With the legal acceptance of gay marriage, I am wondering what other sexual no-no’s will be toppled next. But first let me say, that I thought it stupid that interracial marriage, kinky sex, and gay marriage were ever forbidden. Really?
I’ve always said that maybe, when and if there is too much love in the world, maybe I’ll object to someone in a non-traditional relationship. Non-traditional meaning, that’s not what mine is. Right now, we are in no danger of that. So, love away, everyone. Love whomever you wish. Love however you wish.
What about polygamy?
Now, I know polygamy was a commonly accepted marital pattern long before modern times. There were reasons for it, I suppose. Women died at an alarmingly high rate from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. A hardscrabble, subsistence lifestyle meant more hands available could help ensure survival. Men can spread sperm faster than women can pop babies so more women means more potential children.
But that’s not the modern story in first world countries. In the United States polygamy has been condemned and outlawed since a Supreme Court ruling in 1878. Why? The holy book roots that the colonists followed certainly supported in a positive way, plural, simultaneous marriages. How did monogamy win out?
First some background. Polygamy (many spouses) is the broad umbrella term for plural, simultaneous marriages. Within polygamy, one can have polygyny (many wives, the most common form of polygamy) or polyandry (many husbands).
Polygamy is legal in 58 of 200 sovereign states. According to Wikipedia, a study in 1988 identified the marriage patterns of 1,231 societies. Of these 1041 had frequent or occasional polygyny, 4 had polyandry, and 186 practiced monogamy. Hmm! A bit outnumbered.
In 2000, a United Nations committee said polygamy violates a covenant on civil and political rights and that countries should abide by the treaty and eliminate polygamy. But there are so many countries, primarily Muslim ones, that didn’t agree to the treaty that there has been little effect from the recommendation.
In general, the objection seems to be that polygamy hurts women and children as abuses in the FLDS (fundamentalist Mormon) cases have demonstrated. However, some argue that by legalizing polygamy, it will be easier to fight the abuses that are already covered by other laws, such as child abuse, underage marriage, and rape of young girls forced into marriage. Bringing the marriages into the open sheds light on what is really happening. Some say. I’m not so convinced.
One way around the polygamy laws is to have a legal marriage and then have legal adulterous relationships simultaneously. Polygamy results without the legal sanction. You hear stories of this in the news periodically. And there are popular TV shows like the reality show, “Sister Wives”, and fictional shows like “Big Love”, that promote the polygamous lifestyle choice.
Another big objection to polygamy is economic. One needs a substantial family income to support the such large numbers living together. A complaint about FLDS plural marriages is that the families often go on welfare to ensure that families have enough to eat and a large enough home to live in. Some say, fine. Make that lifestyle choice. But no government help will be provided if you do so. Who suffers? Children and women who are denied adequate nutrition and healthcare. How can that be right?
People are curious how families like this manage. Manage financially, socially, emotionally, and physically. Most of us have trouble juggling one spouse and kids! We wonder how our own insecurities and jealousies would play out in a polygamous setting. So we watch these shows to see how they do it. And tickle our brains with could we/should we live a polygamous lifestyle?