This is the second of two ruminations derived from a reading of a 2008 academic paper by Walter Scheidel of Stanford University, 'Monogamy and Polygyny in Greece, Rome and World History' [Princeton Stanford Working Papers in Classics, available online]. The views and conclusions are mine and not his.
In the first of this two-parter we questioned what was 'normal' about monogamy and drew what might be a political conclusion that its global dominance is associated with the cultural dominance of the West as a hybridisation of Roman property relations and Christian morality. This hybrid ideology gained its strength not from patriarchy but from a similar hybridisation of patriarchal and matriarchal value systems. The protection of women and slaves, otherwise unprotected within Roman social structures, resulted in a generalised model for sexual social organisation that owed something to biological pair-bonding (i.e. it was not wholly to be considered 'unnatural') but was originally and primarily a means of organising particular property relations and a particular social order under conditions of resource scarcity and so competition.
The price for this 'normality' was three-fold: it repressed 'alpha' sexuality in general (both male and female); it has progressively stopped humans from negotiating alternative strategies as it extended its reach across Western society and then across the world; and it increasingly destabilised the socio-sexual structures of other cultures offering alternative models as Western technology brought with it Western ideology. Zones that have resisted the Western model - the radical Islamic model of polygamy or the Chinese model of consensual concubinage - are under pressure from the presumption that a rigid monogamy is the only form by which humans can be sexually organised, to the extent that serial sexual monogamy and hidden polygyny and polyandry ('cheating') are regarded as preferable to the institutionalisation of any possible consensual non-monogamy fitted to our times.
A case study for this process lies in the early British conquest and control of India where the early (male) traders adapted readily to local sexual customs, sometimes operating a dual sexual system in two geographically distant locations. The discovery of a different sexual culture resulted in the transfer of 'tantric' ideas in a fairly impure form to the West where they were to play a slow-burning role in the eventual sexual liberation of Westerners but the socio-sexual model employed by the traders (deemed exploitative by modern theoreticians, although probably far more subtle in its dynamics when one considers the state of the English working class more generally) was to collapse as soon as women from the West arrived, as well as missionaries and state servants.
The replacement of rule by traders under the East India Company with administrators imbued with Christian ethic under the Raj represented the replacement of free-booting libertarian entrepreneurial capitalism with authoritarian administrators, driving the system from exploitative growth through empire to sclerosis and then collapse. The liberation of India from colonial rule did not see a consequent socio-sexual liberation in reaction to the previous masters because the socio-sexual mores of the West were associated with modernisation. Modernisation was a core aim of the first generations of nationalist politicians regardless of Ghandhian sentimentality. Even the traditionalists had developed their traditionalism in a conservative reaction to the West that accepted more of its values than they realised. It is both paradoxical and logical that the 9/11 fanatics contained a high number of engineers and technical experts and no actual mullahs.
Hindu nationalism has a rather 'Victorian' and puritanical view of sexuality (of which monogamy is a part) that is now part and parcel of the self image of nearly all the modernised rivals of the West. I would put a high bet on the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia having socio-sexual reform high on his own modernisation agenda within the Kingdom. The concubinage system exists outside the Communist mainland only amongst elite trader Chinese. Social order seems to require if not monogamy, then the tightening of whatever traditional rules there are to command and control sexual relations.
Only in the West has the monogamous system begun to break down at the margins - but only at the margins - despite the widespread media coverage of polyamory. It is said, for example, that only 5% at most of Americans are consciously polyamorous. The question remains whether the monogamy of classical antiquity as interpreted by the heirs of Abraham is 'natural' or not, even though it is certainly now 'normal'. This brings us back to Scheidel's paper since he asks two questions - what is the reason for the variation in the incidence of polygamy and monogamy and what drove the social imposition of near-universal monogamy when individuals with a high level of resource and status might have chosen otherwise? I am less interested here in the academic debate about the answers to the questions than with expanding the academic debate into the 'real world' by asking on what basis do we privilege monogamy and whether monogamy is the absolute and only means of organising the post-modern world.
Scheidel notes the argument that polygyny (polygyny is many women for one man as polyandry is many men for women whereas polygamy is the legitimation of the first) is actually (in economic terms) beneficial to women in very unequal societies (which most societies are). Sharing a wealthy husband or provider with other women may be economically far more beneficial than being 'stuck with' a single poor husband. Not only that - we add - but household duties and the demanding business surrounding child-rearing are shared, birthing is arguably safer and interpersonal tensions with the male conceivably lessened (though perhaps increased with other nearby women).
By pulling women into the orbit of the wealthiest, the women who remained behind got to trade up to desirable males where monogamy was the only resource-realistic option, leaving the least desirable males unable to reproduce. It is thus 'beta' men who are harmed by polygyny according to this model and the more so as inequality increases. Scheidel concludes that polygyny 'tends to reinforce male inequality by matching reproductive inequality with resource inequality'. The question then becomes one of equality but only from a male perspective - and, as so often before the current age, the perspective of women is simply abandoned.
In traditional societies, before the amelioration of the conditions of women and slaves with the adaptation to Roman pagan culture of Christianity, what has been read as exploitative of women turns out paradoxically to be advantageous to women but damaging to beta males (as opposed to alpha males). The issue here is mass male demand for equality rather than female exploitation (despite the propaganda of communitarians) since all women were exploited in traditional societies by modern standards (as were all men by the resource-rich alphas).
The interest of alpha males and of both alpha and beta females is in polygyny but that of beta males is in monogamy under traditionalism. This is not only a matter of reproductive (genetics and survival) effectiveness but of economic production because the high resource household with many women is in itself more economically productive because of the concentration of female labour on certain pursuits (weaving or field labour, for example) which, though classed today as exploitative, also created a surplus that ensured that the women themselves were better clothed and fed with more potential for disposable income and luxuries.
If the thesis is true, then we should expect monogamy to grow with male equality. If you like, socialism is monogamous so long as it is a male socialism. But socialism is not required. Recent research suggests that inequality and equality are to be equated with peace and war respectively rather than economic development per se. It is just that war creates rapid economic development. Economic development brings not so much equality but creates the ability for a household to survive securely without requiring the maximum input of women to create the conditions for their own security.
At a certain level of development, regardless of inequality in general, sufficient people are so equally secure that a woman (of the middling sort and then within the employed working class) can feel secure to the degree that they can create a household in which they can have sufficient 'matriarchal' power under monogamous conditions. At this point it might be said that the balance of power relations changes again so that the middling sort of woman is advantaged at the expense of the alpha woman and the marginal woman (who may include a substantial number of persons) in a model designed to benefit the beta male. The rise of 'matriarchal' power within the household, however, then reduces the alleged patriarchal power within the household to create what may become either a partnership or a contest for power.
The alpha system remains patriarchal but the benefits for alpha women have gone to be replaced by an exploitative and unregulated hidden polygyny of mistresses and sex workers who the matriarchal middling sort despise and exclude from power even further. Monogamy, initially designed for the mass of males, ends up a shared power, unsatisfactory to both in the long run, between beta males and middling females, alpha males stay alpha but switch for formal polygamy to informal polygyny or kow-tow to the new order and the polygynous actors amongst women switch from high status within polygamy to low status marginals.
The balance has shifted - the potential for commanding the household of one male in a 'partnership' (or even female dominance in driving the male to work harder for her and her children's security) begins to compete with and exceed the attractions of competing with other females in a resource-rich household. If greater power can be had in a monogamous household, why share power in Hugh Hefner's mansion. The matriarchal household is the great unwritten story of both peasant and industrialised society albeit that, power being what it is, truly matriarchal households (unhappy or cowed men) compete as models with true partnerships ('happy households') and truly patriarchal households (unhappy or cowed women).
This analysis is mine not Scheidel's but the issue of power is extensively explored by Scheidel because it seems that female power in traditional societies tended to be directed towards exploiting polygamy rather than seeking monogamy although what we mean by this power needs teasing out because the woman's kin structure is involved in the negotiation - power in traditional societies is often inherently collective. Otherwise, the high resource male has power and the low resource male does not which is really not so different from modern society.
What has changed in recent decades has been the direct rather than indirect (socially contained) empowerment of women over time which is work in progress. It is arguable that changing economic conditions encourages women to choose polygamy at one level, then monogamy at the next and perhaps monogamy (as partnership or dominance) or polyamory (as partnership) at the level above that in terms of economic access to resources and self development. It is often the mass of non-alpha males who have difficulty with each stage - being largely left out in traditional societies, trapped within models subverted by Christianity from being to their initial benefit in modern societies and now insecure in post-modern societies where monogamy entraps the male more than the female where children are part of the issue. Scheidel appears to conclude that the very wealthy are not exhibiting polygyny to historic levels in modern societies and making this a reason to doubt some of the theorising. In fact a cursory reading of literature and observation tell us that there is still a correlation between having resources and being able to manage multiple relationships without household disruption - the French institution of the mistress is a case in point.
Males may have been forced to operate in secret by the new Judaeo-Christian moral dispensation (we have seen previously how Judaic communitarianism adopted monogamous models under Christian influence) but the secrecy is now rather one of 'turning a blind eye' and 'don't ask, don't tell' adopted by modern women when faced with the probability that resource-rich males are managing a quasi-separate household or modern men find their economically dependent wives getting a lover to satisfy sexual or emotional needs.
The picture is only muddied further by the resource issue - resources are now such and expectations of freedom are such that many people are having relationships they cannot technically afford and under conditions where the socially legitimising codes that permitted the rich to have such relationships have not filtered down into the beta level. This suggests that, when resources were scarce and freedoms were limited, male and female desire was thwarted amidst much human misery. Today, the desire may not be thwarted but the inherited Judaeo-Christian code of conduct means that households get over-extended and then can snap into divorce and, under conditions of serial monogamy, into an only slightly more acceptable successor monogamy where the cycle is just as likely to repeat itself again as not.
Where resources are significant and freedom considerable, there is going to be a return to forms of informal polygamy of which polyamory is a developing element and, as conservative communitarians recognise with horror, social freedom and increasing prosperity are seeing precisely the increase in informal polygyny and polyandry (and homosexual variants) that they fear. The period between repressive modernity and full post-modernity (which is still a way off) has seen an era of increased resources but not enough for full freedom but within a very strict communitarian expectation that creates shame and perhaps guilt. The net result is a different type of misery expressed not as the deathly misery of entrapment within a household from which there is no escape but periodic crises as one partner or the other 'strays' or 'cheats' (note the Judaeo-Christian cultural origins of the terminology) and then is either forced into a crisis that may destroy the household or is brought to heel like a dog with the 'third party' simply jettisoned like Hagar at the demand of Sarah.
Looked at in this way, we may be (in the very heart of the liberal West though things are not changing very far from that heart) at a point of transition as significant as that of the 1960s and 1970s when both increased resources and expectations of freedom created the dialectical tensions between monogamous traditionalism and 'true nature' (which is just the will to 'do what thou wilt'). Communitarian culture's instinctive prejudice must be against 'doing what thou wilt' because of its disruption of a framework of codes and regulations (like not eating pork) whose original purpose has long since been forgotten and now is simply sign and symbol of 'belonging' - a form of anxiety-relieving beholden-ness to the collectivity of others who are beholden to you.
This transition, scarcely started, is perhaps towards a society where resources really are sufficient to enable increasing numbers to have the freedom (both as men and women) once enjoyed by alpha males and where those expectations of freedom are bound up with new forms that permit freedom within social stability. Our current instabilities have nothing to do with 'moral breakdown' and everything to do with elite incompetence. Ideologically, this means the slow collapse of both the Roman and the Judaeo-Christian assumptions that society must be structured along certain lines. Many, probably the majority, will continue to do so for at least the bulk of their lives for the foreseeable future but there is now no necessity for everyone to do so.
Going back to Scheidel, the inequality/polygyny model (that monogamy increases with equality) might suggest that polygamy encourages social instability because male competition for resources is more intense precisely because it has a socio-sexual element, we note, for young males. Without an authoritarian order with brute force to sustain itself, perhaps younger males are going to be minded to overturn the existing order or to expand outwards to seize what they cannot get at home. The issue would be compounded as polygyny tends to drive attractive younger women to older men since older men are more likely to have more resources than younger men. Scheidel puts this in terms of the possibility of male bargaining with inherent power to equalise outcomes (where, one presumes, women are just chips in the game).
Given the inherent greater power of the resource rich (the rich can reward their retainers with, amongst many other things, women acquired in battle), overturning polygamy can either be done by outfighting the polygamous authority and simply replacing one polygamy with another or threatened to be done so that the polygamous authority starts to change its behaviour to deal with the threat before it occurs. Perhaps monogamy emerges out of a process of bribery of retainers in which most men get just one woman until this becomes a matter of property relations to be formally legitimated. If such a property relation then becomes embedded in the world view of a more egalitarian republican or democratic model of society, then the legitimation gets 'detourned' against the elite at a certain point.
It is the threat that overthrow might be done (so it may be theorised) that drives 'wise' polygamists to redistribute sexual resources whether the women like it or not. Building an army (part of state formation) might be seen as many things but one of them is promising not only land but sexual and work partners and there really are only so many desirable women to go around when the armies grow to sufficient size. All this sounds nice theoretically but the truth is that huge imperial pre-modern states retained their polygynous elite aspects so that does not seem to tie in entirely with the thesis. The story only works if the transfer of resources to beta males expected to die for their polygamous lord means that those grunts are eventually imbued with sufficient reserve collective power to dictate cultural terms to the lord - but this tended never to happen in practice unless you start thinking of smaller Western republican quasi-democratic states such as Athens and Rome (see below).
Warfare for plunder and capture of women is also positively correlated with polygyny so those with power are not going out there to give one woman to one soldier but are rewarding by merit and the incentive to show status is to have many slaves. The stronger warrior is just going to emulate polygyny (we see this in Homer) whereas his grunt is going to be lucky to get a cast-off slave girl. A more sensible approach perhaps is to say (see the article) that both systems (monogamy and polygamy) compete over long periods of time and monogamy simply out-competes polygamy over time.
This competition model does seem to be the only sensible way of explaining why no formally unified and large nation state (as opposed to pre-modern traditionalist empire) ever seems to retain polygamy. The final state of the nation is nearly always a socially imposed monogamy. One argument is that this out-competing model is also evidenced by the West out-competing global competitors and, of course, the latter's subsequent mimicking of Western modernisation. In a sample of 156 states, one researcher, Michael Price, has shown that monogamous states are more populous, less likely to use the death penalty, less authoritarian (politically), less corrupt and richer than polygynous ones. Bear in mind that we are speaking here of stratified polygamy and not consensual post-modern polyamory. Polyandry scarcely figures in the record at all.
So is monogamy central to modernisation or is it accidental? There seem to be no clear answers to this from academics. Monogamy seems to happen as part of modernisation but it is hard to see how monogamy is necessary for modernisation. The best thesis is one that suggests that monogamy encourages male co-operation and reduces conflict (and is less unequal) but whether this is true or meaningful in terms of the actual dynamic of Western state formation and modernisation is debatable. It may be that monogamy was simply part of a package (within an ideology) where other aspects of the package were more important to the process and that the same package that accidentally had some sort of ideological commitment to an appropriate form of polygamy might have served equally well.
All that then may have happened was that the total ideology was successful so that the bits of it that were simply accidental (the junk DNA, if you like) got carried along with it. After all, monogamy was the dominant model from the Fall of Rome to the Reformation and we see no sign of modernisation during that period, a full millennium. And yet it is hard to see how any proto-democratic society could easily have coped with institutional polygyny where reproductive advantage was given so ostentatiously to the rich and powerful. Petty ressentiment from the beta masses alone would have wanted change.
One can imagine, if polygamy (as opposed to the institution of the King's Mistress) had persisted amongst the Bourbons to the level of the local aristocracy with 'droit de seigneur', that Jacobins would have included monogamy ('a woman for every household' instead of the later 'chicken in every pot') in their list of egalitarian and democratic demands. The point is that politics would always have been what the mass of men wanted in a revolutionary situation and not what equal and informed men and women with reasonable access to resources wanted. Feminists generally, ideologically, wanted a better monogamy (meaning more power for women) rather than more sexual freedom for women - with a few notable exceptions such as Kollontai. If you had argued the point about erotic capital then as now and suggested that women could be advantaged by playing their erotic advantages over men in order to acquire capital in a truly free society, the reaction then as now would be 'quel horreur!'
But from where did Western monogamy originate? Scheidel considers whether it is situated in in the rise of the Greek polis. We might think of relatively weak rulers (the tyrants were never oriental-style potentates with access to vast resources) and elites who depended incidentally on bands of warriors that were quite small and spent most of their time on the land. This link to early democracy matches my point above about what the Jacobins are likely to have done. But this thesis might be a false friend because legitimised authoritarian monogamy is still not general under the city-state system. Modern monogamy seems derived from ancient exemplars - notably Solon in Athens and Rome - which then got endorsed by the dominant ideology that slowly dictated every facet of life in the West to the point where we can scarcely sneeze without it being a Judaeo-Christian sneeze. We see monogamy not as an invention but as a process extending over 2,500 years and taking form slowly in its modern classic form only after many adaptations.
This model is now so associated with what it means to be Western today, that left-liberals are often deeply suspicious of anything that is not monogamous and will have a tendency to a moralism worthy of Origen on sexual matters once a household is created. They prefer serial monogamy (divorce and separation) to polyamory or multiple households, still are aghast at 'cheating' (which they associate with distrust of all elites as psychopaths and cheaters), don't like slightly off-centre sexual expression such as pornography or other forms of 'objectification', are less likely to be impressed by the claims of BDSM to be a reasonable private consensual choice, have preferred gays to want to choose civil partnership and then marriage rather than seek other radical models of property holding and child rearing and are highly critical of political figures like Berlusconi who exhibit polygynous characteristics.
They can also be very po-faced about sexuality in general, demanding careful definitions of orientation, lodging these orientations in identities and the language of rights and expecting a form of right behaviour, right words and right thought as the price of freedom. Non-religious political conservatives have a tendency now to remain in the world of informal polygynies, 'don't ask, don't tell' and 'turning a blind eye'. The current hysteria about a Tory Minister allegedly watching pornography ten years ago on an office computer has the liberal elite in full war cry on what should really be at best a private matter and, at worst, a minor infringement of office conduct undertaken well before any statute of limitation. What Damien Green did is really the business only of the pettifoggers of a human resources departments with no humanity or sense of time. That the Left hungry for power is in alliance with authoritarian police officers to bring him down tells you a great deal about the topsy-turvy world of the modern British Left.
The Solon reforms in Athens (a classic case of authoritarian provision of social order) in the early sixth century BC defined the monogamous conjugal family as 'the sole legitimate family form', barring male procreation outside marriage as illegitimate. What we have here, of course, is a link with property relations and the pre-emption of disputes inimical to order. It is order that matters here and not sexual conduct. It is certainly not a God-thing. One historian of the era looks at it from another perspective - removing bastards from legitimacy also reduced the scale of aristocratic pretension by reducing the numbers of aristocrats available to one household viz. the property relation is a reduction of the property claims of one class by reducing their household. However, it is also clear, as we noted above, that not all Hellenes subscribed to this 'wheeze'. The monogamous state par excellence - Rome - is the one we really have to contend with and it is Rome that eventually dictated terms on this matter to the West. Rome remains the dead weight on freedom whether it be as the grounding of the Church or as the grounding of the European Union.
Scheidel suggests that Rome might fit the model whereby monogamy mitigated sexual competition in a quasi-egalitarian context with elites needing to mobilise military participation. Possibly, but this is my suggestion, it was a matter of ensuring large numbers of males on smallholdings with a woman per household to maintain and organise the estate while the husband was at war but similar polities have also remained polygynous (although no State in antiquity ever matched Rome's ability to throw manpower into the maw of war). Rome was an acquisitive machine for mass murder that was to make a cult of death in the circuses worthy of the Aztecs.
Political participation in itself does not (at this early stage) predict monogamy. In fact, slavery masks polygyny because while the matron wife was free as partner in the household, it would be naive not to expect female slaves to have had the same sexual and household role as sister wives in formally polygamous households elsewhere. In other words, monogamy was a socio-political form but not necessarily a psycho-sexual one. The women in hidden Roman polygynous households were simply demoted (other than the wife as chief household administrator) and so were more oppressed and exploited than the women in outwardly polygamous households. Roman monogamy also introduced a serial aspect to the case - divorce was easy and so serial monogamy might be said to have mimicked polygyny simply by making it function more in time than in space. Modern divorce reproduces an aspect of this.
The overall message here is probably that monogamy was initially indeed just a wheeze to smooth the process of mobilising beta men into state service or providing some semblance of order by ensuring the form of equality without the substance - and how familiar is such a wheeze today! The wheeze, as so often, became an ideology - one that neatly covered the actual polygynous behaviour of the elite because it was presented as a moral ideal rather than a moral necessity and so worn lightly.
This ideology, based on an elite's formal representation in a context of state service and ambition (to cover for a gross process of 'global' acquisition) became hybridised with a somewhat sex-negative desert religion that had been Hellenised. The republican moral ideal became transmuted through a transfer of power into a religion purporting to protect women and slaves. From Augustus presenting a monogamous model and despite the polygynous and polyandrous (gay) proclivities of decadent Emperors, republican moral value merged with Judaeo-Christianity to create a moral necessity, a straight-jacket for elites and an endorsement of the necessary habits of the middling sort.
Every time a barbarian people came into contact with the hybridised ideology of the war machine, acceptance of that ideology became a condition for acceptance as tributary or (in the Middle Ages) acceptance as equal. Modernisation in the pre-modern era included total adoption of the ideology with both its sex-negativity and its formal monogamous structures combined and enforced on the middling sort and on elites alike. Informal polygyny, the more exploitative version compared with formal polygamy, was allowed for elites (for the masses until various 'reformations'), making use of variants of the 'blind eye', of which the French 'maitresse' and the 'courtesan' systems may be taken as the type.
Elites thus still got maximal nookie while the masses were increasingly denied even serial monogamy except on terms of guilt or shame and then only with women who were now outcasts rather than merely slaves or would be made outcasts if they 'transgressed'. It was not so much patriarchy that repressed women as the very religion that purported to defend them - or rather it picked and chose who it defended and it defended the women who were to make monogamy an effective tool for household but not political or social or economic power. The consequent socio-sexual ideology was thus not merely embedded in Western culture, it then intensified under successive reformations (from the Middle Ages onwards) and then became part of the self-image of the middling sort as they struggled to build prosperity in households under industrialisation.
Sexual repression and the hybrid patriarchal-matriarchal household reached its apogee in the twentieth century from which it then faced the threat of sexual liberation (which resulted in a surge of serial monogamy) and increased prosperity which, with contraception, liberated women from the obligations and many of the risks inherent in the model. Men had had the choice of compliance either through faith or in misery or as hidden polygyny and homosexuality through deviance and secrecy. Now they had the choice of transparency but while homosexuals were slowly liberated, many heterosexuals remained trapped in the ideology while others began to develop new ideas and forms of sexuality.
And that is where we are now - in a world where monogamy is the habitual norm and a much kinder place than it was fifty years ago and where formal polygamy is, in itself, out of time and place and no longer automatically the better bet for most women. However, social pressures for acceptance of monogamy in its legitimated form make dissent from within the institution a very dangerous matter indeed with highly emotional responses, bitterness, divorce and sometimes appalling effects on children because there is no ideological room for compromise.
What the better bet for men and women is today is not clear (especially as monogamy has become so much kinder) because increasingly the simple categories of men and women, married and unmarried, are collapsing into new categories based on personal psychologies so that a certain type of man and a certain type of woman have more in common with each other than either does with another type of man or woman. Today, increased resources for the middling sort and freedom from social action allows sentimental and emotional choices to drive new sexual relations and so social forms (albeit still restricted by legal habits derived from the old hybrid ideology).
Some can now choose monogamy deliberately and with full understanding of its purpose - long term bonding, child-rearing, property management. Others can choose to remain single or maintain a non-legitimised or partially legitimised (civil partnership) model. Still others can maintain the secret polygyny of mistresses and sex workers. And yet others are choosing the many variants of polyamory. In other words, sex is no longer a game with necessary winners or losers because of the structures in which choices are embedded. Things have become fluid.
There is no option,of course, to import slaves. No person in principle is obligated either to serve another sexually (though we continue to battle at the margins against sex slavery) or hang around with people they have come to loathe even 'for the sake of the children'. People are now generally unhappy for one of three reasons - they are just unhappy and no one will make them happy except themselves, they are still trapped in the hybrid Roman-Christian ideology and its derivatives or they simply do not have the resources to finance their choices. The last is the real problem for late liberal capitalism which offers rhetorical freedom (just as Rome offered rhetorical morality) but cannot will the means to live that freedom.
In conclusion we can now answer our initial debating questions to some extent. We know how monogamy became privileged although we are still not sure why but we also know that it is not the only means by which human beings can run their affairs and that, while it has many advantages, those advantages are not invariably so for all people or for some people at all times. The question is now whether we can have a society that allows people to choose fairly and without harming others whatever social and sexual (and economic) relations can best serve themselves and protect children.