19 July 2008

Keysar Trad on polygamy


Keysar Trad is an interesting fellow. He's mainly been in the news as an apologist for the controversial former (Sunni) Grand Mufti of Australia, Taj El Din al-Hilaly and currently occupies the president's position in the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia.

Trad was in the news recently after writing this article for Crikey where he discusses opening a dialogue to begin the long road towards polygamous marriages.

This blogger notes that Trad is on the record as having discussed such a union with his wife. Of course, the question that doesn't appear to have been posed by the media to date is about the extent of the conversation that took place.

After thinking about this, I have to conclude that Trad does have a point. What consenting married couples do is really not society's place to say. People should, if they want and if their existing and/or prospective spouse(s) consent, be able to have multiple spouses.

I can really only think of a few reasons as to why such unions shouldn't be permitted:

1. Taxation

Our current tax laws cater, rightly or wrongly, towards singles and married couples, not married trios, quartets and other combinations. This is a potential minefield of confusion that needs to be sorted out before we can consider taxation of polygamous unions. But I don't think that it's insurmountable.

2. Social Security

Likewise welfare laws are not really friendly towards polygamous unions. I think that this may be harder than taxation to sort out, but again, I don't think that this is beyond repair.

3. Estate planning

If memory serves me correctly, estate planning has nasty little bits in it where, for example, wills get rendered null and void by marriage, in most states and territories, anyway. This would be the same for remarriage as well, I suppose, but take this example: A wife has a will in place, but then the husband marries another woman. Does this render the first wife's will ineffective?

4. Divorce

I think that this could be the messiest of the lot. Imagine that in our above example, the wife then divorces her husband. Does this mean that the second wife also has to divorce him? If not, then is the second wife divorcing the first wife? And after sorting this out, how do the property and child custody arrangements work?

5. Superannuation

This has complications as well. I thought of family law splits and contribution splitting, but these seem a dodder compared to spouse superannuation offsets and what happens in the event of a member dying who just happens to be in a polygamous relationship.




Anyway, these are just a few of the issues that need to be thought of before polygamy can be allowed. I don't believe that these are the kinds of thing that we can't fix, but it should be pointed out that there would be a whole stack of work involved in them.

The easiest thing to do would be to abolish marriage outright, and just lock everything under the laws covering de facto relationships that exist in each state and territory, but this is probably not an option.

The absolute last reason that we should be considering is religious considerations for or against marriage, which have been discussed to death.

So the question that the media have not asked Trad regarding his wife's position is this: What was Trad's answer when his wife asked him if he was comfortable with her having multiple husbands?

It's difficult to take Trad seriously when you know that he is most certainly not comfortable. Or even that such a question might not have been posed by Mrs Trad. Does anyone know if Trad is on the record regarding this very question?

19 comments:

Akusai said...

Short sidenote: You guys actually have a magazine named "Crikey?"

I wonder if anyplace in the American South has a magazine named "Yee-Ha!"

As for your idea to abolish marriage entirely and cover everything under the same legally recognized civil union, I'm 100% with you. It's a shame that the loaded term "marriage" ever entered the law in the first place. If you want married, go to a damn church. You want legal recognition, tax benefits, insurance coverage? Then talk to the government.

Which brings to mind a sixth hurdle that needs to be considered before polygamy becomes legal, especially here in the US where we don't have single-payer healthcare: private insurance coverage of multiple spouses.

Presumably the person taking out the coverage would pay a higher premium the more spouses are in evidence, but at what point does the company cut it off and say "This just is no longer a good risk for us"? Would laws be enacted to force private ensurers to extend coverage to all spouses in a case like that? Like the others, I don't think its insurmountable at all, but it is certainly an issue that needs raising.

Ms Chris said...

@akusai: private insurers could treat each separate wife-plus-offspring as one discrete family, e.g. a man with 3 wives would have to buy 3 family plans. I don't think the insurers would have to set an arbitrary maximum number of families they'd insure, since they could set the rates as they see fit. The burden would be on the mega-family to scrape up the $, unless it qualified for public assistance...

Which, BTW, is often how families in the fundamentalist Mormon sects manage in the US. It's fairly common for the non-legal wives and their children to go on welfare. Wives 2,3,...N are not recognized by state or federal law, so there's no paper trail to prove that they're not abandoned single moms.

I'm of mixed minds as to whether it actually would be better to legalize polygamy - it might make it easier to track and prosecute welfare fraud, underage marriages, and other abuses.

Indefensible said...

I think it's easy to come down on the side of plural marriage, because on the face of it it just sounds so right-on. Why shouldn't people marry as many people as they like? They're not hurting anybody, right?

Wrong.

Spouses are a finite resource. Let's be honest about what we are really discussing. One man having multiple women - and no other men being able to have relationships with, or families with, those women.

It's a recipe for disaster. Some men will end up having lots of women while some guys end up with none. The hatred that the latter would have for the former would take a very very short time to simmer to the surface.

I suspect that avoiding this is one of the reasons that plural marriage went by the wayside in the West in the first place.

Akusai said...

Indefensible, you assume that plural marriages are necessarily one-man-multiple-women affairs. In reality, a society that legally allowed for polyamory would have to treat all cases equally, from one man and three women to its opposite, to a mixed sex harem of a dozen men and women all living together and expecting equal protection, or 4 same-sex homosexuals in a polyamorous civil union.

I don't doubt that many of the cases, should polyamory ever become legally recognized, would be Masculine Manly Men trying to score as much tail for themselves as possible, but that would be mitigated by the extra expenses he would necessarily incur.

And if there was an imminent danger of guys who can't get laid boiling over and murdering the douchebag manwhores of the world, I think we would have seen it already.

Dikkii said...

Good gravy, I haven't seen one of my comments threads light up like this in a long time.

I suppose I'd better start with you, Akusai.

Private health insurance in the US is quite an issue - we do have private health insurance in Australia, however we have a ban on underwritten policies. Therefore, what constitutes a "family" policy would probably see some private health insurers exit the industry as families become too big to be manageable.

Which means the ones with the best team of actuaries will survive, so no problems with this at all.

In the US - I actually see this as more manageable - your scenario is probably more likely where the insurers put a limit on number of spouses allowed. And there would probably be a registration process implemented where everytime an additional spouse is added to the family unit, these would have to be added to the policy, but this is just me speculating.

Then there is Ms Chris' solution - bump up the premium for each additional unit added to the policy. I think that by the time a family unit gets to this point, the health insurers would have abandoned this kind of policy in favour of individual policies only. Which means a family unit of three husbands, four wives and twelve children would require a total of 19 policies in place. Not unmanageable, or at least no more than a family of this size.

I'm of mixed minds as to whether it actually would be better to legalize polygamy - it might make it easier to track and prosecute welfare fraud, underage marriages, and other abuses.

Ms Chris, you have a valid point. This is actually one good reason for legal recognition of marriage, full stop. This is one area that relationships recognised after the fact under the umbrella term "domestic partnerships" fail to police. Civil unions do, but I see those as resembling (or at least they should resemble) marriages.

Which brings me on to Indefensible's point, and Akusai's response:

It's a recipe for disaster. Some men will end up having lots of women while some guys end up with none. The hatred that the latter would have for the former would take a very very short time to simmer to the surface.

Believe it or not, this is very similar to an argument that is used against gay marriage. Apparently, if gays are allowed to get married, this takes them out of the pool for single straights, leaving a bunch of singles unable to find mates.

I don't see why, as Akusai points out, that this can't extend to multiple husbands as well. Which is why I mentioned the key point implying that Trad is a lying hypocrite when he claims to have had full and frank discussions with his wife about this.

Polygamous unions should certainly not be sexist in their set-up - if blokes can have more than one wife, surely chicks should be allowed to have more than one husband?

And let's go further - why not, for example, let a wife married to a husband married to another wife, marry another wife herself? This doesn't have to be heterosexist.

I don't doubt that many of the cases, should polyamory ever become legally recognized, would be Masculine Manly Men trying to score as much tail for themselves as possible, but that would be mitigated by the extra expenses he would necessarily incur.

I agree, but in this day and age where women stand up for themselves more and more, I would see chicks introducing the right to have an extra husband as a condition of any sort of agreement that a husband tries to squeeze past them. Husbands simply couldn't turn this request down without being seen as a hypocrite.

And if there was an imminent danger of guys who can't get laid boiling over and murdering the douchebag manwhores of the world, I think we would have seen it already.

I'm sure that the odd mass murder was perpetrated out of sexual frustration. (I am not trivialising mass murder here people, nor am I condoning it.)

Dikkii said...

Akusai - I'd love to see a webzine called "Yee-Ha!" I really would.

Crikey used to be fantastic - but I haven't been thrilled with it since its founder was forced to sell it to pay legal fees. A bit of a shame, really. It really was cutting edge.

Dunc said...

Polygamous unions should certainly not be sexist in their set-up - if blokes can have more than one wife, surely chicks should be allowed to have more than one husband?

And let's go further - why not, for example, let a wife married to a husband married to another wife, marry another wife herself? This doesn't have to be heterosexist.


In principle, I completely agree. (You just know there's a "However..." coming from that opener, don't you?)

However... We do not live in an ideal, non-sexist world. We live in a world which is very much not ideal, especially where matters of gender are involved. No matter how even handed the law is, the actual operation of it will inevitably have a sexist bias, simply as the inevitable result of operating in a society which is still predicated on stupid gender stereotypes. Plus there are a whole load of pre-baked super-patriarchal daughter-selling cults out there, all warmed up and ready to go. I don't see the Wiccans operating as an effective counter-balance to the FLDS.

Anatole France once remarked that "[t]he law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."

This is a problem I often see in blog discussions relating to the law, especially amongst people who aren't part of oppressed minorities (or oppressed majorities, for that matter) - the assumption that you can draw up some perfectly even-handed legal abstraction without any regard to the actual conditions prevailing in society at the time, and it will all work out just fine.

Getting rid of marriage altogether is a far superior option, IMHO.

Dikkii said...

However... We do not live in an ideal, non-sexist world... stupid gender stereotypes.

You have a point, Dunc. But let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater here, it does appear to me a little over the top to be enforcing what amounts to a stereotypical Judeo-Christian monogamy on to folks for whom this sort of thing is simply not going to be suitable.

Is there the probability that this will end up being sexist? Probably yes. At the same time, is it likely that the current system is just as sexist? Unsure, but I'm inclined to say yes.

Plus there are a whole load of pre-baked super-patriarchal daughter-selling cults out there, all warmed up and ready to go.

I think that it's a little unfair to be moving what amounts to an unrelated issue into this discussion.

We currently already run into this sort of problem with monogamy, so obviously monogamy never fixed it. Nor should it - the rules of monogamy/polygamy govern how many partners one (or a group) should have. They say nothing about age of consent, child slavery, child sex procurement etc, and nor should they. These are unrelated issues.

And for the record, I'm not proposing any changes to them in this discussion - I do have my own thoughts on a lot of them, but I consider that these are largely off topic.

I don't see the Wiccans operating as an effective counter-balance to the FLDS.

While you have a point, the issue should not be what religious groups want, it should be about what is fair. Yeah sure, the odd extremist Mormon is going to say "Only men can remarry." This is not about that - it's about a Mormon wife being able to say "I have the legal right to stick my middle finger up at the church and marry another husband."

I'm actually a little curious about what the Wiccan take on this might be.

Anatole France once remarked...

Precisely what is France proposing as an alternative here? Means-tested theft-as-welfare? It seems more like informative criticism than contructive, and somewhat light on detail.

Look, I agree that in considering this sort of stuff, we do need to consider the needs of particular sections of the community and ensure that they're not going to be disadvantaged as the result of this kind of social change. I'm just not greatly convinced that things are all that much better now.

Akusai said...

Perhaps I'm being uncharitable, but Dunc's argument strikes me as one of those "Some people will misuse X, so nobody should have X" arguments. Keeping fair civil union opportunities out of the hands of people who want them just because some people will abuse the policy is silly and, more importantly, unfair as hell.

What makes far more sense is to allow people to create unions as they will and deal with the abusive/manipulative/inappropriate cases as they come up.

Most people don't appreciate the government saying to them "Bob, you can't do X because Jim would abuse X if he could do it," and with good reason.

Dunc said...

Perhaps I'm being uncharitable, but Dunc's argument strikes me as one of those "Some people will misuse X, so nobody should have X" arguments.

Not too far from the truth, and these are the sort of arguments that underlie pretty much the entire concept of a legal system - some people will abuse unrestricted liberty, therefore we have to restrict liberty for all to some extent. If you want to argue against that, fine - I have done myself in the past - but it's a tough row to hoe.

I think that it's a little unfair to be moving what amounts to an unrelated issue into this discussion.

I don't see how or why the existence of formal social institutions dedicated to a form of polygamous marriage which is profoundly discriminatory is unrelated to a discussion of polygamous marriage - it seems pretty damn relevant to me.

This is not about that - it's about a Mormon wife being able to say "I have the legal right to stick my middle finger up at the church and marry another husband."

Sure - legally she can do that. But in actuality, given her social and economic context, it's frequently a rather different matter - because the FLDS has spent the last hundred years or so constructing a very effectively repressive social system.

I'm just not greatly convinced that things are all that much better now.

Which is why my preferred option would be to get rid of the concept of "marriage" altogether and replace it with other forms of civil agreement which don't carry the same socio-cultural baggage. Yes, technically it amounts to the same thing when subjected to rational analysis - but people don't usually think about the social institutions they occupy in those terms.

Dunc said...

Apologies for the double-post, but some additional thoughts have occurred to me that I'd like to throw into the pot...

Firstly: do these enlightened, informed, gender-neutral polyamorists itchin' to get hitched actually exist in meaningful numbers outside of religious apologetics, libertarian fantasies, and letters to the editor of Penthouse? (But I repeat myself... ;)) Personally, I'm more concerned with actual, demonstrable harm to real individuals than with the hypothetical rights of imaginary people. Now, given the incredible diversity of human emotion and sexuality, I'm certain that there are enlightened polyamorists out there - but do they want to get married, and do those that do exist in significant numbers? Do they have an organised lobby? On the basis of casual browsing, it appears to me that the vast majority (if not the totality) of arguments in favour of polygamy originate with supporters of Islam or Mormonism, which makes me just a tad doubtful of their good faith and commitment to gender equality.

Secondly: at the risk of derailing the discussion completely, it occurs to me that it might be useful to consider an analogous case which does involve an organised lobby of a significant number of real people who give every appearance of arguing in good faith: the situation of the BDSM community in the UK. In the UK it is not legally possible to consent to assault. As a result of this, the police have carried out undercover "sting" operations against the BDSM community, which (IIRC) have resulted in convictions and imprisonment for indisputably consensual acts.

So, would it be a good idea to allow a consent defence against a charge of assault? How would that affect, for example, cases of domestic abuse - given that in many cases of domestic abuse the victim remains with the perpetrator, and is unwilling to press charges or give testimony? Even if you were to require positive testimony to that consent from the alleged victim in court, would that be a sufficient safeguard given the obvious potential for intimidation?

I honestly don't know the answer to that...

Dikkii said...

G'day Akusai and Dunc.

Akusai:

Most people don't appreciate the government saying to them "Bob, you can't do X because Jim would abuse X if he could do it," and with good reason.

There’s this thing I’ve been reading about recently which is a concept that I’ve previously been unfamiliar with – the precautionary principle.

It kinda says “take all action necessary to prevent X happening, even if the probability of X happening is very small”.

In some instances, if the probability of X happening is small, it’s considered ridiculous to take all steps required to prevent X happening.

In other instances (assuming the same level of probability) it’s considered reasonable: I’m reliably informed that US military expenditure is structured around preventing not only X from happening, but Y, Z and any other potential scenario that can be dreamt up.

Thus the probability of any event happening becomes moot.

Personally, I would have thought that this might be one that fell into the first category.

Howdy Dunc,

Apologies for the double-post, but some additional thoughts have occurred to me that I'd like to throw into the pot...

Never feel obliged to apologise to me for a double post - unless you're a kook. As far as I can tell, you're not.

some people will abuse unrestricted liberty, therefore we have to restrict liberty for all to some extent.

This is true, but as I wrote above in response to the comment made by Akusai, sometimes things don’t have to be restricted for all.

Withholding tax doesn’t apply to all forms of income, yet where it doesn’t apply, we know that some people evade paying tax. Does this mean that we should subject every person and every form of income to this in order to stem tax evasion?

You’re right – our legal system is based around this, however, as I’ll point out in a few moments, our legal system is also careful to identify specific risks and implement exceptions where possible.

I don't see how or why the existence of formal social institutions dedicated to a form of polygamous marriage which is profoundly discriminatory is unrelated to a discussion of polygamous marriage - it seems pretty damn relevant to me.

The point of polygamous marriage, or any other polygamous union is to allow multi-spousal family units. There is nothing in this about also allowing child brides, for example, that isn’t also currently prohibited under monogamy.

Using our child brides example, it would be difficult to justify allowing this in any circumstances – monogamous, polygamous or otherwise. This sort of thing is incidental, nothing more.

…in actuality, given her social and economic context, it's frequently a rather different matter - because the FLDS has spent the last hundred years or so constructing a very effectively repressive social system.

Yeah fine. But I don’t see enforced monogamy fixing this. Do you?

Yes, technically it [civil unions] amounts to the same thing [as marriage] when subjected to rational analysis - but people don't usually think about the social institutions they occupy in those terms.

I agree. Doesn’t this then sound to you like this is becoming less a discussion of coldly defined marriage/partnership restrictions and limitations and more a discussion around how such social institutions view these arrangements?

Which of course raises the question – how is enforced monogamy fixing these attitudes at the moment?

…do these enlightened, informed, gender-neutral polyamorists itchin' to get hitched actually exist in meaningful numbers outside of religious apologetics, libertarian fantasies, and letters to the editor of Penthouse?

I have to be honest here, and say that I don’t know any mormons, and only one practicing muslim. He’s a serial monogamist.

I do, however, know one guy (he considers himself very non-religious, possibly even antitheist) who refuses to enter into monogamous relationships and has been this way for well over ten years. He claims to be honest and upfront with the women he has entered into relationships with, and (to my knowledge) has only lied about being monogamous a couple of times to get women in the sack.

I know other blokes who wish that they were as honest and as upfront as this guy. Do I know any chicks who are like this? No, or at least, not to my knowledge. But I am not about to deny that they exist.

Personally, I'm more concerned with actual, demonstrable harm to real individuals than with the hypothetical rights of imaginary people.

Suit yourself. Personally, I think that this is a good discussion to initiate with friends and family, well, maybe not family (not sure what my wife would say!), but the point is still there. People will talk about this if you ask.

On the basis of casual browsing, it appears to me that the vast majority (if not the totality) of arguments in favour of polygamy originate with supporters of Islam or Mormonism, which makes me just a tad doubtful of their good faith and commitment to gender equality.

Good point. Well made. Somewhat general, though – let me ask you this: If polygamy was legal, are we to believe that only muslims and mormons would take it up?

Which kinda makes the point that just because a particular lobby group isn’t there doesn’t mean that there isn’t demand for it.

As it happens, I’m also greatly dubious about islam and mormonism’s good faith and commitment towards gender equality. I’m not really keen to piss on everyone else who’s up for it as a result, though. Nor am I prepared to assume that everyone else is driven by the same misogynist agenda as these groups.

Incidentally, the thought has crossed my mind that polygamy is a taboo outside of moronism and islam. Is it reasonable that such a lobby group might not have formed because of the social stigma that overhangs polygamy?

Re BDSM – that’s very interesting, and I didn’t know that. Naturally, I see the police tactics in your example as a bit disgraceful and the law to be a bit silly, full stop. It’s a very good example, though. What constitutes consent?

I can’t say that I know the answer to this one, either, but your point is well made that arseholes would also abuse legalised BDSM laws to beat their partners and get away with it.

I personally lean towards the usual canard about “what consenting adults do…” same with BDSM as with polygamy. Even though I am now completely in the dark as to what consent actually requires.

However, given that polygamy shouldn’t involve violence – consenting or otherwise – surely polygamy would be more favourably assessed than BDSM?

As always, Dunc, you give some excellent food for thought.

Dunc said...

There is nothing in this about also allowing child brides, for example, that isn’t also currently prohibited under monogamy.

The FLDS are very careful to avoid breaking those sorts of laws. The problem is how meaningful can consent be when it's "given" by someone who has been raised from birth to be completely disempowered? The most powerful weapon in the hands of an oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.

But I don’t see enforced monogamy fixing this.

Nobody's talking about enforced monogamy. You can live in a polyamorous commune if you want - you just can't currently have your polyamorous relationships validated and enforced by the state. That's what we're talking about here - state enforcement of relationship benefits.

Doesn’t this then sound to you like this is becoming less a discussion of coldly defined marriage/partnership restrictions and limitations and more a discussion around how such social institutions view these arrangements?

Well, yes. Without considering the actual social and cultural context, you might as well be talking about Klingon marriage.

I do, however, know one guy (he considers himself very non-religious, possibly even antitheist) who refuses to enter into monogamous relationships and has been this way for well over ten years. He claims to be honest and upfront with the women he has entered into relationships with, and (to my knowledge) has only lied about being monogamous a couple of times to get women in the sack.

That's not polyamory, it's just screwing around. Polyamory refers to a stable "multi-spousal" relationship, distinct from polygamy only in that it is not formalised by state or religious institutions. (Unless I'm completely misusing the term, in which case I apologise.)

If polygamy was legal, are we to believe that only muslims and mormons would take it up?

That is the question. I don't see anybody else asking for it...

Is it reasonable that such a lobby group might not have formed because of the social stigma that overhangs polygamy?

Well, the BDSM folks have plenty of social stigma to deal with. And then, of course, there's NAMBLA... Is the social stigma against polygamy significantly worse than that against pederasty?

What constitutes consent?

That's the 65 million dollar question, isn't it? Consent is a bloody tricky issue, especially once you start dealing with structurally oppressed or disempowered groups.

As always, Dunc, you give some excellent food for thought.

Thank you - I have achieved my objective. I'm certainly not unsympathetic to your (and Akusai's) arguments, and indeed I have made many similar arguments in the past. However, over the years I have learned that things are rarely as simple and straightforward as they appear, and that what is fair and just in theory is frequently unfair and unjust in practice...

Dikkii said...

The FLDS are very careful to avoid breaking those sorts of laws.

And so they should. The question remains, though, how does allowing multi-spouse unions make the FLDS any more likely to "avoid breaking these laws"?

I'm not getting something here, Dunc. Allowing multi-spousal unions says nothing, repeat, nothing about changing existing laws that the FLDS are currently "avoiding breaking".

The fact that they're currently "avoiding breaking" them (I quite like this euphemism) is certainly not being stymied by enforced monogamy. Something is presently disgracefully wrong in FLDS land, and monogamy/polygamy has nothing to do with it.

In all fairness, Dunc, I'm reminded here about the occasional “links” that right-wing shock jocks like to occasionally imply exists between homosexuals and paedophile activity. The links don't actually exist, but imagine that homosexuality was still currently banned. If we apply this sort of logic, we'd have to keep homosexuality illegal. I'll get to NAMBLA shortly.

(Come to think of it – given society's current level of hysteria around paedophilia and the influence of right-wing shock jocks in Australia – not sure about Britain – I have my doubts that homosexuality would be legalised in our current climate)

Nobody's talking about enforced monogamy.

Well, actually, this post is meant to be about exactly that. As in the law currently mandates monogamy at the expense of all other unions. And the alternative.

That's what we're talking about here - state enforcement of relationship benefits.

In other words, "enforced monogamy". Only monogamous unions recognised by the state get the benefits. Not singles, polygamous unions or any others. Only monogamous ones.

You can live in a polyamorous commune if you want - you just can't currently have your polyamorous relationships validated and enforced by the state.

Yeah, sure you can. But what if, and I'm spitballing here, a person wants such unions validated and enforced by the state?

For the record, I don't really agree with marriage being "validated and enforced by the state" but it's quite simply discriminatory to allow one concept of a family unit to be preferred at the expense of all others - I've discussed tax et al above.

It's bad enough that singles and gay couples are discriminated against. I'm not a big fan of this either - I have many single friends who would love the opportunity to income split or transfer allowable tax offsets. Sadly they can't do this because they're not married. Why should this sort of thing be only available to one man and one woman in wedlock?

Without considering the actual social and cultural context, you might as well be talking about Klingon marriage.

Well yeah. But I'll see your society and culture and raise you discrimination, tax, welfare, and all the others. Society and culture had bugger all to do with legalisation of homosexuality – if they did, it wouldn't have been legalised in the first place. We did it because it was fair.

That's not polyamory, it's just screwing around.

Oh, he's guilty as charged, although I would have thought that conducting several relationships at once might come close. He has managed that in the past with varying degrees of success.

Polyamory refers to a stable "multi-spousal" relationship, distinct from polygamy only in that it is not formalised by state or religious institutions. (Unless I'm completely misusing the term, in which case I apologise.)

No you're not misusing the term – I roughly equate the two mainly because I place way, way less importance on the “marriage” concept than I probably should.

Nonetheless the question is still the same – it's theoretically possible (although admittedly unlikely) that the friend of mine in question might want to conduct several married relationships at once. Why should he be prevented from doing so? Because marriage is only available to 1 man and 1 woman? That's gotta be the worst reason in the world.

That is the question. I don't see anybody else [apart from religious nutbars] asking for it [polygamy]...

Neither do I, but I'm not about to suggest that they don't exist.

Well, the BDSM folks have plenty of social stigma to deal with.

I wouldn't have said that they have all that much these days. We see bondage-theme nights at nightclubs all the time, in Oz anyway. Swingers clubs on the other hand – they're much more closed shop affairs.

And then, of course, there's NAMBLA... Is the social stigma against polygamy significantly worse than that against pederasty?

I must have been living under a rock, because I'd never even heard of this group. I thought when I saw this, “holy shit”. In answer to your question, though, probably not. But I'll put it to you that if NAMBLA exists, the chances are that a non-religious pro-polygamy (or even polyamory) lobby group also exists. I ain't going googling for it though.

However, over the years I have learned that things are rarely as simple and straightforward as they appear, and that what is fair and just in theory is frequently unfair and unjust in practice...

Correctimundo. The question does need to be asked, though, are things any better currently?

Dunc said...

I think we're actually on much the same page here... We both recognise major problems with the institution of matrimony as it currently stands. The difference is that I don't think extending those problems to forms of relationship involving more than multiple partners is the way forward - I think the way forward is to ditch the whole concept and start from scratch. A couple of minor issues, and then I think I'm done...

The fact that they're currently "avoiding breaking" [laws against child abuse] (I quite like this euphemism) is certainly not being stymied by enforced monogamy. Something is presently disgracefully wrong in FLDS land, and monogamy/polygamy has nothing to do with it.

Ah, but the FLDS operates primarily in jurisdictions which do allow polygamy (or at least, where they can get away with it). And the big difference is that allowing polygamy (a) encourages these bastards, and (b) allows one patriarchal jerkwad to oppress far more people that he would otherwise be able to. It's the difference between a killer with a knife and a killer with a fully-automatic weapon.

I would have thought that conducting several relationships at once might come close.

Only if they all know about each other and are cool with it. This also raises the interesting question of whether consent is valid if it's based on deception...

Neither do I [see anyone other than religious nutbars asking for polygamy], but I'm not about to suggest that they don't exist.

Ooh, you're going to get such a slap. Do you apply that standard of evidence to any other areas - say, theology? "You haven't proven that it doesn't exist" is a lousy argument in any context. ;) (And yes, I do recognise that the existence of non-religious etc, etc, is not a priori ridiculous, unlike the existence of God.)

Dikkii said...

I think the way forward is to ditch the whole concept [marriage]and start from scratch.

Agree. Actually, there are some laws from marriage that extend to non-marriage monoamorous relationships as well that need to be done away with also. Mostly on the tax and welfare sides, at least in Oz.

It's the difference between a killer with a knife and a killer with a fully-automatic weapon.

Hmm. Actually, it's the difference between a chef with an apple and a chef with a truckload of fresh apples. The chef is still going to need sugar to make apple pies as opposed to an apple pie, but we're talking apples here, not sugar.

The chef could still choose to serve the apples or apple au naturel. He can still go for unripened ones in either instance. Either way, they're both going to leave the same unsavoury taste in one's mouth.

Only if they all know about each other and are cool with it. This also raises the interesting question of whether consent is valid if it's based on deception...

Well, as I mentioned before:

"...one guy (he considers himself very non-religious, possibly even antitheist) who refuses to enter into monogamous relationships and has been this way for well over ten years. He claims to be honest and upfront with the women he has entered into relationships with..."

Having seen him in action, I have to conclude that he's doing it all by the book.

Do you apply that standard of evidence to any other areas - say, theology?

Touche. I never said I wasn't a hypocrite. ;-P

Dunc said...

He claims to be honest and upfront with the women he has entered into relationships with...

Having seen him in action, I have to conclude that he's doing it all by the book.


Except that where you have an ellipsis up there, your original comment continued thusly: "and (to my knowledge) has only lied about being monogamous a couple of times to get women in the sack."

Anyway, that's besides the point.

Just to be absolutely clear, if someone can demonstrate to me that there is a genuine constituency of non-assholes of both sexes who want polygamous marriage, and that they're of a number roughly comparable to (or greater than) the well-known fundamentalist patriarchal religious assholes who want to use it as a tool of oppression, then I would have to seriously reconsider my position. So far, I have not seen any evidence that this is the case. In fact, I have never seen any evidence of real non-oppressed women expressing any interest in formal polygamy. It's just a wank fantasy - and I don't think wank fantasies are an appropriate basis for social policy.

Dikkii said...

Except that where you have an ellipsis up there, your original comment continued thusly: "and (to my knowledge) has only lied about being monogamous a couple of times to get women in the sack."

Well yeah, but there are two things here that are wrong.

Firstly, I cannot only admit to a "couple of times" where I've used dishonest means to score. Very few blokes can.

Secondly, why does he have to lie about being monogamous in order to score? Something's wrong here.

It's just a wank fantasy - and I don't think wank fantasies are an appropriate basis for social policy.

This is irrelevant. At the end of the day, there is a restriction on how many partners one may have formally recognised for tax, welfare and other benefits. And "wank fantasy" or not, "fundamentalist patriarchal religious assholes" or not, the core reason for this is a conservative (indeed, also founded through the influence of "fundamentalist patriarchal religious assholes") notion of what the family unit must look like.

No one needs to demonstrate to you that:

...there is a genuine constituency of non-assholes of both sexes who want polygamous marriage, and that they're of a number roughly comparable to (or greater than) the well-known fundamentalist patriarchal religious assholes who want to use it as a tool of oppression...

because the restriction in married partners is an arbitrary one, and is clearly discriminatory. Your problem lies in attitudes towards these laws, or the use of them. Not the laws themselves.

Dunc said...

Your problem lies in attitudes towards these laws, or the use of them. Not the laws themselves.

Yes. Exactly. That's my whole point. Laws are not merely abstractions - they operate in a social and cultural context. In the abstract world of pure though, of course the law should have no business telling you how you should structure your personal life. However, in the nasty, messy, complex world of real life, certain compromises are sometimes necessary.

Heck, I want to live in The Culture. Unfortunately, we do not. We live in a world of assholes who build complex and bizarre social systems in order to exploit other people more effectively.

Secondly, why does he have to lie about being monogamous in order to score? Something's wrong here.

No shit sherlock. We live in a society which is fundamentally fucked-up about sex, and has been for millennia. Which is why we need stupid arbitrary laws to stop people from exercising particular aspects of that fuckedupness in some of the more particularly severe cases.