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Harems: Vns and real-life


Clephas

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The idea of a harem is a very old one. In fact, there is literally no culture (prior to Christianity) that, sometime in its past, did not accept the idea of a harem in one form or another.

However, it was never a simple system of one man simply marrying as many women as he wanted. In some places, it was a mark of familial wealth. In order to avoid long-term difficulties, a wealthy individual would take numerous wives, produce numerous sons, and split that wealth amongst those sons in order to prevent his fellow villagers or townsmen from turning on his family at some future point. In others, it was a mark of political power. An Emperor would take numerous wives, both to form alliances with his nobles and foreign countries and in order to ensure the continuance of his dynasty (in most Imperial dynasties, it was accepted that there would be vicious palace politics that would kill off numerous potential heirs). In old China, it was accepted that a man would take a primary wife and many concubines if he had the wealth to do so. The primary wife would be the mistress of the family, whereas the others would help administer the husband's estates under her direction.

So why did the harem system go out of fashion? It didn't, really. Most men of power and wealth have mistresses, even today, and the attitude of most 'old money' families is one of resignation toward this kind of behavior. Of course, religiously and legally those living in the mostly Christian west can only have a single wife, but the tacit approval of wealthy and powerful men taking mistresses is a work-around common to almost all monogamist cultures.

Now, for the morality of it... extract religion and hypocritical social mores from the mix, and you basically have three golden standards by which the idea of a harem might be condemned or approved:

1. Are the men/women involved satisfied with the situation and well-treated?

2. Does the male or female holder of the harem have the wealth to support his/her spouses and any resulting children?

3. Are the resulting children happy and healthy?

That's real life. VNs do it a bit differently. Because VNs tend to avoid dirty details (no, I don't mean H, I mean real-life style drama) and ignore inconvenient realities, the average VN probably wouldn't be able to fulfill those standards in the long run. This is because most VN protagonists don't have the capability or strength of will to both manage the inevitable internal conflicts of a harem (herding cats) and bring in enough money to support a large family. For this reason, most VN harems just don't qualify in my eyes as being a realistic idea.

That said, there are VNs that actually consider the realities and make it seem like a realistic choice... but most don't manage it, lol. I especially have to rofl at harem nukige and moege.

Now, for my personal viewpoint... I basically think that if you can manage to fulfill the 'golden rules' above, there is no reason why I should care if you have multiple wives/lovers. On the other hand, if you can't afford to have a wife and kids, you shouldn't. I hate optimists.

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Realistically?  Harumade Kururu's true ending... Draculius's true ending, Nanairo Reincarnation (if you play it, you'll get what I mean).  However, all three of those have special circumstances that intervene to make it both a necessity and a possibility.  There are also some VNs where the protagonist will end up with two heroines (usually due to some psychological dependence issue) that make sense.   In addition, there are also a number of chuunige where the main heroine remains by the protagonist's side even after he chooses another, and those can be considered to be so in a way (Comyu and Ayakashibito are obvious examples of this). 

 

Most VNs with harem endings are either nukige or moege that are almost nukige.  For every thirty harems in VNs, there is one that makes sense.

 

Oh, and the mecha-con one makes sense, if you accept the psychotic setting.

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Nice, short and to the point. I couldn't agree more with most of what you said, except maybe the third rule, where you seem to imply that a man needs the permission of his kids to get married.. Which sounds pretty weird to me. Other than that, 9/10, cuz no mention of Arabs

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Mmm... what I am saying with the children is basically an extension of the rule that you have to be able to pay for the children you have.  Health care, food, education, etc. 

 

Also, part of the point was to say that West never really abandoned harems, it just  made them go underground, like homosexuality before the last few decades of the twentieth century.  The Arabs aren't a good example because most Westerners don't think there is any solid common ground with them, which makes it hard to empathize... whereas most of the people here at least have some exposure to Asian culture (duh) and ancient culture (possibly). 

 

Edit: Yeah, it is a manipulative way of doing things, but it is the truth (about the way a lot of people over here think).  It takes a lot of contact with rl Arabs to get over a lot of the prejudice, and most people just aren't that open-minded (sadly).  I used to live next door to a Kuwaiti family (that mysteriously had two grown women and one man living together with four children... three from one woman, one from the other) that changed my mind, but that is an experience that most Westerners don't have the benefit of. 

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