I want to know if it is possible to retain monogamous marriages and relationships if the chances of a female getting pregnant reduce dramatically which will, in turn, affect the survival of human race.

Edit: My story is set in a dystopian world, where humans are advanced enough to have known concepts such as marriages and monogamy. Survival of the race is tough though because of the dystopic premise. My question is, would monogamy be a luxury when the human race is trying to ensure its survival? Assume resources are available aplenty.

Edit 2: The fertility would be about fifteen days. (I initially set this as two months, but as it would be illogical to have a proportionate increase fertility window and have it impact the birth rate, I have lowered it to fifteen days) The gestation period remains the same.


closed as too broad by sphennings, Azuaron, T. Sar, Rob Watts, Mindwin Jul 13 '17 at 17:55

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    $\begingroup$ Questions asking "how would x affect society?" are often closed as too broad. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Jul 13 '17 at 13:26
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    $\begingroup$ Note that, indeed, these days women simply have children infrequently compared to the "old days". would it be more along the lines you're thinking, if, women could only have children - say - on 3 occasions out of a 30 year fertility lifetime? Those occasions would then become incredibly significant, full of probably fights, etc. $\endgroup$ – Fattie Jul 13 '17 at 13:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Fattie: I agree that they would be significant for the women and also the society which depends on the women to keep the race going. But will it result in the men fighting for women? Or more power to women to select their partners? Or polygamy? $\endgroup$ – Vivian Colen Jul 13 '17 at 14:08
  • $\begingroup$ My guess is that half-siblings (more-than-one-father per mother) would become (more) common (than it already is in our world). Regarding the "males fighting" thing: it's worth nothing that "we" as it were "used" to do that ("when we were monkeys"). The fact is, I guess this is a good thing, it really doesn't happen any more, now that we're apparently rational. By all means males compete economically for women, but there's just not a lot of "fighting over females" - ! $\endgroup$ – Fattie Jul 13 '17 at 14:24
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    $\begingroup$ Vivian, I see you accepted an answer. There's nothing absolutely stopping you from doing that so soon, but general practice on Worldbuilding.SE is to wait at least 24 hours between asking a question and accepting an answer. The reason for this is that accepting an answer can deter other people from posting their own answers, but waiting 24 hours allows everybody around the world a chance to post (regardless of what time zone they're living in). If you want, you can un-accept the answer for now; you can always accept it again later, or accept a different answer if a better one shows up. $\endgroup$ – Palarran Jul 13 '17 at 15:08

Like most open ended "how would society change" questions, this one is really up to you and what story you want to write. The changes would be dramatic, making monogamy the least of your worries.

Survival of the race is tough though because of the dystopic premise.

As a general rule, people don't think about the survival of their race as much as they feel it. Survival of a race is typically something built deep into one's genetic code, because a species is such a long-lived concept that it's really hard for us to make sense of it with our tiny little mayfly lives. The tools needed to survive as a species are hardwired into us terribly deeply. For instance, it is known that when one is sexually aroused, one's intelligence goes down. They did a study which involved asking intelligence related questions when people were aroused and not aroused and found that they did substantially poorer during arousal. Their biology literally turned their brain off when reproduction was involved. (this, of course, suggested changes in how we should do sex education regarding condom use because at the moment that really matters, we weren't thinking about it!)

If you have a species whose femalse have a menstrual cycle once a year, presumably you also intended the woman to ovulate once a year. Realistically speaking, that's going to be on the order of 20 chances to have progeny (if I may make some very rough estimates regarding lifespans in the pre-history region). Of those, you need a minimum of 2 successes, and realistically you need more to make up for deaths before the children reach reproductive age and have their children. You need quite the success ratio.

For those who haven't tried for children, it can be hard. Some families "just get lucky" on their first few tries. Some even "get lucky" when they really didn't want to get lucky! However, others may struggle for months trying to conceive. Our biology was designed around these probabilities. If your species' women ovulated 1/12th less often, there would be dramatic changes in biology to make sure that those few times are "good enough."

These biological changes would basically completely and utterly change every single aspect of their reproductive life in ways that are beyond the scope of this question. You'd need to decide how your species' genetic code adapts to this very slow ovulation cycle. Then you get to decide how your culture adapts within that code. Then you get to decide how your individuals adapt within that culture.

If you did want monogamy to be a thing, you'd probably want there to be a massive advantage for "the right guy" to be around at the right time. For examples of how this might work, look at the other monogamous species. As alex2006 points out, Emperor penguins would be an excellent source matter to draw from, as they already have a yearly cycle for reproduction for environmental reasons. You could look at their "married life" for inspiration. Note that it's quite different from ours!

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    $\begingroup$ That's an odd study you're mentioning there with a notable conclusion. Some people reading this answer might want a link to that, to be sure it's actually real! $\endgroup$ – Palarran Jul 13 '17 at 15:05

Monogamy might even become more relevant, as a woman might not wish to 'waste' her chance of conceiving a child with a partner who is not willing to share in the efforts of the child's upbringing. A lot of examples for this behaviour exist in nature, with Emperor penguins being one of the most prominent examples, as you may want to check out here.

As the length of pregnancy does not change nor will the time until the child does not need assistance from its parents anymore change, only a limited amount of children can be brought up independent of how often per year a woman can conceive.

In addition, it would dramatically reduce unwanted pregnancies and make women more consciously aware of choosing her mate. This could even strengthen women's standing in society.


Consider that the trend we observe in real society goes in the direction of reducing reproductive activity with improving technological and economical conditions.

Reproductive activities and sexual activities are separated for homo sapiens sapiens, and we lack a sharply defined period of sexual receptivity like it happens for most of other mammals.

Furthermore, human female disguise their fertile status to lure the male into being constantly close to them (i.e. by having always developed breasts, while other mammals only grow breasts during breastfeeding, which is a no no for mating receptivity).

On a personal note, I think that non monogamous relationships are not related to reproductive needs but (mostly if not all) to sexual entertainment, leading to accidental reproduction.

Monogamy would neither be a luxury nor a burden in your world. The issue will be to make sure that those few generated babies do not die before reaching reproductive age.


A sharp decline in female fertility would eventually destroy monogamy, but only near the very end.

If as @Fattie asserted, the gestation potential fell to 3 opportunities per lifetime, and if the likelihood of pregnancy remained unchanged, then a sharp population decline would result.

Most women would have no children, while a few might have one and a extremely small few might have two.

Within a few generations, our current billions could become tens of thousands.

If during that decline, our doctors and scientists were unable repair the gestation potential, other solutions would need to be pursued.

Artificial insemination during all three opportunities would become mandatory with state aid provided for the raising of all resulting children.

99.9% of all artificial inseminations would be made female with y-potential sperm being filtered out of the artificial gene pairing process.

A small population of males would be raised in each generation to maintain the sperm supply, but those numbers would be kept small to focus most of our species resources on population repair.

Monogamy would not be a generally available possibility for dozens of generations. So when the population finally rose above the extinction threat, and the artificial inseminators could finally allow a higher percentage of males to be born, there would be little social demand for monogamous pairing.

Having men remain a one in a thousand cultural anomaly might just remain an ongoing norm. As a sever minority, we might even loose the vote, fair wages and eventually our right to work; reduced to being arm candy for the powerful women who can afford to keep us around like pets.

After all, nature loves a little irony.

  • $\begingroup$ That's downright sad although it does put things in perspective! $\endgroup$ – Vivian Colen Jul 13 '17 at 15:01

If this fictional society were anything like our current society, this wouldn't have much effect on monogamy. With modern birth control, pregnancy isn't the issue it once was. If one of the two partners in a hetero relationship doesn't want pregnancy, it can be stopped.

Also, looking at current society... I haven't stayed married because I'm worried about getting other women pregnant. I have stayed married because I found a woman that I genuinely am happy living with. You'd have to live through a few screwy partners, and experienced how they can turn your life upside down on a whim, to understand how valuable an emotionally stable partner you get along with is.

  • $\begingroup$ Agreed, but my premise has a world where survivability of mankind is at stake. $\endgroup$ – Vivian Colen Jul 13 '17 at 16:25
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    $\begingroup$ @VivianColen: Obviously reducing the menstrual cycle to one year will impact birth rates to a degree. However, the question was... will it affect marital life? Actually, given that this would mean 11 less crabby cycles a year, that would probably improve married life. $\endgroup$ – tj1000 Jul 13 '17 at 18:26

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