Social Question

KatawaGrey's avatar

What sorts of legal and social ramifications would arise from legalizing polygamy?

Asked by KatawaGrey (21433points) May 10th, 2010

I have often wondered why polygamy is so frowned upon in the United States. Yes, I know that it is against Christian values but what about those of us who are not Christian? The way I see it, polygamy is not a morally bad thing, it just involves a slightly different set of morals.

But, this question is not about the moral ramifications of legalizing polygamy, it is about the social and legal ramifications. So, what does the collective think would happen if polygamy was legalized in the United States?

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29 Answers

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I don’t see any downside to it at all, as long as polygyny is also allowed. This could provide a more economically and socially stable environment for raising children; two or more income earners and a stay-at-home family member to care for the children.

tranquilsea's avatar

It would result in a few men, alway the richest, monopolizing the women resulting in less economically favoured men getting less, much less of a chance of find a mate. Just look at communities where polygamy is the norm.

MissA's avatar

It’s the usual treatment of children in these mini-societies that I have a problem with. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Blackberry's avatar

What the two answers above me stated. Essentially, a lot of relationships are en econimic arrangement, and sort of like politics, the people with the most money and resources would take all the good women lol. I don’t have a problem with it though, I don’t have the money or mental capacity to handle multiple women and kids.

nikipedia's avatar

Socially, I think we would all be a lot happier and more comfortable (less jealous and possessive). And of course as @stranger_in_a_strange_land pointed out, some people would be much more economically comfortable by spreading the burdens of childcare, eldercare, and/or breadwinning among more parties.

Legally, it might make estate attorney’s jobs a little more complicated.

KatawaGrey's avatar

Perhaps I should have clarified, but I wasn’t just referring to men being able to marry multiple women but everyone being able to marry multiples of everybody. There also seems to be some assumption that all the women will go for the richest guys which is a sad comment on how some men view the feminine gender. I certainly wouldn’t marry a guy simply because he’s got a boatload of cash.

I think that there wouldn’t be a lot of polygamy at first simply because it has been so deeply ingrained in us that we can only have one permanent partner. I agree with @nikipedia that it would cause some legal issues for attorneys simply because there would be so many people to deal with inside of a relationship.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@KatawaGrey Polygyny is a woman having more than one husband. Of course I also meant all combinations of same and opposite gender as well.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land: Ah, thank you. I thought polygamy applied to both men and women which is, I suppose, where much of the confusion has come from.

nikipedia's avatar

@KatawaGrey: You are right; polygamy is an umbrella term referring generally to multiple marriages. Polygyny refers specifically to a husband with multiple wives; polyandry refers specifically to a wife with multiple husbands.

netgrrl's avatar

Women ought to be allowed more than one husband. A house husband, a handy man, a businessman… :)

tranquilsea's avatar

People are way too jealous to handle that I think.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@nikipedia has it right. I got it crossed up. My bad. :^(

SuperMouse's avatar

There would be less of a downside if men and women were able to partake evenly in plural marriage. But the fact is that a majority of women would probably not be all that interested in taking more than one husband – that is just not the way we are wired. We have enough on our plates with one man and having babies! That combined with the fact that we live in a male dominated society lead me to conclude that men would probably be the most prominent participants. That being the case, I think there are all kinds of negative ramifications, beginning with teenage boys being cast out of the group to keep them from getting all the hot babes.

Kraigmo's avatar

I think its insane that the government is in the marriage business.

Instead of doing that, they should just offer contracts-for-sale, legally binding, available at Walmart and other places. Any group of adults, 2 or more, who consent to be part of the group, should be allowed to participate in the contract. The laws of alimony and other types of things related to that as well as powers of attorney and hospital rights and all that would be adapted to apply to these contracts, in addition to all other previously existing legal marriages.

The ban on polygymy is stupid, and it’s a ramification of church influence upon the government.

If polygymy were legalized, we’d be one step closer to a loving, tolerant culture. That is our ultimate aim. We need to get there before nanotechnology makes each person capable of destroying everything. We can contain those types of people, but only after we reach a certain level of intelligence and tolerance. The legalization of polygymy would reduce suffering as well. No peaceable person should be prevented from doing what they want to do. There will be much less frustration and violence, once our culture realizes that.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Polygyny is a form of polygamy where women of varying status in their relationship to the man are part of the group (e,g, concubines and such)

Polyandry is where a woman has more than one husband.

The harmful practices associated with polygamous sects gives me great cause for concern.
Young women barely post-pubescent being married off to much older men with other wives is not a healthy arrangement for these young women. It amounts to sanctioned rape of young girls.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence That’s a separate problem that can be dealt with by requiring that all parties be consenting adults.

@Kraigmo Correct. The state shouldn’t treat marriage differently than any other contract. Minimal standards on care of children, division of assets, etc are legitimate state concerns, but not the structure of the marriage itself.

Kraigmo's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence , you are right about the history of various polygamous sects who control young women and marry them to the men in the sect. But that happens anyway, and always has. If we legalized polygymy, there’d be more state control over the situation. Just because we should legalize polygymy, doesn’t mean we should legalize the domination of young women, psychological or otherwise. In fact, men and groups of men and others who do that should be punished even more severely and hunted out more often, than they currently are.

We can allow the harmless, while banning the harmful. In fact, we can totally and completely legalize all harmless activity… while becoming merciless monsters to those who have been proven to harm others.

I never think its a good idea to ban things due to slippery slopes. That prevents too many good ideas from becoming reality, and it also punishes the innocent.

mattbrowne's avatar

A woman with 5 husbands? I guess paternity tests would become compulsory.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@mattbrowne In many matrilineal societies, asking who a persons father is would be considered rude.

mattbrowne's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land – Well, I think many kids will want to know who to call Daddy. Or if they call them Daddy1 to Daddy5 they still wanna know who’s the biological father. Wouldn’t you?

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@mattbrowne It wouldn’t matter to me as long as there’s food on the table, but then I’m autistic.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land: It’s not just you. I’m not autistic and I’m perfectly happy not to have anyone to call daddy and I certainly wouldn’t call my biological father daddy if I met him. :)

@mattbrowne: Maybe the kid could call the man who has the biggest hand in raising him/her Daddy or call each man Daddy (first name).

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

What’s wrong with many daddies and mommies? More security.

mattbrowne's avatar

@KatawaGrey – Well, I think a kid with exactly one dad is better off and I think polygamy has more downsides than advantages. The complex emotion of jealousy must be related to reasons based on evolutionary psychology.

nikipedia's avatar

@mattbrowne: Why is a kid better off with one dad?

What are the downsides of polygamy?

Assuming that you’re correct that jealousy was evolutionarily advantageous (a pretty big assumption), does that mean it necessarily continues to be advantageous?

KatawaGrey's avatar

@mattbrowne: Why do you believe that a kid “with exactly one dad” is better off? I have exactly zero dads and let me tell you, I’m a lot better off than a lot of kids who have one dad. I would think, for example, having no dad or multiple dads is better than having one dad who beats you. Also, let’s be honest, how many people honestly have just one dad? Yes, there may only be one official dad, but what about all those men who help raise and look after kids? Do you think children would be better off if these men were cut out of their lives because they might constitute multiple dads? What about people whose dads have died? Is my mother all of sudden worse than she was before her father died?

When you make such claims, please back them up.

mattbrowne's avatar

Several reasons. One is evolutionary psychology. There are two male evolutionary strategies for passing on their genes.

1) Have sex with as many healthy women as possible being always on the move.

2) Have sex with one healthy woman and make sure that as many children as possible from this relationship grow up to have sex themselves.

Evolution tells us that strategy 2 is far more successful, but strategy 1 co-exists with it on a smaller scale. Evidence is the effect of hormones like oxytocin and vasopressin. Evidence is also the existence of the strong emotion called jealousy.

A man does invest a great deal in his biological sons and daughters (on both a conscious and unconscious level) because they pass on his genes. Or if you prefer the view of Richard Dawkins, it’s the selfish genes who use their host organisms wisely manipulating their thinking.

Now all of this doesn’t mean that having multiple moms or multiple dads doesn’t work. In ancient times having multiple wives was simply a result of warring men killing each other all the time.

Yes, many children are fine having more than one mom or dad, or having a step dad or step mom who might be far more caring than the biological ones. It was not my intention to hurt anyone’s feeling with my earlier comment. I simply wanted to point out that unlike many other species the monogamous “one man – one woman model” has worked fairly successful (there are 6.8 billion people populating our small planet). And this is also the reason why the legal systems of most countries do not allow polygamy.

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