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What could prompt an elvish society to develop monogamy?

A typical elvish couple is not monogamous, but rather tesseramory, coupling one couple with another couple. With the exceptions of the werewolves and certain populations of satyrs, bisexuality is so common among xenosimians that we're not sure if there are any hetero- or homosexual individuals. In the case of the elves, having a family of two males and two females would work in easing them from "choosing sides".



In modern fantasy, the elves have been associated with eternal youth. Indeed, the real elves do live longer than humans, but not by infinity. Whereas the average human lifespan is 79 years, the average elvish lifespan is 150. Typical female pregnancy varies between 200 and 241 days, and twins are the usual compartment. This actually puts a real strain on development and may actually explain why elves live so long. Having milk that is 3% fat, 14% sugar and 15% protein might sound helpful, but it really isn't. The infant's brain is only 21% the size of the adult's (which is beneath the human baby's 28%, itself beneath the dwarvish baby's 35%.) In the first ten days of birth, the babies won't open their eyes. They'll be blind and deaf until they are four months old, but they won't be able to stand until their second birthday. Really, here is how long each stage of elvish development lasts:

  • 0-4: Infancy

  • 5-7: Toddler

  • 8-16: Child

  • 17-25: Puberty

  • 26-34: Adolescent

  • 35-88: Adult

  • 89-144: Middle age

  • 145-150: Old age


So with that backstory in mind, what could prompt an elvish society to disregard tesseramory and embrace monogamy instead?
 

Stevie

Minstrel
Well, assuming tesseramory is the established practice and has proven benefits that out-weight any draw-backs, one prompt could be a radical change in that society's norms, such would be ushered in by the advent of a new religion or social/political movement that calls for things to be done differently. This could be done over fairly short timescales, the Russian revolution and the revolution in China come to mind, though the changes wrought by those relied heavily on state control and coersion and it's up for debate how well they bedded in. Longer term, it could simply be changing social attitudes, see the demise of the nuclear family as an ideal model in Western countries perhaps, noting that social attitudes do not always trend towards liberal and away from conservative.
 

Chasejxyz

Inkling
Many cultures had "non-standard" genders/sexualities/relationships that got ground out of existence when Western (read: Christian) people showed up and "civilized" them. They brought medicine, tools, and new crops, but they also did not give people the ability to say no to them. In The Handmaid's Tale, people went from modern American culture (casual dating/sex, divorces etc) to hardcore "you are married to one person for forever" with the addition of hadmaids, who get passed around to certain men, because a new government with their own religion violently took over America. The people who didn't comply with this new norm were killed. Other countries didn't step in to help because they also want handmaids and to not upset this nation that has no problem attacking others.

Another thing that can change norms is natural disasters. If there was a disaster that left the world with 3 men and 3 women, well, our norms around incest are going to have to be thrown out if we want the species to survive. Sexual reproduction, biologically speaking, is really expensive, since it means that only half of the individuals are able to produce young (compared to 100% in asexual species), so population growth is very slow. You mention that elves normally have twins, so having 4 parents raising 2 kids is a very good split of effort per parent per kid, but that's also resources for 6 people you need to raise one family unit. If resources were scarce, it would make more sense to only have 2 parents and 1 kid (either there isn't enough nutrients to support 2 babies or they go with infanticide) that move around a lot than 6 staying in one place.
 
Natural disaster, deadly STDs without a cure except to prevent spread, Elven Ebola or Black Death could easily drive people into isolation, a contracted or common “genetic disease”, any of these where the need for safe reproduction overrides social norms. Once instituted for survival of the species/culture, the arrangement could easily “stick” and even become sacrosanct in their religion.
 

Miles Lacey

Maester
What about economic considerations? What if the cost of running a four parent household is becoming too expensive? What if a disease starts wiping out the sort of trees the elves need to build their homes so in order to preserve the few trees that are left the elves are forced to live in smaller dwellings which are impractical for four parent households to live in?

Introducing monogamy could also be introduced as a form of population control because four parent households producing whole football teams of children are putting too much pressure on local resources.
 

Queshire

Auror
Bwuh? Ease them from choosing sides? As in choosing between men and women? Bisexuality doesn’t work like that. =/

Polyamory isn't really connected to what you're attracted to as well and there's no real reason why it'd so neatly wind up as two men and two women outside of cultural reasons. Of course, a lot of stuff can come from cultural reasons.
 
There doesn't really have to be a reason other than changing social ideas. There seems to be no natural reason why there would be 4 people to a marriage and why it should be always 4. Which means it's a cultural thing. And cultures change all the time.

Pick a Western country and look at how families changed over the past 100 years or even 50 years. It used to be that a family was 2 parents (1 male + 1 female) plus a bunch of kids, where the male works and the female takes care of the kids, and often multiple generations would live together. Now, a family can still be that, but also a single person living by himself, a bunch of friends living together, MM or FF families with kids, single parents with kids, even MM + FF having kids together, people opting to have no kids and probably a bunch of other types I've missed. In other words, it changes (and often does so slowly and gradually) until something becomes a new norm.

Why would there always be 4 people in the relationship? What if you find 1 person you want to be with but not the other 2? Can you only have kids if there is 4 of you? If so, why? What if you simply dislike busy groups of people and can't stand the thought of being in a household with 3 other people the whole time? Why stop at 4 and not 6?

If anything, I would imagine that 4 people would perhaps be the idealized version of family life. But that unless you go for arranged mariages it would not be standard. Already simply because the more people you add to a relationship, the more people need to be okay with adding the next person. In a 2 person relationship, there's only 1 connection to worry about, between person A and B. With 3 people, there's already 3 connections to worry about: AB, AC and BC. And with 4 people it's 6: AB, AC, AD, BC, BD and CD. If only one of the connections doesn't work then there's no marriage.
 

WooHooMan

Auror
Why would there always be 4 people in the relationship? What if you find 1 person you want to be with but not the other 2? Can you only have kids if there is 4 of you? If so, why? What if you simply dislike busy groups of people and can't stand the thought of being in a household with 3 other people the whole time? Why stop at 4 and not 6?
It would seem like the sole reason is to give each person in the union multiple options while still in a committed relationship and with a manageable number with complete gender equality.

Anyways, I think you’re right on the money with your suggestion about making this an organic social shift.
I’d say it’s perfectly reasonable that a bisexual person would prefer some exclusivity to their partner rather than having three partners that they share. Plus, when kids are involved, that could create some stress between the couples. Like, couple A are raising couple B’s offspring or maybe man A has kids with woman A and woman B but man B is still expected to put his effort and resources into raising them.
I could see a good amount of the population rejecting that social arrangement in favor of sticking with one person and then solely raising their own children (be they biological or adopted or what have you).
 
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Pyrite Pen

New Member
The elves might reduce the number of "allowed" or "typical" partners if their gene pool is limited and they're worried about inbreeding. Maybe they have laws about marrying first or second cousins, or keep detailed genealogies to prevent this.
Also, assuming elves can't be with their children all through their early development, you might consider having some who are specially trained in infant/child care as a profession, which might allow 2 parents more flexibility.
 
If the elves become monogamous, are their pairings always heterosexual, always homosexual, or hetero in some cases and homo in others?

If all elves are bisexual, but they end up limited to one marriage partner, how does their desire for partners of each sex get fulfilled? If they're only allowed to marry one gender (or only allowed to marry one person, even if their marriage laws allow that one person to be either gender), do they have affairs to fill in the gap? Give up on having partners of the other gender they're interested in?

In a same sex marriage, that would prevent children, unless there's some workaround allowing them to sleep with others for the purpose of procreation. In an opposite sex marriage, you'd still get children, but unless there's some workaround allowing same gender partners as desired, there's probably going to be a lot of cheating.

For that matter, bisexual desires aside, monogamous societies tend to see a lot of cheating, even if it all involves the same combination of genders.

If their original marriage customs gave everyone both same and opposite sex spouses, and if part of the reason was that everyone desired sexual partners of both genders, it doesn't seem logical to me that they'd give that up for any reason other than having it imposed on them from outside. If they got colonized by a culture that regarded anything but monogamy as pure evil, and forcibly converted to a religion that taught that, the way could change. In the absence of something like that, it doesn't make sense that it would evolve on its own.
 

pmmg

Vala
I dont think the original post makes sense. What modern fantasy are you talking about? I suppose you could make elves any way you like, but I am not sure these would be the norm.

I would suggest they would become monogamous for the same reasons others do. Which I think would include the procreation and protection of children, the needs created by different roles within the monogamous relationship, the morality questions of many -vs- few lovers, love itself, the value of monogamy to whole of the society in which the elves live, and philosophical or religious reasons that take hold.

Why would anyone become monogamous? I dont know. I will ask my wife and see what she says.
 

Miles Lacey

Maester
In my work in progress the society is bisexual and the definition of a normal relationship is that of four people as the Faith states "True contentment can only come from a union with both a man and a woman." I looked at various types of relationships and the minimum number of people needed to make this a reality is four.

However, four parent families produce more children. That means more pressure on water, food, building materials, textiles, land etc. Over the course of several generations a group of ten four parent households that set up camp with each family having two children per parent (8 children per family) would grow from about 120 people to a few thousand people. This does not take into account people coming or leaving the community, deaths from causes other than old age or disease, or families having differing numbers of children.

Now if we see a major change, such as industrialisation, this will lead to things like urbanisation where pressure for space to build a place to live will be high. As happened with industrialisation and urbanisation in Europe, North America and elsewhere this often resulted in the move from extended families to the nuclear family.

Perhaps this is one way in which four parent households can be reduced to two parent households.
 

Queshire

Auror
If the elves become monogamous, are their pairings always heterosexual, always homosexual, or hetero in some cases and homo in others?

If all elves are bisexual, but they end up limited to one marriage partner, how does their desire for partners of each sex get fulfilled? If they're only allowed to marry one gender (or only allowed to marry one person, even if their marriage laws allow that one person to be either gender), do they have affairs to fill in the gap? Give up on having partners of the other gender they're interested in?

In a same sex marriage, that would prevent children, unless there's some workaround allowing them to sleep with others for the purpose of procreation. In an opposite sex marriage, you'd still get children, but unless there's some workaround allowing same gender partners as desired, there's probably going to be a lot of cheating.

For that matter, bisexual desires aside, monogamous societies tend to see a lot of cheating, even if it all involves the same combination of genders.

If their original marriage customs gave everyone both same and opposite sex spouses, and if part of the reason was that everyone desired sexual partners of both genders, it doesn't seem logical to me that they'd give that up for any reason other than having it imposed on them from outside. If they got colonized by a culture that regarded anything but monogamy as pure evil, and forcibly converted to a religion that taught that, the way could change. In the absence of something like that, it doesn't make sense that it would evolve on its own.

Please don't treat such ugly stereotypes about bi people as if they were true. =<
 
However, four parent families produce more children.
Do they?

A four parent family would produce more children for the same family, but if that four parent family were divided into two families with two parents each, they could still have as many children between them. Those children would be divided between two families, so it would be fewer children per family, but it would still be the same number of children being added to the next generation.

Suppose Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice are a four parent family. Alice gives birth to two children. So does Carol. One family, four children.

Now suppose that four parent family is divided in two. Bob and Carol have two children. Ted and Alice also have two children. Each individual family is smaller, but between them, Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice have still produced four children. The net effect on the population is the same.
 

Queshire

Auror
Mmm.... this is as much to the rest of the thread, but....

Hey, I like the bi and poly rep. That gets two que-thumbs up from me, but saying that a bi person needs to be in a relationship with a guy and a girl to feel fulfilled is like saying a straight guy needs to... I don't know, be in a relationship with a White girl and an Asian girl to feel fulfilled.

It's simply having a wider range of preferences. Different things might appeal about each, but just because you like both spicy food and sweet food doesn't mean that you need to always have both at every meal.

Similarly a poly bi person might not strictly be in a relationship with one guy and one girl. Might be two guys or two girls and a guy.

Bi people in real life get a lot of crap about how they used to be bi or weren't really bi because they're in a relationship with someone of one gender, but just because you're eating spicy food on the regular doesn't mean that you stop liking sweet food. Others treat them like they're beasts lead around by their dick/pussy and are more likely to cheat.

Hell, I had one real life friend who said that he wouldn't be comfortable dating a bi person because their attraction to the other sex would make him feel like he's not good enough or something along those lines.
 
Mmm.... this is as much to the rest of the thread, but....

Hey, I like the bi and poly rep. That gets two que-thumbs up from me, but saying that a bi person needs to be in a relationship with a guy and a girl to feel fulfilled is like saying a straight guy needs to... I don't know, be in a relationship with a White girl and an Asian girl to feel fulfilled.
I was merely following what the OP had implicitly stated: that these fictional elves pretty universally feel a need to have a sexual relationship with someone of each gender. That's not the same thing as saying actual bisexual people always do.

I'm well aware that many bisexual people are monogamous, and prefer that. For some, it might mean their relationship with their monogamous partner is more important than any desire, whether fleeting or strong, they might feel for people of the other gender. For others, perhaps most, it's a case of, "if I were single, I'd consider having a relationship with a man or a woman, but I'm not, I'm happy with the partner I have, so that's a moot point."

And, as I mentioned in my post, there's plenty of extramarital cheating in reality even if it doesn't cross gender combinations. Plenty of other woman/other man situations. Doesn't mean everyone cheats, but enough people do that if a previously polyamorous (up to a point) society shifted to monogamy, they'd almost definitely have that issue.
 
Hell, I had one real life friend who said that he wouldn't be comfortable dating a bi person because their attraction to the other sex would make him feel like he's not good enough or something along those lines.
Sounds like your friend suffers from major insecurity. Poor guy.

A previous boyfriend of mine had a much healthier take on that. He told me that if I had any desire to make love with another woman, he wouldn't object, and he wouldn't be jealous, because that would be something he couldn't give me. But he would not like it if I did it with another man, because that would be looking elsewhere for what he could give me.

I had no inclination to do either of those things, but that he had that attitude made me feel all the more secure in that relationship.

Getting back to the thread topic, the OP implied that these elves need a partner of each gender in their lives, but didn't outright say so. I asked the questions I did hoping they'd come back and weigh in.
 
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Miles Lacey

Maester
Do they?

A four parent family would produce more children for the same family, but if that four parent family were divided into two families with two parents each, they could still have as many children between them. Those children would be divided between two families, so it would be fewer children per family, but it would still be the same number of children being added to the next generation.

Suppose Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice are a four parent family. Alice gives birth to two children. So does Carol. One family, four children.

Now suppose that four parent family is divided in two. Bob and Carol have two children. Ted and Alice also have two children. Each individual family is smaller, but between them, Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice have still produced four children. The net effect on the population is the same.

Perhaps but there are many variables to take into account when determining what the individual composition of four parent families might be and how many children there might be within such a household. For example, families could be made up of FFFM, FFMM or FMMM if they wish to reproduce biologically. My scenario also did not take into account the availability of contraception of some sort which would also influence the make-up of a household nor those who are not biologically male or female.

Even among non-heterosexual people monogamy is almost universally seen as the ideal relationship in the West but this isn't necessarily the case in non-Western societies. My work in progress is set in a society which isn't Western.
 
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