Personally, I'm in favor of marriage. The public declaration of fealty steers the focus of any marital problems onto resolution rather than dissolution. However, I don't think the question should be, "Should gay couples be allowed to marry?". It should be, "Why is the government involved, AT ALL, in how people wish to structure their households?".

We should be relying on government for assistance in enforcing contracts. But how these contracts are structured should be entirely up to the people involved. This, of course, includes people who wish to structure their households around participation by more than two individuals.

I guess there needs to be a set of default contracts (to protect children and establish ownership of chattels, etc.) which are deemed to be in effect when people share a household; but, other than that, the government should have no role. 

I know that polygamy facilitates some injustices that never occur in "traditional" marriages <joke>, but is polygamy sufficiently evil by its nature to require the government to ban it?

Tags: marriage, polygamy

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A. I have been working through the thread and have found many of your posts enlightening. However this is Page 1. Does it really make sense to berate people on Page 1 for not having read through to Page 12?



B. South Africa is an example of a country with some legal acceptance of polygamy. Polygamy proper, as in the simultaneous marriage of multiple adults. You are arguing from the position of a participant in the polyamory community. That makes your input highly valuable. However, an aspect of the topic is about the effects (if any) of state-sanctioned polygamy.


Does your experience include legal, state-sanctioned polygamy?


And if not, does it make sense for you to claim or imply your experience addresses the same set of concerns as my example?



C. That you are bothered by the concept of considering people as a resource says nothing to the usefulness of the concept. If you want a child you need two fertile people of opposite sex. For any individual fertile person who'd like a child, another fertile person of opposite sex is a necessary resource. Want to field a baseball team? Want to build a GPS satellite? Want to start a university? In every instance you need certain resources, and among those resources are people.


No, we don't tend to refer to each other that way in everyday conversation, but we don't refer to each other according to our chemical make-up either. In both cases the utility of recognizing those alternative methods of accounting for people (sociological or chemical) is not diminished by the fact that colloquial terms of reference differ.


[As as aside: I assume you don't work in HR? :D]



D. You don't seem too concerned with the possibility that polyamorous relations might work differently than your experience when practiced by a much larger population and the diversity of practice that will invariably bring.


D2. You are quite insistent with the notion that removing religion will result in the elimination of negative relationship dynamics. Consider your post above.  You don't hedge at all, rather you suggest that it's some sort of straight forward operation: If you remove religion, you remove power imbalances.  


The problem is...religion is not the sole cause of such events.  Even if you were granted the unlikely event of a religion-free society, the idea that there would be no power-structure or imbalance anywhere in human romantic relations is doubtful. More likely would be a diversity of power-structures and imbalances, with varying degrees of fairness among the instances.


D3. Also, you haven't addressed the issue that the polyamorous community is not analogous to the 'monoamorous' society in which it is embedded in a critical way - the polyamorous community is a relatively small, voluntary association of people.


The voluntary nature of the polyamorous community means that anyone who finds themselves strongly disliking something about the community can simply opt-out of it.


Furthermore, like all other small voluntary groups, the community itself has the luxury of casting out people who do not properly integrate its values and practices. In effect, leaving the broader society to handle the person who didn't cooperate well.


General society has no such privilege.  At least not by as simple a means.


And this is why I don't think it makes sense to unambiguously claim that the practices of the polyamorous community will scale up to the national level free of common problems - even with the utopian 'no religion' caveat attached. Once you move a set of social practices to the national scale you lose the ability to easily 'purify' your practice by removing those who do it wrong. Once a set of social behaviours becomes common human practice, it will be subject to common human errors.



E. I actually agree with you that polygamy should be legal like other marriage arrangements of consenting adults.  

The problems it will have at the family level (various sorts of interpersonal abuse and so forth) are not unique to it. Additionally, the current system of benefits that are granted to married couples could be adapted to a polygamy-permitting society.


Still, the best way to find whether there would be unique positive or negative effects at the societal level would be to test it at a broad scale.  Of course I previously suggested the best way would be to test it, but...



Thanks for any and all clarifications.

"Does it really make sense to berate people on Page 1 for not having read through to Page 12?"

Yes, when page 12 existed prior to the comment on page 1 and when you don't have to have read through to page 12 to have seen these comments repeated several times.

"Does your experience include legal, state-sanctioned polygamy?"

Your premise is flawed. You quoted state-sanctioned, religiously-mandated polyGYNY, not polygamy. As far as I know, only tribal societies had polygamy, which do not have the same sort of political setup to be called "state-sanctioned".

"does it make sense for you to claim or imply your experience addresses the same set of concerns as my example?"

My point is, and always has been, that when you remove the religious edicts and give all genders equal decision-making power in their own relationships, these types of problems do not occur. My experience is with exactly this type of group - one where all genders have equal power to make relationship decisions, because of the current almost-equal economic power that women in the US enjoy. It is *only* when women have that sort of freedom that you get this kind of egalitarianism. Even in the US, where religion maintains its stranglehold, you find that power imbalance - but you find it in monogamy as well as multi-partner relationships. And in those monogamous, imbalanced, relationships, you have exactly those kinds of problems.

" If you want a child you need two fertile people of opposite sex. For any individual fertile person who'd like a child, another fertile person of opposite sex is a necessary resource."

By that logic, we should not only ban polygamy, but also all infertile and child-free-by-choice couples from marrying, since apparently the point of marriage is procreation.

No, actually, if you want a child, you do not need "two fertile people of opposite sex", you can also have two infertile people adopting from two other fertile people, or two people of the same gender and the sperm or the ovum of another, or two people with sperm & ovum and a third to act as a host, and if the mice results scale up, eventually you won't even need opposite sexes at all.

People do not get into relationships for the purposes of "mating" and haven't for quite a few generations. People get into relationships for emotional and sexual connections, and producing offspring is only one item among many for the determination of whether or not to partner (and it's not a mandatory one either).

"You don't seem too concerned with the possibility that polyamorous relations might work differently than your experience when practiced by a much larger population and the diversity of practice that will invariably bring."

I am speaking not based just on my personal experience, but as an observer of a "much larger population" of tens of thousands of people. Even if it were to be legal, it will most likely remain a minority choice, so yes, I'm fairly confident that the "diversity of practice" has been represented in my comments, particularly since I actually authored a demographic survey last year, so this is not just "my friends", but a sample of the entire nation.

Considering that egalitarian societies are correlated with a lower instance of religiosity, it is a reasonable hypothesis to make that removing the religion as the dictating power in individual choices will remove the *systemic* abuse. The point I have been trying to make is that it is not *polygamy* that is responsible for those cases of abuse, it is the religious sponsorship & the exemption from the law that religion enjoys, that make those abuses prevalent.

I have repeatedly pointed out that monogamy has, historically, also been rife with abuse. We did not ban monogamy, we banned the abuse. We gave women the power to divorce, we gave them the power to consent to the marriage, we gave them independence so that they didn't have to get married just to survive, and we gave them preferential treatment from the courts in the event of a separation. Even though these freedoms and powers are still not yet exactly equal to men, we have effectively divorced abuse from the institution of monogamy.

This doesn't mean that abuse never happens anymore. It means that we can clearly now recognize that abuse is not the result of a monogamous relationship. It has *other* causes, and monogamy only fostered abuse when it is patriarchal, misogynistic, and the women are powerless to either leave or refuse to enter the marriage. When the veil of religious exemption is lifted from monogamy, we as a society can more clearly see when someone is being abused, and intervene - as we can also tell when that veil protects an abuser from the law (i.e. the pedophile priests).

"And this is why I don't think it makes sense to unambiguously claim that the practices of the polyamorous community will scale up to the national level "

First of all, polyamory will never be a majority practice, so there is not much more scaling up left to do. Second, we don't have any such privilege of "kicking people out". We have no means or authority to remove someone's ability to claim to be polyamorous. All we can do is choose not to date someone who doesn't play nice. Judging by the hundreds of blog posts & thousands of comments on articles from someone who was "cheated on" by a "poly person", it is not possible to "purify" our group. What I am talking about is not "purifying" the poly community into a homogenous society, but the exact opposite - that's what polygymous societies are. That very diversity is exactly what makes my point possible. It might have some polygynous families, but it will not be prescriptively polygnous and the evidence so far suggests it won't be any particular style-dominated. That was my point, not that there would never be any instances of polygynous households, but that the society itself would not be polygynous and the transparency and accountability that is required to maintain a CONSENSUAL multi-partner relationship is inherently abuse-prohibitive. We simply do not have systemic, prescriptive, patriarchal polygyny when all genders have equal power. Any polygynous families would have to be entered into voluntarily because they would have the freedom to make that choice, and given the choice, so far, that seems to be the minority arrangement.

Because it's also not the polygyny that is the problem - it's the lack of freedom, the misogyny, the patriarchy, and the abuse that's the problem. If 3 women are happy all sharing a husband and that's the extent of their family, I'm going to support them even though it's not the style of relationship I would prefer, because the bottom line is that they were all *happy* with that arrangement, which means it's not abusive and not a power-struggle. But if women are "given" to their husbands as payment for service to the church, without requiring their consent, without the ability to divorce (and that requires the ability to support themselves, with or without alimony, because a legal right to divorce but a social stigma preventing them from working does not equal an "ability to divorce"), without a say in who the other wives are, without the ability to earn a living, and are essentially treated as brood mares - well, it takes religion for otherwise thinking people to agree to treat an entire 50% of the population that poorly, and for that 50% of the population to submit to the poor treatment. People who are in the habit of asking for evidence and valuing individual liberty (as these are secular traits) do not put up with such things, as evidenced by the general non-religious support of gay rights & racial equality.

And if you think that monogamists have to deal with our rejects because you don't have the ability to purge them from your community but we somehow do, well that has to be one of the most blind-to-privilege statements I've seen since the MRAs. The reality is the opposite. You actually have laws protecting people from abuse (it's a flawed system, no doubt, but it exists), but we have sexual predators constantly using our own label to prey on people who are not aware that there is a community that holds transparency and accountability as standards, and no real way of policing these abusers. Any woman who is polyamorous & wants to take legal action against someone who abused or raped her will have her own sexuality dragged through the courts as though her willingness to have multiple sexual partners somehow removes her right to not be abused. Any man who complains would get laughed out of court because he can have "lots of women" so what is he complaining about? Unless someone actually tries to marry several people & take advantage of the legal benefits of marriage or actually physically harms someone (and leaves evidence), any abusive person that we do happen to come across has almost no legal repercussions for their actions - especially if they cry "religious freedom" and turn it around as religious persecution like the Bountiful cult did. The best we can do is choose not to date people like that, but from where I stand, it appears much more like our community is getting your rejects, because they think they have found some kind of legitimacy for their obnoxious behaviour, as though labeling it "polyamorous" somehow excuses their callous disregard for their partners' feelings or their rampant promiscuity at the expense of others' safety.

As I've already stated elsewhere, we are already testing it out at the social level, to the best of our ability given the legal constraints against us. Someone else mentioned elsewhere that many poly families just incorporate their households & run it like a business, and that seems to be working fairly well. Actually, I would prefer for *monogamous* marriage to be run more like that, rather than trying to make polygamy fit into the legal monogamy model. Incorporation sees no discrimination for sex, race, orientation, or number of people. It has some basic foundations, but can be tailored a bit to meet the needs of the group. Let the religious wingnuts have the word "marriage" for all I care, I'm more concerned with every individual in this supposedly free nation actually having the freedom to make the same choices as old white Christian males. If we, as a nation, insist that marriage is a right, and that it is to be governed under contract law, then every adult should have the ability to enter into that contract with the partner(s) of their choice. Then, when someone breaks the law, either civil or criminal, by rape, abuse, harassment, coercion, statutory rape, theft, or any other law, that individual should be prosecuted, regardless of race, sex, relationship structure, or religious affiliation.
I think that the readers of this thread need to read more carefully the words of those who are IN a polygamous or polyamourus relationship as i won't say that any study you read is falsified to reflect a moralistic bent, but my guess is the results can be and are interpreted to reflect a world view based on religiously imposed norms... personally, i would take the words of someone involved over some study that can be influenced by sponsors to say whatever they want it to say...

Marriage being a civil contract can be done with more than one person. They would just need to put in some new provisions for it, or the people involved could draw up their own deal.

It could be five men and one women too..The boss is up to them not us....

Whom ever has the healthcare proxy would decide what would be done in medical decisions.

People deserve the right to do what they want in life... 

Polygyny is more likely to occur than polyandry due to the imbalance of power between the genders.  Polygyny will only contribute to the problem by lowering the status of women in general society--women as chattel, as harem girls, etc. 


After women have elevated themselves and have gained equal legal status, financial parity, and social status to men, one would expect the gender make-up to be less skewed toward polygyny.  At this point, polygamy would not be a significant threat to the well being of the women and children in such arrangements nor to women as a class.


While I agree we are no longer a culture entirely held hostage by Puritan sexual morals, we still have quite a bit of maturing to do before we can claim to have jettisoned all of their patriarchal values.  Polygamy is not going to help the situation.

If the family consists of religious nuts, the women would be regarded as property and that is the same for tradition marriages.

We're not taking about cults or compound families, are we?

Women in a  plural marriage are not automatically the submissive mate or mates.

They can be independent, work outside the home, and basically run the ship with the husband as the equal or submissive role.

Some women might find it better to have the other wives help with all the responsibilities of being a wife, mother and the list goes on and on...

Just because it's not for me, doesn't mean it's not for you.

To be able to have a choice  is what it's all about

The governments should get off that latter and stop looking over my fence!

Bullshit.  As @Robin said, women in plural marriages are not automatically submissive mates.  You're talking about religiously-mandated polygyny.  There is already a significant portion of the population engaging in egalitarian, consensual multi-partnerships and women are most certainly not chattel, harem girls, or have "lowered status".


In fact, the polyamorous movement is a female-driven movement.  It is neither polygynous nor polyandrous.  It is egalitarian, with individuals deciding how many partners they want, and of what gender, based on personal preference.  An individual family may be made up of one man and several women, but there is no expectation that they *should* be that way, nor that anyone else should.


You are also assuming that one person, specifically the solo gender representative, will have relationships with each of the opposite gender partners, but no one will have a romantic relationship with anyone else.  You do not take into account either sexual orientation, nor cross-partnering with members of all genders having multiple mates.  This is far more common in polyamory than any polygyny or polyandry structure.

My concern is that the majority of the population is not as advanced in their understanding of gender relationships as people in the polyamorous community.  I don't see the type of egalitarian relationships you describe happening outside of that group--instead I see men and women people conditioned in a patriarchal structure entering into inequitable relationships mirroring the power structures they already know. 


If the majority of people in our culture were at the point of social evolution in which homosexual, bisexual, and heterosexual relationships were equally valued and men and women stood on equal grounds in society, I would wholeheartedly support expanding marriage to include polyamorous relationships.  Until then, I think we would simply be creating a new forum for the suppression of women.


And lastly, I didn't mean to imply that women are chattel and harem girls but rather that seeing women in abusive polyamorous relationships would contribute to the impression of women as being of lowered status in the mind of the general public. 


When people do not play nice in the poly community, they quickly find themselves without anyone to play with.


If someone is not "as advanced in their understanding of gender relationships as people in the polyamorous community", they don't find partners until they learn.


Besides that, even if polygamy were legal, the majority of people in our culture will not be polygamous anyway.


Also, there *are* no reported cases of women in abusive polyamorous relationships.  Not that this never ever has happened, but it is so rare as to be completely off the radar and certainly has never been reported.  Abuse is rampant, however, in patriarchal, religious polygyny.  And the point that I've been making over and over again is that if you remove the religious edict that dictates polygyny, you remove the basis of the abuse.  Abuse is *also* present in monogamy, yet no one has tried to criminalize *that* ... because it's not the "gamy" that makes it abusive, it's the sexism and the cover of religion that perpetrates it.  Get rid of the religious protection, make it legal so that people can be held accountable, and you have no *more* problems than you do with monogamy ... and a fair bit fewer, since loving multi-partner relationships actually takes a LOT more work than monogamy, because of the communication involved.

"Polygyny will only contribute to the problem by lowering the status of women in general society--women as chattel, as harem girls, etc."

Whether legalizing polygamy would have an overall positive or negative benefit on how society views women is not relevant. The point is that individuals should be given free choice and should not be constrained by how their society might view this choice. If a group of women desire to marry a single man that is fine, regardless of whether it would appear to reduce their status, as long as it is their decision. This is also true if a group of men wish to marry a single woman. How the culture of the day might view this choice is unimportant. 


Regarding #1 - But what if the women have voluntarily entered into the polygamist relationship? What if the relationship between husband and wives is as equal as any monogamous relationship or marriage? Is it still patriarchal and misogynistic? If so than the same blanket statement must be applied to all monogamous marriages and relationships.

Regarding #2 - Many women are just as powerless in monogamous one man/one woman marriages. Again, a blanket statement can't be applied to ALL polygamist relationships anymore than it can be applied to ALL monogamous relationships.

There was no "Blanket", I said some women...

That was my point, that not all women in any marriage are in that stereotypical role.




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