Polygamy - non-religious objections ?

Can anyone offer a cogent non-religious objection to polygamy?

Quite honestly, given my feelings on same-sex marriage, I can’t. I find this quite disturbing, because I don’t think polygamy is a good idea. With that said, I hope someone else can.

I don’t know if a generalized law could handle the insanely complex community property issues that would have to be decided. It can barely handle the property rights in a two party marriage.

I don’t have any moral issue with polygamy as long as all parties concerned are in mutual consent. One argument I’ve heard recently is that often underage girls are essentially sold to polygamists as wives. I don’t know how much truth there is to that but if so it’s just wrong. But as long as all parties are of age and want to do it, I say why not?

Granted there may be legal difficulties with inheritance and community property issues, so those would probably have to be ironed out in a pre-nup arrangement at the time of each marriage. Of course, that might mean previous ones would be rendered invalid, so it could be difficult. I suspect lawyers specializing in these issues would make good money.

It’s not my bag and seems really tricky emotionally and legally, but I’m sure some people can make it work.

I concur with Photopat. As long as all participants are consenting adults, entering freely without coercion, it’s nobody’s business how they set up their personal arrangements.

I always liked the concept of the “line marriage” that Heinlein wrote about in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. It was designed to conserve resources and property, serve its spouses, and provide for a stable home for offspring.

Having said that, I can’t imagine myself entering into such an arrangement. I find one spouse quite adequate.

Unlike homosexuality, polygamy actually is deserving of the phrase “lifestyle choice”. While I have no problem with polygamous unions if all are consenting adults, I do not believe that the state or employers should have to recognize more than one spouse strictly because it would be a minefield should the spouses disagree on financial or medical matters. A large benefit of marriage is the automatic powers afforded to a spouse in the event of their partner’s death or incapacitation and that could not exist in a polygamous union. (Example: Hubby has a massive stroke and is being kept alive by machines- wives 1, 3, 5 and 7 say “keep him alive” but his even numbered wives say “pull the plug”- is 2, 4, 6, 8 or do we not resuscitate?"- likewise, if he dies and leaves $1,500 per month in Social Security benefits, should that be divided equally among the spouses [assuming they’re all of age to draw SS] or should it be per seniority, etc.? It couldn’t be argued that each is deserving as that would far exceed his rightful share.)

However, by the most liberal estimate I’ve read there are fewer than 200,000 people involved in polygamy in the United States (the vast majority of whom are affiliated with apostate Mormon sects, and that figure includes the monogamous or unmarried children of polygamists who still belong to the sect) while by the most conservative estimate there are well over 3 million homosexuals (more liberal estimates imply up to quintuple that number). It’s highly doubtful that polygamous unions will ever achieve the social acceptance gained by gays in the last few decades.


Pretty central to the western concept of marriage is that it’s exclusive. As long as I’m married to A, I can’t marry B. This fairly fundamental concept then flows through into a lot of the practical incidents of marriage. For instance, A’s claim on my assets for support and maintenance is distinguished, among other things, by the fact that A is the only person who can have such a claim, and by the fact that A can have no similar claim on the assets of any other person.

All of this goes by the board if we permit polygamous marriages. Assuming we allow equal-opportunity polygamy, with both men and women permitted to have several spouses, A may have to compete with several others for my assets, and may have claims on the assets of A’s other spouses. When reconciling the competing claims of my spouses on my assets, do we ignore the fact that A has a claim on someone else’s assets while my other spouses do not, or while they have different claims on the assets of other people? Instead of a straightforward set of mutual, and mutually exclusive, obligations, we have an interconnected network of obligations spreading in ever wider ripples.

And that’s just finance.

In other words, polygamous marriage is a fundamentally different legal and social relationship from monogamous marriage.

I’m open to correction here, but I think that most societies which allow polygamy allow men to have more than one wife, or (more rarely) allow women to have more than one husband, but not both. That suggests that most of the functioning models of polygamy available to us don’t match up to our expectations as regards sex equality.

I’m going to say a shortage of women problem.
I doubt any man would share his wife with another guy, so most poly marriages would have multiple wives, ergo; woman shortage.

So, in a polygymous marriage (let’s say one man, two women), if the man is injured and cannot communicate his wishes for medical care, who makes the decisions on his care. What if the two wives disagree?

Zev Steinhardt

catsix, certainly you would recognize that various structures in the business world enable groups larger than two to claim property rights.

Sampiro, the medical decision issue doesn’t even seem clear cut with the two spouse solution either, see Terri Schiavo. And if you limit your estimates to those practicing polygamy, you have limited it unncessarily. Some estimates are as high as 25% of married couples have an understanding that allows non-monogamy.

UDS, the roots of current western culture all accepted polygamy, until the Catholic Church decided it against their interests.

vanilla, many societies in the world today are currently out of balance in terms of gender in a marriageable age. In most cases, marriageable women outnumber the men.

zev, like with Schiavo, there could be disputes. But hopefully, his own wishes would be known.

While polygamy in the abstract is a perfectly reasonable thing for consenting adults to enter into, polygamy as it is most visibly practiced in the U.S. is an entirely different kettle of fish. The various fundamentalist Mormon* sects in the western U.S. basically require men to take multiple wives, which has rather obvious demographic consequences for the communities in which they live. Those consequences of such polygamy make it a legitimate subject for state regulation.
*Yes, I know, they’re not affiliated with or endorsed in any way by the LDS church. I use the term “fundamentalist Mormon” because they describe themeselves as such and because their faith is rooted in the Mormon religion, though they obviously split from that church a long time ago.

I’m not quite sure why this comment was addressed to me particularly; I don’t see that it relates to anything in my post.

I accept that many early western societies practices polygamy. I doubt that it’s eclipse can be laid at the door of the Catholic church. Judaism was monogamous from long before the time of Christ. And, unless I’m mistaken, the Roman and Greek societies in which Christianity took root and spread were already predominantly monogamous.

But even if it were Catholicism which had suppressed monogamy in western societies, so what? What’s your point? Something suppressed it, and suppressed it very effectively, and this suggests to me that, basically, a monogamous model of marriage suited western society very well. What has changed that makes this no longer true?

I suppose that means my husband’s not a man, then? (Actually, the most common relationship structure I’ve personally observed is MFM.)

Most of the polyfolks I know start from the presumption that their partners or spouses aren’t property in the first place, actually. The idea that relationships are founded on ownership rights over heart and genitalia sort of icks me out. I think that sort of thing should always be a gift if it’s in a relationship, not some sort of property that can be spoken of as being “shared”. Exclusivity is a great gift for those people who can offer it and for those people who find it meaningful; I hate to see it reduced to an expectation of ownership even though it’s a present that I don’t want.
It was always pretty clear to me that some people are monogamous by nature or preference and some people aren’t, and good people make it clear to others which ones they are. (And bad things happen when people who can’t do monogamy promise to be monogamous, and I never understood as a kid why they kept saying they’d do it when they never managed it. But I watched a lot of soap operas as a kid.)

Me, I’m not capable of having a stable or healthy monogamous relationship, so I don’t try; I prefer my health and sanity and the health of my partnerships to playing conformist.

Huh? I never heard that before. Surely neither Greece nor Rome ever recognised multiply wives or polygamy in any form except socially accepted mistresses and hores en mass. Neither was it accepted in any Germanic or Scandinavian culture I know of. Celtic or Slavic polygamy, I doubt it. What roots are those you speak of?

  • Rune

You know, I was having this debate with myself earlier on. I can justify making paedophillia, necrophillia and bestiality illegal as all of them involve at least one party who is not a consenting adult, and therefore that partys rights need to be protected. I know it is a stretch to protect the rights of a gerbil, but I’m prepared to do that.

On polygamy, I can’t justify it. All parties are consenting adults and it isn’t infringing upon anyone elses rights so I’m actually in favor of polygamy.

I do however get tied up in knots with incest. I’m against it but the best reason I can come up with is “Its Icky” :confused:

Indeed, if “consent” exists then I cannot see much justification for its outright prohibition.

However, given the possibility of some kind of cultish brainwashing and the near-certainty of protracted legal wranglings upon divorce, I would suggest that some kind of prenuptual agreement explaining exactly which rights each husband/wife has with regards to each other husband/wife (multiple bisexual polygamy: what a wedding night that will be!) should be explained in great detail, making it clear that nobody has to get married, let alone share their spouse with others.

(And yes, I believe a detailed face-to-face about exclusive or gay marriage could also be supplied. However, since it is so much simpler a proposition than the labyrinthine complexities of polygamy, most people understand the legal consequences of marriage pretty well anyhow.)

I would. I cant say that I would desire to have sexual intercourse with another guy, but I don’t see why it would bother me to know about or even watch a wife or two take on another guy, granting that he was part of the community.

It never really bothered me as much as I pretended when my friends slept with my girlfriends. Kind of turned me on actually, as sick as that sounds. But I am probably a wierd case. (this was, of course, back when I actually had girlfriends… )

Not unless we have some clear definitions of the terms involved.

I can find plenty to object to about polygamous marriages as they currently exist in parts of the world where custom allows for it. You don’t have to be religious to take issue with a system where men can marry/buy and divorce wives at will but the wives (who may not even be adults) have little say in the matter.

If you’re talking about a form of polygamous marriage that would give men and women the same opportunity to take multiple spouses, the same opportunity to divorce, and would require the full consent of all parties involved, then that’s another matter. But since this would be a form of marriage that, to my knowledge, has never existed in any society on earth, I’d need a pretty full description of how things would work before I could make a call. This would need to include what sort of legal rights and benefits the parties involved would expect.

What about the divorce rate of married couples in the US (I don’t know the divorce rate in other countries)? I can’t help but think that if some people are having a hard enough time making a marriage work, adding dogs to the fight- so to speak- isn’t going to help the matter.


To be the voice of dissent… :wink:

Vanalla has a point in the ‘shortage of women’ problem. However, it might be dismissed as just an irritation and not thought of as how damaging it would be.

If a large amount of men are deprived of women because some guys have multiple wives…you are going to have many frustrated, angry and sexually frustrated men around. Most likely, they are not going to just sit back and accept it.

At the very least, young men will be hyper-aggressive in moving up the social ladder to have access to females. There is that in current society but in a polygomous society it would be many times worse.

There would also be, IMO, a much more violent society at its core.

I have to go…or I would continue but I think you get the idea.