Friday, August 5, 2011

The Secular Case For Plural Marriage

There is no legitimate reason to place a limit on how many spouses make up a household. That is a fact I hope you keep in mind, in case you find what I have to say here crazy.

Whenever I mention the topic of plural marriage in one-on-one conversation, I tend to get strange reactions. For one, if I haven’t talked to that person about religion before, they think I’m Mormon, especially if they know I don’t drink alcohol or coffee or tea (which are facts much more likely to come up than religion is).

What’s strange to me is that bringing up polygamy causes the conversation to quickly swing towards pedophilia and rape. For some reason, people can’t separate the idea of polygamy from concepts associated with predatory marriages. There’s nothing unique about polygamy that would single it out for abuse, besides the fact that it was pushed underground and is therefore unregulated.

One man can marry one woman against her wishes when she’s too young to know better, or through an arrangement with her father, without the need for plural marriage. It happens already, and I don’t see the people who react so harshly to plural marriage taking a stance against such practices in the current system of monogamous-only marriage (which is not to say people condone these things, they are just conservative, traditionalist do-nothings on most issues, probably out of sheer laziness of thought and action).

What’s more, I do not support a male-dominated model. Women should be allowed to have multiple husbands if they want. Hell, I imagine there’s more need for a woman to have multiple husbands than for a man to have multiple wives. The only reason a man could conceivably want more than one wife is for sexual reasons, most of them related to child-bearing or the discrepancy between male and female sex drives.

But in point of fact, we as a society don’t need families with dozens of kids, and if we’re going to get lewd about it, at least a woman with three husbands has a hole for each one during sex. If anything, I’m more inclined to not allow men to take extra wives, because from what I understand, there are far more men who are terrible at sex than there are women who are, so what’s the use in one guy having a whole harem of women to disappoint?

Anyway, why not allow multiple spouses? In these tough economic times, the more paychecks coming into the household, the better. Two couples could conceivably combine resources and afford to have one person stay home to handle housework and childcare, while three people worked. Or, the fourth could even work from home or part time. There is undeniable efficiency in combining resources and sharing a common home and budget. Two or three families can afford a higher standard of living as a single unit than they can individually.

And who knows... given Obama’s utter failure of a presidency and the current Republican frontrunner, this just might be a reality as early as 2012.


  1. I agree with that polygamy should be legal. The state has minimal interest in keeping marriage between two people.

  2. I'd think that for polygamy to work, the situation would have to be acceptable to all parties.

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali talked about the real problems with polygamy in Muslim cultures.

    The women are NOT given a choice, or any real say in what will happen. The husband may turn up with another wife, and there's no guarantee that the women will get along. Often there are hard feelings and jealousy, especially if the first wife is left feeling like a failure. (First wife bears daughters, so the husband marries another woman who gives him sons.)

    The women do not have an equal right to multiple husbands. It's a one way street. All the power of choice lies with the husband, and the wives are to obey.

    Successful polygamy would have to involve the wives and husbands equally.

  3. If a guy is going out and just getting random wives on a whim here in America, you can expect to see some plural divorces pretty early on.

    A lot of these "problems" with plural marriage are actually problems associated with primitive culture. Desire for male children, women without any say in a relationship... these are problems that exist independent of plural marriage.

    I'm kind of surprised no one has questioned the sleeping arrangements, or what the children will call all their parents. These are the real "dilemmas," and while easily solved, they have no standardized cultural answer.

  4. I'm pro plural marriage, but the argument from sex is actually the weakest one going for it. I mean, I have sex with different people easily enough without needing to be married to them. Plus, not all women have 3 holes. And not all sex involves putting things in holes. The economic reasons you give deserve a much closer look than the sexual ones, seeing as they're the ones that actually require the government to recognize plural marriages before they can go into effect.

  5. I think sex has little or no rhetorical value when it comes to plural marriage, I merely included it for entertainment purposes.

    But which women don't have three holes? Is this some sort of trap?

    Bonus points to anyone who got that horrible pun...

  6. Given plural marriage, what constitutes the marital unit? Assuming a couple starts things off marrying each other, can one of them choose to marry a third person without the consent of the second? If it's a true plural marriage, don't all three have to be in full agreement?

  7. Assuming a couple starts things off marrying each other, can one of them choose to marry a third person without the consent of the second?

    Can a husband buy a motorcycle without his wife getting upset at him? If you can answer that, you can answer the question you posed to me.

    It's not important that we as a culture define every aspect of how individuals are allowed to decide to build their lives. Even without plural marriage, there are people out "cheating" on their spouses without their knowledge or approval, just as there are open relationships where each partner is comfortable with some degree of extra-marital sex, affection, or economic support.

  8. Well aside from your equating wives with motorcycles, I guess my objection is that marriage is supposed to be a life long bond. I would think the best answer is to say that plural marriages are a contract between all parties equally. So for me to bring in a second wife means that my first wife must also agree to marry the second wife.

    Absent that, I don't see how plural marriage works in an equal and free society. It's clear how it works in a society where the men are in charge, they just add wives like they add motorcycles, so I'm surprised you would support that.

  9. equating wives with motorcycles

    I would never do that. A wife will increase a man's life expectancy. Rather, I would have hoped you could see that what I was pointing out is that two people who enter into a marriage are two sovereign individuals. He can do what he wants, just as she can, and the consequences for both will be determined largely by the other.

    The reason men wouldn't collect wives like motorcycles is because women are free to divorce their husbands in this country. Now the real question... does she get half his wives in the divorce... I kid, of course.

  10. But isn't that the whole point of marriage, to give up a shred of your personal sovereignty to be part of a unit? To make decisions together and not individually?

    Perhaps you and I have very different ideas of what it means to be married. I'm not of the school where husbands and wives keep separate checking accounts...

  11. But isn't that the whole point of marriage, to give up a shred of your personal sovereignty to be part of a unit? To make decisions together and not individually?

    Absolutely not. I still have my freedom and my wife still has hers. She doesn't submit to me anymore than I submit to her (if this is not what you are implying, please don't be insult). The reason we got married is because the way we act naturally is acceptable to each other. It requires no work on my part to be with my wife, and I'm not sure either of us has changed in a fundamental way in order to be with each other. The biggest concessions are probably just having to compromise on what we watch on TV or listen to on the radio, or even perhaps what we eat (although it's not that difficult to make her a salad and me some pizza).

    I think you're looking at what I am saying a little differently than what I mean. I'm saying, if you are with someone who would go out and get extra spouses (regardless of which gender is doing it), you should be okay with that, if you plan to marry them. If you think they wouldn't and then they do, and you aren't okay with it, that's a breakdown in your relationship's communication, and it will probably lead to some problems.

    But like I intended to point out with the motorcycle comment, there is already plenty of potential for a relationship to head south because of poor communication or hasty decisions when it comes to making what could (or perhaps should, if you wish) be life-long commitments.

    Still, some people collect wives even today, they just keep racking up the divorces as well. I'm not sure how things would truly change for such people, except that they wouldn't have to wait for vindictive spouses to finalize a divorce before moving on.

  12. I'll concede that you and I have very different ideas of marriage. And we seem to be talking around each other.

    I made no mention of giving up individual freedom, only the need for married couples to make decisions jointly. I would think something as important as modifying the marital contract by introducing a new party to the contract is a joint decision on a different scale than purchasing motorcycles.

  13. I would think something as important as modifying the marital contract by introducing a new party to the contract is a joint decision on a different scale than purchasing motorcycles.

    I guess I don't see a marriage as being a contract that entitles either party to control over the other. That isn't what a marriage is, nor do I think that is what marriage ought to be. Getting married does not entitle either party to freedom from poor decisions on the part of their spouse.

    If one spouse runs up enormous debt, the other person is still legally liable. I think that is far more dangerous of a problem than getting worried about such a silly scenario as you suggest, where one party will run out and gets an extra spouse without approval. Your situation sounds like a bad comedy, and is solved as easily as getting a divorce.

    I'm not surprised that as a conservative, the only thing you can fixate on when suggesting a new idea is some unrealistic and ridiculous exception that is meant solely to frighten someone off from supporting it. Literally every argument you have presented can be altered and be used as evidence for why no marriage at all should be legal, because none of it is exclusive to plural marriage.

    I could run out and find a girl today (not really... I kind of let myself go, like most husbands). I could [hypothetically] bring her home and try to force my wife into letting her live with us, without any need for getting married. She could spend our money, use our home, eat our food, sleep in our bed... and if I tried to do this, my wife would have the same legal recourse she would have if I had plural married this extra girl [emphasis on girl, because I assume child brides are going to be brought up, but it's legal to marry someone 16 in most places... I don't see any complaints on that].

  14. Look at that, we almost made it through an entire dialog without making things personal. Oh well.

    I'm actually looking for a way to support your proposal, not find a ridiculous exception in order to tear it down. But again, we're talking around each other. Where you got marriage "entitles either party to control over the other" from my statements is a mystery.

    Obviously you and I have very different ideas of what marriage is, so there is no conciliatory ground to find. I resign.

  15. Quitter. Resignation... seriously, I'm ashamed for you.

    Part of living in a free society is being presented with an infinite number of opportunities to abuse the system. Part of being civilized is doing the right thing, even when you don't have to. If you are only concerned with how things can be abused, you're always going to fall on the side of restriction, rather than on the side of free choice.

    Just because I can't imagine myself doing something doesn't mean I should stand in the way of someone else doing it. It is not inherently hurtful, and it provides no new mechanism for victimizing someone. That's why I hold this stance.

  16. I resign because I'm just repeating myself and you keep avoiding or missing my points entirely. My motive is not to see how something could be abused but to see how it would work.

    I simply don't see how plural marriage would work in the real world if either partner at any time can invite another partner into the relationship without the consent of every existing partner to that point.

    See, I'm repeating myself. No point continuing.

  17. I simply don't see how plural marriage would work in the real world if either partner at any time can invite another partner into the relationship without the consent of every existing partner to that point.

    What doesn't "work?" If someone's spouse makes a major decision against their wishes or behind their back... the spouse deals with it like they would have to deal with any stupid decision. I don't understand the complication here. What is unique about this, as opposed to, say, running up half a million dollars in debt, or moving to another state, or even deciding to no longer do housework? All of these things are grounds for divorce, and that is ultimately what happens to marriages where one or both people make incredibly dumb decisions.

    Help me out. Paint me a picture of your ultimate plural marriage horror story. Show me what is so uniquely abusive about the idea that people should be free to enter into marriage vows with more than one person.

  18. "The only reason a man could conceivably want more than one wife is for sexual reasons..."

    I think you have a failure of imagination on this one. What about love and deep friendship? My wife and I have a friend that I'm crazy about. I didn't seek out a 2nd women to be interested in. It's not something I even thought about ahead of time. One day she was not really a part of our life, then suddenly she's become a big part of if. I've never once thought of leaving my wife. But if plural marriages were more acceptable, I'd be very interested in dating our friend, with the possibility of it leading to marriage (even if only symbolic). Both are amazing women. Each with her own incredible, yet diverse, personality.

    I planned my first child. The second was not planned. The day the 2nd child was born I didn't want to drop the first and move on to the 2nd, that would be unthinkable. Nor did my love for the 1st get divided by 2. My love just expanded. I wouldn't want to be without either. Were I to lose a child, it would be heartbreaking. No one would say, "Don't be selfish, you still have one child."

    In a similar way, I don't want to be without either woman. But the reality of our society pretty much guarantees it.


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