Cambridge, Massachusetts, recognized domestic partnerships of two “or more” persons earlier this month. Lest any scold regard the policy as lacking in morals, the ordinance specifically excludes those “in a domestic partnership with others outside this partnership.” A bigamy exists even to bigamists.
In 2010, Oklahomans voted for a measure barring judges from relying on sharia law when deciding cases. It seemed overkill at the time, almost like a parody of orange-alert-era yahoos. But here a decade later American women cover their faces with religious fervor and American men, at least some of them, embrace polygamy with a similar enthusiasm.
Take Jason Collier, nudged to resign as police chief of Stinnett, Texas, after allegations emerged that he used his position to deceive through elaborate ruses numerous girlfriends about his wife and his wife about his numerous girlfriends. His conversation with Dr. Phil, “The Police Chief, His Wife, and His 6 Girlfriends,” aired this week (here’s the second part). The women, one in particular at least, unleashed a hell-hath-no-fury vengeance against him. He lost his wife, his job, his reputation, and, perhaps worst of all for Collier, his girlfriends.
“I had misled her,” Collier admits of his wife, “lied to her as well that I was working undercover, and I was traveling to these other towns working.” Well, the married man was working under covers, after all. Dr. Phil picks up on this by citing The Hollies’ “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” lyric: “Saturday night I was downtown / working for the FBI.” Collier somehow convinced his wife, whom he says he started dating prior to the dissolution of his previous marriage, to tell one of his mistresses over the phone that he was not really married to her. He persuaded his wife to do this by describing the mistress as a confidential informant and saying a case depended on his wife going along with this lie. “Well,” reasons Dr. Phil, “it was confidential.”
Each woman in the harem believed such far-fetched lies for the same reason she believed the tiny town’s top cop wanted her and her alone: she wanted to believe. Love does that to some. Love, or perhaps something that we confuse for it, permits an “all’s fair” attitude in others.
Given that Collier’s pursuers lived in and near the Texas panhandle and not Harvard Square, they do not deserve blame for their ignorance that the United States morphed from a monogamous society to a polygamous one (and, occasionally, polyandrous, too). But in becoming unwitting sister-wives over one desirable male they demonstrate how, minus marriage and monogamy and morals, the dating economy quickly reverts to pre-Christian polygamy, in which almost all of the women compete for very few of the men.
A Tinder study, as explained in a Medium article by the pseudonymous Worst Online Dater Ever, concluded that “the bottom 80% of men are fighting over the bottom 22% of women and the top 78% of women are fighting over the top 20% of men.” An earlier OK Cupid study found that men rated about half of women worse-looking than average while women rated four-fifths of men as worse-looking than average.
One could watch Dr. Phil. Or one could look at the data. Either one tells the story of “The Police Chief, His Wife, and His 6 Girlfriends.”
A massive percentage of single women flock to a very small percentage of men, single or otherwise. Prized men eagerly sleep with women a rung or two or 10 down on the attractiveness ladder. This creates a skewed impression in many women’s minds that they operate in the relationship market (rather than merely the sexual market) on the level of elite men, so they fixate on “better” men to the exclusion of better-suited men.
Dr. Phil chalked up Jason Collier’s infidelity in part to the stresses of police work and his adult transformation from fat to fit. Maybe all that played a role. But Collier and other guys with though not unlimited options at least the options to see girlfriends during breaks from their wives often avail themselves of women they would never become exclusive with let alone marry (often without great stigma). This situation leads to a large number of left-out, lonely men exhibiting unseemly bitterness toward women and an equally large number of women embittered with men, whom they believe all cheat or fear commitment (because they fixated on the same small slice of men attracting the attention of almost all other women). It’s a morality problem; more so, it’s a math problem.
The emerging polygamous society shows itself more consequently in the marriage statistics than in the dating data. Numbers released last year show that marriage rates declined to their lowest level in U.S. history. Marriage in the 21st century is for gay people.
The low marriage rate alters child-rearing in profound ways. Forty percent of births occur among unmarried women, with the numbers in certain geographic (Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico) and racial categories (blacks, American Indians, Hispanics) exceeding 50 percent. At least these populations produce children. The U.S. fertility rate hit 1.71, well below replacement level, in 2019 — a number that helps explain illegal immigration as not just a problem of supply but of demand, as well.
“Christian monogamy, however evaded in practice, kept the sexual impulse within bounds, and slowly raised the status of women,” Will Durant wrote in The Age of Faith. But we do not live in an age of faith. We inhabit a post-Christian age in which the influence of morals, monogamy, and marriage wane and biological impulses — the same ones that gave us more female than male ancestors — prevail.
As the new order rationalized itself into existence by poking holes in the old order, new, unexpected problems arose. After things fall apart, things fall apart.
When you no longer live in a monogamous society, you necessarily live in a polygamous one. Cambridge, and a cop in Texas, figured that out sooner than most.