Here’s a humorous ad for Big Love that amplifies the sense of competition in polygamy:
Eau de Polygamie ad (thanks to Alissa for the link!)
Where to begin? Well, you all know my thoughts on Big Love. I’ve no issue with polygamy in principal–as long as the wives are allowed to take additional husbands as well and everyone gets the love and attention they need and deserve. I do have issues with the way polygamy has been practiced in this country, with a religious undertone, no freedom for wives to take extra husbands or lovers, and underage marriage and abuse.
I suppose that’s what bothers me about this ad. It’s acknowledging that everyone isn’t getting the love and attention they need and deserve, so steps must be taken to “stand out from his other wives.” Yeah, yeah; I know it’s a joke, minx. I know it’s just a TV show. But it still bugs me. It’s still perpetuating the myth that, even in a polygamous relationship, you have to choose one person. Isn’t the whole point of polygamy (or polyamory) that you don’t have to choose, that you can simply appreciate each love for who he or she is?
Or it might not be the poly aspect of this that’s bothersome at all. Maybe it’s the idea that we need perfume to cover up the scent of who we are and to compete with others for a mate. In Anatomy of Love: a Natural History, of Adultery, Monogamy and Divorce, noted anthropologist Helen Fisher discusses the interesting American phenomenon of becoming culturally disgusted by natural odors. She mentions that in the Middle Ages, lovers would keep a slice of apple underneath their armpit (yes, really!) and give it to their beloved as a token. One’s own natural odors were considered, well, natural. And sexy. That is, just being (and smelling like) you was enough. No need for perfumes to “set you apart” from anyone.
I don’t suppose we can get away from the idea of romantic competition, however. Judith Lipton and David Barash in the Myth of Monogamy talk about natural competition for the most desirable mate as a reproductive strategy, whether that be the best nest-builder, the guy with the most colorful plumage, or the chick with the biggest… ovaries. Maybe it’s unrealistic to expect that we won’t compete, even in the most loving of poly households.
Nyeeeeeh. I think competition is based on insecurity, and we can all learn to become more secure people. It’s work, yes, but rewarding stuff. And no expensive perfume is required.