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  • Lance Mannion
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Sounds about right.

mac macgillicuddy

"After all, nobody's talking about truely polygamous marriages. When we say polygamy we mean a system where a man gets to be polygamous with as many women as he can afford to support (or convince to support him), all of whom are required to be monogomous with him."

A variation on this arrangement is known as polyamory, which means a whole lotta love going on among several parties, men and women. Not to be confused with swinging, which they tell me is about lack of commitment and all about fun, polyamory subscribes to the belief and practice that there is no "one" for any of us out here and, in fact, there may be "many" for any of us.

Now that I think about it, perhaps we're risking a potential drift by inference back toward the gay marriage arena here, but at least polyamory is free of heirarchy, male or female. Or so goes the course description.

Kate Marie


An interesting post, and I'll try to comment at greater length when I have more time, but I wanted to point out that the reason that some opponents of gay marriage mention polygamy is not always, as you say, to make a strict comparison between the two but because many of the arguments for gay marriage -- specifically, the civil rights/equal rights argument -- rely on principles and assumptions which would also logically apply to polygamy and polyamory.

Your stand against polygamy on the grounds of its sexist/hierarchical nature and its potentially negative impact on society is fine, but it concedes to the "other side" the idea that the debate about marriage is about normative principles, about values, about what's best for society -- and not about individual rights and preferences. And that's okay, because that's where I think the argument needs to be made (Dale Carpenter's arguments strike me as very convinving in this regard).

mac macgillicuddy

"They would arrive at dinner time and stay until bedtime. One of them had a habit of staying until past bedtime and falling asleep on our couch. Then we had to carry her off to the guest room and put her to bed, so she was often there in the mornings, and, if it was the weekend, there until Monday morning."

Oh, I forgot to say that this sort of happened to us, once. Only the outcome wasn't as blissful. Our friend arrived for dinner two hours late; there was a grease fire in the wok, and her attempt to put it out involved trying to carry the wok to the patio--spilling the flames onto the carpet and her forearms in so doing. The carpet wound up with a scorched hole; the fire department came; and I took our friend to the ER.

When all was quiet later, and she had returned to our living room couch to recuperate (painfree on painkillers and lighting a cigarette as she pointed out that firefighters are all pyromaniacs to begin with), she fell alseep and stayed alseep.

She occupied our living room for two days in this state, and eventually we just wrote her a note and left.


I have to dissagree with your feelings on polygamy - I don't have time to now but will happily return later to do so. And for the record, I am not interested in such a marriage myself - one or none is plenty for me to deal with but I do think that people should be allowed to form the relationships they like, as long as they are not abusive ones.


I learned in paralegal school that "The Law" (i.e. government) views, and always has viewed, marriage as a contract. In that context, denying citizens the right to enter into the contract of marriage because of their gender is a violation of civil rights.

In paralegal school we also learned that specific types of contracts, for specific purposes, may have requirements that are more restrictive than other types of contracts (e.g., contracts for the sale of real estate must be in writing). Cities, states or Congress could enact laws restricting the contract of marriage to two parties only, and such a law would not violate our current or traditional understanding of civil rights. The polygamy argument is bogus, and was concocted by people who fail to grasp the distinction between government ("marriage as contract") and church ("marriage as sacrament").


Nice, interesting post. Say what you will about polygamy (and you say it quite persuasively), it's better to have a slippery slope-argument that ends with polygamy, than what some Cons are (nastily) suggesting, that gay marriage will end with pet-marriages.

Michael Bains

I'm thinking a whole lot of molestation, abuse, and rape is not getting talked about.

One of the reasons I post some really personal stuff, is because I AM normal in most ways. LOL! That's why the ways in which I'm not, hurt so freakin' bad sometimes, and I want to be myself and be amongst "normal" people, because I know so many other "normal" people who've had similar experiences.

No one in my "Liberal" Catholic family ever talked to me about what may have been the most powerful experiences of my pre-teen life. They did work with the 4 years older girl involved, though I don't know in exactly what manner. I only know they did because the other "principals" involved and I eventually had to discuss it, when I was 22, as part of a 12 step deal.

By that time, lemme tell ya, the "damage" was already done.

But, should I give up? Not socialize? Hide in a "closet" and pretend I'm just "weird"? "Let it go?" LOL! Always trying that one... {shakin'head}

I'm sure others would be more comfortable with that, and rightfully so. As you say: voyeurism of any sort can just be ewww!!! So I generally do keep this stuff to myself, but occasionally I kinda think it's important to let people know how common I've found that kinda stuff to really be.

Anyhow, I mostly comment to share where I concurr, or am moved, or just because I admire someone or something and want to be a part of them/it. So in that sense, I really AM normal! LOL

Thanks for another incisive and honest post, Lance.

(Jeez... It's really hard to click "post" on this one. Ok...)

Kate Marie


In polygamy -- if I understand it correctly -- the contract is between two people only (two people at a time). Congress/legislatures would have to enact laws restricting the number of marriage contracts people could enter into, not the number of parties per contract. The reason for doing so --that they aren't prevented by civil rights laws from interfering in the preferences of people who seek state recognition of their loving and committed relationships -- seems sort of sophistic, doesn't it? I mean, it only gets rid of the problem in the most legalistic way. It doesn't prevent advocates of polygamy asking -- entirely legitimately, in my opinion -- if it is a matter of civil/equal rights for gay people to be permitted to enter into contracts which formalize their most intimate and important relationships, why should polygamists be arbitrarily banned from doing so? And why could some polygamists not argue that banning polygamous contracts illegally discriminates against members of their religion?


Well, a lot of people may say "polygamy" and mean "polygyny", but most of the long-term polyamorous relationships I know, the ones that are effectively marriages between one person and two or more other people, are polyandrous.

It's worth remembering that polygyny and polyandry have both historically existed; it's not just some modern idea for a woman to have two husbands. It's rich guys who get more than one wife, but sharing a wife with another guy is a solution for men who are not of such great material means. See, it's the economy, stupid.

And in the economy I see emerging around us, I think polyandry may be the coming thing, because it's a boatload easier for two or three men to support one woman than for one man to support two or more women. And that still matters because men still tend to bring home more money than women and, more importantly, women still tend to have babies. (And if the technology collapses, you're gonna need all that extra muscle.)

mac macgillicuddy

"most of the long-term polyamorous relationships I know, the ones that are effectively marriages between one person and two or more other people, are polyandrous."

Most of the ones I know of are Pollyannaish. (haha)

Amanda Marcotte

Agreed. I honestly can say I pretty much never think about people I know in bed, gay or straight. Odds are it's not that big a deal.

The Other Rick

Wow. So you equate being conservative with a close proximity to social breakdown, something you also associate with trailer parks - concurrently assuming that liberal areas are more properous. Yet claim that this is not insulting because you are not elitist.

You, uh, really need to expand your defense of the last argument in there.

Also, the argument against gay marriage related to polygamy is, as has been pointed out, based upon the arguments fronted by gay marriage advocates. If the state has no ability to deny marital contracts between two people of the same gender, how can they limit the number of such contracts? Indeed, the same legal argument has been tried and is being tried in Canada based on the same reasoning.

Your focus on prurience and voyeuristic tendencies in those who oppose gay marriage smacks more of projection than deduction. The two main arguments used by foes are actually the religious one (based on moral arguments, not ickiness) and social ones (the argument that the breakdown in certain social institutions preceeds social chaos, not vice versa).

Last, one man, many wives is 'polygyny', one woman, many husbands is 'polyandry', a state where either is possible is 'polygamy'.

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