Simply Not Have Had the Stamina


Thanks to my friend Spike for the link to this story in the Observer on low fertility rates among Mormon polygamists. My favorite bit:

the more women partnered with a man, the fewer children each of those women had. Exactly why is not clear. Like the Soay rams, men may simply not have had the stamina.... The failure of the Utah polygamy experiment should therefore not be seen as that surprising.


I'm glad you liked it! I found it very provocative, though not necessarily for the quality of the piece itself. For example, at least as far as the report says, the research focused on biological reproduction without reference to the social... contexts: i.e., who were the women in the polygamous relationships? What ages, what health conditions (which would also have had social and political economic determinations: access to food, burden of work), etc.?

Some of the comments were predictably offensive, e.g., "who wouldn't want a bevy of women to cater to all of your needs?" (well, me for one; figuring out how to solve the problems of my needs is what I call "creativity")...

Also, as I don't have any cultural or intellectual ties to Mormonism, I couldn't say whether the polygamy experiment was about increasing the number of children or about something else (forms of property relationships?), so I don't know if it makes sense to say it "failed".

Still, as you note, the biology is interesting in itself: like Henry VIII killing his wives for not giving him sons, and then we find out that the sex of the child is a function of the chromosomes in the sperm; he should have been killing himself! Perhaps, similarly, if the idea is to increase female fecundity, a polygamous matriarchy would be better suited!

It's a terrific piece, Spike! Thanks again.

Personally, I think the world would always have been a better place if women were in charge of reproduction, and this is just more evidence that when men try to control it, they mess it up, and it never turns out the way it really should.

Thanks, Holly. I expect you're right, and my own comment rather begs the question: if women were in charge of (biological) reproduction, would female fecundity be the key issue?


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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on February 27, 2011 12:12 PM.

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