Traditionalists claim that monogamy is inevitable for human beings because jealousy is an inherited instinct, so polyamory (multiple mating) is unrealistic. But I believe that the reality is quite the contrary: the traditional problem of jealousy is an effect rather than a cause of monogamy.
Toddlers are innately possessive of objects but they learn the benefit of sharing rather quickly from older teachers. Children learn to share their toys, meals, bedroom, bathroom, sidewalk, street, park, playground, school, public transportation, etc. Infantile possessiveness is largely unlearned very early through experience with teachers and other models. Possessiveness is fostered by scarcity: when desired objects or spaces are scarce, possessiveness and jealousy are more likely.
In contrast, interpersonal jealousy is learned. In a three-person relationship jealousy is primarily learned from observation of older models. A small study 15 years ago claimed infants exhibited jealousy when their mothers showed affection for other babies, but that finding has not been replicated. Other experts believe early jealousy results from the prior experience of being the only child: older sibs are jealous of younger sibs. What causes jealousy is upsetting the individual’s prior status. Jealousy is less likely among twins, each of whom was never the only child.
In a polyamorous family two wives who live together may synchronize their menstrual cycles and become pregnant at the same time, thereby producing children of the same age, without the risk of complications of twins in a single pregnancy.
A nursing infant is not jealous of an older sibling nursing on the other breast. But a small child is banished from the parents’ bedroom and thereby learns the monogamous principle of “odd man out.” While two young siblings are amazingly willing to share an adult, jealousy usually enters the equation when there are two or more adults involved. In a small monogamous family where there is only one child and two adults, jealousy between the adults is likely; or when there is more than one child and only one adult, jealousy between the children is unsurprising. Scarcity fosters jealousy.
Jealousy is especially likely when there is a scarcity of opposite-sex members in the group: two or more females and only one male, or two or more males and only one female. More than once I’ve had the personal experience of a mother and her daughter literally fighting over me. The child didn’t hope to possess me exclusively, let alone hope to be the prima-donna. The child merely wanted mom to share, which the latter was quite unwilling to do.
More typically, whenever I hug and kiss a mother, the daughter carefully watches my every move out of curiosity, just as a young girl will watch and listen to an older couple talking to each other. But whenever I hug and kiss a daughter, the mom keeps us under subtle surveillance out of the corner of her eye. Monogamous moms also keep tabs on how much a mate spends on gifts for her vs. how much he spends on daughter. The monogamous adult’s interest is not to protect the child from “sexual” abuse; mom wants to protect herself from losing her official position as prima-donna.
A glaring example of motherly jealousy was once when I was sitting in a large armchair and my girlfriend’s daughter came and squeezed in alongside me. Mother objected that the chair wasn’t big enough for two people, so daughter moved to the couch. But then mother contradicted herself by coming over and squeezing in the armchair alongside me. Daughter naturally observed: “If the chair isn’t big enough for little me and him, then how come it’s big enough for you and him?” Mom simply replied: “It’s time for you to go to bed!”
Another common scenario is a boy who reaches the age when he no longer wants to sit on mom’s lap, and begins to prefer playing with his big sister. The mom pretends that she needs to keep the sibs at a proper distance to prevent them from becoming “too close,” but in reality mom wants to prevent her son from straying “too far” from herself. Recently a ten-year-old boy and girl (close friends since preschool) asked their parents if the boy could sleep over at the girl’s house. It was the boy’s mother who refused permission.
Freud claimed a small child wants to kill one parent in order to possess the other parent exclusively (the “Oedipus complex”), but I have observed the contrary: one parent often wants to kill (divorce) the other parent in order to possess the child exclusively. Freud confused his own pedophobia with human nature or instinct. Parents feel jealous and behave possessively toward their children in traditional monogamous groups, but not necessarily in other circumstances.
Even children’s friendships are often monitored and fostered or inhibited according to the monogamous parent’s fear of competition for affection. A constructive and responsible parent accepts a child’s affectionate feelings for a friend, and at most guides a child to choose friends who contribute to good social development. But many parents actually choose a child’s friends according to the parent’s political or religious preferences or other parental idiosyncrasies, which are irrelevant to the child’s interests.
A major disadvantage of monogamous jealousy is that one adult can pretend to be interested in a third party (with the implicit threat of future abandonment) precisely to make her “only” mate jealous and value her more, with misery generated that is not only unnecessary but absurd – a pathetic spectacle that impressionable children can observe and imitate.
Feminists originally demanded more help from males in childcare, but once economic and other concessions were granted, and women discovered that children (especially girls) tend to become very close to fathers, feminists backtracked and now complain that fathers and daughters must keep their distance to avoid “sexual abuse,” i.e. what is often merely sex play such as tickling, playing horsey, etc., which is officially defined as “abuse” regardless of the characteristics of the specific experience. The supposed negative effects of early sexual experience may also be confounded by the jealous or hysterical reaction of adults after the experience is over. One practical result of the new “gender equality” is a generation of women who are sexually dysfunctional.
The frequent result of monogamous jealousy is a child deprived of physical affection and emotional intimacy. Dad isn’t allowed to cuddle with daughter, so daughter isn’t allowed to cuddle with any boys. Hence, the spectacle of children allowed to cuddle with pets or stuffed animals but not with each other or the opposite sex parent. Kids are allowed or even encouraged to obsess over objects made of metal or plastic, as if possession of a “safe” inanimate object will bring you the same happiness as “dangerous” interpersonal intimacy. Instead of learning the pleasure of skin contact and self-stimulation of the female erectile organ (clitoris), girls are mentally castrated and forced to suffer the complete sexual isolation required by adult jealousy.
Boys are less damaged because the penis is wholly external so surreptitious self-stimulation is easier to get away with. I suspect that parents (especially mothers) are also more tolerant of boys being “naughty,” possibly because adults know that a sexually dysfunctional son is far more destructive to eventual sex roles than a sexually dysfunctional daughter. Female sexual pleasure is not indispensible. Through cultural distortion and miseducation, sexually dysfunctional women are considered “normal” or even “morally superior” to boys (and especially girls) who are sexually functional.
In contrast, adults who repudiate jealousy in a polyamorous family become models of shared intimacy. Healthy children are allowed and encouraged to express their sexual desires and enjoy sexual pleasure with whomever they please. Instead of hiding one’s feelings and behavior and feeling guilty about it, polyamorists accept and welcome open expressions of healthy sexual function. Female sexual dysfunction is not normal or morally superior to natural enthusiasm for sex play and sexual learning at the earliest age. It’s also normal and healthy to desire, enjoy, and prefer sexual pleasure (rather than object pleasure) throughout life.