Polygamy and Polyamory

The Wild Hunt features a discussion of efforts to decriminalize polygamy (and polyamory), and how those efforts impact the pagan community.

Polyamory and polygamy have always made me a bit nervous.  It might be sexist and stereotypical to say that most men have at some point fantasized about having a harem more than one sexual partners in the same relationship, but both personal experience and observation has suggested to me that relatively few people are actually emotionally equipped to handle such arrangements, and this number is much smaller than the number of those who actually attempt it. As a Scorpio, jealousy and loyalty are ingrained too deeply into my being to allow a polyamorous relationship any hope of working  for me.

Now that I’ve aired my biases, let me state that if it works for other people, all the more power to them. They are rare individuals, and if they can cope with all the complication and drama that invariably accompanies such a lifestyle, good for them.

Polygamy is a bit more complicated. Polygyny is present in societies all around the world, and it works for a few different reasons, including the fact that it is mostly very wealthy men who are afforded the opportunity (men who can provide for additional wives and children), and that there are social conventions for how it is approached. Financial considerations work differently in the United States than many places that allow polygamy, and there are no real social conventions (outside of fringe Mormon groups and examples from other cultures) regulating polygamous relationships. This is one criticism that I have regarding polyamory — the seeming lack of rules and considerations for how additional partners are approached and incorporated (as well as the annoying assumption by so many in the polyamorous crowd that all other pagans are polyamorous, and hence fair game). If such issues can be worked out, then this is a good thing and will make such relationships more functionable, but the lack of any cultural standard means every group will have to develop their own means of resolving these issues.

This does seem to be a difficult proposition that is made much more so by cultural bias. But the real issue is the legal restriction of such relationships, and I can’t see that Christian religious biases serve as enough of a rationale for legal impositions against polygamy. That is a hell of a lot of inertia to overcome.

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3 responses to “Polygamy and Polyamory

  1. Thank you for supporting the rights of others. An adult should have the right to pursue love, sex, residence, and marriage (or not) with ANY consenting adults. This can only happen if there is gender equality under the law, equal and easy access to divorce, and a freedom to NOT marry. Then, if a woman wants to marry a man who already has a wife or two, or wants to marry two men, or wants to marry two other women, she can. Some women will freely choose to marry into polygyny.

  2. I think that lack of a cultural standard/rules is a good thing, not a reason to say it shouldn’t be allowed. Every relationship is different, poly or otherwise, and the existing norms limit so many people to even have closer friendships or non-sexual relationships that could be more fulfilling. Jealousy exists across all relationship types and dynamics, and in my opinion is something that should be worked on to have more solid relationships of all sorts.

    • I’m not saying that it is a reason it shouldn’t be allowed; I’m saying it’s a reason to be cautious. Cultural standards may seem to be stringent or imposing — especially if you’re in a countercultural group, and double-especially if that group is aimed at fighting some sort of oppression that you see those standards supporting. But they’re not bad just because they’re there, and often serve valid purposes.

      What I’m looking at is this: there seems to be no etiquette. If you’re in a poly relationship, how do you broach the subject of adding a partner? Or are flings acceptable? What if your partner is not on board with the polyamory thing and you push them into it? How do you handle dating people that aren’t into polyamory? And how do you determine whether a potential partner that is with someone else is, in fact, “available”?

      And I admit I’m a bit jaded on the issue. I’ve known women who’s partners pushed them into accepting additional partners they didn’t want. I’ve known men who used the “I’m polyamorous” excuse to cheat on their partners (and women who have done the same). And I’ve had both men and women proposition my partner — right in front of me, on multiple occasions — because they assumed that since we were in a pagan setting, it was okay. (And yes, I know that I’m probably conflating polyamory with open relationships a bit, bit I see them as essentially the same thing — you get to involve yourself with additional partners because someone decided it was okay.) All of these behaviors cause problems, and establishing a cultural etiquette for how to deal with them would reduce a lot of strife and confusion.

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