Is Polygamy Really Wrong?

People assume so. But is it really?

Is it, for example, anti-christian? The Bible seems to endorse it in fact. Early Christian Charlemagne had more than one wife. And it apparently was at least a non-issue then.

Is it wrong “morally”? I covered the Christian part. And most other moralities, at least that I am aware of, focus on the harmful aspects of things*. So how does polygamy harm anyone?

Thank you in advance to all who reply:)

*I’m sorry, I probably won’t be able to offer a cite for this. But it’s true. Most moralities (other than Christian) focus on the harm things do. Prove me wrong:).

[li]In practice, polygamy is largely polygyny, which if practiced widely leads to a shortage of women for men. Either you have large numbers of frustrated men with no chance at a relationship with a woman (which leads to social instability), or you have “excess” males being outright discarded like the radical Mormons do to boys.[/li][li]It has a common correlation with the poor treatment of women.[/li][/ul]

I don’t think it’s an inherently immoral system and it probably makes good sense in the proper context. However, Der Trihs listed two valid criticisms of polygamy in the modern age. From a legal standpoint it seems like polygamy would be quite a headache when it came to divorce and what to do with the children.

Polygamy is harmful and morally wrong when it happens in a social context of unequal gender power dynamics, as is usually the case. Between consenting, informed, more-or-less equal adults, there isn’t anything wrong with polyamory - Freak Freely.

Seems one could argue that monogamy is a poor treatment of men.


Pardon my grunting there but you’re going to have to explain that one. It’s not hard to find examples of polygyny leading to adverse outcomes for females. Can you make examples of your thesis?

These. I’ve no objections in theory to polygamy (or polyamory); the problem is that in practice it tends to get very nasty to one or more of the parties involved very quickly, simply because there is often a fundamental inequality involved in the relationship that cannot easily be mitigated through any formal or legal means.

Also, as noted, before polygamy can be made legal there would have to be significant issues to be resolved over things like division of property, child custody, powers of attorney and medical decisions, divorce or legal separation of one or more members of the marriage, and so forth.

Wrong, not exactly. Suboptimal, yes, in my opinion. It’s a very rare person that can handle it without having much more problems than in a traditional marriage. An open marriage would work better, and they aren’t usually so hot, either.

I don’t think it’s fair to talk about what might come up as well as polygamy. Polygamy in itself does not promote anything other than polygamy. When it comes to poor treatment of women is polygamy the cause or effect of that society? I’d guess both.

I don’t see any reason to consider it morally or ethically wrong if we’re just talking about polygamy and not adding in issues relating to how polygamy is practised currently.

Not really. It benefits men by ensuring that the great majority of men have a woman at some point, instead of of the old days where the wealthy & powerful accrued the majority of women. If anything it’s historically been against the interests of women, since a portion of a rich man’s resources would benefit them more than a full share of a poor man’s.

While I agree there’s nothing intrinsically wrong about marriages involving more than two people, the rationale that actually drives most polygamy in practice is that women are baby factories that need to be utterly dependent on men. Polygamy “makes sense” to women in societies where their standard of living is completely dependent on the wealth of their husbands, and so it might make more sense to share a wealthy man than get all of a poor man. Having a career or anything like that doesn’t factor in.

A modern marriage is supposed to be more of an equal partnership, and while a three plus person relationship based on mutual respect is entirely possible, in practice the vast majority of “secular” polygamous marriages would be Hugh Hefner types maintaining a bevel of floozies because they’re financially able to. Since everyone in that situation is a consenting adult, I wouldn’t necessarily say that should be illegal, but it definitely wanders into my definition of “not right”. I do think polygamy as it is practiced in places like Colorado City in virtually all cases isn’t entirely consensual and should be illegal and cracked down on.

I’ve always thought that if we made polygamy legal, most of the concomitant problems we see with polygamy would disappear. Well, not disappear exactly, but they’d be pretty much the same problems we have with respect to monogamy.

When there is abuse in a relationship, a wife in monogamy has recourse to the law; a polygamous wife does not. When there is a custody dispute, the court systems are set up to decide for the child, in monogamous marriages. There is no outside power now to regulate in a polygamous situation with children.

It’s like the argument many of us hold in our minds for legal abortion; the consequences are appalling. That’s where polygamy in the US stands today. (And marriage of consenting relatives, as far as I’m concerned.)

But what about the women that could benefit from multiple husbands? She marries 5 husbands, gets 5x the bride price (or in modern terms… “5x the widow’s inheritance”.)

Maybe some “Sex in the City” type of liberated women would make out better by hedging their bets with 5 outstanding inheritances vs 5 serial sequential marriage-and-divorce settlements. (This may hurt the value of ugly undesirable women so the total net benefit to society might be less. I don’t know.)

There has to exist some positives in all this for both men and women.

That’s pretty much limited to regions with extreme poverty, to the extent that it takes more than one man to support a woman and children. And I understand that typically none of the people in such a marriage actually like it.

I’m not sure I really agree with this. The way the courts handle custody with a divorcing couple and pair of single people who had a kid (which is how the courts would view the kids of the wives other than wife #1) is pretty much the same. Ditto with domestic violence laws and such-- they’re all geared toward “partner abuse” and I can’t think of any situation where things would be different with a married couple.

Most of the problems with polygamy as practiced in the US today is that those who do so are members of religious groups where physical and mental abuse are endemic and women are brainwashed and treated as virtual prisoners. I don’t see any way legally recognizing those marriages would help. (Although one way it might help is that supposedly a big part of what supports those communities is that most of the wives are technically single mothers with many children and so get lots of public assistance-- maybe if they were legally married that loophole could be more easily closed)

The OP really needs to clarify their position. The question is simply too broad to answer adequately. Certainly in historical context polygamous relationships have allowed abuses of power, but then so have monogamous ones. In and of itself there is no reason that a balanced relationship should be any more ethically suspect simply because it involves multiple partners.

Cindy is Married to Frank and Mark. Everyone contributes to the household in some manner, and While Frank provides the bulk of emotional support to Cindy in just the ways she needs, his sex drive is very low and was a frustrating factor in their relationship. Mark is in many ways, Frank’s opposite. He is charming and a pleasant man, but is not really there for Cindy in the manner that Frank is. He does however, provide frequent physical affection for Cindy and is a great friend and occasional lover to Frank who is bi-sexual. Collectively, they have 3 children, and due to the fact that Mark travels often for work, Frank is able to be a stay-at home Dad and telecommute.

In this case, everyone benefits from the arrangement; If you take the basis of ethics to be that the creation of harm or suffering is “wrong”, then this relationship is not ethically suspect. You could create any number of other scenarios With any combination of genders and reasons and get the same results. Our current objections are more a creation of historical bad memories and religious baggage than anything else.

My point is that when polygamy is illegal, its practice goes underground. Polygamists have no regulation and no rights then, neither by society or law. They can’t go to a counselor or a lawyer with any problems–they’ll go to jail. It’s the illegality that allows the abuse, brainwashing, and imprisoning to go on. Before the extent of domestic abuse in the world came to light, and laws and centers were put into place, it was a lot easier to beat your wife and get away with it.

I dont have a cite, but I believe it was the Catholic Church who defined monogamy. If I remember correctly, it was because the rich were getting all the women. To spread out the gene pool, as it were, they decided 1 wife per Christian male. I have over simplified the issue, but that was the gist of it.

The Bible has numerous examples of polygamy. Where fidelity is concerned, the Bibles examples mention “wife” (not plural), but I am not convinced they meant one.

Remember, the penalty for bigamy is not just 2 wives, but 2 MILs as well

Then lets see real-life examples of relationships like this that work. There were lots of examples of gay couples in stable, long-term relationships long before anyone even began to talk about gay marriage being legally sanctioned.

Similarly, if polyamorous relationships can create stable, viable family units that don’t oppress the women involved, let’s see some evidence of that such family units actually do exist in significant numbers. Then we can start talking about whether it’s desirable to expand marriage laws to encompass them. But there’s no point in fighting to expand marriage laws to accommodate an idealized theoretical construct. We’re not moving toward gay marriage because, *hypothetically *a gay couple *might *form a long-term stable bond. We’re doing it because in reality there are huge numbers of gay couples who have. Changing the laws is just recognizing the reality of a situation that already exists.

Take look around at any number of boards for polyamorous people. There are loads of people living in such arrangements currently. I suspect that the lack of law to encompass this is far more the weight of history combined with the cumbersome nature of Western law that lack of good examples. Also in many states here in the US, simple cohabitation can run afoul of strict bigamy laws.