Is Polygamy Natural?

Polygamy is a type of marriage where an individual has multiple spouses. In case of a man with multiple wives, it is termed as polygyny. In case of a woman with multiple husbands, it is called polyandry. While polygyny is quite widespread across the globe, instances of polyandry are fairly limited to a few communities.

But is polygamy natural for humans? Are humans programmed to mate with more than one partner? Well, this is a tough question to answer. Even scientists and researchers have not been able to find clear evidence about humans being polygamous or monogamous. Moreover, as choices vary from community to community, it is difficult to come up with a single ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to such questions.

However, we can still get a basic idea based on what’s happening in other animals. Here are some findings that may indicate whether polygamy is natural for humans or not.

Testicle size – One of our closest relatives is chimpanzees, which have large testicles. This is because chimps are largely polygamous. As they mate with multiple female chimps, they need to have larger testicles to produce the required quantity of sperms. Chimp testicles are around one-third the weight of their brain. In comparison, human testicles are relatively smaller. This indicates that humans have relatively conservative sexual habits.

Male to female size – It has been identified that the difference between size of male to female can indicate polygamy or monogamy. For example, female gorillas are much smaller than male gorillas. In such a setup, the dominant male controls all mating rights. As mating rights are determined by dominance, gorillas don’t need large testicles. They have evolved to have small testicles. Something similar can be seen in humans, which points towards polygamy.

Penis size and structure – Based on comparisons between penis size of humans and other mammals, it has been found that humans are not necessary monogamous. However, considering the relatively smooth structure of human penis, researchers associate it with monogamous species.

As is clear from above findings, there is contradictory evidence about human species being polygamous or monogamous. Some experts opine that humans are largely monogamous, but retain the urge to mate with other partners. What you feel could also depend on where you come from, your culture and upbringing.

From a societal perspective, polygamy is usually considered a negative development. That’s because majority of polygamy involves polygyny where males have multiple female partners. This leaves several men without a female partner. Ultimately, this situation increases social problems such as crime and anti-social behavior. Polyandry is hardly recognized anywhere and is limited to few communities, so it does not even matter.

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