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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Defending the Wicked Part 10: The Polygamist

According to modern social values polygamy is seen as a step backwards in society. We see ourselves as higher and greater than people who have multiple partners in marriage. It is not a surprise then why polygamy is illegal in almost every modern place in the world. But why is this the case?

From my experience whenever social progress is taking place the arguments that the people use against this progress are essentially always the same in every generation. When blacks wanted to marry whites earlier in US history the arguments against interracial marriages back in those days overlap with the arguments that are used against gay marriage today. And when polygamists want to get married the arguments used against them are similar to the same arguments against homosexuals.

What is more surprising is that the people who are the first to jump and defend homosexuals getting married are often so negative towards polygamists. All the arguments that can be applied to homosexuals can be just as applied to polygamists but for some reason these arguments are all ignored, the voice of reason is killed off and we return to our traditional values. But let us consider the simplest of all the arguments used in favor of gay marriage, "it is not any of our business what happens between consenting adults in their own home". And this is a great argument. But why not apply the very same argument to polygamists? They are in the privacy of their own home and what they choose to do is up to them, none of our business. Who ever said that consent must always involve two people, it can involve more than two people anyway.

The whole issue of polygamy seems to me to revolve around the issue of love. Society does not recognize that polygamist partners love each other, rather that polygamy is an abusive relationship. I once was discussing polygamy with a liberal from the UK, and he told me he is against it because it against women. It appears from such a response that he does not look at polygamy as an example of love but as an example of the husband exercising his power over other women. This is what I think is the general attitude against polygamy. It is not love, but about exercising power and exploitation against women.

And this was true in the past. Men wanted to seek more power for themselves, so they suppressed women and had multiple wives. They would make their wives obedient to him and do exactly what his will was, so his wives were not so much of partners that he loved, but more like partners with whom he had sex with and commanded as slaves. This is exactly why men had multiple wives but a woman could not have multiple husbands. If she did, that would be adultery, and she would be punished, often by death. The Torah itself speaks of this. The Torah says that adultery is defined as a married woman having a relationship with another men. Such a definition immediately implies that she cannot have a second husband. The Torah is clearly sexist here against women.

But we no longer live in the past. Polygamy can have a very different message today. It does not have to be about obedience and servitude to the husband. It does not need to have one husband with many wives. It can be one wives with many husbands. It can even be gay polygamy with multiple husbands or multiple wives. We can even arrange bisexual polygamist (with which I identify with) relationships also. The variations are huge, whatever we choose them to be.

The concept of marriage has underwent many different meanings in history. It initially was about having a family and about the husband exercising power over the wive. Then later in history marriage was about just having a family, and to this date still carries this meaning. This meaning can still be found in more Orthodox Jewish weddings were marriage is really about having a family. Today the most common meaning behind marriage is love. Two people love each other, and regardless of whether or not they want to have a family they marry. Marriage is seen as a response to love in most modern places in the world today. But polygamy is sadly not recognized. And it can be recognized if we change our meaning of marriage and love. By today's standards it is considered to be wrong to love multiple people. But why? Why should it be wrong? It is time to change our attitude that love can only involve two people, it can involve more people, it is after all okay to have multiple friends, so why not several people that you love?


  1. Is this even necessary? Does anyone have a GOOD argument for why it's any of the government business?

  2. "Does anyone have a GOOD argument for why it's any of the government business?":

    The question is not whether or not there is a good argument in favor of banning polygamy. The question is why are so many people so strongly against polygamy if there is no reasonable objection to it? It was necessary to bring this point forward in hopes that I can persuade people to rethink their position on polygamy.

  3. The majority of people who actually live polygamy have a far less rosy idea of it than you do.

    As for your idea that women being allowed to have multiple husbands, makes it fair, nothing could be further from the truth. That's not what most women want.

    Also, the more people that are part of a relationship, the less stable it is. If two people have a 40% chance of breaking up, 3 people have even more, let alone 4- they barely have a chance of making it at all. (Except in societies where one or all of the parties has no choice in the matter.)

    My personal belief is that marriage and love are not the same thing. In a society such as ours, in which we do not force people to live with someone they don't want to, you need to love the person you marry cuz you're gonna be stuck with them for a hell of a long time if not forever. But ultimately the purpose of marriage is a social and economic unit where reproduction (both physical and cultural) take place.

    Focusing on the love aspect in the long run is counterproductive to society as it treat marriage as a means to each party's gratification, when in fact, the responsiblities of marriage may even equal or outweigh the gratification aspect.

  4. "The majority of people who actually live polygamy have a far less rosy idea of it than you do.":

    And? That is not an argument against polygamy. If you want to object to polygamy you must say what is wrong with it in and of itself. You cannot point to individual cases. Otherwise, I can do the same with monogamy. I can say a lot of people have terrible monogamous relationships therefore monogamous relationships are wrong. That is a bad argument. You need to argue why polygamy is bad from the nature of polygamy itself.

    "As for your idea that women being allowed to have multiple husbands, makes it fair, nothing could be further from the truth. That's not what most women want.":

    Yes, it is fair. The same choice of having multiple husbands is open to women just as having multiple wives is open to men. Both males and females have the same choice. The women, in general, just choose not to act on it (for evolutionary reasons, that I can explain if you wish). But that does not make it unfair.

    "Also, the more people that are part of a relationship, the less stable it is.":

    You are correct about this point, but like I said that is not an argument against polygamy.

  5. You and I clearly have different ideas what constitutes an appropriate argument or not. If the vast majority of people living a certain lifestyle are miserable, I'd say that's a pretty fair strike against it.

    Likewise if the relationships are inherently unstable, unless one (or more) of the party's free choice is violated,how is than not a criticism of polygamy?

    (what's more, it's pretty fair of society not to promote it nor recognize it as a social building block.)

    Multiple husbands is detrimental to most women's welfare, as is multiple wives. So increasing the number of damaging options available to women does nothing to level the playing field.

    Monogamy is in the best interest of the majority of women, and of all children (half of whom are male), Although does demand some sacrifice of adult men, but in the long run, for many if not most men, the benefits outweight the sacrifices by far.

  6. "If the vast majority of people living a certain lifestyle are miserable, I'd say that's a pretty fair strike against it.":

    How do you know that the majority of people living polygamy are miserable? What you said makes makes no common sense at all. Why would people choose to be in a lifestyle if it makes them more miserable? If they choose to stay in a polygamous relationship then it must be the case that it is better for them than otherwise would have been in lack of polygamy.

  7. How do I know? Because I've researched it, that's how.

    True their are happy polygamous clans in the sahara but their culture is so different than ours, that I don't find it relevant.

    Your last point is, pardon my French, ridiculous.
    What you're saying is that mere fact of the existence of a social institution is proof that the people engaging in it are happy with it.

    In reality social institutions take dedicated activism and years and decades to change.

    (Besides for the fact that social institutions are most often not chosen freely.)

  8. "How do I know? Because I've researched it, that's how.":

    That does not answer my question. I asked you a common sense question. If these people live terrible lives under polygamy then why do they choose to do so? I want you to answer this question. Otherwise what you said makes no sense. It would make sense, however, if these women do not have much choice and that they required to stay with their husbands. But such a case will be against what I am saying, because my case is precisely the case in where all people happily accept polygamy as their lifestyle. Indeed, your very last sentence, "social institutions are most often not chosen freely" confirms exactly what I said. So you are in agreement with me. And your objection to what I said is not an objection because it is a kind of polygamy that I am not talking about, I am not talking about Biblical polygamy but modern polygamy.

  9. There are ice cream flavors that are not popular. They make the majority of people unhappy. Yet we don't ban them, or threaten to shoot people who eat them, because we recognize that the people who don't like it can simply not eat it. They are not hurt by others eating it. I don't really care if the "majority" don't like some practice, so long as no one is forced into it.