I've decided polygamy is an excellent way to raise a family

Here’s a trailer for the show:

Like anything else, there are probably many truths about polygamy. You’re getting one on Oprah. The “Sister Wives” one is another. There are others you will never see.

Lots of books, too. A couple of people have done investigations of the traditionalist Mormons who still do it, and who live like outlaws in areas populated sparsely and mainly with polygamists. It’s not so pretty, and it doesn’t sound very nice at all. Only one wife is legal, the rest of them try for welfare. They like having disabled kids, because they get more money. And they have a lot of them because the wives are very young, they’re married to family members, and prenatal/medical care is not happening.

Even a recent (fiction) best-seller, The Lonely Polygamist, didn’t put that great a face on it.

A communal family situation would be nice; I’ve always thought so. Or extended families. A single-parent acquaintance lived on a kibbutz in Israel for a year and loved it because there were always other kids for her child to play with and always child care when she needed to work, even at crazy hours (in that kibbutz they lived in their own space but there was day care, night care, whenever care).

No, what you’re talking about is polygyny, not polygamy. Polygyny is one male with several females, polygamy is several spouses, and this type of group marriage does not impose a limit of one male or one female to several of the opposing sex. That is, in polygamy, a woman could be the wife of two or more men.

Granted, in the US, polygamy is usually used instead of polygyny, but it’s an incorrect usage.

Polygyny is a viable option when the sex ratio is severely imbalanced, for instance, when there are many more fertile women than men, and the population needs to be rebuilt. However, to allow only polygyny in a society which has fairly equal numbers of men and women pretty much will guarantee that there are a lot of men who won’t find female mates. Now, the gay and bisexual men might be able to find male mates…but societies which allow polygyny are also pretty much dead set against male homosexual activity. Right now, we have a subculture of people who practice polygyny in the US, and as I said before, they have a practice of selecting which young teen boys will be allowed to marry, and which won’t. They gather up the ones who won’t be allowed to marry, take them into the nearest big city, and dump them. These kids have been home schooled, and they’ve had little or no experience with people who don’t believe what they do. They believe that if they can’t get married, they’re going to Hell. And most of them are minors, and are now homeless. How do you think they’re going to have to survive?

Polygyny doesn’t allow the male to have much parenting duty, other than impregnating his wives. The wives are pretty much left to look after themselves and their children. The man MIGHT take an interest in his boys, but he’s only interested in his girls as trading material. That is, he can trade his daughters for another man’s daughters, either for himself or for one of his sons. The females have NO say in whether or not they get married, or who they get married to.

I am not seeing any positive side to polygyny in a normal society, as it is currently practiced.

I didn’t think Stoid was serious at first.

Seriously, man, read up on cultures that have been doing this for more than a few generations. Widespread polygyny creates a messy situation in the larger society.

In this “Sister Wives” sort of situation, sure, you have more adults to care for the children, but you’ll almost certainly have more children, period, than most other families in the US due to beliefs about the goodness and rightness of reproduction. So your attention is stretched out thinner than it would be if you were in a more typical situation for these times. Would you rather have a husband and wife to look after 2 kids, or a husband and 3 wives to tend to a dozen or easily more kids?

In fact, polyandry tends to work to keep inherited lands together, rather than splitting it among eligible male heirs, which can help keep a family farm from splintering into uselessness, so it has use in some cases.

Read Under the Banner of Heaven for how polygyny works out in the US, among a fundamentalist Mormon splinter group. You get outcast young men who do not earn the right to have a wife and are essentially driven out of the only families and society they ever knew, because they are competition for women.

It’s not like there’s a shortage of marriageable men out there, and more and more women are able to support themselves. (In fact, in the current economy, it’s becoming more common that men are unable to find jobs and women are supporting their families.) This is a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist, at least in the US.

I know several polyamory marriages with kids and yeah, when it works, it works fine.

When it blows up, the drama multiplies by the number of adults involved in the drama and they have no protection in law. It can get very sad very quickly.

While I’m not a huge fan of it myself, I’m MORE of a fan of the idea of a social commune - traditional two partner couples raising kids, but in a very tight community where at least some (but probably not all) resources are shared.

However, I’m too much of a selfish, bitchy, introvert to find either idea really conducive to my own personal happiness. Some of my girlfriends talk about how wonderful the whole "we could all live close to each other and watch each others’ kids and share communal meals and have a communal garden - and me and the other bitchy introvert say “yeah, you guys have fun.”

Yeah, that’s something that I didn’t address earlier. For any sort of poly marriage to work, ALL the spouses would have to have about the same outlook on communal chores and communal areas, and have the same goals, monetarily and otherwise. What if one person, who is in charge of finances, has a gambling problem that the others don’t know about, or they think that Larry just likes to buy a few lottery tickets now and then? Larry can “borrow” funds from the kitty, and be quite clever about covering up the deficits…until suddenly he can’t. And what about Mary, who doesn’t like to look after kids or garden, but she is willing to work, as long as some of the other adults are gardening and cooking and looking after kids. Mary has a couple of kids and goes right back into the salt mines after a couple of months. Then either she quits or gets fired, and she can’t or won’t find another job, or at least not a job that brings in nearly as much as she got from working in the salt mins. What happens then? Does she get kicked out? What about her kids?

It’s hard enough for two people to be married. A plural marriage would be damn near unworkable. For certain groups of individuals, it could work, but I don’t think that it would ever become common in a society where the sexes are equal in numbers and in rights.

In the “Big Love” type marriages, basically there’s a group of single mothers with a common sperm donor/husband. The husband doesn’t support the wives nearly as much as the women could get from even rather casual boyfriends, in money OR emotion. Those women are in that situation because they’re broke, barefoot, and pregnant in the classic sense. They’re married before they get out of high school, they have very few job skills, and they are frequently pregnant. They don’t stay because they’re happy. They stay because they have no other choice, really. They believe if they divorce and get out of that religion, that they’re going to Hell, and it terrifies them.

That is the reality. Don’t believe everything you see on Oprah.

Yoiu think that why? Because you saw it on a reality show? reality shows are fake.

How much equality to those “sister wives” have with their master, by the way? Can they fuck other people if they want to?

They’re probably as free to fuck other people as your wife is free to fuck other people.

My wife is not free to fuck other people. Neither am I. We are equal. These “sister wives” are just slaves.

Have you seen the show? They don’t actually seem all that happy. Well, HE does. But not the wives, so much.

Yeah, except Diogenes isn’t free to fuck other people, either. But this Sister Wives guy IS. Well, not someone he isn’t “married” to. But he can marry as many people as he wants, and his wives can’t. That’s total bullshit, in my opinion, and I find it rather shocking that these seemingly intelligent, modern women would stand for it. One of his wives sits him down (on their 20th anniversary “date,” mind you), to tell him about her jealousy issues with his courting a new wife. She asks him how he would feel if she was with a different guy, and he was basically like, I would feel sick about it, and I know that’s hypocritical, but it’s just the way it is, you’re just going to have to deal.

Sure, that sounds like a healthy relationship.

You know, for once I’m more with Dio than with the general consensus of the thread. I guess I need to sort out a few definitions to explain my position…

I assume that we’re talking about a situation that is “good” in our modern world, in which people are expected to be empowered and self-fulfilled, to have the ability to be fiscally independent, and to have warm, supportive, fulfilling emotional attachments including marriages.

I just don’t think that it’s human nature for a person who wants all the above to be happy in a polygamous situation. I think the division of attention and affection would eventually bother everyone who wanted any in the first place… the only people who could be truly happy with it long-term are the ones who didn’t want a warm, supportive, fulfilling emotional attachment to a spouse or partner in the first place.

Which takes us to the second world, in which marriage is a legal and economic arrangement. It provides social and legal protection for the spouses and ensures that people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to take care of themselves get taken care of, and that the wealthy support more people than just themselves. This is Raise the Red Lantern territory. In this world, polygamy makes perfect sense. Nobody expects to be loved, empowered, or happy–just to be taken care of. And it does that nicely.

The guy has four wives and two of them work to support the others. He is free to fuck them all, but can’t stand the thought of yhem fucking anyone but him.

I’m sorry, I don’t see the equality in that.

Yeah, they appeared happy. I wonder if Mr. Four Wives believes in disciplining your wives with a good smack if they don’t appear happy with your relationship, particularly on national television.


I’ve always thought a line marriage, like Heinlein described in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, sounded like a viable construct.

Oh, in regards to the OP…I don’t personally believe that treating women as second-class citizens right in their own home is an excellent way to raise a family, but that is of course only my opinion.

It seems like it has all the downsides of multiple roommates, plus the added drama of sex and commingled finances. What could go wrong?

Dio, I’ve had quite a few friends in polygamous marriages, and it is rarely so cut and dried. The few situations I’ve met where women were treated like chattel involve relatively rare pagan marriages where women are indeed bought and sold like cattle. But your run of the mill African polygamous marriage is a lot more complicated than that.

Marriages were sort of like franchises. In exchange for sex and kids, the husband would provide a place to live, staple food crops, a length of cloth once a year and perhaps some money to send the kids to school with. Women grew their own vegetable crops and created cottage industries to earn pocket change. This situation gave them a lot more independence than you’d expect- the husband basically only came around a few nights of the week, and on a daily basis the women were pretty free to run their households as they saw fit. They also had options if things went bad. “Divorce” was fairly common. Typically during a “divorce” the woman would work as a prostitute for a few weeks to earn some money before returning to their husbands with money in their pockets. Returning to your family was also an option if things were really bad.

99% of people I knew were quite fond of their husband, in a sort of “we’ve embarked one a shared enterprise” kind of way. At the end of the day there is a joy in a field full of food and a house full of kids that I think a lot of us in America miss out on.

It wasn’t great on a lot of levels, for sure. But you don’t do anyone any favors by ignoring the ways that these strong, smart, creative women use what power they have to make their lives better.

Why are you trying to lecture me about something I saw for myself? It wasn’t equal. The women had no power. You seem to think that a situation where women are expected to be contracted as prostitutes and brood mares is somehow healthy or progressive. What bullshit. They are not equal. Raising children in an environment where women are not equal is not good for the children – especially for the little girls who you would be training to be prostitutes themselves.

How many kids have you ever raised, by the way?