I read an article last week that was particularly timely for me considering a conversation The Viking & I had recently regarding marriage equality. One of the most common arguments against marriage equality is it will open the door to polygamy, beastiality and paedophilia. Which is, of course, ridiculous as it’s not hard to amend the definition of marriage within the law from “a man and a woman” to “two consenting adults” without including the other afore mentioned items.
However, I was discussing this issue recently over lunch with my mother and my uncle. We all unanimously had agreed we are in favour of marriage equality between homosexual adults and my uncle, playing devil’s advocate as he consistently does to ensure we are truly thinking about what we are saying, asked about this issue of polygamy, beastiality and paedophilia. I piped up that we can probably all agree paedophilia is morally wrong, even if not everyone agrees on the line where that is drawn (in older cultures, for example, as soon as a woman could bleed she was expected to marry and bear children), and most people would agree beastiality is morally wrong, given animals are unable to consent, even if as Jacob Appel argued “People talk about animals not being able to consent. Your dog can’t consent when you play Frisbee with it either. Nobody evaluates the question in that term.” (Source) which I would personally disagree with as have you ever tried playing a game with an animal (a cat in particular) who does not want to be involved? They may not be verbal but they’re pretty direct about consent or not consenting. And I have a suspicion, should you try to copulate with one, they may not be so consenting in that equation either.
But when it comes to polygamy, I would like to be radical here and suggest that maybe we don’t have a right to say marriage cannot be between multiple consenting adults. Sure, it complicates things legally, and you’d definitely want an iron clad will if you were planning to enter into such an arrangement, but why not allow people to do it? Why make it against the law? Why make it a crime? Why do we think there is something fundamentally morally unethical about polygamy (polygyny being a man with multiple wives and polyandry being a woman with multiple husbands) or group marriage? I would argue, in fact, there isn’t anything morally unethical about it unless one or more of the adults was not consenting, which brings us back to the “consenting adults” aspect of the definition of marriage.
And, as a side note, the “consenting adults” aspect particularly applies in regard to cultures where polygamy is a form of forced marriage or a form of ownership of multiple women, as it were. That those forms of polygamy are not acceptable is particularly important as I’m sure we’re all aware of the subjugation aspect of polygyny and I don’t for a second advocate for that. It would also be important to ensure both polyandry and polygyny were legal, not just one form.
Monogamy is the socially acceptable norm and those who deviate from this norm with open marriages tend to keep it fairly quiet. And that’s fine, a social norm is to be expected as society can’t function terribly well without norms, and those who wish to conform to those norms are free to do so, personally I’m far too much of a jealous person to be able to deal with sharing my marriage with anyone else, but I don’t see why we must regulate something so personal as limit the number of consenting adults who are included within a relationship. I don’t see why the law should enforce social norms.
Probably I’m opening a can of worms here, actually I know I am, but I really wanted to open this for discussion: Even if you wouldn’t do it – do you think there’s something wrong with polygamy? If so, why?
What do you think? Is polygamy immoral? If so, why? Or would you allow it?