In this setting, the family unit is based around a clan system. An individual's wealth and status is related to the clan they are born in, and its ancestry is based on matrilineal lines. Marriage does not exist in the form we would recognize. Instead, this culture practices a form of exogamy, in which the male leaves his own family to join the household of another while the female stays in the clan she was born into.

A man doesn't marry an individual, but marries into an entire clan. Sometimes, groups of men marry into a clan at once. This leads to many offspring coming from the same father. A cultural belief system has developed in which boys are considered "sons of society" and raised in bulk while girls are "daughters of their mothers" and raised specifically by their mother.

Polyandry has largely been viewed as unstable in our world. This system of having multiple males married to a household can be problematic. How can this society avoid that and maintain its stability?

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    $\begingroup$ how does it leave men unmarried? Wouldn't it rather leave women unmarried, since you could have several men per woman? $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 13:42
  • $\begingroup$ @ArtificialSoul just edited $\endgroup$
    – Incognito
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ This was a bit confusing to me. Polyandry = one wife, many husbands. You're describing true polygamy = many wives, many husbands (compared to what we often call polygamy, polygyny = multiple wives, one husband). From a genetics standpoint, your society is more stable than most due to the well mixed gene pool. You don't describe the politics or economics of your society, which is what would affect its stability. Asking what form of politics and/or economics may arise is an open-ended question that would likely get closed as POB. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 14:06
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    $\begingroup$ As-is this question is very broad. I think it would help this question greatly if you listed the challenges to be overcome. You are asking how can this be made stable, but the question doesn't make clear how it isn't stable. What, specifically, are the problems to solve? $\endgroup$
    – Jared K
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 14:18
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    $\begingroup$ There are several examples of stable polyandry in Earth's history, including today. Rarely do "many offspring coming from the same father," because the mother gets to decide who the father(s) will be...and few men want to pay the high cost of arguing with her. Also, why would mothers and matriarchs want bulk-raised (poorly-raised, unskilled, poorly-educated) sons-in-law for their clan? $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 18:14

2 Answers 2


What you are describing in your question is actually a form of group marriage rather than actual polyandry. The problems that you will encounter in such a group marriage will come primarily from the attitudes in the culture regarding the ownership of sex. In a group marriage situation, all members of the group need to feel like they have equal or fair ownership of the sexual collateral shared by the group, otherwise there will be conflict regarding how sex is shared.

The obvious solution to this problem is the imposition of a cultural norm where resources (including sex) are all communal property of the clan. This would result in a very strong expectation that everyone should always do "Whatever is best for the Clan" in all situations. Members of the clan who's actions are not in line with this will be objects of ridicule and scorn, perhaps even including expulsion from the clan.


This system would leave large numbers of men unmarried, which has historically led to an increase in violence.

Why would unmarried men become violent?

In most societies in our world men are supposed to only have sexual interactions with their married wife (or wives). "Cleaning the pipes" on their own is still seen as inferior solution and was portrayed as a health risk in the past to enforce sexual abstinence outside of marriage. There's an obvious statistical correlation: Men without any sexual outlet tend to become more violent. In countries with prostitution illegal and a societal stigma (or even laws) against premarital sex the rape rates are significantly higher than in countries without this. (Thanks to ArtificialSoul)

If you remove this barrier to sexual satisfaction for unmarried men you could remove a lot of frustration and potential for agression. Being invited into the bed of a noblewoman is a high privilege, but even the lowest ranking man should have a place he can go to satisfy himself.

Depending on how you want to portray your society, you could have the typical female sex worker, but it seems that male sex workers would be more realistic in your setting.

Female workers:

  • Could be regarded with the highest respect due to the stabilizing services they provide for their society
  • Could be the second born, third born... who are selected to perform services (like third born sons where sent to monestaries in the past)
  • Or they could be expelled and outcast daughters

Male workers:

  • Could be forced to work until they're married
  • Could enjoy higher previleges and more rights for their services
  • Could use the service as a means to promote themselves as satisfying husbands

If you find the idea of sex work repelling, you could install a culture of free dating in your society. Have dedicated places (like gardens) on each clans property where everyone willing to share a bed comes to at night. Women have free choice, of course, and those men who were not selected for the night find a male partner. These places should also exist in public areas to give unmarried men the same opportunity.

  • $\begingroup$ Why would unmarried men become violent? It's simply an obvious statistical correlation. Men without any sexual outlet tend to become more violent. In countries with prostitution illegal and a societal stigma (or even laws) against premarital sex the rape rates are significantly higher than in countries without this. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ The situation you're discussing is not that unmarried men become violent, but unlaid men get violent. If a man marries a clan, that's lots of women who are nominally willing to have sex with him. Since there's no actual pairing up, there's no reason why a woman who prefers another man wouldn't have sex with our newlywed man. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 17:36
  • $\begingroup$ The married men are less of a problem, as long as there are enough women willing to take them to bed as often as they feel the need (which tend to be more often than women do, so you would need more women than men if you want to avoid any homosexuality). The problem I see are the juvenile and young adults (therefore unmarried) who are sexually and physically very active and are susceptive to ideas like taking a woman by force or rebelling against the matriarchy. $\endgroup$
    – Elmy
    Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 17:50

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