Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Serial Monogamy, Serial Polygamy, or Worse?

Kate Zernike's story in the New York Times on rich guys who dump their wives for younger models over and over again, "The Ex-Ex-Ex-Men," is sad.

It does raise the question, though, of whether we should think of this phenomenon as serial monogamy, or serial polygamy. Since polygamy is illegal in our country, these relations have the form of monogamy. Often these deluded playboys imagine that they are in love and that this is really for life. For a while.

Still, polygamy seems to be a closer model. In formally polygamous societies, only rich men can afford multiple wives, leaving poor guys without any. In those societies, each woman and her children typically has their own house, while the husband moves from one wife's house to another. In our society, the rich man pays off the old wife so she and her children can set up their own household, while he moves on to the next. The lead example in the Zernike story is Ron Perelman, who recently dropped wife number four, Ellen Barkin. The story noted that Perelman had paid off his four exes, according to their prenuptial agreements, in the amounts of, respectively, $8 million, $80 million, and $30 million, while Ms. Barkin got $20 million. Evidently wife number two understood her man the best.

The theory of the prenuptial agreement is that it removes any temptation for the poorer party (unless you're Oprah, that would be "her") to try to get half through a divorce, while it costs the richer party (read: "him") enough to make him think twice about dumping her and moving on. And a $20 million payout to his most recent blonde might give the average millionaire pause. To a billionaire like Perelman, though, it is just another business expense.

In Perelman's case – or Donald Trump's, or any number of hugely rich guys who give themselves "weddings" every few years -- this sequence of payoffs, though, suggests another way of thinking about what these relations amount to: prostitution.

Sad, sad, sad.


Anonymous said...

Pre-nups are a joke. These things have pervaded our culture. Everyone from Howard Stern to Kanye West are preaching their benefits (Kanye’s cd is the bomb, even if he’s wrong about relationships; the man’s a producer, not a marriage counselor). But, the truth is if you become rich while you’re married then you owe your spouse half for supporting you on your way up (you wouldn’t have made it without them, don’t kid yourself). If you’re already rich STOP MARRYING PEOPLE WHO AREN’T IMPORTANT ENOUGH TO YOU TO DESERVE HALF!! Pre-nuptual agreements are divorce plans, nothing more or less. What’s the point of taking vows that you can’t take seriously, “Till death do us part. But when we break up I’m only giving you 20K.”

If you don’t mean it, don’t do it. If you feel like you have to have a pre-nup, then you don’t really mean it. Plain and simple.

George Clooney’s got the right idea, if you’re rich and good looking, just don’t get married. You’ll get all the women you want even without the promise of commitment; you don’t have to make a mockery of the concept of marriage for the rest of us said...

Take away prenups and you will resolve this issue hastily.
Raymond B

Milliner's Dream, a woman of many "hats"... said...

Talk about high-priced hookers, then! Whew.


SPorcupine said...

I sense that you are searching for sociological insight into this phenomenon.

Would the word "scum" be any help to your theory?

Or the phrase "born to be guillotined"?

They want to and they can: they shouldn't do it and they should be ostracized everywhere they go.

Gruntled said...

Pre-nups are part of the scary movement to make marriage just another private contract. In fact, marriage may sink below even the level of an enforceable contract, as one-party no-fault divorce pretty much now does.

Anonymous said...

Pre-nups are needed even by first time married people. It is a way to protect what you worked hard for. all people deserve what they worked for and to have it easily taken aay is a really bad joke. For those who feel that one shouldnt marry one who doesnt derserve half are wrong because that implies that humans arent worth that much.

Mike said...

Men are biologically wired to look for younger mates and women are wired to look for older ones. Why do people have problems with older men dating younger women when that's what there designed to do? If people are happy in their relationship we shouldn't judge them. I know many older men who date younger women and both parties are very happy in their relationship.