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.


Commenting area

  1. 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.

    Or in the words of Napoleon to Josephine, when he set out for the one-month-long journey back to France: “Ne te lave pas. J’arrive.”

    I’ve actually unlearned a little bit of my American cultural conditioning on that front, thanks to living in Europe and having two European lovers. Anytime I sniff my pits and go, “Ew, I’m smelly”, they sniff me and go “Mrrrr” and drag me back to bed (when circumstances allow).

    And I’ve learned to prefer their natural scents to their scent with cologne, even my husband whom I found a little skunky-smelling when I first met him. My boyfriend smells fabulous when he sweats, and he sweats a lot… it ends up being like full-body lube during sex sometimes!

  2. one could also argue that self confidence is another way of attracting a mate.

    i like natural smells. a fresh sweaty man smell is just really arousing and invigorating. aroused female is arousing. but stale sweat does get rank, and strong, but not aweful.

  3. A certain amount of competition is always going to be there, and is healthy to the human race. Where would we be if the American’s hadn’t wanted to beat the Russian’s to the moon, Roger Bannister hadn’t wanted to beat anyone else to run the 4 minute mile, someone to design the jet engine and make it faster and more efficient, or anyone in any industry whatsoever wanting to design the best, fastest, sexiest, most efficient, largest, smallest, or whatever else defines success for that product whether it’s to beat the competition or show off to his peers.

    As long as you keep a grasp on reality and know when and where to let it push you on to more and greater things, compete away!

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