Gay Marriage Is Anti-Polygamy

For years gay-marriage opponents have said that the same principles that lead to SSM (free love, etc) lead straight to polygamy. For years I’ve pointed out (for example, here) that the core principle of SSM, namely that everyone should have the opportunity to marry and that society is better off when this is the case, leads straight away from polygamy. From a social policy point of view, SSM and polygamy are opposites, not equivalents.

Here’s some new evidence. “Monogamy reduces major social problems of polygamist cultures,” finds a new study. “In cultures that permit men to take multiple wives, the intra-sexual competition that occurs causes greater levels of crime, violence, poverty and gender inequality than in societies that institutionalize and practice monogamous marriage.”

Why? Monogamy helps ensure there are enough spouses to go around. “By shifting male efforts from seeking wives to paternal investment, institutionalized monogamy increases long-term planning, economic productivity, savings and child investment.”

The case for SSM arises from exactly the same insight. It extends the opportunity to marry to people who lack it and is thus socially stabilizing; polygamy withdraws that opportunity from people who have it and is thus socially destabilizing.

Note to lawyers: this study should be cited in at least one amicus brief in every gay-marriage case in the country.

18 Comments for “Gay Marriage Is Anti-Polygamy”

  1. posted by Houndentenor on

    It’s a “slippery slope” argument. Same sex marriage has nothing to do with polygamy or bestiality and yet we hear it compared to both on a regular basis. It’s actually a sign of how bankrupt the arguments are again gay marriage.

    • posted by John Howard on

      Sure, they are all saying the same thing: that society approves and allows sex and procreation. Polygamy just means we approve and allow sex and procreation to more than one person at a time, a man with mulitple wives is allowed to sleep with them all and have children with them all. Osama Bin Laden seems to have had 20 children by 5 different wives, and it was all legal and approved by civil law. Allowing man to marry a dog or monkey means we are saying it is OK to have sex and procreate offspring, even if it requires genetic manipulation and is practically impossible and never successful. And same-sex marriage means allowing and approving sex and procreation, even if it is not possible it still approves it and makes it impossible to prohibit without stripping procreation rights from marriage.

      • posted by Houndentenor on

        Marriage is just about sex and procreation? That’s interesting because if so people should know they can get both of those things without getting hitched.

        There is no such thing as “procreation rights”. No one has to get government approval to have babies. They never have.

        • posted by John Howard on

          Marriage is procreation rights, and always has been. Of course there have been times when only married couples were allowed to have sex and procreate. Just until a few years ago, IVF clinics only treated married couples. And more to the point, everyone knows intuitively that when a couple is married, they are declaring that they have sex together and might have babies, and we are all saying we are OK with that, we approve. Denying a marriage the right to procreate is extremely radical breach of human rights. Even China lets marriages procreate once, and that limit is condemned as a breach of human rights. (And incarcerated spouses are irrelevant, obviously they lose lots of rights when they are incarcerated, that’s the point.) (And those first cousins that are allowed to marry only if they are infertile are not prohibited from procreating, they are allowed to have sex and procreate and just expected not to succeed.)

          • posted by John D on

            Marriage, as has been pointed out to you here and elsewhere, does not come bundled with a right to procreation.

            As I myself have pointed out to you, California does not allow people imprisoned for murder or serving life sentences to have conjugal visits. I don’t know if there’s any case law on this, but I suspect anyone in this situation who asked to procreate through assisted methods would be denied.

            In other words, your claims are baseless. Utter nonsense.

            Yet you persist in this on blog after blog. You are in the position of one who starts by arguing ” since the moon is made of green cheese,” and as it isn’t, everything you conclude from that point is nonsense.

  2. posted by John Howard on

    “Monogamy helps ensure there are enough spouses to go around.”

    But if the spouse you want is already married, then you’re out of luck. Polygamy means that everyone can marry who they want even if more than one person wants them.

    I’d have married at least three times by now if I didn’t have to pick just one wife. And if some of my wives might also be married to another guy, that’s OK. All it means is she gets to visit me in the hospital, make medical decisions for me, etc, which I can trust to more than one person. Why limit marriage to one, if people want to marry more than one why not let them marry?

    • posted by Houndentenor on

      So, you’re FOR polygamy but AGAINST same sex marriage?

      • posted by John Howard on

        Well, no, not really. I think there are good reasons to limit sex and procreation to one person at a time. I’m just saying that limiting it to monogamy doesn’t help ensure that you can marry the person you want to marry, and in fact limits people’s choices.

        • posted by Houndentenor on

          Well, if someone was married to someone else but then wanted to marry you, they could always get divorced. Ask Newt Gingrich or Rudy Giuliani. They each have done that twice so far so.

          Marriage does not limit sex and procreation. That’s a fantasy. People have children with people they are married to even if they are married to someone else at the time. Nothing about a marriage license prevents that.

          • posted by John Howard on

            “Well, if someone was married to someone else but then wanted to marry you, they could always get divorced.”

            But then that first person wouldn’t be married to who they wanted to be married to anymore. And the person I wanted to marry might not want to divorce them, they might want to marry both of us. The point is, it’s not just a question of “enough spouses to go around” as if it didn’t matter who the spouse was, people want particular people, and prohibiting polygamy means lots of people won’t be able to marry the person of their choice because they are already married. It’s just surprising to see Rauch making the same argument that is usually rejected by gay marriage advocates, that gays can just marry someone else, someone of the other sex, as if that would satisfy them.

            And since marriage always approves and allows sex and procreation, and should always approve and allow sex and procreation, and there are good reasons to limit sex and procreation to one person at a time, then that means we should not approve and allow sex and procreation to more than one person at a time. If we don’t approve of sex and procreation, we should not approve of sex and procreation, whether we punish it or not.

          • posted by Houndentenor on

            If we got to be married to anyone we wanted I’d be married to Andy Cohen right now. LOL He’d have to want to be married to me as well. Sometimes people divorce someone who wasn’t to still be married. (see: Anisten, Jennifer) That sucks but it happens.

            You really do have a simplistic view of marriage and reproduction.

    • posted by Jorge on

      “Monogamy helps ensure there are enough spouses to go around.”

      But if the spouse you want is already married, then you’re out of luck.


      Wait, reject assumptions of gender equality: only polygyny applies. If woman is already married, she won’t marry another man in either system.

  3. posted by BobN on

    “Monogamy reduces major social problems of polygamist cultures,”

    What a crap study. We have no way of knowing what they claim. They’re looking at 100 years of development in Asia and concluding that abandoning polygamy accounts for social change. What about the steam engine, throwing off the yoke of colonialism, and — my favorite — Pop-Rocks? Crap “science”.

    • posted by Jorge on

      Well, yes, that’s why they look at many countries at once. This isn’t a new idea at all, BobN. The child welfare stuff especially hits home for me.

      “Monogamous marriage has largely preceded democracy and voting rights for women in the nations where it has been institutionalized, says Henrich, the Canadian Research Chair in Culture, Cognition and Evolution in UBC’s Depts. of Psychology and Economics. By decreasing competition for younger and younger brides, monogamous marriage increases the age of first marriage for females, decreases the spousal age gap and elevates female influence in household decisions which decreases total fertility and increases gender equality.”

      I’m inclined to think this a strong conclusion. Although, when I think of underage brides, I think most of Juliet (and her mom) in Romeo and Juliet.

      • posted by Houndentenor on

        Is the problem in those countries polygamy or is it that women have no rights at all in those countries? There are cultural factors involved other than people being married to one person at a time at play here. It’s not that one man has many wives, it’s that those wives are property and barely considered people in those cultures. I’m certainly not in favor of that.

        • posted by Jorge on

          The reverse causation correlation argument. Okay.

          But I think if institutional racism and sexism exist today (which I do believe), it’s not a big stretch to imagine that polygyny itself has structural factors that reinforce gender inequality, compared to monogamy.

  4. posted by Rake on

    Mr. Rauch, Johnathan,

    I do not like your study.

    Please do not publish it. Let us settle this the old-fashioned way. I’ll give you two of my wives. They are nice and young and will bring you good fortune.

    You are a man. I am a man. Agreed?

  5. posted by Jancis M. Andrews on

    It may be interesting to note that on Nov. 23, 2011, in BC Supreme Court, Chief Justice Robert Bauman ruled that S. 293 CC, proscribing polygamy, was constitutional, and that it should continue to be upheld because polygamy (the popular term for one man with many wives) harms ALL society, contravenes the equality rights of women, harms their children, and injures younger, poorer men who are rivals for the available women. Nature has made the sexes almost equal in number — there are not even two women for every man. Men who collect women as concubines in their harems do a great disservice to their brothers. Polygamy comes from the dark ages when women were considered property and had no rights. It’s high time it was kicked into the garbage can of history. The year is 2012 AD, not 2012 BC, and women are now considered equal to men (except in backward countries like Saudi Arabia and parts of Africa, where women are still treated like dirt and where polygamy is rife).

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