it can be a sensitive topic to scott since his lifestyle is defacto illegal almost everywhere on this planet, which is aweful. But as a rhetorical instrument for fighting against these legal injustices, id say you are better off contrasting yourself to the perfectly legal hookup culture. Any supposed threat posed by polyamory to the institution of monogamy and its supposed virtues, is dwarfed by that of tinder; as net total effect obviously, but also per participant.

    • eelcohoogendoorn says:

      Same caveat applies here as discussed below; I am a bt careless here in lumping together mormons and bay area polyamorists; both of whom tend to have quite different aims, affect the sexual market differently, and are affected by the sexual market differently. A market in which all actors are hedonists is quite a different (and more intrinsically symmetrical) market from one where all actors are sexually dimorphic and try to maximize their gene copies.

      Still, the general point stands I think; whatever evils are supposed to be associated with polyamory, are in practice dwarfed by whatever the effects of hookup culture are, as far as I can see.

      • sierraescape says:

        How many Bay Area polyamorists are there? Wikipedia tells me there are between 6 and 10k fundamentalist Mormons, which seems like a relatively negligible amount for non-anecdata compared to larger groups.

    • Creutzer says:

      This is one of those cases where I am inclined to go with ‘dropping a cup of water in the ocean raises the water level of the ocean’, rather than with ‘I cant directly measure it so who knows’. Unattractive males should expect a better penile-wetting-coefficient under a system of strict monogamy than under that plus polyamory. And alphas a lesser one. It would take a lot of data to convince me otherwise.

      Yes, but as you then point out correctly, strict monogamy isn’t actually the competitor system being practiced by the wider society. And with serial monogamy, there is an a priori consideration in the contrary direction: that women who might flinch from committing to a lower-status man as their only partner might be willing to take him on as one of several partners. And one doesn’t know how to weigh these a priori considerations, hence the desire to bring data into the picture.

      • eelcohoogendoorn says:

        Yeah; for specific subcultures, the net effect may indeed swing either way; but on a global scale I don’t really see that as a question that needs more data. I might be overestimating the rate at which women are ok with sharing partners though.

        But most importantly I would like to emphasize again that whatever externalities result from someones choices of voluntary association, I don’t consider anyone’s business anyway; so while I think the ‘is’ question is intellectually interesting, I find it much more important to question where the ‘ought’ is coming from; regardless of whether it is omega males or alpha females who are supposed to be drawing the short end of the stick.

  33. janrandom says:

    I like the approach of using data to get objective results about this question. I am also personally interested in the question, currently being male and single (albeit with children, which compensates at lot).

    But I am skeptical about our ability to infer meaningful results from relationship preferences and number of partners. It starts with what you are writing:

    > I’m not sure how people decided to identify as poly or monogamous

    But it doesn’t end there. Is ‘partner’ the same thing for women and men (as pointed out elsewhere in the comments)? Are there selection effects where people choose mono or poly based on prior experiences? Are these people happy with the situation? The subject is highly sensitive. While it would be nice data we probably can’t go around and ask for about number of affairs or frequency of intercourse and expect useful results. Arguably the topic is most important for many people, so we can assume all kinds of selection, signalling and self-deception.

    I’d like to say to go by revealed preferences, but how? I wondered about instead asking about perceived relative quality (“do you think your relationships are better/equal/worse than that of your peers?”) but while that might be interesting too, it doesn’t provide the answers we seek.

    And we do not know what the baseline is. How happy are women or man on average (in or out of relationships). Historically. Though wait. we should be able to get that from existing polls, right?

    I thought about looking at ancestry data bases and looking at number of offspring vs. some indicator of happiness but birth control completely distorts the relation we are looking for.

    I’m really curious about more potential survey questions. So far only few have been posted.

  34. parasoc says:

    Obviously people who self-identify as “polyamorous” are less likely to be single. This doesn’t touch on the National Review or Heartiste point at all. Subpar post that was presumably motivated by Scott’s personal life.

  35. Acedia says:

    Disclaimer: I move in mostly normie circles, not Bay Area tech geek circles; I don’t know many of the latter and don’t have experience with how well polyamory works for them.

    Literally every single time I have observed a group of people try polyamory in real life – and I’ve observed it many times – it starts with everyone talking about the beautiful theoretical framework you always see described on the internet, involving fully informed consent between enlightened people who claim not to experience jealousy, and ends a few months later in an explosion of drama, hurt feelings and recrimination. Whenever I hear anyone I know talking about their plans for an open relationship now my eyes roll into the back of my head.

    • Stationary Feast says:

      Sounds like a great home environment for rearing children.

    • leoboiko says:

      My two most long-lasting poly relationships have lasted 14 and 7 years. I’m no fancy Bay Area bourgeois, but a mere average Brazilian. I know personally several poly people with longer-lasting relationships than mine (including the one who first advocated the movement for me back in the noughies).

      I wish someone would make a great, statistically adequate poly census to end once and for all all the lies and misinformation based on anecdotal evidence, preconceptions and moral hangups. I mean you could just go to a polyamory forum and ask “how long have your current relationships lasted” and disprove the “few months” hypothesis in ten minutes.

      • Acedia says:

        What do you imagine my motivation for lying is?

        • Jack says:

          That escalated quickly. A charitable reading of leoboiko’s comment is that you have anecdotes and they have anecdotes and so “I wish someone would make a great, statistically adequate poly census”. They believe their anecdotes are more reflective of the truth than yours, and I’d guess it’s because they engage in poly communities (at least on-line) and they assume you do not. Attempts to generalize from such anecdotes can result in (uncritically motivated) falsehoods and misinformation. Incidentally, my own anecdotes are more like leoboiko’s than yours so beat that.

          • John Schilling says:

            To be fair, responding to a single anecdote with “all all the lies and misinformation based on anecdotal evidence” may not call for maximal charity, particularly from the raconteur in question.

          • Jack says:

            How can you use an uncharitable interpretation in order to determine that an uncharitable interpretation is in order? We seem to have got into a meta-conversation, but two reasons to be charitable come to mind. One is that charitable interpretations are more likely to keep a conversation going productively (there are a variety of reasons to think this). Another is that it might increase accuracy (people who disagree with us are often more reasonable than we think?)–and here I don’t think leoboiko meant to imply a malicious or purposeful falsehood on the part of Acedia (because there is nothing specific in the allegation), whereas I think Acedia meant purposeful falsehood because they assumed that lying comes with a motivation.

      • Stationary Feast says:

        I wish someone would make a great, statistically adequate poly census to end once and for all all the lies and misinformation based on anecdotal evidence, preconceptions and moral hangups.

        You’re not going to be able to convincingly dismiss worries that these arrangements are bad for childrearing by asking a bunch of adults whose TFR is less than 2 and publishing the results.

      • temp3402 says:

        I mean you could just go to a polyamory forum and ask “how long have your current relationships lasted” and disprove the “few months” hypothesis in ten minutes.

        Since when would going onto a forum where there’ll be clear biases (e.g. survivorship bias) falsify a claim like: most open relationships end in failure quite quickly? It falsifies universal claims, but nobody is making universal claims, because that would be really stupid.

        • Jack says:

          Survivorship bias would be a problem if you were testing for whether a new open relationship will end quickly, but not necessarily if you are testing whether existing open relationships tend to be stable, and not at all if you are testing whether there are a substantial number of people who have stable long-term poly relationships.

      • simoj says:

        Not going to read too much in to this, but my experience is identical to Acedia’s with one obvious counter-example I’ve often remarked on: Brazilians! No clue why that would be… probably just coincidence, but here it is again 🙂

      • shmohawk1 says:

        In other words, the longest-lasting relationships you were in still weren’t long enough to raise a child in.

    • blacktrance says:

      Most people are bad at relationships, so in the absence of any contrary considerations, polyamory shouldn’t change that. But when a monogamous relationship fails, we provide a variety of possible reasons, but when it’s polyamorous, people quickly jump to that as the cause.

      • hlynkacg says:

        I don’t think it’s much of a “jump”.

        If most people are bad at relationships, and you increase the number of people in a relationship, you’re increasing the likelihood that the relationship will contain someone who is bad at relationships.

    • hlynkacg says:

      @Acedia

      FWIW my own experience matches yours, but then I don’t move in “Bay Area tech geek circles” either.

    • Ozy Frantz says:

      It is commonly noted among poly people that opening up an already existing relationship is polyamory on hard mode, in part because you’re not filtering for a partner who wants to be polyamorous. Also, it’s a bad idea to say that you are enlightened because you never experience jealousy, because that means when you are jealous you’ll have no way to handle it. Much better to go “yeah, jealousy is a thing that happens sometimes, it’s a sign of a problem in your relationship that you should listen to, and if it’s dealt with proactively it doesn’t have to be a huge issue.”

    • Christopher Hazell says:

      Whenever I hear anyone I know talking about their plans for an open relationship now my eyes roll into the back of my head.

      As somebody who grew up in the 90s, this is how I feel about monogamous marriage.

      I’m kidding a little, obviously not EVERYBODY I know is divorced or unmarried. But for post-boomers in my circle, the success and prevalence of monogamous marriage is quite low.

  36. Ashley Yakeley says:

    The polyamory community is already biased against polygyny: consider all the articles that denounce “one penis policy” as being Not True Polyamory, never mind that it’s the most popular committed relationship style in the world after monogamy.

    • tmk says:

      If people see the need to denounce it, that indicates it at least exists. Nobody is denouncing “one vagina policy” because it doesn’t seem to exist. Of course, the “one penis policy” might be extremely rare, and the Internet gets itself worked up about 1-3 examples (like with Rachel Dolezal).

      • Ozy Frantz says:

        In my experience, one penis policies are very uncommon because every time you try to have one everyone will laugh at you for having such a low-status relationship style. This is a fairly effective method of preventing attempts at polygyny, I think.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          I am skeptical that anyone in your tribe would laugh at them if they were Muslims.

          • notpeerreviewed says:

            My experience is that most liberals are perfectly willing to condemn individual acts of chauvinism by Muslims; for example, I know one liberal who successfully encouraged a Muslim woman to leave her chauvinistic husband. What they’re not usually willing to do is make blanket statements about Muslim strangers whose situations they aren’t familiar with.

        • Jaskologist says:

          How do they justify stigmatizing a consensual sexual relationship?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Something about inequality?

          • The Element of Surprise says:

            So it is the objection against the “both are nominally poly, but effectively only the woman gets other dates” arrangement in reverse?

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            Jaskologist: Sex-positive people are perfectly happy to be judgmental about things we believe show poor relationship skills. (As an obvious example, talk to any sex-positive person about their opinions on consensual relationships in which one partner does not give affirmative consent to sex.)

        • simoj says:

          Reading this makes me very grateful to be in an environment where nobody feels entitled to judge the classiness of my relationship styles.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            sips champagne while wearing pearls
            “I say, Fred and his girlfriends seem downright oblivious that a one penis policy simply reeks of Patriarchy.”

            Wait, I got the snooty affluent stereotype wrong.
            sips an IPA while wearing a stocking cap

        • gbdub says:

          Would a “one vagina policy” be similarly considered low status? What if it was just a de facto 1VP?

          If you’re in a “relationship”, poly or not, it seems like a reasonable requirement ought to be some sort of obligation to worry about the happiness of your partner(s) in that relationship.

          Lets say Alice and Bob are a poly couple who are both totally fine with that in theory. But in practice, Alice gets all the relationships/tail she wants, and Bob only gets an unsatisfyingly small fraction of Alice’s attention and is therefore sexually and emotionally frustrated. However, he doesn’t want to end the relationship for the obvious reason that “not enough” > “none at all”.

          You seem to be saying the only answer is “Bob is stupid and a bad poly, shouldn’t have gotten into this in the first place”. But does Alice really have no obligation (obligation here meaning “thing you ought to do if you care about a person”, not a literal imperative) to either help Bob find additional companionship, or compromise a bit on her desires and give Bob a bit more attention, at least until his prospects pick up?

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            One vagina policies are significantly less common and as such seem to be less stigmatized. (One person with a one vagina policy doesn’t have much negative effect on a community, the problem is when everyone has them.)

            Of course you should try to satisfy your partner’s preferences. But being sexually and emotionally frustrated because your partner is busy all the time because they have a lot of partners isn’t actually any different from being sexually and emotionally frustrated because your partner works sixty hours a week, or because your partner likes going out with the guys, or because you have a new baby. Time and energy constraints are a real thing for the monogamous as much as the polyamorous.

            And the solutions are going to depend on your circumstances. Maybe Bob and Alice need a date night. Maybe Alice needs to cut back at work or put the baby in day care or break up with one of her partners or tell her friends that she can’t see them as often. Maybe Bob needs to get a hobby that gets him out of the house, so he’s busy while Alice is. Maybe this is a temporary thing and they just need to be as patient with each other as they can until it passes. It really depends on the circumstances.

            I think you’re talking about the conversation upthread where I was talking about people who prefer to be monogamous. But of course the existence of time and energy constraints is very different from having a preference to be monogamous; time and energy constraints exist in all relationships, both monogamous and polyamorous. (And this is also different, of course, from “Bob is envious of Alice’s romantic success,” which is a different problem with its own set of solutions.)

          • gbdub says:

            While I agree that both mono- and poly- relationships can have “partner is too busy doing X” problems, the situation where X is “having sex with other people, which I am not allowed to object to without being mocked/rejected by my partner and our social group for having poor relationship skills” is unique to poly, and I guess I’m not sure why you seem so reluctant to admit that that can be meaningful?

            “Bob is envious of Alice’s romantic success but not allowed to object to that success” is definitely a unique mode as well (and one I meant to include in my hypothetical).

            And yeah, both the failure of “Bob spends too much time at work” and “Alice spends too much time picking up other dudes” are going to leave one party unfulfilled and both can probably be addressed by some sort of compromise. But the percentage of people who can easily avoid jealousy is already small, and the percentage of people for whom their partner(s)’ extra hour at the office is exactly equivalent to their extra hour of naked playtime is even smaller.

            For the majority of people, sex and love occupy a unique part of their psyche. We can argue about how much of that is biology vs. social conditioning but in the here and now it doesn’t really matter, either way it’s not easily changed.

            I suspect that poly relationships are somewhat more likely to feature one highly sexually fulfilled and one unfulfilled partner, simply because both partners having to get all their sexual satisfaction with each other is more likely to keep them in tune (having sex with a sexually frustrated person is less fun – if that person is my only sexual outlet, I’m more likely to make an effort to fix their frustration for my own benefit if nothing else, whereas if I can stigma-free go elsewhere for good sex it’s easier to ignore their frustration). On the other hand poly relationships are probably more likely to have all parties equally fulfilled despite widely divergent libidos.

            Which one is a net benefit is obviously highly individual, but I think it’s possible to get stuck in a bad version of either.

            So basically I’m a little uncomfortable with a couple aspects of the poly-advocacy here (despite being totally supportive of people doing it if that’s what’s really best for them):

            1) The implicit assumption that jealousy is inherently problematic, a negative thing that ought to be worked through / evolved beyond (i.e. the jealousy is always the problem, never the behavior of another person that triggered the jealousy). You can be as careful as you want, but it’s very hard to not make that sound like “polys are superior people because we don’t get jealous like you rubes”.

            2) Maybe I’m reading too much into your online writing style, but your dismissal of potential problems in poly relationships feels a little cold and unsympathetic. I tend to agree that people are too likely to stick with bad relationships of all flavors. But dismissing that with “that’s not a problem with poly, that’s a problem with you, just stop being stupid” seems overly harsh. And also dismissive of the unique set of circumstances, customs, taboos, and stigmas that poly communities are going to have, not all of which are positive.

            [EDIT: 2) is referring to this whole thread, not just to your immediately preceding post, which was more sympathetic to undersexed Bob. But note that in my hypothetical, Bob was specifically feeling that his romantic/sexual needs were not met, so “date night” might work, but “go get a hobby” seems like it would not be a sympathetic suggestion]

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            Well, what does “object to that success” mean?

            If “object” means “feel sad about it and talk about his sadness with Alice,” then of course Bob can, and Alice would be a shithead if she didn’t let him. If “object” means “stop Alice from being sexually successful”… look, I get the temptation, but that’s short-sighted. If you really think about it, that’s not going to get you the thing you want (lots of dates). The thing it’s going to get you is that you’re reminded less of the thing you can’t have, and Alice– a person you love!– doesn’t get to have it either.

            But it doesn’t have to mean that! Bob can ask Alice to set him up on a blind date, or to give him blunt advice about how to get laid more, or to have threesomes with him. Bob can realize that he doesn’t actually want lots of dates, it’s just that he feels really ugly, and try to work on fixing that. Bob can work on accepting “yes, this is a shitty situation, and I wish I knew how to fix it, but my life is overall pretty happy and I’m glad Alice gets to enjoy herself.”

            With regards to sexual fulfillment… look, I don’t mean to be rude, but how many people do you know in marriages of longer than a few years’ duration? Because libido imbalances are so common. Even if you start out with a similar libido, there’s stress (which some people respond to by getting hornier and some people respond to while getting less horny), there’s having kids… If anything, polyamory helps more often than it hurts, by giving the higher-libido partner another outlet. (Even then, it doesn’t always help: it’s a really common to hear the lament “I can have sex with lots of other people, but I don’t want sex with other people, I want sex with my husband.”)

            I think “jealousy” combines a lot of different things in a way that’s unhelpful for this sort of conversation. Many of the things that jealousy is are bad: insecurity, not getting your relationship needs met, envy. I hope it is not controversial of me to say “if you’re insecure or envious or not getting your relationship needs met, you need to fix that.” But sometimes jealousy is nothing but a brief twinge of envy, in which case it’s probably best to accept it and not make it a bigger deal than it is. And of course many monogamous people find that their partner only being romantically interested in them makes the relationship more special, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but you probably shouldn’t be poly if that’s true.

            Of course, there are lots of poly people whose strategy for dealing with jealousy is “it makes me feel insecure when you kiss her so you are NEVER ALLOWED TO KISS ANYONE EVER AGAIN”, which is a terrible strategy. And other poly people who think if they repress jealousy then it magically stops being a problem. (Nope.) And there are lots of monogamous people who proactively deal with their insecurity, unfulfilled needs, and envy. Poly people suck at relationships sometimes; mono people suck at relationships sometimes; I suck at relationships sometimes. And there is no such thing as a relationship style which will cause you not to have a sucky relationship if you suck at relationships. Sorry. No such thing.

            I’m not engaging in poly advocacy. Indeed, the thing I have been nastiest about is people becoming poly when I think that’s a bad idea. (Perhaps unkindly, but my hope is that if monogamous people see a poly person calling this a stupid-ass decision, then they will realize that monogamy is a totally reasonable and valid preference and they don’t have to stay in a relationship that doesn’t work for them.)

          • gbdub says:

            Your last paragraph I think clarifies my misunderstanding – I was interpreting your responses as advocacy in the form of “poly is flawless (or at least has no flaws that mono doesn’t share), anyone who screws it up doesn’t count as poly” when you meant it more like a warning of “here are ways poly can go wrong, if any of them sound like something you’d be likely to do, you should probably stay monogamous (which is fine)”.

            So anyway that clears up most of my objection (and some of mine downthread), I appreciate you taking the time to engage and if you want to ignore me from here out I’m happy to oblige.

            ****

            So that out of the way, a couple more thoughts if you don’t mind/are getting anything out of this:

            Let’s say Bob is struggling to have romantic success outside his relationship with Alice, is frustratedly horny, and would like more attention from Alice. My admittedly probably flawed impression given my indirect experience was that in (some? most? all?) poly communities, Bob asking “hey Alice, could you spend more of your libido on me?” would risk being considered something of a possessive shithead, and/or would feel guilty asking. (As opposed to a mono relationship, where it would be perfectly normal for him to expect Alice to get her rocks off with him or not at all, ignoring for a moment the other downsides of that arrangement)

            But some of your suggestions seem to be basically that Bob do exactly that, so maybe I was just way off base (how typical do you think your attitude is among poly communities?).

            And I think that hints at some of my earlier unease – my again possibly mistaken understanding is that the sort of polyamory we’re talking about here is practiced within “communities” such that doing poly badly or having a strong mono preference cuts you off not merely from a particular relationship but potentially from a pretty significant part of your social circle. It would also induce some pressure to be poly (much as people outside poly social circles are pressured to be mono). Peer pressure can be just as strong (even stronger maybe) in insulated minority communities, so I was concerned that overly rosy portrayals of the poly lifestyle could be harmful to people here who might be tempted to try it.

            But your intent seems to have been exactly the opposite, so apologies for my misinterpretation.

          • Jack says:

            It’s hard to say how typical this attituted is in poly communities, but it’s certainly very prominent in poly community materials–relationship advice blogs and self-help books. If you are unhappy in your poly relationship with Alice you say, hey Alice here is my concern how can we address it together, and that might well mean Alice spending more time with you if that’s what you need to be happy and if they will be happy providing it. Whether there’s an obligation is a more contested question. People leaning toward relationship anarchy would say no: everything has a strict consent base and you take Alice’s answer or leave it. Hopefully you and Alice talked about relationship anarchy going in and so are proceeding on the same basis. But a lot of poly people still believe in relationship obligations ranging from fuzzy dependence- or compassion-based obligations to straight-up contract-like obligations from relationship agreements and so would say maybe or yes.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            gbdub: I mean, there’s no one solution for libido mismatches, but certainly “I’d like to have sex more” is a reasonable preference (in a primary relationship or a secondary relationship! so many people wind up talking about this like secondaries don’t have needs, and they do!). And maybe Alice says “wow, I’ve been an ass and I’m neglecting you for my shiny new partner, sorry”, or maybe Alice says “I have the Coolidge Effect really hard, I’m going to want sex twice a week with each partner no matter how many partners I have, so not having sex with other people isn’t a good solution to this, but I’m happy to try some other solution.” Or something else! And oftentimes there’s no perfect solution to a libido mismatch, but with a lot of communication it’s usually possible to find a good-enough solution.

            It’s true that it’s hard to date monogamously in a mostly poly community. It’s also hard to date polyamorously in a mostly mono community, but it’s probably worse for the mono person in a poly community, because committed poly people like myself don’t remove ourselves from the dating pool. 🙂 It is difficult to come up with a solution for this, assuming you don’t want a bunch of people to break up their relationships for your convenience. But I do think it’s worth acknowledging the cost.

        • Deiseach says:

          everyone will laugh at you for having such a low-status relationship style

          Is that fair, though? Suppose Jon and Sally are in a relationship, and Sally is agreeable to Jon having partners but isn’t particularly interested in it herself, and Jon meets Kasey who is willing to be his partner but again, isn’t in another relationship herself at the time – if Jon, Sally and Kasey are happy, why sneer at “lookit the low-status people! If they were truly evolved poly people like us, they’ll all have multiple genderqueer pan relationships on the go!”

          That’s just as bad as saying “but you can’t have a relationship besides the one you have with Sally, you’ve made a commitment to her and must stick to it or break up with her if you want to date other people”.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            No one minds a relationship that happens to be a V with two women. The problem is when you make a rule that says that you can sleep with women, and your bisexual girlfriend can sleep with women because two women are HAWWWT and anyway a woman can’t be a real threat to you, but your bisexual girlfriend is not allowed to sleep with men.

            The problem with that rule is that relationships with that rule tend to go kablooey. If it’s not the man’s sudden realization that bisexual women generally fall in love with women and aren’t having sex with them to give him a hardon, it’s the girlfriend going “hey, there are lots of other poly guys who are totally willing to let me date men and women, sayonara”. If relationships with one penis policies stuck around long enough, you’d probably start seeing serious gender imbalance problems, but in practice a relationship with an OPP will either end or stop having a OPP in short order.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            ORRR polygynous relationships will stick around and they just won’t go to your parties because they’re conscious that they’re not as deep Blue as you.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            Le Maistre Chat: If the relationship drama is happening somewhere else where I don’t have to put up with it, then I don’t really care.

          • Ashley Yakeley says:

            Given how much more popular 1PP relationships (or at least polygyny) are than other forms of non-monogamy, worldwide, there are alternative explanations:

            * People in successful 1PP relationships stay away from the polyamory scene, for obvious reasons.

            * When people in 1PP relationships do get involved in the polyamory scene, the scene attempts to change them by pressuring the man to “evolve” past his feelings of jealousy.

            * People practice “stealth” 1PP, by getting in one man / two women closed relationships. Or, semi-closed relationships with a veto arrangement that just happens to allow the man to veto other men.

            I’ll admit I’ve never been in one, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them. I think they can be a sensible compromise arrangement for a monogamous man and polyamorous woman, particularly if the woman is not so shallow that she’ll say “sayonara” to a man she really loves just because she can’t get what she wants.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            Ashley: 1PPs are not common worldwide. What is common worldwide is “men are allowed to have more than one wife, women are only allowed to have one sexual partner, and homosexuality is illegal and sometimes punished with execution.” You can see where this has certain advantages over a 1PP (no fear of the drama created once the man realizes that bisexuals also fall in love with women) and certain disadvantages (one might argue this situation is somewhat unfair to the woman involved, plus executing people for homosexuality is considered rather distasteful in these degenerate times).

            As to what happens for the men with One Penis Policies? You can find them on OKCupid messaging bisexual women to say that he and his wife want a threesome. They’re called “unicorn hunters” because of the unlikeliness of them ever finding the thing they want.

          • Evan Þ says:

            If the relationship drama is happening somewhere else where I don’t have to put up with it, then I don’t really care.

            Even if the cumulative energy of this relationship drama starts significantly decreasing national happiness? Or it starts breaking down the social order?

            (Which I believe has already happened over the last forty years or so, or at least would have happened absent other unrelated social changes.)

  37. adder says:

    Okay, sure. The rationalist community doesn’t represent a sample of the general population. But those saying that polyamory is rife with a certain gender imbalance aren’t pointing to any representative sample of the general population, or any actual sample at all. It’s fine to examine a subroup as a starting point.

    • notpeerreviewed says:

      Well, they sort of are: They’re pointing to a sample of pre-modern agricultural societies with no access to reliable birth control. Which isn’t necessarily any more representative of a theoretical modern polyamorist society than Bay Area nerds are.

      My experience as a Bay Aryan polyamorist whose circles include both nerdy and not-especially-nerdy-by-Bay-Area-standards polyamorists is that polygyny doesn’t show up much in the latter group either. I have seen one common polygyn-ish failure mode, though – guys with no connection to polyamorist communities who describe themselves as “polyamorous” to their OkCupid dates but are actually cheating on their wives.

  38. spinystellate says:

    I found this to post to be fairly unconvincing for many of the reasons stated above, but it had one interesting unintended consequence that I’d like to share.

    I typically think that “exploitation” is sort of over-rated as a concept, and that “consent” almost always works out. But after reading some of the comments here suggesting that polyamory could lead to exploitative relationships (where the woman has multiple partners and the man doesn’t like it but feels like there is nothing he can do about it), something clicked and now I can see more clearly how “exploitation” could apply to other relationships outside the context of this whole discussion. It also made me even more sympathetic than I already was to abused spouses, who technically have the option of leaving but who may just be in a terrible situation with no good options.

    So by seeing how a norm I take for granted, monamory, might be preventing hypothetical exploitation, I am also now more able to see how other norms (some that exist, and some that could exist) might prevent other forms of exploitation. So in summary, the high strength of some of the right-leaning counterarguments to this left-leaning blog post paradoxically made me move slightly left.

    • Allah says:

      Me too. Maybe it’s because I can identify more strongly with the average Western male than the “exploited” garment workers in Bangladesh. To make me take that exploitation argument seriously, you will do well to first make me feel what exploitation might be like with me being the exploited.

      I’ve noticed too that right wing arguments have moved me to appreciate the lefty point of view much more than lefty arguments have. Another example: the kind of genetic determinism espoused in Murray’s The Bell Curve made me appreciate the welfare state a lot more. This is despite the fact that I read a different book arguing against the welfare state.

      • tmk says:

        Interesting, thanks. I’ll have to go think if there are examples of the reverse: Where a notionally “left” argument helps me appreciate a different “right” argument.

      • simoj says:

        Not too paradoxical: though it’s probably fair to lump Murray in with “the right”, he is pretty sympathetic to the idea of substantial social assistance. (Especially via UBI.)

        • Aapje says:

          My perception is that Murray is very progressive.

          • Murray clearly is not a hard core libertarian or conservative. Judging by his first book, Losing Ground, he started out as a supporter of the War on Poverty, was involved with it, concluded that it was a failure at its announced purpose, which was to get poor people to no longer be poor, and had been converted into a program to make being poor less unpleasant.

            I think he’s intellectually an independent, following out lines of argument that he finds convincing. I only read part of The Bell Curve, but it seemed to me that the central point, which had nothing to do with race, was that modern institutions were producing a society in which the spread of ability was wider and the correlation between ability and status closer than in the past, and that that was likely to produce very undesirable social effects.

            That’s neither a left nor a right nor a libertarian position–but it might be correct.

  39. Sniffnoy says:

    People who said they were “unsure” whether they were poly or mono were more likely to be single than people with either style (70% of unsure men and 58% of unsure women).

    I mean, if you think about why someone would check “unsure”, this seems pretty unsurprising.

  40. fahertym says:

    What are the other major poly populations besides “weird nerds”? My completely conjectural/anecdotal guesses:

    – Wealthy urban socialites
    – Hard cultural/political leftist college kids and 20-somethings
    – Very poor populations with such high rates of out-of-wedlock birth and infidelity that polyamory is the de facto norm
    – Wealthy, psychedelic-loving, party-every-weekend club kids
    – Culturally-left libertarians
    – Mormons! (At least a a small subsection of fundamentalists)

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Most of the Islamic world.

      • fahertym says:

        True, I guess I was thinking in the American context.

      • Alexandre Zani says:

        That is a very different situation though. The islamic world is explicitly polygamous. It’s not ok for a woman to have more than one romantic or sexual partner. (And often harshly punished.)

        • ashlael says:

          Also while polygamy is allowed, it’s relatively rare in practice.

          • Anonymous says:

            IIRC, it’s about 5% Muslim men in polygamous marriages. (The more interesting statistic, which I’ve been unable to find, would be the percentage of Muslim *women* in polygamous marriages.) Muslims are permitted up to four wives. Let’s suppose that the average polygamist has 2.5 wives, that’s reasonable, right?

            That would indicate that in a village of 1000, there would be about 25 polygamous men, and about 63 polygamous women. That’s almost 9% of the population. I’d argue that the better word is “uncommon”, not “rare”.

          • Tarpitz says:

            About 7% of the cards in a Magic: the Gathering booster pack are rare, vs. 22% uncommon, while the chance of encountering a monster in an area where it’s rare in AD&D 2nd Edition is 11%, vs. 20% for uncommon. So extremely nerdy hobby usage is with Ashlael, whether Wizards of the Coast are involved or not…

          • ashlael says:

            I’m perfectly happy to substitute “uncommon” for “relatively rare”. My essential point is that a supermajority of relationships are monogamous. This probably has something to do with the strong Muslim stigma against having “favourites”. The polyamourous concept of “primary” and “secondary” partners doesn’t map well onto Islamic conceptions of polygamy.

      • John Schilling says:

        Most of the Islamic world.

        Polygamy legal in most of the Islamic world, but discouraged and rare in practice.

    • Wokely Carmichael says:

      Just anecdotally, the promiscuity of wealthy urban socialites a la the Mailers or Fitzgeralds may be a thing of the past. Starting in the 70’s, concurrent with the liberalization of divorce, there was a significant rise in disapproval of adultery, especially in the most educated classes.

    • adder says:

      The intentional communities movement has an over-representation of polyamorous individuals.

    • herbert herberson says:

      I have working class acquaintances from high school (basically, juggalo-adjacent) who are into swinging. I don’t know how common it is in that kind of context, but I bet it’s a lot more common than some people might expect.

  41. I would not be willing to “believe” any result of a SSC survey, if believing the result means believing that the result is a good representation of people in general.

    • ashlael says:

      I agree with this comment. Equally, I’m not at all convinced that any amount of information about how polyamory functions as a small subset of the population tells us anything meaningful about how it would function as a mainstream social construct.

      • Stationary Feast says:

        …to say nothing of how well it works among people who raise children, and how well the children turn out.

  42. Alexandre Zani says:

    The articles you reference above make the mistake of considering women to be passive objects in the play, while at the same time arguing that lots and lots of people want access to something they control. (sex with them) This contradiction is necessary in order to make the argument they make, but as all contradictions, it needs to be addressed.

    Because women get to decide whether they want to have sex with you or not, they can decide that they don’t want to be limited in their ability to seek out sexual partners too. And a lot of them do that. I know of a lot of people who started out with a “One Penis Policy” or one of those silly “We can both date women, that’s fair right?” which exploded in their faces because the woman decided she didn’t want to be unilaterally restricted in her dating and sexual choices. (I also know people who consciously negotiated the boundaries of their relationship such that the woman dates only her male primary partner, but that is the exception, not the norm)

    The poly men I know who have many sexual partners do not stop their sexual partners from having many sexual partners themselves. The men who do impose such limitations on their partner tend to have very few relationships outside of their primary relationship. It’s just not feasible to all by yourself satisfy the sexual needs of more than 2 partners and have a job and a life.

  43. Mengsk says:

    I think there’s another thing– if single people are defaulting to monogamy and Heartiste’s theory is true, you’d expect that only the relatively alpha men to identify as poly-amorous, since they’re the ones who have a shot at multiple partners. This would result in the poly population skewing female, which is exactly what your data shows (poly population is ~30% female, while the monogamous population is only ~10% female).

    Of course, this would also be explained by the source; SSC probably appeals more to poly women than non-poly women. But here we’re bumping against the limits of our data set.

  44. registrationisdumb says:

    ITT Scott tries to morally justify his weird sex life rather than just accepting he’s got some weirdass fetish like the rest of us weirdos on the internet.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      It’s the sort of thing that cries out for an uncomfortable sci-fi novel rather than empirical claims on the internet.

      • Nornagest says:

        Uncomfortable sci-fi novels (well, novellas) have already been written in this community; I don’t think we need any more.

        • Evan Þ says:

          Like Scott said about Royal California way back when, a halfway-decent sci-fi novel is often better than an empirical argument from bad data.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I wasn’t thinking halfway-decent, I was thinking a Heinlein novel about incest, or Gor.

          • Nornagest says:

            Hey, I read one of the Gor books on a whim a while back. It wasn’t as bad as I was expecting; a little kinky, yeah, but fundamentally a perfectly reasonable adventure story with some anthropology thrown in for flavor. Late-period Heinlein was preachier, though he was also a better writer.

            Maybe they get worse later in the series, though.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Nornagest, I’ve never read them (and don’t really want to), but according to someone on an earlier thread here, they do get worse later. A lot worse.

            @Le Maistre Chat, I’d guess that any hypothetical Scott novel would be at least halfway-decent. And not all the Heinlein novels with weird stuff are bad; look at Cat Who Walked Through Walls or Door Into Summer.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest: we had a long discussion about this in an IT months ago. Tarnsman of For was a perfectly fine adventure story, not as good as Edgar Rice Burroughs Mars but with some more logical worldbuilding that takes through Priest Kings of Gor to develop.
            One woman I know found the asides about gender roles already offense and long-winded by then. It got worse, especially when the author replaced Cabot (Cabot!) With a female protagonist whose story is, so I heard, all software torture porn rather than an adventure.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Le Maistre Chat

            I’m assuming that your autocorrect has replaced “softcore” with “software” but now i’m imagining what “software torture porn” would actually entail/look like.

          • Nornagest says:

            I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream?

          • Aapje says:

            @hlynkacg

            I assume that the chapter is written in Brainfuck.

          • random832 says:

            @Aapje

            Brainfuck is at least a “sane” language, with sequential execution, normal flow control constructs, no self-modification etc.

            Try Befunge or Malbolge.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Brainfuck actually strikes me as being reasonably intuitive. Maybe my brain is already fucked.

          • Maybe they get worse later in the series, though.

            (about Gor novels)

            I haven’t read all of them. My impression is that Norman was a pretty good story teller, although not in Heinlein’s class, with a good deal of information on various past societies that he used for world building. The problem was that, as the series went on, he did more and more preaching about his somewhat unconventional ideas, which got in the way of the stories.

            In some ways the best were the early ones, before it became entirely clear which side the author was on.

    • herbert herberson says:

      Really, it’s an argument between weirdass fetishists on both sides–Heartiste is just a hardcore D/s lifestylist with hilarious pretensions towards having any understanding of people outside of his scene.

  45. Wrong Species says:

    Let’s imagine that we can’t tell, a priori, whether monogamy or polyamory would be better for society. If you’re right, then we’re missing out on a more people having more fun in their life. If the anti-polyamory side is right, then we’re heading to a society categorized by a few men dominating over a multitude of women. The lonely men are going to kill themselves at alarmingly high rates. The women are going to be fighting each other just for a little attention and the kids are going to have fathers who don’t care about them. I’m not saying you should definitely switch over but this is really something you should think about before trying to completely revamp society.

    • Tedd says:

      … How could you possibly read this post as an argument for trying to completely revamp society? It’s rebutting an empirical claim about polyamory as practiced.

    • Ozy Frantz says:

      I think, in the absence of any big red “EVERYONE IS POLY NOW” buttons, the increased suicide rate, unhappiness of women, and uncaring fathers will be noticed well before everyone converts to polyamory. Indeed, this seems like a self-solving problem– if the women are fighting each other for a little attention, they will eventually realize they can get all the attention they like by becoming monogamous, and then the men will have no one to dominate over.

      In the meantime, poly people can write blog posts that point out that none of this appears to be happening.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Let’s say that democracy was not only imperfect but was empirically shown as substandard but we couldn’t absolutely prove this until now. It’s too late to turn back the clock now. How would we even get out of this form of government? At some point, a movement explodes to the point where reversing is non-trivial. There is a reason people talk about slippery slopes. Society is not a science experiments where you can simply adjust the variables. One thing can lead to another in complex ways, some more foreseeable than others. Maybe the women will realize the problems they’re facing. But sexual attraction isn’t rational. They’re still going to want the high status guy. It seems pretty naive to say this won’t happen when both biology and history are against you.

        • Ozy Frantz says:

          Wrong Species: The difference is that a country can either be a democracy or a dictatorship; you cannot have the same land be run as a democracy and a dictatorship and let people switch between governments depending on which one works better. (Ancapistan aside.) But before 52% of the population is poly, 50% of the population is probably going to be poly, at which point it is extremely easy for any individual woman who feels mistreated to say “poly men are fuckboys” and switch their dating site profiles to say “strictly monogamous.”

          • Wrong Species says:

            I don’t think that’s a stable equilibrium. They may complain about these “fuckboys” but if the have to choose between that and the nice low status guys, they’re going to choose the jerks. Like other commenters have said, ypu can see it already happening now.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            That’s assuming that the most desirable men will disproportionately become polyamorous which, mm, to put it lightly, does not seem to be true among actual poly people. (As the joke goes, polyamorists are, by and large, bi and large.)

          • Wrong Species says:

            Like other people have said, the current poly community is not representative of what society would look like. The closest analogue might be a college campus.

      • bbeck310 says:

        I think, in the absence of any big red “EVERYONE IS POLY NOW” buttons, the increased suicide rate, unhappiness of women, and uncaring fathers will be noticed well before everyone converts to polyamory

        Well…the increased poverty, unhappiness of women, and uncaring fathers have been noticed in lower class African-American populations for decades, and it hasn’t stopped those populations from abandoning marriage as a cultural norm. If anything, unwed motherhood is spreading among lower and middle class Americans of all races while the upper classes preach tolerance and practice monogamy when parenting.

        • hlynkacg says:

          Bingo.

          The point of being in a relationship isn’t just to get your balls drained or hole filled (we have apps for that), the point is stability, partnership, and hopefully kids. Posts like this one that drive home just how weird and alien the rationalist tribe is to me.

        • Ozy Frantz says:

          Poly people can definitely have stability, partnership, and children.

          The instability in lower-class African-American populations seems to me to relate to structural issues (such as high rates of imprisonment) that leave single motherhood as the best of a bunch of really shitty options. If your choice is “single motherhood” or “marriage to a person who is constantly in and out of prison”, then single motherhood looks like a much better option.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Poly people can definitely have stability, partnership, and children.

            Nobody said they couldn’t, but you must acknowledge that “stability, partnership, and children” are not what poly-advocates are selling here.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            (1) Some people have definitely mentioned the advantages to children of having 3+ people willing to have some involvement in their lives.

            (2) I don’t think poly stability, partnership, and children are actually that different than mono stability, partnership, and children, so there is a natural tendency to talk about what’s different rather than being like “if you are polyamorous, you may still give your husband a hug after he’s had a bad day at work and offer to let him talk about it.”

          • hlynkacg says:

            In regards to #2…

            It seems trivially obvious to me that increasing the number of peers in a group generally comes at the cost of coherence and stability unless a conscious effort is made to codify a unifying principal or enforce a strict hierarchy. Hence the old saw about “Too many chiefs and not enough indians”. Likewise if most people are “bad at relationships”, it stands to reason that increasing the number of people in a relationship increases the likelihood that someone in that relationship is bad at relationships. I don’t think it would be controversial for me to assert that finding 1 person who’s strengths and weaknesses compliment your own is a lot easier than finding 2 or more who similarly compliment each other as well as yourself. Furthermore, wide-spread acceptance of polyamory severely weakens the bargaining power of the stereotypical “dedicated dad”, so we should expect to find fewer of them in a polyamorous society than not.

            These are all factors against polyamory’s long term stability that I have yet to see a poly-advocate address. Protestations that there is nothing to worry about because your own relationship has yet to implode fall on deaf ears because you’re an outlier. My own experience is closer to Acedia’s.

      • Stationary Feast says:

        [T]his seems like a self-solving problem– if the women are fighting each other for a little attention, they will eventually realize they can get all the attention they like by becoming monogamous, and then the men will have no one to dominate over.

        That’s not how it’s playing out among the sort of women profiled in Jason DeParle’s American Dream. Their relationships straddle the line between serial monogamy and serial polygamy (do their boyfriends have other girlfriends at the same time? who knows?). If they insisted on monogamy they probably wouldn’t get laid ever again.

      • Aapje says:

        @Ozy

        if the women are fighting each other for a little attention, they will eventually realize they can get all the attention they like by becoming monogamous, and then the men will have no one to dominate over.

        Many people don’t just want attention, they want their partner to help with the finances/provide. The ability to provide has been deteriorating for the lower and middle class, while it has been improving for an elite.

        It’s logical to assume that people will trade off preferences. For example, they will probably put up with less attention when they get provided for better. So the logical consequence of increased income differences is that it becomes more attractive to partner with a high earner and to sacrifice other desires for that.

        As we know that men are far more willing to support a low/no earning partner than vice versa, the logical consequence is that there is a far greater ability for women to get into a polygamous relationship where a high-earning man will care for them; than vice versa.

        the increased suicide rate, unhappiness of women, and uncaring fathers will be noticed well before everyone converts to polyamory

        I don’t believe for a second that a significant number of people who believe in an ideal will be willing to admit that bad trends may be due to their ideals. That’s not how people work.

        For example, how many feminists are debating whether they might have the wrong solutions because women’s happiness has been going down?

        • allspoilersallthetime says:

          I haven’t seen any feminists debating whether they have the wrong solutions becaues of that paper. But I have seen (from linguists who may or may not be feminists) that the paper (or at least, the journalists who reported on the paper) is wrong to claim that women are less happy. Mark Liberman says:

          And I’ll ask a simple question: What fraction of graphically and statistically literate people think that the right way to describe the data summarized in that graph is “In postfeminist America, men are happier than women”?

          Jezebel snarks about it here.

          Echidne of the Snakes also discussed reader responses to the paper, but still fairly brief.

          • Yaleocon says:

            Liberman’s snark is cherry-picked and misrepresents the paper. It’s worth reading the full paper: http://www.nber.org/papers/w14969.pdf

            That still only leaves us with only one study; there is far more literature to contend with before arriving at a sure answer. Nonetheless, we should always remember that science is more trustworthy than science reporting, as turns out to be the case here.

      • Spookykou says:

        This sounds like you are saying coordination problems will always self correct?

        • Ozy Frantz says:

          I disagree that this is a coordination problem, as (in the stipulated situation) most individual women could get an outcome they prefer more by switching to monogamy. You don’t have to coordinate with anyone! You can just do it!

          In fact, if 80% of the women are with the top 10% guys, a woman at the 40th percentile could monopolize an 80th percentile man simply by becoming monogamous with him. So you’d have to assume that women are not only hypergamous but also idiots.

          • Spookykou says:

            I will admit that I found the ‘unhappiness of women’ portion of the argument to be the weakest/nonsensical and glossed over it, but if we accept it, then I concede that it is possible that women will self correct/defect. It is possible that the social status incentives for ‘playing the game’ outweigh whatever unhappiness Wrong Species thinks they will suffer.

            Most of the ‘poly is bad for society’ arguments in the rest of the comments include the idea that the women can and do get 80th percentile men on the side for emotional and financial support, that the biggest losers are low status men, and to some extent low status women. The scenario described by Wrong Species seems a bit idiosyncratic.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            I mean, Wrong Species is fairly accurately describing historical polygyny. The difference is that modern women have significantly more legal and economic independence from their husbands, and thus much more ability to say “you want me to WHAT NOW? fuck you, I’m leaving.”

            If women collectively prefer polygyny to monogamy, and men with lots of girlfriends also prefer polygyny to monogamy, I think this is less a “coordination problem” and more “an improved situation overall which has some losers” (assuming the losers can be satiated with World of Warcraft and porn).

            However, I don’t actually think that’s what’s going to happen. My guess about what would happen if polyamory is destigmatized is that maybe ten or fifteen percent of the population does it (maybe half if you count the monogamish), and it is if anything beneficial to the unattractive, as they can have secondary partnerships when previously no one was willing to date them at all.

          • Spookykou says:

            I don’t actually think that a change in social stigma around polyamory would change much, although I am not necessarily a huge fan.*

            In my thought process I did not go so far as to think that women would prefer polyamory, just that it would not be obviously bad for them. I imagine it would have some pros and some cons(in particular that the pros would be front loaded with regard to age, creating a separate coordination problem just between young and old women), and then, I also imagine low status men out number high status men, so on net society is worse off, thus coordination problem.

            The idea that removing the social norms against it will suddenly make everyone poly is strange though. It feels kind of like the people who worried that, once gay marriage was allowed, nobody would bother to marry women anymore.

            *My primary concern with polyamory is that I feel like it might hurt the social norms around cheating, and our current legal system is very preferential to women in the realm of cheating. So anything that degrades the norms around cheating hurts me(as a man) and my lack of interest in polyamory means that I get nothing from it. But this is a totally selfish concern.

          • Aapje says:

            @Ozy

            The difference is that modern women have significantly more legal and economic independence from their husbands

            A person will substantially improve their financial well-being if they find an equal or higher earning partner, which women tend to have a fairly strong preference for (men are far more willing to redistribute their income to their partner).

            As inequality in the West is increasing and women are earning more, the pool of mates they find acceptable is actually decreasing. Again, because women on average have a pretty strong bias to a well-earning partner, compared to themselves.

            it is if anything beneficial to the unattractive, as they can have secondary partnerships when previously no one was willing to date them at all.

            This is doubtful.

            It seems that on average, men have higher libido than women and thus, a more desirable and polyamorous man who has as much sex as he wants will ‘service’ more than 1.0 woman.

            If monogamous relationships are preventing very desirable men from having as much sex as they want, leaving women who are not his partner to have sex with less desirable men, then this benefits those less desirable men to have monogamy.

            This ‘there are no losers to monogamy’ mindset that you display is the sign of a zealot/Utopian thinker. Believing it requires that you think that the proponents of mandatory monogamy are wholly irrational.

          • allspoilersallthetime says:

            Spookykou says:
            May 18, 2017 at 6:00 pm

            I will admit that I found the ‘unhappiness of women’ portion of the argument to be the weakest/nonsensical and glossed over it, but if we accept it, then I concede that it is possible that women will self correct/defect.

            If the theory that polyamory will descend into defacto polygyny is correct, then it seems that women would be unhappy. Polygyny is bad for women, children and young men.

          • Spookykou says:

            @allspoilersallthetime

            As many others have pointed out, the full blown polygamy idea doesn’t seem very likely to me, given other conditions of our modern world. This is what Ozy means when they say that women could opt out of a transition to true polygamy.

            High status men might be able to convince a few women to be exclusive to them, but the clear and constant presence of slightly less high status men, and freedom of choice should make true polygamy unlikely.

            Basically my assumptions go like this, a society that is broadly polyamorous would have to construct a variation on legal marriage for poly people, I would imagine that these would be considerably weaker contracts, particularly with regard to financial responsibility for any one member for any other.

            Taking this plus the ‘vision of modern wide spread polyamory’ that I have seen here and most agree with(assuming everyone suddenly becomes poly), you basically get tiered relationships with high status men having ‘harems’ but the women in these ‘harems’ having several lower status side men who provide for them financially/emotionally, etc. Because this is the only way those men can get into relationships.

            Importantly, this favors young women and is terrible for older women. As described elsewhere, women are trading for commitment and men are trading for sex in the relationship marketplace. Currently this is a massive advantages for women in open marriages, because the mans commitment is already tied up so he has nothing on offer for casual sex, where as the woman has exactly what is on offer + no messy issues with her expecting commitment.

            However in a less strict financially binding poly alternate reality, it should be relatively easier for older men to reassign their commitment, and very few would have much cause to commit to the older women. Since I personally(and I suspect maybe women agree?) think the ‘stable loving life partner’ is the more important aspect of a relationship, this creates a, if not immediately, potentially bad situation for women. That would be difficult to resolve once inside the system.

            Of course all of this is just me navel-gazing at a hypothetical.

            Edit: It seems that vV_Vv lays out the same basic idea deeper down in the comments, sans marriage changes.

          • allspoilersallthetime says:

            Spookykou said: Of course all of this is just me navel-gazing at a hypothetical.

            Edit: It seems that vV_Vv lays out the same basic idea deeper down in the comments, sans marriage changes.

            Navel-gazing at hypotheicals is interesting though!. I think perhaps my comment was a bit irrelevant to what you were actually saying, in this case.

            I’m not sure that I fully follow your argument though, for example you say:

            women are trading for commitment and men are trading for sex in the relationship marketplace

            and

            you basically get tiered relationships with high status men having ‘harems’ but the women in these ‘harems’ having several lower status side men who provide for them financially/emotionally, etc. Because this is the only way those men can get into relationships.

            If men only want sex, and woment only want relationships, then why would the low status men be so financially/emotionally generous if all they get is a relationship and not any of the sex that the women are having with the high status men? And why would the women bother being in a harem if all they get is sex and not a relationship?

            this favors young women and is terrible for older women
            Isn’t this more true of serial monogamy than polyamory? When a monogamist man wants sex and his wife gets old and loses interest, he either has to suffer in celibacy or leave her to their mutual pain. But for the polyamorist, he can maintain his loving relationship with his wife and also have a side fling for mututal sexual satisfaction*. Wouldn’t that make everyone happier?

            *Maybe, or from the comments below maybe this wouldn’t be so easy for him! :/

            a society that is broadly polyamorous would have to construct a variation on legal marriage for poly people, I would imagine that these would be considerably weaker contracts, particularly with regard to financial responsibility for any one member for any other.
            This is interesting. Scott said something about not supporting marriage laws for polyamory below.

          • Spookykou says:

            not any of the sex

            This comes up in a lot of other post with people who are being hard on Poly but never from the self reported poly people. I assume the lower status men still get sex/companionship/other things from their relationships, also I think a major part of the ‘friendzoned’ concept is men willing to give up a lot of time and money into ‘friendships’ with women on the off chance that they will get to have sex with them. At least this has been my personal experience, where girls I have known have gotten men to do ridiculous favors for them, regularly buy them dinners, even offered them free rooms to stay in, all while they have no intention or interest in dating or having sex with the men.

            The idea is that men trade commitment for sex, which is why it is so hard for men who are in open marriages to find sexual partners while it is easy for their wives, their commitment is already spoken for. Keeping my assumptions about the poly world from before, the man can very realistically offer up his commitment(unlike the married man) to others because.

            1.) Younger more attractive women are more actively seeking secondary and tertiary relationships so the pool of women he wants to have sex with who want his commitment is bigger/better.

            2.) He has few or no legal barriers to making the switch.

            So the big thing the older women are losing out on, is the commitment and financial support, which it seems like it would be easier for men to constantly be moving to younger women. Obviously they can still probably find sexual partners pretty easily.

          • Aapje says:

            Men also regularly stay in sexless monogamous marriages, despite desiring sex, often for reasons involving keeping access to their children or for mere companionship or simply because they have been convinced that they have a duty to do so.

            I think that it is completely wrong to portray male and female motivation as a dichotomy or as having a single goal. The evidence is overwhelming that men and women have very much the same preferences, but not to the same degree. That difference in priorities is very important though and drives a lot of conflict and misunderstanding.

          • If the theory that polyamory will descend into defacto polygyny is correct, then it seems that women would be unhappy.

            A critical issue here is whether individuals belong to themselves in the context of getting married.

            Polygeny increases the demand for wives, since it allows some men to bid for more than one wife. That bids up the price of a wife, for conventional reasons. If the price is received by the father in the form of bride price, that’s a benefit to him. If the price is received by the wife in the form of more favorable terms of marriage, it is a benefit to her. The former is more likely in traditional African societies, the latter in modern developed societies.

            I discussed the issue in more detail in a chapter of my Price Theory.

  46. Jack says:

    Poly women are much more often bisexual than poly men. This could throw off your interpretation of the numbers somewhat. That said, the two “narratives” you cite don’t seem like worthwhile places to start a conversation, given they both bare-facedly substitute uncritical assumptions for any attempt at finding facts. There are people who actually study these things. (Not many!)

  47. cthor says:

    There’s a big sampling bias problem:

    1. LW and SSC survey respondents are not representative of the general population. What is or isn’t socially adaptive for them might be maladaptive for the general population.
    2. The LW-SSC memeplex has a huge gender imbalance (10:1 m:f), and since they’re more likely to partner with each other than the general population, this will skew the data massively.

    45% of the mono men in the sample were single, suggesting polyamory doesn’t hurt low-status men’s chances of getting a date.

    I think you’ve got the relationship backwards. Low-status men won’t identify as poly because they think it’s bad for them.

    Here’s my interpretation of the data:

    The LW-SSC memeplex encourages ideas which lead to a higher than normal rate of both polyamory and singles. I assume consequently that SSC respondents have a much lower than normal rate of parenthood. (Would be nice to have data on that though.) The closest proxy is the marriage rate at 28%, much lower than the US national average of ~60%. (Can’t find any data to correct for age though.) This is in my opinion bad news and maladaptive.

    Encouraging low-status single people to adapt to poly (or even to accept it as not bad for them) is a typical mind fallacy. 43% of SSC are single! They can’t even get one partner, and you’re asking them to get rid of the only socially acceptable mate-guarding technique.

    If some supporter of theirs wants to tell me what I have to do in the next SSC survey to get results that they’ll be willing to believe, then let’s talk.

    Poly is not currently the default, and we’re trying to figure out what the societal consequences would be if it were. This is probably the biggest Chesterton fence in our society (e.g., see What Is the Male Marriage Premium?) and until we fully understand it, I’m very cautious about tearing it down. Surveying self-selected SSC people and using that data to decide what that means for everyone else is sort of sketchy, or at least nowhere near sufficient evidence to tear down the fence. I think it would be sufficient data to inform unsure SSC people.

    You have to correct for a bunch of things that confound for “sexual success”. At the very least: age, IQ, education, income, race, height, and weight.

    Status and physical attractiveness also confound, but self-reported values for those probably don’t map well to reality. Sexually unsuccessful people probably underrate their own attractiveness. Are there any good quantifiable proxies for these?

    A question “Why are you not poly?” for non-poly people could help determine in which way the “poly men are single less than mono men” relationship goes.

    “How many biological children do you have?” would be interesting, though probably also depressing.

    Is age (or date/year of birth) not in the survey to avoid making the data too personally identifiable? What about having age brackets?

    • makoyass says:

      As a polyamorous person, I generally agree with this.

      (Re: Poly men are less likely to be single) I think you’ve got the relationship backwards. Low-status men won’t identify as poly, because they think it’s bad for them.

      There is no way I would have become poly if I wasn’t surrounded with evidence that A: I will get love. I wont be one of the ones who gets neglected, becomes a Disaffected Male and starts tearing at the seams of society like a mink stuck in a bag, B: There exist men who I wouldn’t mind sharing a home with. Both of these realizations are going to be a product of being in a pretty good place in life. A, for obvious reasons. B, because it’s basically the definition of being surrounded with reliable allies.

      (Generally, I do think we can probably come up with institutions to support polyamory for the masses that wouldn’t just collapse into polygyny like it did in most societies, that’d be beneficial to social cohesion and child rearing, though I haven’t thought in depth about what those institutions would be yet. Some taboos about house sex ratios and reproduction decisions would be a good start, I think.)

  48. Rationalist poly groups can’t possibly be representative of a generalized cross-demographic concept of polyamory.

    Outside of your rationalist survey data, empirically as far as I’m aware (am I wrong?) most poly societies of any sort result in high status men having on avg 1+ women.

    • Tedd says:

      Posted this above, but the fusion dance community is about as poly as the rationalist community while not being the same kind of weird nerd, so it makes a useful comparison.

      The (straight or bi) high status poly men in the fusion scene do indeed have >1 female partner on average, but this is true for the women as well, and everyone’s partners tend to have partners other than them. I’m not aware of any “harems”; the modal poly network is an approximately-bipartite graph (some non-straight relationships; disproportionately many of these among women) with average degree ~2.5.

      I’d certainly buy that this is unusual historically – I don’t think that’s in dispute. But poly as practiced today could not really have existed before birth control (and to a much lesser extent paternity tests), so I don’t think comparisons to pre-birth control societies are going to be that useful.

      • Ralf says:

        How old is “fusion dance” and what exactly is it?

        And how do children factor in? Are romances strictly relegated to that, and people still choose to have kids with the more stable/long term life partner, or is it patch work families?

        • Tedd says:

          How old is “fusion dance” and what exactly is it?

          It’s a style of social partner dance. Grew out of blues, west coast swing, lindy, and tango, mostly. It’s hard to say exactly how old it is, because these things do not evolve in discrete steps, but 15 years is a good guess, with the first 5 being very adolescent.

          And how do children factor in? Are romances strictly relegated to that, and people still choose to have kids with the more stable/long term life partner, or is it patch work families?

          People almost exclusively have kids with a single long-term partner. Often other partners will help out raising the kids in the way that a particularly close aunt or uncle might.

          That said, it skews pretty young: median age perhaps 27. So kids are fairly rare.

  49. Le Maistre Chat says:

    This counter-argument to NRO and Heartiste is so weak that I’m confused why you posted it.

    If you’re emotionally committed to Bay Aryan polygamy, it’s understandable to be annoyed by articles criticizing it, but they’ve got the Big Data called history and anthropology on their side.
    I mean, you do know that of the 1,231 societies listed in the 1980 Ethnographic Atlas, only 4 have polyandry, right? Do you think there’s a basis in universal human psychology for that? If you believe psychology is reducible to evolutionary biology, do you think Bay Aryans have diverged into a race whose polygamous behavior will produce gender equality rather than polygyny and the sort of patriarchy (not to be confused with Christian patriarchy) documented to follow it? Do you want the law to recognize Bay Aryan polyamory, and if so, what consequences do you expect from men of other races being able to have multiple marriages?

    • wiserd says:

      Traditionally, marriage has been consonant with ‘having kids with someone.’ I’m not sure that applies to most poly relationships.

      • Svejk says:

        If current poly arrangements are less likely to include reproduction and childrearing, then they have even less predictive power for a society where polygamy is a norm.

  50. publiusvarinius says:

    You’re misunderstanding Heartiste’s argument. He’s saying that low-status will be included in poly relationships, but only to help provide for the kids of the high-status men involved in the relationship, while not being allowed to father their own children. If polyism becomes mainstream and the overwhelming majority of women will belong to a polyist relationship, low-status men will be forced to choose between being abused in such a way and not getting any “action” at all. This is the usual “cuckolding” hypothesis popular in Heartiste’s circles, taken to its logical conclusion in a poly world.

    But even with your interpretation, the method of analysis is still wrong. In a world with 10 poly men, 1 poly woman, 10 mono men and 1 mono woman, such that

    1. the 3 highest-status poly men are in a relationship with the sole poly woman;

    2. the highest-status mono man is in a relationship with the sole mono woman;

    3. and nobody else is in a relationship;

    you would conclude that 70% of poly men are single and 90% of mono men are single, so poly doesn’t hurt low-status men. This is a complete non-sequitur: one simply cannot extract any evidence about low-status men’s chances of getting a date from these percentages.

    full disclosure: I don’t think either of NR or Heartiste is 100% correct, but I do think there’s enough evidence that more widespread polyamory leads to a crapsack world to resist it on consequentialist grounds.

    • Svejk says:

      I think Heartiste tarts up his argument with images of alphas and omegas and harems because that’s his thing, but society can expect poor results for openly-tolerated polygamy even in less extreme mate-hoarding scenarios. All it takes is for women on average to exercise a preference for the more-charismatic dentist to the boring accountant, or for both over the shelf-stocker, for many men to have a less rosy reproductive future. Likewise, trying to split a (male or female) dentists’ salary and attention among multiple households can lead to reduced material and emotional well-being. It’s not necessary to envision a Mike Tyson/Larry Ellison Super Harem Team Up to see that monogamy has egalitarian aspects that can be enjoyed by both sexes at various social statuses.

  51. Nabil ad Dajjal says:

    Not to be a dick, but the experience of poly you’ve described having before casts your statistics in a different light. One more supportive of Heartiste’s characterization than yours.

    If a guy has multiple women ‘partners’ whom he never has sex with, and who are themselves having sex with other men… how is that any different from being left out in the cold exactly?

    The guys answering that survey might have one or even two partner, but I’d bet figurative dollars to donuts that they’re not getting half as much attention as they would in exclusive relationships.

    • Ozy Frantz says:

      I don’t think it requires some enormous conspiracy to figure out why an asexual man does not have sex very often.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Wait, Scott doesn’t have sex? I had missed this fact.

      • Ralf says:

        AFAIK he does have sex, it just is not the most important part for him in a romance.

        (God, it is a bit weird that strangers talk about such private stuff?)

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          It sure is. It’s also a confusing definition of “asexual”. Any of Arthur’s knights may have valued other things in a romance higher than sex, but I would only call Galahad asexual!

    • ravenclawprefect says:

      This survey of 4,000 poly people rates polyamorous men as 25% higher on a 6-point scale of sexual frequency than the GSS does for the general population.

    • Reasoner says:

      Not to be a dick, but the experience of poly you’ve described having before casts your statistics in a different light. One more supportive of Heartiste’s characterization than yours.

      Have you seen all the high-status people who link to Scott’s blog? Have you noticed that people gather to meet him when he announces that he’s going to be visiting a particular city? If that’s not alpha, what is?

      I’ve noticed that red pill people are really good at twisting their theory so it’s able to explain any possible piece of evidence. “Alphaness” becomes a circular definition wherein if you don’t get laid, the only possible explanation is that you are insufficiently “alpha”.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        So by your reasoning, David Sedaris is an alpha male?

        One of the unfortunate legacies of Robin Hanson here is the idea of a single global status ladder. There are many traits which will win you great acclaim in society at large but which will never arouse women. The original concept of the beta was of a mensch more than a schlub: he’s nice and financially secure but just not appealing at all.

        Anyway, my point wasn’t about trying to be alpha so much as the fact that these poly ‘relationships’ seem to involve a lot of sex for the women and little or none for the men. Doubly so since, pre-Topher, both sides had their own blogs and we got to see just what a stark difference that really was.

        • Ozy Frantz says:

          Can you tell me what your evidence for this is other than one asexual man who has never, as far as I know, specified how much sex he has in public? (Which, like, why would he, that’s super-creepy.)

  52. meh says:

    I’ll wager alphas just don’t like taking surveys.

  53. synecdoche says:

    I would suggest that the survey data is too unreliable to extrapolate into wider social trends. Even setting apart self-selection, the number of polyamorous people in the United States today is vanishingly small and unrepresentative. (By definition, they are self-selected sexual vanguard.)

    I think it would be more reliable to look at cross-cultural comparisons and historical examples of polyamory. These examples I think would be much more supportive of the scenarios suggested by Heartiste and NRO. Both in history and in modern culture outside the US, there are many instances of societies that create widespread patterns of one man having socially-sanctioned sexual relationships with multiple women, but few with widespread patterns of one-women/multiple-men or multiple-women/multiple-men. From Wikipedia’s entry on polyandry:

    Of the 1,231 societies listed in the 1980 Ethnographic Atlas, 186 were found to be monogamous; 453 had occasional polygyny; 588 had more frequent polygyny; and 4 had polyandry.[4] Polyandry is less rare than this figure which listed only those examples found in the Himalayan mountains (28 societies). More recent studies have found more than 50 other societies practicing polyandry.

    Historical and non-US cultural patterns won’t necessarily recur in the United States if polyamory becomes more accepted, but I know which way I would bet.

    Having lived in China and seen SE Asia up close for a decade, I would add two points from personal observation:
    1. Patterns where a few “alpha” men have multiple women partners also gives rise to flourishing prostitution to service the many unlucky “beta” (“gamma”?0 men that can’t find stable partners.

    2. The affects on society are quite pronounced, even for very small numbers. Just a few percentage points of disaffected young men that want, but can’t find, women partners can cause a surprising amount of trouble.

    As a moral matter, I am strongly in favor of more tolerance and acceptance of polyamory and other non-traditional relationship structures. But my support is based on moral principles in favor of freedom and allowing people to shape their own lives. I suspect that Heartiste/NRO have a better predictive case about the outcomes of more widespread polyamory, and it seems to me that strict utilitarians should be in favor of restricting/not tolerating polyamory.

  54. nydwracu says:

    Weird nerds aren’t a representative sample of the population, and I’m not convinced that it’s possible to gain useful insight about the population by sampling weird nerds.

    PS: Remember when Cletus Coorslight and Theocrat von Rushdoonsky were like “if gay marriage, then polygamy” and respectable society was all “haha no, you worthless inbreds, slippery slopes don’t real”?

    • Eponymous says:

      I think history shows that slippery slopes are very real. Only we look back and call it the march of progress.

    • Stationary Feast says:

      I came by to say just this, and nydwracu beat me to it. I wouldn’t wager that, if polygamy were legalized or if recognition of polygamous relationships were made compulsory by the state, polygamous unions would generally be mostly like it’s done in the Bay Area. I’d figure that most poly relationships would be polygynous. Considering that almost nobody moves from a culture dominated by monogamy to a culture dominated by polygamy for economic reasons (especially when you compare it to the migration in reverse), I strongly suspect polygamy is deleterious meme.

    • meh says:

      Why is it slippery? Does the argument for one not apply to the other?

    • Everest Fuck says:

      Given that the general population does not in any case have a norm of healthy relationships, I would rather expect that your point is moot.

      PS: Remember when some unidentified logician from your favorite political coalition was like “if gay marriage, then toaster marriage” and respectable society etc?

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        Your two points contradict each other: you’re basically saying “Yeah, it did indeed play out the way the right-wingers feared, and it’s AWESOME. Also, it totally didn’t play out the way the right-wingers feared, and you’re crazy for thinking so.”

        • wiserd says:

          I’m not sure. There were claims that Same Sex Marriage would lead to pedophilia and bestiality. It hasn’t and it won’t.

          Will polyamory gain more formal recognition? Maybe. Did some critics of SSM predict that? Perhaps, but that wasn’t the biggest or most used bullet point in that discussion.

          At the most charitable to sexual conservatives, we could say “Sexual conservatives predicted four outcomes from the SSM slippery slope. We may get one of the four, or we may not. If we do, it’s the most socially functional of those outcomes mentioned.”

          • Anonymous says:

            There were claims that Same Sex Marriage would lead to pedophilia and bestiality. It hasn’t and it won’t.

            Oh, ye of little faith.

          • Evan Þ says:

            We may get one of the four, or we may not.

            I’m seeing polyamory as being in at least the same place, socially speaking, homosexuality was back in the early 2000’s. It’s probably better, because it’s riding off all the momentum generated by the gay rights movement. I would be very surprised if, in fifteen years, it wasn’t fully legally recognized.

            …to pedophilia and bestiality.

            I would be very surprised if bestiality laws survived their next test case.

            Pedophilia does have a strong opposition movement in parents, but… give it twenty years and then we’ll see.

          • wiserd says:

            “I would be very surprised if bestiality laws survived their next test case.”

            I’m skeptical that the illegality of bestiality is the primary reason people don’t engage in it. I’d welcome disproof.

            To be honest, unless we’re talking about zoonotic diseases, I really don’t care that much either way. It’s always seemed weird that, outside the whole disease issue, people are totally cool with killing animals and eating them but think it’s cruelty to have sex with them.

            As long as people are talking about uniform application of principles, do you think we could persuade social conservatives that they have to become vegetarians, or else the hoi polloi will all turn to bestiality? I’d guess that meat eating is just too well accepted for people to fall for such an absurd argument.

    • SUT says:

      The Susan Fowler incident at Uber was triggered by a Poly manager:

      On my first official day rotating on the team, my new manager sent me a string of messages over company chat. He was in an open relationship, he said, and his girlfriend was having an easy time finding new partners but he wasn’t. He was trying to stay out of trouble at work, he said, but he couldn’t help getting in trouble, because he was looking for women to have sex with.

      This is what polyamory looks like as it creeps out of artist collectives into mainstream society. Creepy [low-sexual-value] dudes using their [high-economic-value] to “get their’s”. Holding up a big sack of money and prestige to attract a women obviously still happens in monogamous societies. But once you make the marriage commitment, social expectations severely discourage this type of brazen solicitation in the everyday affairs of work, neighborhood, etc.

      • Ozy Frantz says:

        I feel like monogamous people also sexually harass people in the workplace.

        • gbdub says:

          True, but hitting on a married/committed person is stigmatized against in a way that hitting on an “available” person is not. There’s a reason “I have a boyfriend” is the stereotypical soft rejection for an unwanted approach.

      • Deiseach says:

        I disagree that the guy was poly, he was just a creep using the trendy variation on “my wife doesn’t understand me” and deflecting “but you’ve got a girlfriend, this is cheating on her” by blaming his girlfriend – “oh we’re in an open relationship but she gets more action than I do and so I can’t help hitting on my co-workers even though I’m trying not to” – A Man Has Needs, You Know.

        What that type of guy needs is a – well, I’ll let Sherlock Holmes take it away:

        “The law cannot, as you say, touch you,” said Holmes, unlocking and throwing open the door, “yet there never was a man who deserved punishment more. If the young lady has a brother or a friend, he ought to lay a whip across your shoulders. By Jove!” he continued, flushing up at the sight of the bitter sneer upon the man’s face, “it is not part of my duties to my client, but here’s a hunting crop handy, and I think I shall just treat myself to —” He took two swift steps to the whip, but before he could grasp it there was a wild clatter of steps upon the stairs, the heavy hall door banged, and from the window we could see Mr. James Windibank running at the top of his speed down the road.

    • Christopher Hazell says:

      I never understood the idea that legalizing homosexuality wouldn’t open people up to the idea of other legal marriage arrangements, but then, I’ve never been clear on what the problem with polygamy was, exactly.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        Legal polygamy (as in, marriage, not just polyamory) sounds really, really complicated in a way that homosexual marriage is not.

        I mean, divorce, obviously. The entire concept of in loco parentis is thrown up into the air.

        But also things like “when spouse A goes into a coma and spouse B wants to take him off life support but spouse C does not.” And so forth with every other privilege that marriage confers.

        • biblicalsausage says:

          When it comes to the really, really complicated factor, the default historical way of dealing with the issue is treating the polygynous marriage as a series of unbalanced individual two-way marriages. So one guy has three wives, but nothing’s going to get super-complicated divorce-wise because either (1) they can’t leave him, (2) they leave with nothing financially, or at the very least (3) they’re each married only to him, and not to each other. In old-fashioned western marriage, for the most part a woman didn’t own any of the marital property. Recently, we’ve been experimenting with the notion that both parties simultaneously own the property in a (monogamous) marriage, and that it should be split relatively evenly through a massively expensive and complicated adversarial legal process if either party wants to leave. It will be interesting to see what would happen if this new “everyone is equal and divorce is a giant lawsuit” model is applied to 3, 4, or 5 person arrangements.

          (PS. I’m not saying that allowing no-fault egalitarian divorce was a bad decision. I think egalitarian marriage makes sense, and people being able to leave if they want makes sense. I just see potential legal headaches ahead.)

      • hls2003 says:

        Polygamy actually has a much more valid historical claim to the term “marriage” than the same-sex variant. I find it weird that it is the lagging indicator. Personally, I think it’s attributable to a quirk of timing in religious decline. Polygamy got associated with Mormonism during a time when people cared enough about religion to really dislike the “cultists.” By the time that stigma faded, religion had receded so much from the public sphere that the historical / religious arguments in favor of polygamy (“Muslims do it, the Jewish patriarchs did it, it’s in the Bible”) hurt polygamy’s case more than helped it.

  55. temp3402 says:

    For poly men, 29% were single, 47% had one partner, 17% had two partners, 4% had three, 2% had four, and only 0.5% had five or more.

    For poly women, 8% were single, 44% had one partner, 23% had two partners, 15% had three partners, 8% had four, and 4% had five or more.

    You can’t compare these statistics. Assuming that everyone is heterosexual in these samples, the total sum of men in relationships has to equal the total sum of women in relationships. But the distribution of partners for poly women is right-skewed when compared to the distribution of partners for poly men; the percentages are higher in almost every category. Unless that 0.5% of poly men has an enormous number of partners, your own data proves that you can’t infer anything from it because it’s so shit.

    • Jack says:

      Actually, enough poly people are bisexual that these data are perfectly plausible. Your heterosexuality assumption is what makes it hard to understand. Heteronormativity ftw.

      • temp3402 says:

        The expected values are 1.035 and 1.87 [ed.: assuming ‘5+ = 5’]; were the number of men and women in the ‘community’ equal in size and had equivalent degrees of homosexuality, the expectations would be approximately equal. (Small departures in these assumptions will lead to small departures in equality.) Do you really think that this enormous discrepancy is better explained by a greater incidence of lesbianism and bisexuality amongst the women than by the data just being a really poor self-selected sample from a weird subcommunity where men badly outnumber women? (See also the response to @axolotl below.)

        • Jack says:

          To answer your question, yes. Men and women in the poly community do not have equivalent degrees of homosexuality. Women are indeed more than twice as likely to be bisexual. That said, I don’t mean to suggest that this data is perfectly representative of… anything really. Just that the heterosexuality assumption is even more wrong in this case than it usually is and plausibly explains most of the discrepancy.

          • temp3402 says:

            The LGBT population in the US is about 4%, and typically homosexuality is more frequent amongst men than women; for the purposes of the argument (absent any data about polyamorous women being gayer than polyamorous men) I think it was a reasonable simplifying assumption to pretend that only heterosexuals exist. Of course, the same argument holds if they’ve approximately equal degrees of homosexual behaviour. Do you have any statistics for polyamorous women being skewed in that way? It’d be interesting and informative—I’m always happy to narrow my priors!

          • INH5 says:

            The LGBT population in the US is about 4%, and typically homosexuality is more frequent amongst men than women

            Source?

            Most of the statistics that I’ve found indicate that in the US homosexual behavior is much more common among women than men. For example, this study found that 17% of women reported having “intimate same-sex contact” at least once in their life compared to 6% of men, and that 7% of women identify as gay or bisexual compared to 4% of men.

            Now, if you’re talking about exclusive homosexuality, the study did find that that seems to be more common among men – 2% of men identified as gay whereas only 1.3% of women identified as lesbian. But since we’re talking about polyamory, it seems to me that more general statistics are much more relevant.

          • Jack says:

            Source is this survey of the poly community, cited several times in this thread.

        • mayleaf says:

          Yup, as someone involved in the Bay Area rationalistsphere, I can confirm that more than 50% of the women I meet in this community are into women (ie they’re either bi or lesbian), and very few men that I meet are into men. This surprised me too and I’m not sure what causes it.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Well, rationalist women are disproportionately trans, and MTF trans-people are disproportionally into women, no? That could explain part of the difference.

          • Jack says:

            It’s the patriarchy! (And maybe also the extra fluidity of women’s sexuality.)

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            The new race’s pansexual mutation is on the X-chromosome?

            Fun fact: Helena Blavatsky, founder of Theosophy, claimed that the next human race would evolve in California.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            MTF trans-people are disproportionally into women, no?

            Which, frankly, makes me think that a lot of Blue Tribe trans is about awkward males trying to raise their Social (Justice) status rather than biochemical errors in-utero.

          • mayleaf says:

            @Whatever Happened To Anonymous: Even if I only consider my ciswoman friends in Bay Area rationalistsphere, more than 50% of them are bi or lesbian.

          • carvenvisage says:

            Have you tried attempting to figure it out?

            Because there’s at least two obvious reasons:

            1. When two women get intimate, nobody has to endure the exact diametrical opposite of what they naturally want, i.e. get literally fucked in the ass. On the other hand, lesbian sex is like heterosexual sex minus the penetration, so there’s no obvious reason a woman wouldn’t enjoy it if she enjoys heterosexual sex.

            2. Women are more appealing from a gender neutral perspective, the fairer and more graceful sex. (I think there might have been studies done that ‘prove’ this, but I wouldn’t trust that. I appeal to honest observation.)

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            1) I absolutely, positively assure you that there are many, many, many men who naturally want to get fucked in the ass. Straight ones even.

            2) Gay men do not have anal sex every time they have sex. It is possible to have a long and happy career as a gay man and never have anal sex.

            3) As someone who likes having a mouthful of pussy, I am pretty sure that you really have got to love pussy for suffocating on a mouthful of it to be a remotely appealing prospect.

            4) “Women are just inherently more graceful and beautiful than men” seems to be an opinion primarily popular among people who are attracted to women but not to men. I assume no bias is involved here.

            5) Personally, I think men are inherently fairer and more graceful than women, particularly if you control for the fact that most straight men wouldn’t be able to pull together a flattering outfit if they had Anna Wintour herself to help them. There’s a reason that Michelangelo’s David is famous as the epitome of human physical perfection, and not any of the innumerable Venuses.

          • carvenvisage says:

            Just want to reiterate before I address these particular points that it’s dumb to be surprised when men are less inclined to be fucked in the ass than women are to cuddle.

            1. The world is a big place, so there are many examples of all common pathologies. Doesn’t mean they are natural or good. Wanting to be dominated or put in a humiliating position is not natural, and it’s even more definitely not good. What’s natural is to want to be the most you can be, not to want to be reduced.

            2. The same isn’t true of PIV sex for heterosexual people? Feel free to prepend “On average, ..all else equal, in perfectly spherical cow land, which aims to reflect the nature of the practice rather than any particular individual case”. gay sex is way more of a departure for a male, from heterosexual sex, which we know most people like, than lesbian sex is for a female. Or for a less contentious point of comparison, from cuddling. A priori, expect more of the latter. (even considering higher male ‘libido’ or whatever)

            3. I disagree (do it for partner’s pleasure, breathe) but I also don’t understand what the point was.

            4. I’m pretty sure lesbian experimentation is more common and more casual than male, as well as (practicing) bi orientation. Afaik revealed preferences say that the view is popular amongst everybody, and you’re the one who is being biased by this being a stereotypical male thing to say.

            5. Granting that donatello’s david is the pinnacle of beauty for the sake of argument, Joan of arc being the greatest warrior/leader of all time doesn’t mean woman on average are as inclined to combat, competition, defence, as males. Obviously they aren’t. Same is true for males and “fair”ness. Also male variance is higher in many fields. | | | | If this guy lacks the good grace to even dress himself properly, that leads directly to his being less fair and reflects that he put less level up points into the practice of being fair and graceful, or adjective of your choice. In an unbiased outside view, who wins more often, the person who cares and practices or the person who doesn’t? Also people say and repeat all kinds of wrong things, like that shakespeare is good or that there’s a magical sky fairy who will torture you forever if you say his name, or that death note was good past the first few episodes.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            Lesbians don’t necessarily just cuddle when they have sex. Lesbians stick fists up each other’s vaginas. Sometimes two fists! (In fact, the existence of fisting is a very obvious sign that the lesbian porn you’re watching is for actual lesbians rather than straight men.)

            1) There are nerves in your butt. There is a thing called the prostate and having it stimulated feels amazing for most men. It is not about domination or humiliation (unless that’s your kink, of course), it is literally just the ass is a male erogenous zone for the majority of men who try it out.

            2) I still don’t understand why straight men can’t just get a blowjob if they feel so icky about anal sex.

            3) The point is that it is really hard for me to imagine a straight girl being willing to try eating a girl out. In the immortal words of Garfunkel and Oates, “I thought it’d be smooth and non-threatening or nonexistent like Barbie’s, instead it looks like a half eaten Beef and Cheddar in the garbage can at Arby’s.”

            4) Circular reasoning! “Women are more likely to have gay sex because women are inherently more beautiful, which we know because women are more likely to have gay sex.”

            5) Joan of Arc is not the greatest warrior/leader of all time. The only reason Joan of Arc is interesting to anyone is that she’s female, and otherwise she’d be another obscure warrior saint. Everyone you can make a real case for being the greatest warrior of all time– Alexander the Great, Sun Tzu, Miyamoto Musashi– is male, which is exactly what you would expect from the fact that men are more likely to be in combat in the first place. Also, I don’t think “greater male variance” is a good explanation for why a statue is hot, unless you’re proposing the novel theory that marble has DNA.

          • allspoilersallthetime says:

            Women may be fairer, but men are definitely more graceful. (My bias: I am a hetero woman).

            I think this is because men on average play a lot more sport and so have a better idea of how to use their own bodies. Men in motion is a beautiful thing. For example, if both sexes come to a fence, men are much more likely to casually leap over it with style and grace, while women awkwardly straddle their way over. This may be related to the average woman’s preference for silly shoes.

          • This discussion of which sex is better looking reminds me of a line of Mencken’s–that the female form divine, viewed from the side, is a drunken dollar sign.

            He is offering this as evidence of the intellectual superiority of women–men are so foolish they think women are beautiful, women do not think men are beautiful. Which is part of the theme of his In Defense of Women, which, like much of Mencken, is a lot of fun whether or not you find it convincing.

          • carvenvisage says:

            Joan of arc is the greatest warrior/leader of all time. Came from peasantry and near single handedly turned around a hopeless war and ousted invaders from her country.

            Alexander and that korean I think it was navy dude are probably in the same league. Or from the other side, Simo Hayha (500+ KILLS in a war, operating alone, not 60 duels in a kingdom that wasn’t even that martially-artsy in the first place), or even the top nazi ace in WW2 (but he’s disqualified), miyamoto musashi isn’t remotely close. Might as well declared brock lesnar the greatest warrior of all time. Sun tzu I don’t know, but I’m not aware of him doing anything to put him on a level with the others above, and his book isn’t that good so achievements is all I have to go off.

            And yeah the fact JoA was a women does give her points. It shows massive creativity and will on her part to go that route and massive competence to get away with it as a woman at that time, even on to top of everything else.

            re: “cuddle”, still talking about natures and averages here, not every last case. There’s no reason casually fooling around with your roomate has to lead to anyone getting fisted.

            1. You know what else feels amazing?

            2. still talking about the nature of the practice. In any case the example you gave has more or less the same problem as the original.

            3. Caring for a baby is infinitely more ‘disgusting’, but most people manage it just fine. It’s really not a big deal.

            4. While that doesn’t show that I’m right, it shows that your accusation of this being mere male bias is wishful thinking. -chicks think chicks are HAWWWWWT too. The people have spoken. Maybe the people’s choice doesn’t reflect reality, but it’s absolutely not just a male view that women are more attractive. Also, I mean, just go outside and have a look. Also, note that the ‘best looking’ guys have

            5. see #-1. Also if we’re admitting that it’s a statue, regardless of people usually being wrong when they repeat opinions because that’s what the ‘sophisticated’ people say, what a statue looks like has nothing to do with anything. I generously assume you use the statue as a proxy for brad pitt etc, so as to be making some kind of point. If your point is that michaelangelo happened to make a neat statue then that seems off topic.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Joan of arc is the greatest warrior/leader of all time. Came from peasantry and near single handedly turned around a hopeless war and ousted invaders from her country.

            No, she did not. Joan of Arc was important as an inspiration and rallying-point to her side, but the actual tactical command of the battles was carried out by the usual French generals.

          • John Schilling says:

            Joan of arc is the greatest warrior/leader of all time. Came from peasantry and near single handedly turned around a hopeless war and ousted invaders from her country.

            Interesting how “near single handedly” allows for the help of seventy thousand armed men, but never mind.

            Temujin came out of slavery and near single handedly conquered most of Eurasia. And for that matter, Hitler wasn’t exactly born to the Prussian aristocracy. I’m not sure what you’re trying to accomplish here, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t accurately assessing history’s great warrior/leaders.

          • carvenvisage says:

            Single handedly as in she was the sole fulcrum which swung the entire war around, much like hitler was a major but far from sole driver behind WW2. You either knew what I meant or would know if you exercised some basic reading generosity.

            Re genghis khan, it’s easier to build an empire from a strong position than it is to turn a war around from nowhere, as is getting in that position in the first place even if you have to unify warlike tribes first. And importantly she was a peasant at the time of the war, not just earlier in life. JoA>Ghengis on pure strength, though that wasn’t the metric. Also slave in monghol culture is probably a better preparation for war than peasant girl in christian france.

            Hitler wasn’t a general or a fighter but a prophet/policitian. And afaik he was also was also caught rebelling and got a pass because of his noble ancestry, when they should have cut his head off. If we’re including non fighters, maybe JoA is the second strongest, but Hitler is fucking hyperdisqualified for ‘greatest’. (also I know hitler was a war hero in WW1, but for trench running, not being in the thick of things like alexander or JoA. ‘standard bearer’ absolutely comes under warrior, trench runner is debatable).

            And you did see me disqualify erich hartmann right? Didn’t just ignore that? ‘greatest’ doesn’t just mean strongest, though I contend that JoA was *as well* (in the specified field. outside of it I can only think of hitler, and maybe that korean I think navy dude), it includes what direction you were fighting in too. Legacy and achievment are part of it.

            Yes, her contribution was more through inspiration and organisation than wading through the battle like sauron casting enemies aside, but war obviously isn’t just the actual cracking of heads.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            I agree with John Schilling and Mr. X. (Also, ugh, can’t believe I left out Genghis Khan.)

            I suspect that– on average and in the normal case– getting fucked in the ass is way more enjoyable for the average straight guy than eating a pussy is for the average straight girl.

            Most people– correct me if I am wrong– do not care for a baby in search of orgasms, so I am puzzled what application this has.

            No, I’m not using the statue as a proxy for Brad Pitt. (Brad Pitt’s pretty unattractive IMO anyway.) I am using the statue as a proxy for the long history of the veneration of the beautiful male form in art, from Adonis to St. Sebastian, from the Kritios boy to Cellini’s Narcissus, from Thomas Eakin’s The Swimming Hole to the works of Robert Mapplethorpe. It seems to me that whether artists (even those who happened to be heterosexual men) choose to appreciate the beauty of men is a far better measure than actors, who are often chosen primarily for being sexy, which is precisely not what we’re talking about here.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Temujin came out of slavery and near single handedly conquered most of Eurasia. And for that matter, Hitler wasn’t exactly born to the Prussian aristocracy. I’m not sure what you’re trying to accomplish here, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t accurately assessing history’s great warrior/leaders.

            Philip of Macedon inherited a situation even worse than Joan of Arc, his kingdom having been mostly occupied by the Illyrians and under attack from two sides. Not only did he manage to turn this around, he then went on unite the fractious Greek city-states for the first time since the Bronze Age, establishing a period of Macedonian hegemony that lasted until the Roman conquest. If he hadn’t been succeeded by the even more distinguished Alexander the Great, Philip would almost certainly be famous as one of the top generals of antiquity, and quite likely of all time.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @carvenvisage

            Hitler wasn’t a general or a fighter but a prophet/policitian. And afaik he was also was also caught rebelling and got a pass because of his noble ancestry, when they should have cut his head off

            What noble ancestry? His incredibly light sentence following the putsch attempt was the result of those trying him being largely sympathetic to his right-wing nationalism. It’s also more than a little bizarre to say that messengers weren’t in the thick of the fighting but standard bearers were.

          • carvenvisage says:

            @ozy, I think you’re crazy if you think that’s the case and you’re way overconfident to be proselytising the wonders of getting fucked in the ass based on whatever limited information you have/sample of probably LGBT and -adjacent people saying that it’s great, not just because of the insane selection effect of who is going to talk about it (somewhat relevant clip: https://youtu.be/LLWlBgj0uOc?t=1m), but also because a priori it’s pretty dangerous to be like ‘yeah this weird sexual shit, you’ll love it, (don’t worry it won’t fuck you up)’, instead of erring massively on the side of caution. *Not* getting fucked in the ass isn’t going to ruin anybody’s psyche or life, even if they’re gay- celibacy is a thing, but especially if they’re straight which is what we’re talking about.

            babys are just a disgusting thing that everyone deals with, no problem. If you want me to get kabbalistic then they’re both potentially disgusting things that have to do with the biology of sex that humans seem to be extremely good at being insensitive to anything to do with.

            re statues: didn’t you say that michaelangelo made many venuses? In any case there’s loads of confounding reasons why there might be more male statues (starting with self congratulatory cultures of men being da bestest), and in any case if you want to appeal to history you can also point to women having covering themselves to hide their dangerous beauty. And the topic is males now, not a thousand or thousands of years ago when they were expected to maybe go to war, hunt, do their own self defence enforcement, or arduous physical work. ‘Sexy’ isn’t “precisely what we’re talking about” but it’s closer to that than the opposite, given the topic. Anyway who cares about this statue, the real point is stop recommending people try getting fucked in the ass, dummy, its not safe. (or acting like it’s surprising when they don’t, which is basically the same thing writ small)

            _

            What noble ancestry?

            sorry, I might be misremembering, or read something false. He definitely got off easy though, whatever the reason.

            It’s also more than a little bizarre to say that messengers weren’t in the thick of the fighting but standard bearers were.

            no it isn’t. standard bearers are literally in the thick of things. Hitler did trench running behind friendly lines. Probably he did some insanely brave/loyal feats to get those medals, (running through area getting shelled maybe?) but it’s not just soldiers who can do insanely brave things in a war, so can spies, messengers, resistance members, etc. In any case Hitler is not renowned for his trench running in WW1, so whether it counts a ‘warrior’ job like standard bearer doesn’t need to be established for my point’s sake.

            _
            _

            Philip of Macedon inherited a situation even worse than Joan of Arc, his kingdom having been mostly occupied by the Illyrians and under attack from two sides

            Worse militarily probably but the dude wasn’t an uneducated and untried (christian) peasant girl.

            Also, cool, thanks for the reading-direction.

            _
            _

          • dndnrsn says:

            @carvenvisage

            sorry, I might be misremembering, or read something false. He definitely got off easy though, whatever the reason.

            He got off easy because the judges were sympathetic, and because in general the German establishment was far more worried about far-left than far-right insurrections. If you led a left-wing coup attempt, you’d end up dead.

            no it isn’t. standard bearers are literally in the thick of things. Hitler did trench running behind friendly lines. Probably he did some insanely brave/loyal feats to get those medals, (running through area getting shelled maybe?) but it’s not just soldiers who can do insanely brave things in a war, so can spies, messengers, resistance members, etc. In any case Hitler is not renowned for his trench running in WW1, so whether it counts a ‘warrior’ job like standard bearer doesn’t need to be established for my point’s sake.

            Being a trench runner was equivalently dangerous to being a front-line soldier, based on what I’ve read; it certainly wouldn’t have been less dangerous than being, say, an artilleryman (still dangerous). They were used well within the area that would be getting shelled during the fighting – several miles behind the front lines usually – and would be sent back and forth with advancing troops. Their job was necessary because communications wires got torn up by artillery fire, and because advancing troops would go ahead of the communications network.

            It is relevant to Hitler because his political persona was based in part as being an ordinary soldier, low-ranking (he was a rank that is probably best translated as “lance corporal”), decorated for bravery (but not incredibly highly – the Iron Cross first class was a lesser decoration than the VC or the Medal of Honor, to which it is sometimes erroneously compared, and the second class lesser still), but having faced the same dangers as the other front-line soldiers.

          • carvenvisage says:

            That’s very interesting (not being sarcastic, -thanks), but you can just replace ‘relevant’ for dispositive in my statement.

            Hitler was a pretty accomplished soldier (I wouldn’t say ‘warrior’ but it doesn’t matter), but he’s not known mainly for either of those things, so it doesn’t effect my point how you categorise him in WW1.

            and the point about him getting off light was john schilling implying he had it particularly tough, so for that point it doesn’t matter if they were pro nobility or anti left wing.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @carvenvisage

            It’s not what he’s mainly known for now, because what he’s known for now is “started the European part of the worst war the world has ever seen; committed genocide; arguable worst monster of history”, but in his time, it was a part of his political persona and his political appeal.

            If a politician runs as a good family man/woman, honest, decent, doesn’t take $$$ to give talks, incorruptible, returns constituents’ calls within 24h, and then once in office starts a nuclear war, they won’t get remembered for all that stuff, but it was part of their political persona.

          • carvenvisage says:

            that still doesn’t effect my point…

            he doesn’t fall in the reference class for the claim I made about joan of arc, so he can’t be a counterexample. most of his influence was not from being a soldier, but from movement building, speeches, etc, and only indirectly from parleying his experience as a soldier. I didn’t say that his history as a soldier did not contribute, so I’m not sure what you think you are contradicting. His earlier life is, as you say, greatly overshadowed by what he did later.

          • dndnrsn says:

            OK, that makes sense.

          • John Schilling says:

            Hitler wasn’t a general or a fighter but a prophet/policitian.

            You imagine Jeanne d’Arc made tactical decisions much beyond the level of “We will break the siege of Orleans without delay” or other Hitler-leve stuff? You imagine she ever killed a foe in battle? Her great contributions were those of the prophet/politician, and more literally so than Hitler on the “prophet” front.

            If charismatic leadership alone makes one a great warrior, then there were others greater than Jeanne. If one must actually fight, then she was no warrior.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Worse militarily probably but the dude wasn’t an uneducated and untried (christian) peasant girl.

            Again, though, Joan of Arc didn’t make any meaningful military decisions at a lower level than “Let’s take Reims instead of Paris next.” Actual military command was still exercised by French noblemen, just as it always had been.

            (Also, I’m not sure why you write “([C]hristian) peasant girl”. Are Christian peasants inherently worse commanders than pagan ones or something?)

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ozy, I think you’re crazy if you think that’s the case and you’re way overconfident to be proselytising the wonders of getting fucked in the ass based on whatever limited information you have/sample of probably LGBT and -adjacent people saying that it’s great, not just because of the insane selection effect of who is going to talk about it (somewhat relevant clip: https://youtu.be/LLWlBgj0uOc?t=1m), but also because a priori it’s pretty dangerous to be like ‘yeah this weird sexual shit, you’ll love it, (don’t worry it won’t fuck you up)’, instead of erring massively on the side of caution. *Not* getting fucked in the ass isn’t going to ruin anybody’s psyche or life, even if they’re gay- celibacy is a thing, but especially if they’re straight which is what we’re talking about.

            I don’t think this is a fair summary of Ozy’s argument. You originally claimed that getting it up the arse is diametrically opposed to what men want; Ozy countered that many men actually enjoy it. Now, whether or not her claim is factually true I’ve no idea, but it was quite clearly a factual claim about what men already like, not an attempt to “proselytise” to people who don’t want to try it.

          • carvenvisage says:

            to what males ‘naturally’ want. I find it extremely implausible that she or anyone else has priveleged knowledge about what drives people to such things, and a-priori the obvious assumption seems to be that when you put people in e.g. school and an otherwise imperfect society, you sometimes get lord of the flies and some young people will come out pretty broken. At which point I emphatically don’t think it’s acceptable to be floating these ideas around. (it’s normal, it’s harmless, it’s cute. It’s fucking SURPRISING that it isn’t happening.) No it it isn’t you fucking lunatics. Don’t be disorientated by the lack of.. [what I’ve laid out pretty directly already so I don’t need to repeat].

            (neither do I have special priveleged knowledge, but that’s why I make the low harm assumption instead of the blase ‘weird sex shit is cute harmless, proselytize it’ assumption. which is a ‘let them eat cake’ assumption in a culture which really hasn’t begun to solve problems of bullying domination or abuse, or allowing people to put others in their place and expect them to like it’, victims of which random targetting ‘designated losers’ are 100x more real ‘underpriveleged’ people than lets say your average woman.)

            So sure, I din’t need to use the word ‘naturally’, and then maybe the proselytising would have remained implicit, but neither did any of these kool aid drinkers need to pretend it’s weird that males around them aren’t offering up their dignity on the altar of feminism quite as much as they’d expect in this day and age. Your mind is so compromised if you find that disorienting.

          • carvenvisage says:

            Hitler is clearly in a different category- either religious or political or both. He’s reviled and casts a shadow from what he did between the wars, ascending to power, dragging a whole country after him in his madness, the world into war, and driving atrocities, NOT for military achievments in WW1, or even less so in WW2. The red baron would be more like a modern analogue.

            _

            Why is Joan of Arc not a warrior? A standard bearer is a combatant like any other. Their role aims the same as any other to faciliatate killing the enemy. Many accounts of the time place her on battlefields, close to the troops, and suffering injuries, so I don’t see the distinction.

            No one seems to have disputed that she was out there in the mud and the blood and the cold and the risk and the fear with everyone else, inspiring the soldiers to fight on and fight hard, and save their country from foreign invaders.

            None of her enemies seem to have accused her of said that she wasn’t a major inspiration or asset for the enemy, or that she was a mere figurehead or a fraud etc, rather they objected to *her* claims that she didn’t personally kill anyone. Also a cursory revisiting of wikipedia turned up a reference from the trial where she was asked questions about what orders she gave to the troops, so at least her enemies thought she was exerting direct control. (which she didn’t deny).

            So TL:DR you’re dead wrong to say she was “no warrior”. or pedantic

    • axolotl says:

      You’re ignoring the fact that there are differing numbers of men and women in a given subculture. If the poly communities that the respondents come from have 1.8 men for every woman, it works out (even assuming gay and bi people are a rounding error, which is unlikely here).

      The disparity is even bigger in the poll responses (more than 3:1), but it’s plausible that SSC readership is more gender-skewed than the communities that poly SSC readers date in.

      Of course, the large gender ratio is not going to be present in a hypothetical large-scale poly society, so that might affect some of the analysis. I’m not sure what sort of normalization you’d need to do to compare apples to apples here, or what underlying assumptions about poly dynamics that would translate to. It would make for an interesting statistics project.

      • temp3402 says:

        You’re obviously right that I was also tacitly assuming that the total number of women equalled the total number of men. I apologise and should have made that clear.

        But this doesn’t change the point. The expected values are 1.035 and 1.87 [assuming ‘5+ = 5’]; were the number of men and women in the ‘community’ equal in size and had equivalent degrees of homosexuality, the expectations would be approximately equal. Small departures in these assumptions will lead to small departures in equality. As it’s a massive departure, something is seriously amiss.

        As the point of the article is about the effects of polyamorism-at-scale, Scott’s data cannot bear on this if (1) the data come from samples of a ‘community’ where men badly, badly outnumber women, or (2) the data for men and women are just this skewed and not good samples (self-selection bias, differing interpretations of how to answer questions, etc.). (Even if polyamorous women in the ‘community’ are massively more likely to be lesbians or bisexual than polyamorous men are to be gay or bisexual—which would also explain the discrepancy in expectations—at the population level there are probably more gay and bisexual men than lesbian and bisexual women, so any such skew towards lesbianism (etc.) is yet another reason to give up on the data.)

        As for normalisations (or, more generally, the right way to model these dynamics): it’s a good question! But I think even a good answer to this good question wouldn’t be useful, given the data; a good model can’t save bad data.

  56. Urstoff says:

    The obvious problem here seems to be sampling and self-selection: the statistics are those who self-identify within an already idiosyncratic group. I don’t think the arguments against are “current poly people shouldn’t be so” but “if this were the cultural norm in society as a whole, these would be the consequences”. Your data doesn’t really speak to that latter hypothesis.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Spot on. Scott cannot validly infer anything about human society from his survey.

      • Wrong Species says:

        And he’s arguing against basic evolutionary biology too. In almost every species, the male is less choosy than the female and the exceptions are when males perform more parental care. Monogamy is just a cultural restraint on our inherent biology. Letting it loose would be opening a Pandora’s Box that would be difficult to close.

        • SchwarzeKatze says:

          Humans vary biologically. Selective pressures of environments have shaped human populations differently. Perhaps most humans tend towards a mild form of polygyny (as compared to textbook tournament species such as chimps and baboons). But there are humans that tend toward bonobo-style egalitarian polygamy (I think that’s the case of some poly people and some south american tribes work like this too) and then there are humans that tend towards monogamy like the Hadza (they have high levels of paternal offspring care btw).

          • biblicalsausage says:

            I would be very, very surprised if there is one South American tribe that has widespread egalitarian polygamy — i.e. where a person with multiple mates is about equally likely to be male or female, and in which the culture generally looks positively or even neutrally as polygamous people of both cultures.

            To put it bluntly, my guess is that either (1) no one will be able to name one of these tribes, or (2) it’ll wind up being like Margaret Mead, who saw sexual egalitarianism in a South Pacific culture, when later anthropologists coming along to look at the same group see girls getting stoned to death for not being virgins on their wedding night.

    • Dog says:

      I agree, I Kant imagine this would work as a cultural norm.

    • spinystellate says:

      This was my reading as well.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      Yeah. Game, set, and match, pretty much — this is a poll of a bunch of self-selected psychologically eccentric outliers within a group that is already a bunch of self-selected psychologically eccentric outliers.

    • meltedcheesefondue says:

      >This doesn’t seem compatible with NRO and Heartiste’s theory, but it’s also not great data. If some supporter of theirs wants to tell me what I have to do in the next SSC survey to get results that they’ll be willing to believe, then let’s talk.

      He’s not claiming it as decisive data; he’s claiming it as *some* data, which is more than anyone else has brought to the conversation so far. If the Less Wrong data had backed up the NRO/Heartiste theory, then I would have slightly increased my belief in it. Since it doesn’t I have to decrease my belief in it, at least to a small extent.

      • temp3402 says:

        Bad data is no better than no data. The flaws in what’s been presented are profound and should not affect your priors at all.

        • meltedcheesefondue says:

          Biased data is worse than no data. Bad data is weakly indicative, and much better than no data.

          Would you really have said the same thing if the LW survey had show the opposite of what’s presented here?

          • temp3402 says:

            I was vague; I apologise. When I said ‘bad data’, I meant: ‘data whose bias cannot be corrected’. I believe the data in the post fit that criterion. When I said ‘no better’, I really meant: ‘usually no better, except in those cases where the effect size is so large that it dominates one’s uncertainty about the bias’. (In the case that it is better: given large uncertainty about the bias, the effect should be a priori obvious and therefore it’d still barely affect the prior, so it’d still be hardly any better than no data.) Would you disagree with any of those claims?

            And, frankly, yes: I would have said the same thing had the LW survey shown the opposite. Bad data is bad data. I don’t have a dog in the fight. It’d actually be reassuring if prophecies of doom were convincingly falsified by solid, generalisable survey data, but self-described polyamorists are such a niche group that I’m not convinced that any survey data could be generalisable to the parent population.

          • Urstoff says:

            Weakly indicative of what? I don’t see how that data is relevant at all to the hypothesis “if polyamory were the cultural norm in society in general, widespread polygyny would be the result”.

            Of course, I don’t think the cross-cultural and cross-species data cited in support the hypothesis is terribly strong, but at least it is supporting the relevant hypothesis.

          • meltedcheesefondue says:

            @temp3402:
            >And, frankly, yes: I would have said the same thing had the LW survey shown the opposite.

            I don’t think you should have. Several people propose a hypothesis that polyamoury leads to polygyny, and then the first test we have of that, would show exactly that.

            But I think we’re quibbling between “a very small update” and “no update”, so it makes little difference in practice.

          • meltedcheesefondue says:

            @Urstoff:
            >Weakly indicative of what? I don’t see how that data is relevant at all to the hypothesis “if polyamory were the cultural norm in society in general, widespread polygyny would be the result”.

            Weakly indicative evidence against that hypothesis. Before modern polyamoury, most poly societies went for polygyny (though there may be a tribal/agricultural civilization divide). Now we have what seems to be a clear counter-example, and one that is more relevant to the debate in at least one aspect: it’s thoroughly modern (both in that it exists in the modern world, and is not based on any old tradition). It might not be proof of anything much, but it’s certainly evidence.

          • temp3402 says:

            @meltedcheesefondue:
            I agree that the ‘no update’ versus ‘extremely small update’ dispute is a quibble, and I’ll cede that it probably ought to be an extremely small update with the caveat that, on the level of beliefs, it’s impossible to distinguish between that and there being no update; in practice, the heuristic to abandon the data rather than waste time trying to incorporate it is, I think, a useful one, even if it’s not perfectly rational.

            I think where we more seriously differ is on whether the data can be used to test the hypothesis. I think we may even differ on what the hypothesis is: I think it’s “if polyamory were adopted at scale, then we would see polygyny more than we see polyandry”, not “for every polyamorous subcommunity, we would see polygyny more than we see polyandry”. My view is that the sample Scott has is essentially useless for drawing any inferences about polyamory being adopted at scale. I’m, of course, open to adjusting that belief.

            (I should add that it’s refreshing to argue amicably with people.)

    • Svejk says:

      The low-moderate income African-American community is probably a better model than Bay Area/LW Rationalists for what polyamory would like look if applied to the (heterosexual) wider US society. Polygamy/polyamory is tolerated in males, the sex with greater leverage in the mating market, and occasionally observed in women. Serial monogamy is relatively more common in women, and may be the more common pattern overall.

      The sex-patterning of polyamory in society at large will probably depend to a large degree on which groups have greater bargaining power in their respective mating pools. The NYT article suggest that certain demographics of low-status men can use polyamory as a hedge against abandonment/no monogamous mating opportunities because it is a relatively rare strategy, but that might change once high-status men can openly take multiple paramours. Monogamy has always been a sort of affirmative action for men. Polyamory may work very well as a frequency-dependent mating strategy, especially for women of all status levels who can enjoy their greater relative access to partners.

      My expectation from historical and cross-cultural observation is that polyamory would devolve into polygyny/polygamy for most of the population once it is established as a norm. Because of this expectation, I would prefer that polyamory remains a tolerated practice rather than a social institution on par with monogamous marriage. Polygyny/Polygamy is a very stable attractor state that appears to have a lot of undesirable social correlates.

      • meltedcheesefondue says:

        That example is possibly skewed by the male-female sex ratio among available african-americans. But I admit it is at least a bit relevant.

        • Svejk says:

          The African-American community has been a bellwhether for diachronic changes in US mating markets and social norms, but I agree with your point about skewed sex ratios. I think the key here is to identify the real vs theoretical mating pools for each demographic group and imagine how they might change under different regimes not just at the transition, but at t+1. It is possible that certain of polyamory’s current advantages obtain largely because it is a low-frequency non-standard strategy.

          For example, it has been suggested that women might be more willing to partner with low-status or ‘unattractive’ men in a polyamorous regime where they still retain access to high-status men. But when social norms change so that higher-status men can more openly mate-guard multiple women, this might change. And when women have greater access to ‘more attractive’ males under widespread acceptance of polygamy, rather than only the those males which choose to participate in a polyamorous sub-culture (plus the top and bottom social strata where tacit polygamy is practiced), they may concentrate on pursuing smaller numbers of more attractive males rather than retaining multiple relationships with less-attractive males. A situation of increased female choice may lead to increased female choosiness.

          • random832 says:

            But when social norms change so that higher-status men can more openly mate-guard multiple women

            A strong anti-“OPP” norm might be a workable defense against this sort of change.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think the arguments are, at least in part, “current poly people shouldn’t be so”. NRO starts with talking about how “nine of ten pictures for polyamory involve one man with multiple women” – I assume they haven’t found a way to take pictures of hypothetical future people. And since I don’t think there’s a “should all of society suddenly convert to being poly” debate going on, I assume they’re interjecting into the debate which actually exists.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Yes, that’s part of the argument material.

        But simultaneously, I think there is a debate going on about “should polyamory be socially accepted and recommended for you, Hypothetical Average Person Reading This.” On the one hand, rationalist-sphere blogposts are talking about how useful it is to Average Person; on the other hand, you’ve got NRO talking about the bad effects.

  57. gbdub says:

    Not polyamorous or particularly close to anyone who is, so I could be totally missing the point here, and I ask these questions in good faith out of curiosity.

    But how does a polyamorous person typically define their “partners”? Only people they actually have sex or other romantic engagement with, or everyone in their group? Would a heterosexual man in a triad with another man and a woman say he had one partner or two? What about the woman?

    What percentage of polyamorous people are gay, bisexual, or asexual? Probably much higher than the general population? If so that might also skew things.

    Do people in “open relationships” with a primary partner describe themselves as polyamorous on the survey? How do the partner numbers of those people map out?

    While the gender-swapped version of a harem of concubines might be rare, what about the other “failure” mode a Heartister might worry about: a “beta” male notionally in a polyamorous relationship with a woman who isn’t very sexually available to him, but relies on him for support while getting most of her sex from somebody else.

    There are some people that identify themselves as “involuntarily celibate” – are there people who are involuntarily poly? That is they’d prefer a monogamous relationship, but being part of a poly group is the best they can get? (uncharitably, basically cuckolds in the literal sense, but putting a fig leaf of “poly” or “open relationship” on it)

    Obviously that’s not the ideal or healthiest poly arrangement and may not be typical – but can it be said that never happens?

    • blacktrance says:

      But how does a polyamorous person typically define their “partners”? Only people they actually have sex or other romantic engagement with, or everyone in their group? Would a heterosexual man in a triad with another man and a woman say he had one partner or two? What about the woman?

      Typically, a partner is someone with whom you’re in a romantic relationship, but unfortunately there’s no consensus about the threshold for how much involvement counts as that. But only the people you’re personally involved with count as your partners – the heterosexual man in your scenario would have one partner, and the woman would have two (and technically it would be described as a V, not a triad, because not everyone is in a relationship with each other).

      While it’s not impossible that some polyamorous person is in one of your last two scenarios, I personally don’t know of any instances of that, though I do know of a case in which someone who preferred more hierarchical poly didn’t have that option.

      • xXxanonxXx says:

        While it’s not impossible that some polyamorous person is in one of your last two scenarios, I personally don’t know of any instances of that…

        This strikes me as one of those things that sort of obviously exists but will be notoriously difficult to detect. I recall a few years back a blogger (a sort of third string New Atheist) announced one day that he was polyamorous and his marriage was ending. He’d opened up to her about his needs and she decided to have a go at the poly thing only to discover after some time that she couldn’t make it work.

        Clearly she didn’t have a really choice in that situation, but her husband said she did. I don’t think she’d have contradicted him even if you asked her outright.

    • dndnrsn says:

      @gbdub

      While the gender-swapped version of a harem of concubines might be rare, what about the other “failure” mode a Heartister might worry about: a “beta” male notionally in a polyamorous relationship with a woman who isn’t very sexually available to him, but relies on him for support while getting most of her sex from somebody else.

      There are some people that identify themselves as “involuntarily celibate” – are there people who are involuntarily poly? That is they’d prefer a monogamous relationship, but being part of a poly group is the best they can get? (uncharitably, basically cuckolds in the literal sense, but putting a fig leaf of “poly” or “open relationship” on it)

      So, there was an NYT Magazine article about open marriages. One criticism (I don’t have the link; it was in Huffpo; it was by a woman in a couple profiled extremely briefly but not brought up) is that the couples in this article seem largely to be couples where sexual incompatibility was threatening to destroy the relationship, and opening the relationship – so maybe not the best image. (On the other hand, the article seemed positive – there have been various articles that seem to be kinda-sorta pushing open relationships in various upper-middlebrow publications like NYT Magazine, New York magazine, etc.

      Three bits jumped out at me that seem to fit what you’re saying, to some degree. (I’m aware there are differences of definition; let’s say there are people who are perhaps not-entirely-voluntarily in open marriages, at the vary least, whether you count that as poly or not).

      [couple where the man’s sex drive etc had been greater than the woman’s; woman is diagnosed with Parkinson’s; meets man at Parkinson’s-related event]

      Elizabeth did not announce that the friendship was turning romantic, but she did not deny it either, when Daniel, uneasy with the frequency of her visits with Joseph, confronted her. That she intended to keep seeing Joseph despite Daniel’s obvious distress shamed him: He was suddenly an outsider in his own marriage, scrambling for scraps of information and a sense of control. This was not at all what Daniel had in mind when he proposed opening the marriage. They had not agreed on anything ahead of time; they had not, as a couple, talked about their commitment to each other, about how they would manage and tend to each other’s feelings.

      “It wasn’t like we had a conversation about it,” Daniel said the first time I met him, in April 2016, when they were just starting to put that painful period of their relationship behind them. “It was more like: This is what I’m doing — deal with it.” We were at a restaurant near Elizabeth and Daniel’s suburban home in New England, a place where I met them several times over the course of a year, sometimes together and sometimes apart. Usually they sat close to each other, Daniel in a dress shirt he’d worn to the office, Elizabeth dressed like someone on vacation — a beaded bracelet, a sleeveless tank. Elizabeth has a Zen way about her, and as Daniel’s food grew cold while he relayed his past grievance, she looked untroubled. “It caused a lot of pain, so I’m still not even sure why I fought for it the way I did,” she finally said. “I really just felt like it was right, like it was important to my growth. It was like I was choosing to take a stand for my own pleasure and sticking to it. It was so strong, that feeling.”

      Elizabeth’s intransigence, and Daniel’s pain, had brought them back into couples therapy. After several months of surveying the situation, which seemed to be deadlocked, the therapist told them in early March 2016 that she thought they were most likely heading for divorce. It was the first time the word had been uttered aloud in that room.

      “It was like a fever broke,” Daniel said about Elizabeth’s reaction. She told him, that night, that she was ready to give up the relationship with Joseph if Daniel could not make peace with it. “She was suddenly able to talk about it calmly, and kindly,” Daniel said. “Suddenly my needs mattered again.” As soon as he felt that she cared about his well-being, he was able to consider what she wanted. “When I had no say in the matter, I was miserable,” Daniel said. “When I could say no, suddenly it was — O.K. This opening of our marriage started to seem less like something that was being done to me, and more like something we were doing together.”

      So: she finds a man who she is attracted to, sexually, more than her husband, cheats on her husband, and basically presents the whole thing as a fait accompli. The idea that he might get some say in it, instead of just getting cheated on, leads him to agree to an open marriage.

      The kicker: the boyfriend’s wife didn’t know this was going on, and as of the publication of the article, still doesn’t. And you have to wonder whether the husband – with his wife chronically ill, and with the article making it sound like he’s the breadwinner (she’s described as picking up some work she could do from home prior to the Parkinson’s diagnosis, while he’s described as being tired after the workweek) – was worrying he would get wrecked in a divorce, and just went with the path of least resistance. It certainly wasn’t a fair way for it to occur – it’s pretty obvious he got less of a say than she did.

      A suburban married man on OkCupid told me he had yet to date anyone, in contrast to his wife, whom he called “an intimacy vampire.”

      This one is kind of open and shut. It’s an ostensibly open relationship, he’s not dating anyone, she is, a lot. This couple isn’t profiled in the article, so we don’t know anything more, but it just comes off as a poor deal for the guy.

      At Poly Cocktails, the wife who was watching her Brooklyn husband flirt said that although they had opened their marriage a few months earlier, she was the only one of the two of them who was seeing anyone: a wealthy entrepreneur, and a soccer player. “It’s an element of fantasy,” she said. “It’s play. And if it ever stopped being that, I would get out.” She was also a business owner, and had found, from the entrepreneur, a form of emotional support that her husband could not provide.

      Her husband told me he had little interest in putting in the work necessary for even casual flings. “If I could meet someone for sex once a week with no emotional obligation, like a regular tennis game, I would do it,” he said. “But I already wooed someone, my wife,” he said. “I don’t want to have to do that again.”

      “I don’t want to have to do that again” is the sentiment I have seen in (monogamous) people in bad relationships where they worry that, as bad as it might be, it would be too hard to find someone new. She gets to date a rich guy and a soccer player, while still having the comfort of her main relationship. He gets not having “to do that again”. This, again, seems like a pretty uneven arrangement.

      If partner A starts cheating, and when caught says “let’s have an open relationship”, or if partner A says “let’s have an open relationship” without the cheating (morally superior, of course), if partner B says yes because they don’t want to blow the relationship up…

      • Ralf says:

        @dndnrsn
        > And you have to wonder whether the husband – with his wife chronically ill, and with the article making it sound like he’s the breadwinner – was worrying he would get wrecked in a divorce

        How do you mean? I don’t want to overanalyse a short description, but for me it read the other way around. The text describes how she immediately turned around 180 degrees as soon as “divorce” was made an option. Because then it wasn’t sex and attraction anymore, but about losing the wealth, home and security (and spousal health care coverage?) her breadwinning husband provides for her.

        And quote: “while he relayed his past grievance, she looked untroubled” Not exactly a reaction I would expect from a caring spouse.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Good point. It’s entirely possible that both of them had material reasons to stay in the relationship.

      • Brad says:

        So: she finds a man who she is attracted to, sexually, more than her husband, cheats on her husband, and basically presents the whole thing as a fait accompli. The idea that he might get some say in it, instead of just getting cheated on, leads him to agree to an open marriage.

        You left out the part where earlier in the marriage he suggested opening it up and she said no. It makes him somewhat less sympathetic.

        • dndnrsn says:

          This is true. For reference:

          But as with any happy marriage, there were frustrations. Daniel liked sex, and not long after they were married, it became clear that Elizabeth’s interest in it had cooled. She thought hers was the normal response: She was raised by strict Catholics, she would tell Daniel, as if that explained it, and she never saw her own parents hold hands, much less kiss. It was not as if she and Daniel never had sex, but when they did, Daniel often felt lonely in his desire for something more — not necessarily exotic sex but sex in which both partners cared about it, and cared about each other, with one of those interests fueling the other.

          Elizabeth, baffled by Daniel’s disappointment, wondered: How great does sex have to be for a person to be happy? Daniel wondered: Don’t I have the right to care this much about sex, about intimacy? Occasionally, when he decided the answer was yes, and he felt some vital part of himself dwindling, Daniel would think about a radical possibility: opening up their marriage to other relationships. He would poke around on the internet and read about other couples’ arrangements. It was both an outlandish idea and, to him, a totally rational one. He eventually even wrote about it in 2009 for a friend who had a blog about sexuality. “As our culture becomes more accepting of choices outside the norm, nonmonogamy will expand as an acceptable choice, and the world will have to change as a result,” he predicted.

          He was in his late 30s when he decided to broach the subject with Elizabeth gingerly: Do you ever miss that energy you feel when you’re in love with someone for the first time? They had two children, and he pointed out that having the second did not detract from how much they loved the first one. “Love is additive,” he told her. “It is not finite.” He was not surprised when Elizabeth rejected the idea; he had mostly raised it as a way of communicating the urgency of his needs. Elizabeth did not resent him for bringing it up, but felt stuck: She was not even sure what, exactly, he wanted from her, or how she could give it.

          Neither of them comes off as hugely sympathetic, although in my view the wife dramatically less so – she’s the one who cheated, after all. Her response to him proposing opening the marriage – on the grounds that he was more interested in sex than she was; more attracted to her than she to him – was, no. Then, when she finds a guy she is actually attracted to, she cheats (what happened to her Catholic upringing?). When she gets caught, what her husband suggested and she shot down some time before becomes the new state of affairs.

          • Brad says:

            I agree she comes off as worse off, but I also agree neither comes off well. I read between the lines of “poke around on the internet” and writing a blog article on the subject that it was not a suggestion that he brought up one time and then let drop.

    • Ozy Frantz says:

      But how does a polyamorous person typically define their “partners”? Only people they actually have sex or other romantic engagement with, or everyone in their group? Would a heterosexual man in a triad with another man and a woman say he had one partner or two? What about the woman?

      In the poly communities I’ve been in, there isn’t really a “group”– it’s more like Alice is dating Bob and Charlie, Bob is dating Daniel and Eve, Charlie is dating Frank and Greg, Daniel is dating… and so on and so forth.

      While the gender-swapped version of a harem of concubines might be rare, what about the other “failure” mode a Heartister might worry about: a “beta” male notionally in a polyamorous relationship with a woman who isn’t very sexually available to him, but relies on him for support while getting most of her sex from somebody else.

      I have not observed this dynamic happening (except insofar as some people have primary relationships and don’t like sex very much). In general, amount of sex is highly correlated with amount of commitment, for pure reasons of convenience– it’s much easier to fuck someone if they live in the same house.

      There are some people that identify themselves as “involuntarily celibate” – are there people who are involuntarily poly? That is they’d prefer a monogamous relationship, but being part of a poly group is the best they can get?

      While I have observed this happening, I strongly suspect involuntarily monogamous people are far more common.

    • Alexandre Zani says:

      But how does a polyamorous person typically define their “partners”? Only people they actually have sex or other romantic engagement with, or everyone in their group? Would a heterosexual man in a triad with another man and a woman say he had one partner or two? What about the woman?

      Generally speaking, your partners are those you have a direct relationship with. Your partner’s partners are your “metamours”. In a triad, every partner has a direct relationship with the other two members of the triad. So both the man and the woman would have 2 partners. (Considering only the triad) The transitive set of relationships (you partners + you partners’ partners + their partners and so on) is often referred to as “your polycule”.

      While the gender-swapped version of a harem of concubines might be rare, what about the other “failure” mode a Heartister might worry about: a “beta” male notionally in a polyamorous relationship with a woman who isn’t very sexually available to him, but relies on him for support while getting most of her sex from somebody else.

      IME, that certainly happens, but it not particularly common. After all the “beta” male is able to seek out more partners until his own sexual needs are satisfied.

      There are some people that identify themselves as “involuntarily celibate” – are there people who are involuntarily poly? That is they’d prefer a monogamous relationship, but being part of a poly group is the best they can get?

      Undoubtedly. I have met some people who are “poly” because the person they want to be with is but are deeply unhappy with the situation. It’s a pretty unhealthy situation and probably an unstable one. But the idea that “this is the best they can get” seems weird to me. What are they getting out of that situation? Romantic fulfillment? Clearly not. Sexual fulfillment? You mean they are so unappealing as a partner that they can’t find a single monogamous person who will have sex with them, but they will find poly persons (who already have other partners) who will have sex with them? That seems highly unlikely to me.

      IME, the situation above arises because Alice really wants to be with Bob for some reason. Bob is poly and refuses to become monogamous with Alice. And while Alice could find other partners, Alice is fixated on Bob and will stick with him no matter how bad an idea this is. (You could replace “poly” with any other incompatibility) Usually, eventually Bob gets tired of Alice’s dishonesty (I mean, Alice needs to keep pretending to be at least somewhat OK with the situation) or Alice realizes she really needs to date someone she’s compatible with instead of Bob. Either way, they break up and everyone is happier.

      • Anonymoid says:

        I think you’re overstating the ease, or at any rate glossing over the difficulty, with which ‘the “beta” male is able to seek out more partners until his own sexual needs are satisfied’.

        Someone in this role is going to have a much easier time finding a relationship if they are in a position to become a monogamous partner. The great majority of women are not looking for NSA sex or for that matter a role as someone’s secondary partner, and those that are will probably be able to find someone who is relatively more attractive.

        Full disclosure, my situation is pretty much exactly what is described. I am in an open relationship. Have a wife and children. Opened the marriage maybe ten years ago. Would end it except that this would cause great suffering for the children and a financial catastrophe (not so much for me but for my wife). Unsurprisingly it is relatively easy for my wife to find prospects for sex, and relatively difficult for me. While I could no doubt close the marriage again by threatening to leave, it would gain me nothing. Overall I can’t recommend the practice to any man whose main selling points are his reliability as a mate, provider and father. And I would expect that most similar relationships would eventually disintegrate, with the attendant downsides if children are involved.

        • Alexandre Zani says:

          @Anonymold

          I guess I’m confused. Are you unhappy about your marriage because your wife isn’t fulfilling your sexual needs? I would say this is no different a problem than, say, if your wife just didn’t want to have sex enough for you to feel satisfied. That’s the sort of thing you should talk with her and a therapist about to figure out a solution.

          And honestly, as the child of divorced parents, I wish my parents had divorced a decade earlier and spared me and each other their years of growing mutual hatred. Divorce is hard on children, but so are unhappy marriages.

          • Tarpitz says:

            Seconded (based on similar personal experience) on the divorce front. I don’t believe staying together for the children is actually good for the children.

          • Anonymoid says:

            I appreciate your advice, but I am actually not unhappy and my marriage is not characterized by growing mutual hatred. In the absence of children I would end it not because it’s intolerable, or even particularly bad, but only because it would at that point be relatively pointless and would simply be a hindrance to finding a new partner (also my wife would be in a better position to support herself).
            What I do claim is simply that the situation is not at all symmetrical, that *most* men would probably find my situation considerably less tolerable than I do, and so I would strongly suggest to them to reconsider if they’re on a similar path.

        • Svejk says:

          Overall I can’t recommend the practice to any man whose main selling points are his reliability as a mate, provider and father. And I would expect that most similar relationships would eventually disintegrate, with the attendant downsides if children are involved.

          This quote echoes a common sentiment I’ve encountered in discussions of polyamory.

          Reflecting on this comment thread as a whole is moving me to a more negative position on polyamory. The people poorly served by the practice seem to be 1.) those whose reproductive prospects and social position are most precarious and 2.) those responsible for producing the positive societal externalities I value most. I worry that the network effects inherent in the polyamorous model would compel these groups to participate in a system that poorly serves their reproductive and emotional needs and disadvantages them in the mating market. I am apprehensive about the spread of a practice that would complicate the lives of high-parental-investment men and women who are reasonably satisfied with one lifetime partner.

    • Ozy Frantz says:

      dndnrsn: I know a lot of poly people who only have one relationship. Most of the time, this is by choice: they only have emotional energy or time for one relationship, they’re picky about romantic partners, or they’re hella introverted. I think it is a mistake to assume from “one person has lots of partners, one person doesn’t” that the latter person is being taken advantage of.

      • Matt M says:

        How can you possibly describe “someone who intentionally chooses to only have one relationship” as poly? What am I missing here, exactly?

        • tcheasdfjkl says:

          Another possibility is that they only have one relationship but they occasionally go on dates/hook up with people/don’t have constraints on what they might do romantically or sexually with someone else if they happen to want to.

        • leoboiko says:

          Me (male) and my partner (female) both fit this definition. We have chose to date only each other at the moment, for matters of convenience and logistics—we’re just too busy at the moment to sustain more relationships. But we both have had more partners (casual and long-term) in the past, and we’re open to the possibility of any of us starting more relationships if conditions are favorable, or if we fall hopelessly in love etc. Even if we only date each other in practice, our status as “poly” still matter a lot of us, and it has many practical consequences; for example, we feel at ease about talking to each other about desiring other people sexually, or being infatuated by someone at work, etc.

      • Ozy Frantz says:

        Their partner has more than one relationship.

        • Matt M says:

          So what makes them a poly and not a cuck?

          That they (claim to) don’t mind that their partner has another relationship?

          I pretended to do that once too when my girlfriend said “I’m going to date someone else too and if you don’t like it you can get lost.” Do I count as poly?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            So what makes them a poly and not a cuck?

            Nothing, nothing at all.
            The only way they wouldn’t be a cuckold/cuckquean is if the relationship was legally recognized, in which case they’d be monogamous with their polygynous/polyandrous spouse.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            I’m not sure what you mean by the word “cuck”.

            If your partner is dating more than one person with your consent, then you’re poly, yes. But it seems like you don’t want to be poly, in which case I would strongly advise you to have a monogamous relationship instead.

          • Matt M says:

            Does it count as my “consent” even if I dislike the situation, but prefer it to being dumped?

            Obviously in that case I wanted a monogamous relationship – but that option was not given to me. I was told “you can be my guy on the side or you can be nothing at all.”

            I guess I’m technically “consenting” to the situation, but I think it would be a HUGE stretch to say that I, myself, was poly.

            And I think that’s the root of a lot of the criticism here. The assumption that a whole lot of low-status men AND women will end up in poly situations that they don’t actually want all so the higher-status member of the relationship can enjoy themselves marginally more.

          • Tedd says:

            @Matt M:

            Clearly that’s not a great situation.

            But I am confused. Did you prefer to be in the relationship on those terms, or not? To be clear, it sounds like there was never a “you get to be monogamous with this person” option; it was “you get to be in a poly relationship, or you do not get to be in a relationship at all”, yes?

            If you did, I’m not sure how you think “no poly anywhere” would be better – that’s precisely “you do not get to be in this relationship which you prefer to be in”.

            If you didn’t, in what way is that problem with poly? Is your objection merely “more people will end up in relationships that they don’t want, because people are bad at not having relationships they don’t want and poly increases incidence of relationships in general”?

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            Matt: My advice is that naturally monogamous people in polyamorous relationships never ends well. You’re going to be jealous and unhappy; you and your girlfriend will fight all the time; you or she will eventually get tired of the conflict and break up (hopefully before you drag children into this mess). It is much better to pull off the Band-Aid now than suffer through a couple years of misery that ends in exactly the thing you want to avoid. You found a girlfriend once, which implies that you’ll be able to do it again; there are many more monogamous fish in the sea than there are poly fish.

            If you choose to make a stupid-ass decision then, okay, I guess you’re poly by relationship style but not by inclination. It is still a stupid-ass decision.

            Nevertheless, in my experience, relationships where one person has way more partners than the other person are almost never instances of a naturally monogamous person making a stupid-ass decision (because that decision is clearly idiotic so most people are smart enough to avoid it).

          • Matt M says:

            because that decision is clearly idiotic so most people are smart enough to avoid it

            Right, and this is where I think that elite silicon valley high IQ snobs fall dangerously off course.

            It’s like dismissing spousal abuse as a problem because clearly violent men are easy to identify and only stupid women would get involved with one. And once he actually hits you, you know for sure, so you’d have to be a REAL idiot to not immediately leave, right?

            People make “idiotic” decisions when it comes to relationships all the time. Like yeah, OBVIOUSLY you’re going to be miserable if you want a monogamous relationship and your partner insists on seeing other people too. But maybe you put up with it anyway because you think you’re in love with them, maybe you think they’ll change, maybe you think it won’t be that bad, maybe you’re just terrified of dying alone. But I’m unconvinced that having someone come along and say “you can avoid this by not making stupid decisions” solves any of your problems much at all.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Of all the conceptual gaps here, I find the idea that anybody is “naturally monogamous” to be the hardest to swallow.

          • blacktrance says:

            Matt M:
            Do you really find it implausible that someone might be happy with an arrangement in which they have one partner, who has multiple partners?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Ozy: How do you justify your belief that a particular human is naturally monogamous, polyamorous, polygynous or polyandrous?

          • Tarpitz says:

            Jaskologist, in what sense do you find the idea of someone being naturally monogamous hard to swallow? Is it that you don’t think anyone sincerely prefers monogamy to polygamy, or that you think any such preference must be in some sense culturally derived and hence not “natural”? If the latter, you may be right; if the former, I assure you that I for one would strongly prefer to have exactly one partner.

          • Alexandre Zani says:

            @Matt M:

            People make “idiotic” decisions when it comes to relationships all the time. Like yeah, OBVIOUSLY you’re going to be miserable if you want a monogamous relationship and your partner insists on seeing other people too. But maybe you put up with it anyway because you think you’re in love with them, maybe you think they’ll change, maybe you think it won’t be that bad, maybe you’re just terrified of dying alone. But I’m unconvinced that having someone come along and say “you can avoid this by not making stupid decisions” solves any of your problems much at all.

            If you look for resources on broaching the subject of poly to your existing partner, you will inevitably come across something along the lines of “Your partner might decide they don’t want to have a relationship with you on those terms and they are entitled to that and if they can’t be happy in a poly relationship, then them making that decision is a good thing.” Similarly, if you look for resources for people whose partners have brought up poly, they will say something along the lines of “If this is a deal breaker, then that’s ok and you should do what’s right for you.”

            In other words, if you spend any time researching the topic you will come across very specific advice on how to avoid making a stupid decision. And sure, breaking up with somebody you love sucks either way. But this is really no different than any other way your partner might identify a boundary as a deal breaker for them.

          • The Element of Surprise says:

            @Alexandre Zani
            I believe Matt M’s point was not that the poly person is making a stupid decision, but that the other (preferring monogamy) is making a “stupid” by being stuck in a relationship that makes them unhappy but where they see no easy way out.

            See the examples further above mentioned by dndnrsn, where one partner decided to be polyamorous while the other person just went along. Now people who happily (!) practice polyamory obviously have a different view on this, but in general, jealousy seems to be a strong motivating force for many human beings (it is at least portrayed as this in popular fiction; it also seems to be a non-negligible motivator for homicide). Someone who is attractive with a large social circle might wonder why anyone would choose to stay in a relationship that makes them unhappy – don’t these people who stay in a half-poly relationship show by revealed preferences that they are okay with this?

            Consider someone deciding that he will, from now on, sometimes communicate with his wife using physical force. She is free to hit back, of course. This is not domestic abuse if she doesn’t leave, right? — see how she even covers up her bruises with make-up and tells everybody she is fine! And while a large proportion of onlookers would assume that she is a “victim”, they are only committing the typical mind fallacy: they certainly wouldn’t want to be in a relationship where they get assaulted regularly, but how can they draw a conclusion about her?

          • SchwarzeKatze says:

            Of course there are “naturally” (I don’t like this roman theological word, genetically-inclined is a better word) monogamous humans. We’re those “dysfunctional” people called “co-dependent” in the same books that used to call homosexuals and transgender people crazy too. Nevermind co-dependance describes pretty much exactly the mechanism by which genetically monogamous species such as owl monkeys are possible and that this biological mechanism has been shown to exist (more or less) in humans too. I.e distress when separated from pair bond mate. We’re found in higher numbers in egalitarian forager (hunter gatherer) overall less sexually dimorphic populations such as the south african Hadza, or to a lesser extent northern europeans.

            Ozy is right, the rational thing to do is to not involve yourself with someone who isn’t as monogamously-inclined as you are. But that’s easier said than done, particularly if your dating pool is pretty shallow because you’re not sexually dimorphic enough by current western standards of desirability.

          • @The Element of Surprise: That seems like a potentially poor analogy given fear of getting stalked, harrassed or beaten to death is typically not a factor in the polyamory scenario (unless it is also abusive, in which case the problem is the abuse – not inherently the polyamory, though it’s certainly a persuasive weapon to the so inclined).

            Monogamy does not at all guard against jealousy. It’s not at all unheard of that some people are ‘married to their work’ despite being in a relationship – that’s stressful for their partner in a monogamous relationship as well, for nearly all of the same reasons as someone being given poor treatment in a polyamourous arrangement would. The partner desires attention and love and isn’t getting as much as they need to be psychologically healthy, or as much as they would deserve given they pitch in.

            Going “aha, but polyamoury is bad!” doesn’t address the problem that some people get ignored despite pulling their weight in a relationship. But just as a functioning monogamous relationship doesn’t cause this imbalance, a functioning polyamourous relationship doesn’t, either. It’s about communication – about listening to what your partners want and need. This goes both ways and often involves compromises.

            where one partner decided to be polyamorous while the other person just went along

            Just to pitch in on this in particular: I am a woman in a relationship where I have a primary who would rather be in a monogamous relationship with me. He will not fuck me, though, and I’ve told him this is intolerable for me in the long run (it contributes to depression), but I desperately don’t want to leave because I love him (the thought is emotionally terrifying), and he desperately doesn’t want me to leave because he loves me.

            He understands my problem and is allowing me to be polyamourous is his part of our compromise. My part of the compromise is a massive financial commitment, in the form that I take a sabbatical every time I want to spend vacation time with my other relationships, so that my actual paid vacation time is dedicated to my primary (at the moment this means I have no savings – working on it). My inofficial part of the compromise is also that I do most of the household and give him all the attention he wants (which actually isn’t a lot – I’ve told him a few times he treats me like I’m a (beloved) piece of decoration in our living room). Recently he’s started to give me some financial support of his own accord (mostly in the form that he pays for certain groceries by himself – he’s always had a higher food consumption and we split all our bills 50/50 unless it’s personal entertainment items) because he’s coming to understand that our arrangement costs me about three grand a year.

            Is he not as happy as he maximally could be? Sure. He’s made concessions. Is he happy with the arrangement in absolute terms? Definitely. If you’re going to tell me he’s actually getting shafted, given I subsidise his life I’m honestly going to be heavily sceptical. However, if you just asked him, he’d say “well, I suppose my girlfriend is polyamourous and I’d rather she was monogamous”, because the other things aren’t at the forefront of his mind, and you’d be none the wiser about how much commitment this means from me.

          • Matt M says:

            Do you really find it implausible that someone might be happy with an arrangement in which they have one partner, who has multiple partners?

            I find it INCREDIBLY unlikely (although not completely impossible) that someone who prefers monogamy for themselves would prefer their partner to have multiple partners. I can see some people who would be “willing to put up with it” (as I was, for a short deal), but that’s a different story.

            And this is the whole point of both National Review AND Heartsie. We shouldn’t focus on genders here, we should focus on status. Poly won’t be a tool for women to oppress men or men to oppress women, it will be a tool for the high status to oppress the low status.

            And I ESPECIALLY object to Ozy’s decision to describe “people who have only one partner but date people with multiple partners” as poly themselves. It’s a crude analogy, but I think it’s apt and I’ll continue to make it – just because someone dates someone who beats them up does not necessarily imply that the person taking the beating is super into BDSM. Nor do I think anyone would justify telling a battered spouse “well you just made stupid decisions, try to be less of an idiot in the future.” Yeah, you can put on your rational hat and tell me about revealed preferences all you want. But the person dating a poly/abusive partner is not necessarily expressing a preference for poly/abusiveness itself. They are expressing a preference for “partner I like + poly/abuse” over “not having partner I like at all”

            Of course, the revealed preference route could lead us to suggest that spousal abuse is a net good for society, right? I mean, clearly the abuser enjoys it and derives a great deal of utility from it (given the reputational, not to mention real legal risk involved). And the fact that their partners don’t leave them shows they clearly enjoy it too, or at the very worst are neutral on it. So overall net utility is increased, right? So surely an enlightened society would embrace domestic violence and stop telling consenting adults how to live their lives, right?

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            Matt: Spousal abuse is different because the first act of any remotely sensible abuser is making it so you can’t leave. The calculations of a spouse who is being beaten are often “well, if I stay he’ll hit me, but if I leave he might kill me.” As described, your girlfriend has not made it so you can’t leave, but if she has I strongly advise calling the domestic violence hotline. Emotional abuse is real abuse; a person who has unilaterally made your relationship poly and caused you to feel like you can’t leave it is abusing you, and I hope you find the help and support you need to leave.

            But most people who are poly and only in one relationship themselves really aren’t in the situation you describe. My husband is an example. My husband is very definitely poly; in fact, monogamy was one of his dealbreakers about finding a spouse. He doesn’t have a girlfriend, because it is terribly time-consuming and he’s quite introverted; he hooks up with girls maybe five or six times a year. But those five or six times a year are important to him and I don’t think he’d be able to be happy without them. I think it would be very much a mistake to call him monogamous (not the least because the average monogamous person would probably frown on their husband having six one-night-stands a year!).

            Le Maistre Chat: I suspect the most common category is “can be happy in either a monogamous or poly relationship.” But I’m definitely incapable of being happy in a monogamous relationship, and I have given advice to people who are like “I was really good at being monogamous, and then I became poly and now I’m miserable! What gives?” At which point I pointed out that polyamory is not actually for everyone, it is okay and possible to be happier as a monogamous person, and they broke up with their partners and became mono in short order.

          • temp3402 says:

            @Ozy Frantz:
            I’m seriously astonished that you can’t understand the following (common) situation.

            X and Y are in a monogamous relationship.
            Y wants to open the relationship/be polyamorous.
            X has monogamous preferences and feels like they have low mate value and would struggle to get on without Y.
            X reluctantly agrees to open the relationship/be polyamorous.

            Your argument is: X should leave the relationship (or refuse to open the relationship). Yeah, maybe they should, but it’s not always that easy. You’d have to be autistic not to recognise this.

            I say this as someone who was in the above situation but chose to not agree to open the relationship. She then cheated on me; I immediately broke up with her. Most people aren’t as decisive.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            My position is that people are, in general, too reluctant to break up relationships that are making them miserable. I understand that people have this issue; I have had this issue in the past as well. However, speaking with all the fervency of a new convert to a way of doing things, it is actually a very easily solvable problem. You should break up with people who are making you miserable. To the extent that people are not doing this, the problem is not polyamory; they could equally well be in a miserable relationship about their sex life, or their partners’ extroversion, or the dishes. And it surely would not make sense to socially forbid having a high libido, being an extrovert, or failing to own a dishwasher.

            In addition, this seems to be fake consensualism. Polyamory isn’t very common; even if you assume more people are naturally mono than naturally poly, pretty much all naturally poly people wind up in one if not several mono relationships befor