Wednesday

How Many Husbands Would Be Too Many?

( Originally published on Open Salon 5/12/2010)


By Mary Ann Sorrentino


 "ONE MAN, 5 WIVES, 46 CHILDREN" screamed the cover of the National Geographic magazine in the waiting room holding me captive. I hadn't read a National Geographic since puberty, when teens would fumble through copies in their parents' libraries, hoping for a glimpse of naked people around the globe. With less than that youthful enthusiasm (and with only Sports Illustrated or Family Circle as reading options) I read the polygamy article.

It described the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) which split from the Mormons in 1935 after rejecting the mother church's ultimatum to renounce polygamy. Today the FLDS has more than 38,000 members mostly on the Utah-Arizona border and in other parts of America's West.
 
The guy on the cover with the 5 wives and 46 kids is Joe Jessop, a church elder aged 88.Jessop also has 239 grandchildren. (I'm thinking Joe and the wives ought to be sitting in 6 bathtubs watching a sunset behind the mountains in their own Cialis ad.)

There's probably not much passion in places like the FLDS Yearning for Zion Ranch in El Paso, Texas. The scriptural basis for the sect's clinging to polygamy--"Go forth and multiply--" doesn't conjure images of sex toys, black lingerie, saxophones in the background or a lovers talking "dirty." It's a slam, bam, thank you m'am and call me after you deliver this one type of ethic. Plus, if a guy has a half dozen wives to service, 50 kids and a couple hundred grandkids, you might as well take-a-number like you do in the deli and just wait your turn. 
 
FLDS women admit they sometimes feel hurt, rejection and jealousy aboutcompetingwith other women (sometimes their biological sisters.) This happens in monogamy too, so get over it.
 
The article made me wonder if there were societies where women take multiple husbands. My immediate response was that women are smarter than to do anything that dumb. By observation, if not experience, women understand that most husbands demand so much attention no one would want more than one. And 46 children! The thought alone would send most women-- usually the primary caregivers-- scrambling for a tubal ligation.
 
In fact, there are virtually no polyandrous societies on this planet (polyandry beingtheterm describing women with multiple husbands.) Polygyny is the accurate term for men with multiple wives. The more commonly used polygamy is actually a non-specific term describing those of either gender with multiple spouses.
  Another issue of National Geographic described the only remaining society where women may have several husbands-- all brothers--in a remote area in the Himalayas. Acquiring fraternal husbands, however, is different from men picking their own wives.  In the Himalayas it's, "marry one get 2 or 3 more free."
 
 The brothers may (but are not compelled to) take the same wife. They live together, with common children. The men help with the housework (or hut-work) so it's not all bad. Not surprisingly, Psychology Today's examination of polyandry attributed to it more sexual motives. The shrink journal also had an accusatory subtext warning men in monogamous situations not to be fooled by wives likely to sleep around. So Psychology Today basically concludes women are naturally sluts and it shouldn't matter if they service multiple husbands. (No professional in-depth scientific analysis, though, of the roving eyes, hands and other body parts of "monogamous" husbands like Tiger Woods, David Duchovny, or Bill Clinton.)
 

I see the fact that women do not choose multiple husbands as one of the few genderbased advantages females can claim. Women should just continue to play "dumb like a fox" in societies where they are not allowed to have more than one husband, for whatever reason. It is a gift to be spared several more mates to pick up after. Just think about all the nagging time women save by having only one guy to remind to take out the trash, pick the kids up after Little League, call his mother on her birthday, keep the doctor's appointment on Friday, feed the dog, put those in the hamper, or look in the second drawer-- where they have ALWAYS been.
 
 So the absence of polyandry in the world may not be an accident at all, but testimony to the superior wisdom, practicality and self-preservation instinct of the females of our  species. An old feminist adage cautions that, "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." (now click on this last sentence)

 So a fish that doesn't need Lance Armstrong can probably do without the whole Tour de France.                                    
                              ____________________________________





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Mary Ann Sorrentino

Mary Ann Sorrentino
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