I just read a study that had some controversial success and I felt like the perfect example for their idea. The study by Mara Squicciarini and Jo Swinnen, who while dining and wining, asked themselves how come a polygynous society forbids consuming alcohol and how come a society that is monogamous do not.
Are we monogamous because we can also drink or do we drink because we are monogamous?
Their abstract goes like this:
”We investigate whether there is a correlation between alcohol
consumption and polygynous/monogamous arrangements,
both over time and across cultures. Historically, we find
a correlation between the shift from polygyny to monogamy
and the growth of alcohol consumption. Cross-culturally we also
find that monogamous societies consume more alcohol than polygynous
societies in the pre- industrial world. We provide a series of possible
explanations to explain the positive correlation between monogamy
and alcohol consumption over time and across societies.”
What they do find is that there is some interconnection aka that when monogamy grew as the new establishment within the society between men and women (polygamy was more common at that time and is also more common among mammals) it helped the alcohol production to develop even more during the same period. It all started with the Greeks and Romans as they insisted that formal monogamy was civil and that wine is the civil drink. It continued with Christianity that formalized and induced both monogamy and the wine/alcohol culture, since many of the monasteries were up keeping and refining the wine agriculture and similar. So the wine and dine routine goes waaaay back.
Other interesting description was why monogamy became common, they cite Scheidel (2009):
”Interestingly, Scheidel (2009) explains that the emergence of socially imposed
formal monogamy in Greece coincides with (a) the growth of “chattel slavery” (where
men can have sex with female slaves) and (b) the extension of political rights. Formal
monogamy, chattel slavery and male egalitarianism lead in turn to stronger social
cohesion and republican institutions (Scheidel, 2009). With the shift to formal
monogamy, rich men lost some of their benefits, but only to a limited extent because
they could still have polygynous relationships (sex outside their marriage) and
because it reduced social pressure from poor men without women (who were the main
losers from polygyny). Poor men benefited because their marriage prospects
improved with reduced competition from rich men who could only have one wife
now. Women lost out: they came to be denied both the potential benefits of polygyny
(in the form of access to resource-rich men) as well as the enjoyment of effective
monogamy, given that they had no recourse against their husbands’ relationships with
So even if it´s more possible for the men of rich and wealth to live polygamous as the emperors and kings of ancient times (think harem), in a polygamous society, they still do not ”lose out” in a monogamous society and that´s why even today in a monogamous society, men of power, status and lots money can & will probably cheat. Even if they have a super duper proper image…grrr, Tiger!
How do I relate to this?
Well…I went from being a totally non drinking (I didn´t even wanted food where alcohol was used) and quite polygynous single person to a drinking monogamous person that I´m today, hehe..so how come?
What Mara Squicciarini and Jo Swinnen mention is the alcohols anxiety lowering effect. That interpreted in many ways…hahaha, but as they also say it´s just more available, allowed and a part of the social companionship in the monogamous society. At the same time it´s been restricted and not very common in a polygamous based society, Muslim and Mormon being the example.
For my part I can say that for alcohol being allowed and available never made me want to drink, neither did the social interaction associated with alcohol. I started to drink when I was in my first prolonged, adult relationship and it was a mix of different reasons and yes, my partner had an influential role in making me take that step BUT really I was just so truly tired of being the responsible one that drives everybody home and it does slightly help sometimes with the anxiety that is generated by the relationship but also many other things.
But it was a choice that I made after I knew about all the bad consequents of alcohol. Why you drink should not be based because you live monogamously or not drink because you live polygynous caused by the society rules. And alcohol certainly should not be used as a common anxiety reliever (but exercise could). Rather should we drink because we choose to as the same way as you should be able to choose if you want live polygamous or monogamous. So next time think of why you drink or why you´re with one person or several. The answers are not always that simple.
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