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25.7.2006

Problems with polygamy?

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 2:14 pm

This spring HBO introduced a new drama, “Big Love“, about a polygamous family in Utah. The father, three wives, and seven children live a rather sheltered life, in fear that their neighbors or someone will turn them over to the police. The family would then be split up, the parents would go to jail, and the kids to foster homes – all because the practice of polygamy is illegal.

So here’s what I don’t get – If you go around screwing lots of women, making babies with multiple partners and neglecting them all, it’s perfectly fine. Now if you begin to start taking care of those women and they all live under one roof voluntarily, it’s polygamy and you’re to goto jail. Makes no sense whatsoever.

Polygamy is a voluntary agreement between multiple people, however sometimes you hear about these 15-year old girls with 70-year old men. You hear about the one unemployed guy with 15 wives and 50 kids living in a shack, ripping off the state over welfare benefits. You hear about these women who are basically enslaved and beaten, they’re forbidden to leave their husbands. But it’s the same situation as the prostitutes, they become enslaved because the practice is illegal and they can’t go to the police.

As a firm believer in seperatation of church and state, I am against the state’s involvement in marriage. Marriage is a religious sacrament. But in today’s world, marriage is no longer one man and one woman – and even though I disagree with polygamy, I can’t understand why it shouldn’t be one of the socially and legally acceptable forms of marriage.

big_love_small_penis.jpg

  • Anonymous

    As a firm believer in seperatation of church and state, I am against the state’s involvement in marriage. Marriage is a religious sacrament.

    Soo, atheists shouldn’t get married?

  • Helsinkian

    Phil: but isn’t it so that multiple marriages are illegal? Why would living with more than one partner be illegal? Hasn’t Hugh Hefner lived with more than one woman for much of the time he has lived in the Playboy Mansion? He just doesn’t marry them so it’s not illegal in any way.

    So the argument about polygamy often centers on this one man, more than one woman scenario. After all, it’s the only type of polygamy allowed by Islam, which is one of the world’s leading religions. Most other followers of religions would get a hard time entering polygamous marriages, if polygamy would be legalized as Phil wants it, it’s up to the religion, not to the state to marry people more than one time without severing the previous marriage.

    But Phil, what if two men and two women showed up and said they want to get married as a foursome? I have a hard time thinking that wouldn’t happen in the end if group marriage (not just traditional polygamy) was legal. What would you do if you were the supreme religious leader of your own? Would you marry those people in your imagined libertarian utopian church (they couldn’t go to the mayor, right) or would you tell them to go to the Universalist minister next door and say that they could try to have better luck there?

  • http://anzisblog.blogspot.com Anzi

    So here’s what I don’t get – If you go around screwing lots of women, making babies with multiple partners and neglecting them all, it’s perfectly fine. Now if you begin to start taking care of those women and they all live under one roof voluntarily, it’s polygamy and you’re to goto jail. Makes no sense whatsoever.

    This is true assuming, of course, that
    a) Polygamy only concerns men living with multiple women. That is called polygyny. Women having multiple spouses is called polyandry. Polygamy is the general term.

    b) The polygamist has married all of the spouses. There are no laws prohibiting multiple common-law spouses.

  • gopha

    Marriage is a religious sacrament.

    Since when? You lost me at that point.

    and even though I disagree with polygamy, I can’t understand why it shouldn’t be one of the socially and legally acceptable forms of marriage.

    Nice contradiction. You can’t have it both ways, dude. Either you are for polygamy or against it. If you wish it to be legal and socially acceptable that means you have to agree with and accept polygamy.

  • Helsinkian

    gopha: for and against polygamy is not so difficult. When this polygamy debate advances, I can imagine a future US senator stating (it could even be the first Libertarian Party senator if there ever will be one):

    a) I would never marry more than one person.
    b) I would never encourage anyone else to do so.
    c) I support granting marriage licences to polygamists only in specific cases.
    d) If someone would enter polygamy despite my warnings not to do so, I would accept that decision and bless their union.

    That person would try to hedge the issue and court both the polygamy and the anti-polygamy vote. That’s how politicians usually reason with most issues. If they didn’t, and everything would be completely black and white for them, that would also be pretty scary.

    But isn’t polygamy already accepted by the US government when it’s practiced by Hmong Americans (but not by any other ethnic group)? After all, the polygamous pro-American Hmong faced big trouble with the government when they fled from Cambodia and they were allowed freely to emigrate but not to continue their lifestyle. I’m not sure but I think in the end they were allowed to stay polygamous as an exception to the general rule as many of them were in polygamous relationships when they entered the country. It was felt to be cruel to break up their families in the new country after the hell they had gone through in their old country just because they had supported America in the Vietnam War.

  • gopha

    I thought Libertarians wanted to keep their noses out of everyone’s business? If so, then why would one say “Ok, it’s cool if you do this thing here but I gotta warn you…”

    Doesn’t make sense.

  • Helsinkian

    This article is four years old and it highlights some of the Hmong American polygamy debate:

    http://www.asianweek.com/2002_11_22/news_polygamy.html

    I think it’s only one man – more than one woman polygamy (i.e. only polygyny, and many Hmong American women don’t like the arrangement) and in 2002 it certainly wasn’t officially legal for Hmong American men to remain polygamous. I just can’t find the source but today I think it is openly accepted by the US authorities. Apparently polygamy among the Hmong is much more common than in many other polygamous socities. Typically rich men marry more than one woman since they can provide for more but among the Hmong I guess it’s seen as some kind of insurance for hard times which can especially benefit the poor men who might be in dire straits if they lost their only wife.

    I wonder what the case today is with Hmong Americans who enter polygamy. Is it don’t ask, don’t tell (their religious leader can wed them, as long as it’s done with a low profile) or is it accepted even by the state as official marriage (not just by the Hmong community, which would mean the state would continue treating them as one husband, one wife and one or more mistresses)?

  • http://www.finlandforthought.net Phil

    Soo, atheists shouldn’t get married?

    Atheists can do whatever they want. I just don’t believe the states should be involved in marriage.

  • Helsinkian

    When I stated Hmong Americans are refugees from Cambodia, I was wrong. They are from Laos, at least most of them.

    gopha: libertarians often reason: “I wouldn’t do it, I wouldn’t tell others to do it, but if they do it I’m cool with it.” When someone like that ends up in politics, they’re more likely to vote for the right to do it than against it, even if they disagree both with the practice and with the right of the state to have any say on such a practice.

  • Anonymous

    One argument agains polygamy is that men and women are born more or less equal amounts (little bit more men). If one man has four wives, it means that three men doesn’t have wives at all.

    Those three forever-single men could pose a threat to society as they might get frustrated, become violent or suicidal. Having their own family and kids is driving-force for many men.

  • Helsinkian

    One more thing gopha: Bill Clinton’s stance on abortion was famously to keep it safe, legal and rare. Hillary Clinton’s stance has been dubbed “safe, legal and never”:

    http://www.slate.com/id/2112712/

    Such a position of safe, legal and never (although ideal for a politician) is impossible in the polygamy issue because polygamy is not abortion. I guess no one who goes through abortion has had that as the desired outcome from the very beginning. Some people will prefer polygamy in any case and this is why never is an unthinkable outcome if it is legal.

  • http://www.finlandforthought.net Phil

    Phil: but isn’t it so that multiple marriages are illegal? Why would living with more than one partner be illegal? Hasn’t Hugh Hefner lived with more than one woman for much of the time he has lived in the Playboy Mansion? He just doesn’t marry them so it’s not illegal in any way.

    The polygamyists only legally marry one wife, yet their actions are still illegal. In fact Utah has a “Polygamy Czar” to combat the problem.

    But Phil, what if two men and two women showed up and said they want to get married as a foursome? I have a hard time thinking that wouldn’t happen in the end if group marriage (not just traditional polygamy) was legal.

    Sure, what not? But I like the “government-stays-out-of-marriage” plan to most.

    Would you marry those people in your imagined libertarian utopian church (they couldn’t go to the mayor, right) or would you tell them to go to the Universalist minister next door and say that they could try to have better luck there?

    I would never, nor would I want to run some church.

  • http://www.finlandforthought.net Phil

    There are no laws prohibiting multiple common-law spouses.

    What are the laws on this for Finland? Multiple legal common-law spouses are allowed?

  • http://www.finlandforthought.net Phil

    Either you are for polygamy or against it. If you wish it to be legal and socially acceptable that means you have to agree with and accept polygamy.

    Wha??? No!! Just because I want something decriminalized, doesn’t mean I think it’s okay. I think marijuana should be legalized, it doesn’t mean that I want everyone going out and smoking pot!

  • http://www.finlandforthought.net Phil

    Hillary Clinton’s stance has been dubbed “safe, legal and never”:

    The last few years she’s been doing and saying everything she can to remain a “moderate”, in order to win the 2008 Presidency.

  • Helsinkian

    Phil: Utah’s polygamy Czar is called special investigator into polygamous sects. In Utah there are these Mormon offshoots called “True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of the Last Days” (TLC) and “Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints”. I don’t think the big problem is that these people are living in polygamous relationships, it is the nature of these relationships in the context of the religious sects and the threat of these sects to the authority of both the LDS church and the state of Utah.

    I bet Utah is the only state to take these issues that seriously. The reason is that the condition for Utah to be admitted to the United States as a state was giving up on polygamy. This meant the LDS church had to change their teaching. As the end result the LDS church is both proud of having changed their religious teaching to accommodate the wishes of the state and Mormon politicians are among the most active defenders of the one man – one woman marriage. They reason that if their ancestors had to give up on another form of marriage to be accepted as Americans, everyone else should too.

  • http://anzisblog.blogspot.com Anzi

    If you choose to live in a ménage à trois (quatre, cinq, six, sept…), and are not legally married to any one of your spouses, no one cares. You are considered as adults living together, like in a commune, although now that I think about it I’m not sure if you would all be considered as common-law spouses.

    But if you marry each one of your spouses in the church or at the magistrate’s office without divorcing the previous ones first, then that is illegal.

    Polygamy is illegal, polyamory is obviously not.

  • Helsinkian

    Oops, the leading Mormon politician, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (who is obviously neither a Republican nor representing Utah) strongly supports the right of each state to decide on the marriage law at the state level. Reid has succeeded in staying a Conservative Mormon in his private religious practice and promoting a relatively Liberal agenda at the federal level.

  • Helsinkian

    In Holland there was this private contract “samenlevingscontract” (usually translated to English as cohabitation contract) formed last September at the wedding of a 46-year-old man and his 31-year-old wife to a 35-year-old woman. That arrangement grabbed headlines as it is neither a marriage nor illegal bigamy or polygamy. Anti-polygamy scholar Stanley Kurtz wrote an article about it in the Weekly Standard:

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/006/494pqobc.asp

    I’d like to point out that it was a triple wedding were the relationship between the two wives as each other’s wives was celebrated as much as that of the husband to both of them.

  • http://www.palun.blogspot.com giustino

    The issue with polygamy among conservative Mormon sects in the Western US is that “wives” are treated and traded as property, starting in their mid-teens. Young women are forced into relationships by sect elders who wield both local political and spiritual power. Many of the most aggressive agitators against this practice are women who have escaped these situations.

    Besides, Joseph Smith himself just decided to support polygamy so he could get in the pants of as many of his parishioners as he could convince. His own wife saw his development of plural marriage as fradulent. Your average American cult leader. “God hath spoken to me, and he hath said that I shoudl get laid as much as I want.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emma_Hale_Smith

  • http://www.finlandforthought.net Phil

    As the end result the LDS church is both proud of having changed their religious teaching to accommodate the wishes of the state and Mormon politicians are among the most active defenders of the one man – one woman marriage.

    Hey, the Catholics are staunchly against raping little boys! :-P

  • http://www.axis-of-aevil.net/ hfb

    Maybe you should read http://dir.salon.com/story/news/feature/2005/06/14/lost_boys/index.html before getting all gung-ho about the polygamist freaks out west.

    And marriage is a civil institution given that so many things like taxation, health care, etc. are greatly affected by it. Religion has nothing to do with any of the things that matter to the state when two people marry. Also, I’m very much in favour of the state regulating marriage in terms of relatives since the church probably would love for 1st cousins to marry.

  • http://www.axis-of-aevil.net/ hfb

    Oh, and this article is the more recent one I was thinking of – http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2006/07/06/lost_boys/index.html

  • Helsinkian

    I’d rather speak of fundamentalist Mormons than conservative Mormons when it comes to polygamy. At least there is the FLDS, the offshoot that call themselves “Fundamentalist” and who are a polygamous sect.

    At least Harry Reid is a conservative Mormon and as a conservative he supports the official teaching of his church, whatever that is, and that is against polygamy. Fundamentalists tend to be radicals who are willing to abandon the position of their church if it doesn’t fit with their interpretation of it.

    But really, these offshoots are non-Mormons. I think having abandoned polygamy is such a central part of the Mormon tradition that I have a hard time of thinking of these TLC and FLDS people as Mormons or as conservatives. In the polygamy issue in the US conservatives are usually the people who are against it.

    hfb: What’s your point with cousin marriage?

    http://www.cousincouples.com/info/facts.shtml

    At least according to the pro-cousin marriage website the US is “the only western country with cousin marriage restricitions” and “26 states allow first cousin marriages”.

    It would be nice to know if cousin marriage has been illegal in Finland in the past. But at least today it should be perfectly legal.

  • winter

    1st cousins to mary?

    Come to southern Maryland, and after you get over all the bucked teeth, and dumb looks (why even 30% of the kids graduate from Highschool here), you will see why the gene pool needs to be mixed up.

  • tim73

    The best way is of course serial monogamy :) . About 60-70 percent of marriages are predicted to break up anyway so why not have limited period marriage lasting no more than 10 years.

    Chirldren of course need their parents but mommy and daddy might not be so “united” after 10 years and marriage could automatically end unless both want to renew it. That way marriages could even last longer because you have to do a little bit more in order to keep the relationship instead of just being one lazy sofa potatoe.

  • Hank W

    Q: What is the punishment for bigamy?
    A: Two mother-in-laws

  • http://www.finlandforthought.net Phil

    the church probably would love for 1st cousins to marry.

    That whole first cousin thing is a myth, you can have babies with your first cousin and it’s perfectly okay, no difference in birth-defects whatsoever. Einstein’s parents were 1st cousins.

  • http://www.finlandforthought.net Phil

    Come to southern Maryland

    Just for the record, I’m from the Northern part of the state. :-D

  • gopha

    Wha??? No!! Just because I want something decriminalized, doesn’t mean I think it’s okay. I think marijuana should be legalized, it doesn’t mean that I want everyone going out and smoking pot!

    Fair enough.

    Just for the record, I’m from the Northern part of the state.

    Is there much of a difference. I mean, the state is only like, what, a couple of miles wide at the most? :P

  • Sakke Niemi

    @ Phil #28: “That whole first cousin thing is a myth, … no difference in birth-defects whatsoever.”

    It’s no myth. And who said anything about birth-defects? Inbreeding increases the risk of a number of familial diseases *over time*.

    “Einstein’s parents were 1st cousins.”

    Which doesn’t prove anything. In the human history most of the marriages have been between cousins. It still doesn’t mean that exchanging genes wouldn’t reduce the risks of familial diseases.

  • http://niora.livejournal.com/ Paula

    #31: First-cousin marriages as a general practice are a bad idea for just such reasons as you describe, but if they just happen once in quite a while in a large population I doubt they make much of a difference. I believe it’s quite legal in Finland to marry your first cousin but it’s rare these days. What with people moving around so much to study and work, the population tends to mix.

    Personally I make such a difference between relatives and everyone else that I’d be quite uncomfortable dating even a third cousin, but can’t speak for every other Finn of course.

  • Antti (the redneck one)

    Serkumpi on herkumpi (literally, more cousin is more delicious), as they say.

    It surely is legal to marry your first cousin, but my personal perception of living in a small place, where all the bigger families were some kind of cousins with each other produces less average people and more those guys, who don’t manage to fill their tax reports, or complete their Ph.D. at 23.

    And please, no polygamy. I’m sick’n tired of televised child custody cases.

  • winter

    For one I agree with Hank..

    But just want to add, 2 mother in laws is enough to make any Man not want to do this.

    I must be reforming…..naw…..

  • http://finnpundit.blogspot.com Finnpundit

    I don’t see why polygamy should continue to be illegal, either. And marriage should just be a civil contract between willing partners.

    In either case, this show has the potential of being another big, international, multi-billion dollar hit. It’s just weird that no other nation in the world can generate anything as interesting.

  • Blumke

    Check out this link on Rick Ross’s anti´+cults website. It gives a good overview of how sick these polygamy groups really are.

    http://www.rickross.com/groups/polygamy.html

    The FLDS, fundamentalist church of the latter day saints in particular is a complete cesspool. Their current leader Warren Jeffs`is on the run and is one of the FBI’s 10 most wanted men in America. He is accused of multiple rape, paedophilia and inciting rape and paedophilia. He has around 20 to 30 wives many of whom he married when they were 13 or 14.

    You can talked about informed consent for this but the problem is that most marriages take place where children are raised with a seriously off-line world view. Girls are taught that polygamy is neccessary because 3 girls are born for every boy. Girls are also taught the motto ” Keep sweet, keep quiet”, and given very litle education to help them make any informed choices in life.
    Another problem is that around 70% of boys are driven out of the community at about 17, to leave more women for powerful church members. Check out the “lost boys” of Hilldale Utah and Colorado city.

    Also the FLDS has the right to reassign wives and children, take them away from a man and give them to another male church member. Many polygamous groups do this. It is completely fucked up.
    Also note the regular incest marriages , half brother to half sister, and uncle to niece , are the norm.
    Polygamy stinks. I think most of these women given a free education would run a mile from a polygamous marriage. Many do run when they get the chance. Look at the polygamy survivor groups who help other women escape.

    Why all the bureaucracy anyway? If a guy wants a regular set up why not a good old menage a trois or a “Swedish marriage” as they call it in Russia?

  • http://www.axis-of-aevil.net/ hfb

    Helsinkian – If 1st cousin marriages are legal in Finland, that sure would explain a lot of the common diseases in such a tiny genepool…. And the states in the US where such a marriage is legal, many of them require ‘genetic counseling’ which goes to some effort to determine the risks of producing children or other restrictions which would prevent reproduction. It’s a bad idea, especially somewhere like Finland. I’m shocked to know that it’s legal.

    Phil – I don’t know if I’d hold up a 1 in 1,000 year genetic aberration to support the idea that marrying in the family is a great idea. If it were, West Virginia would be a place filled with genius instead of barefoot idiots. In other cultures where inter-family breeding is a cultural norm, the incidence of genetic disorders is far, far higher than the average for the overall population. It’s a bad idea regardless if you push out a 3-headed freak child or not.

  • http://anzisblog.blogspot.com Anzi

    AFAIK, first cousin marriages are legal in most parts of the world. Why would Finland be an exception?

    And yes, due to our isolated location, we have a lot of inherited diseases. Ostrobothnia is one big genetic researcher’s wet dream. A friend of mine who is from Kokkola said that she can recognize people who are from there by their noses. They’re all similar due to the inbreeding that’s been going on in that region for hundreds of years. Scary, huh?

  • http://anzisblog.blogspot.com Anzi

    In either case, this show has the potential of being another big, international, multi-billion dollar hit. It’s just weird that no other nation in the world can generate anything as interesting.

    Famous last words.
    It’s not like the Brits have ever produced any major international TV-hit ever. I have certainly NEVER heard of or watched Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Fawlty Towers, Cold Feet, Cracker, Footballer’s Wives, Bad Girls, or The Office. And no one outside of Brazil has ever watched their soaps.

    This is not to say that many US shows aren’t good, great, or interesting, but they are not the be-all and end-all of television. Not everything that is successful in the US is successful worldwide, nor should it be. Some things just do not translate.

  • Petteri

    The way I see it, polygamy is just another form of men vielding power over their women. There hardly is any mutual acceptance required and the women just better follow those “sacred” rules and regulations passed to them by wise old men, after all they know what’s best. They also can make sure that their women folk don’t get any funny ideas about education or carreers for that is something that Satan is using as a bait. Man, it’s nice to have balls!

  • http://anzisblog.blogspot.com Anzi

    Petteri: You’re talking about polygyny, which is the most common form of polygamy. We must, however, remember that polyandry (women having several husbands) also exists.

  • Anonymous

    Jumping in kind of late, but I agree that it is both unethical and unconstitutional for the state to dictate who can marry who and how many people of consenting age can be married based on religious grounds.

    Of a side note, I know of quite a few people who are polyamorous, meaning that that they may have more than one partner at a time. Some people are legally married couples that have other partners, some are not married at all, and some are groups that are married within their own religious tradition – like the group of seven people (multiple men and women) who share a home and marriage bond between each other, and are very happy. Whatever floats your boat, I say. :)

  • prince of dorkness

    ‘Makes no sense whatsoever.’
    I think it’s called having a society, with norms dictated by the majority, who in this case are monogamous. AFAIK the majority does not approve of spawning all over the place and abandoning your offspring either, it’s just that in those cases paternity suits are considered the appropriate action.
    As for government staying out of the marriage, society (which you call government) pretty much dictates what is appropriate for its members to do. So you could try to convert the majority to your views. Making marriage ‘just a civil contract between willing partners’ (Finnpundit) would, of course, mean that incest would no longer be illegal. From a practical POV it might not mean much (I doubt many people really want to marry close blood relatives), but the emotional power of that sort of thing is considerable.

  • Petteri

    Of course Anzi dear, but when we are talking about the variety found in the Western States, Southern Alberta, and British Colunbia, you can bet your string bikini that it’s purely Patriarchal in nature. It isn’t cute and it isn’t female friendly and if it didn’t get “special protection”, especially in Utah, we would be a lot more aware about it. In the mean while, my heart goes to those poor women.

  • http://anzisblog.blogspot.com Anzi

    Oh, Petteri, I totally agree with you. I just wanted to nit-pick on the terminology just so that it is clear for everyone and that people could be more specific. Often when people (men) talk about polygamy, they mean polygyny. Very few advocates for polygamy are actually for polyandry.

  • Petteri

    I am such a peasant, Anzi, and I definitely can use some elucidation which you graciously provided. Thank you! :)

  • Helsinkian

    hfb: There are plenty of genetic diseases in Finland that have to do with inbreeding. Still, I don’t think first cousin marriages are common at all in Finland, at any rate any more. I guess they are legal and rare. In Iraq first and second cousin marriages are still pretty much the rule.

    Whatever the arguments pro and con in the cousin marriage case are, I think they should be legal. There are plenty of countries where they are legal and rare and there are also countries where they are legal and common. In America the legality of cousin marriage depends totally on the state.

  • Helsinkian

    Here’s a BBC article on cousin marriage from last November:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/4442010.stm

  • http://niora.livejournal.com/ Paula

    Does anyone here know about a halfway current Finnish case of first-cousin marriage?

    I know they were not uncommon several generations ago, but even my grandparents clearly did not approve – I remember them mentioning a case from their generation and adding that they thought it was pretty OK in that specific case because both parties were so aged at the time of their marriage that they were obviously not going to have any children together.

    I think my own parents are related, but the link between the families dates back to the 18th century or so and is pretty distant. And Finns making up a fairly small population, that’s probably about the best you can do if you marry another Finn in the first place.

  • Helsinkian

    …and a three-year-old text from Solomonia blog where there is a long NYT quote attached on the topic of cousin marriage and Iraq:

    http://www.solomonia.com/blog/archives/001172.shtml

  • http://anzisblog.blogspot.com Anzi

    I know a girl whose friend married her cousin. Wasn’t there also some athlete who was married to his first or second cousin?

    A good friend of mine had a consentual one night stand with her cousin a couple of years ago, and I thought it was pretty weird. My cousins are…my relatives. I grew up with those guys. Our parents are siblings. Ew!

  • Helsinkian

    I only have one cousin, and he’s of the same sex. I don’t know exactly how many second cousins I have but if would see second cousins walking down the street, I probably wouldn’t recognize any one of them. I’ve heard stuff about them but seen very few pictures if any and maybe I’ve met some of them about a decade ago at some family gathering but that’s it. My only cousin is a friend of mine but I don’t think my parents ever were really close to their cousins or in their childhood ever lived in the same town as any of their cousins did. All of my grandparents (all from different places) moved out of where they had grown up in their early adulthood.

  • Helsinkian

    Since polygamy and cousin marriage are usually discussed separately, I’ve yet to find a study on polygynous relationships where a man marries more than one of his female cousins. Among Iraq’s Shiite majority I’ve understood they’re big on cousin marriage but not so big on polygamy. But what about the Saudi royal family? Is it common that a Saudi prince marries, say, four of his female cousins? How does it affect a marriage if it’s both polygamous and cousin marriage? I’m sure Saudi princes practice out marriage as well as inbreeding and it’s not like all of their wives are cousins but I wonder if anyone has studied what happens if both phenomena (polygyny and cousin marriage) are common in a population.

  • http://niora.livejournal.com/ Paula

    #49 and #50: How much contact you have with your relatives obviously varies… I come from the same type of family as Anzi apparently does: I know all my cousins from both sides (and there are plenty), many of them quite well. They feel like some sort of extra siblings – people I would never consider getting romantically involved with. But obviously even that varies among families…

  • Helsinkian

    Maybe my wonderings about Saudi Arabia were not so thought out. After all, probably the Saudis who do not belong to the royal family are very likely to practice cousin marriage and much more unlikely to practice polygyny. The regular Saudis may even have a hard time getting to know anyone of the opposite sex apart from their cousins. With all the money and power that the princes have, they would be the most likely to get access to brides who are not of their kin. I bet there is prestige in inbreeding in a royal family but without knowing the statistics I’d simply guess a Saudi prince would start out with a cousin as first wife and then go on dating other women and out marrying. In this way there would be plenty of polygyny at the top of Saudi society and plenty of cousin marriage, which would also exist among the royals but not so that there would be any typical pattern of a guy marrying more than one cousin.

    I read somewhere that there are plenty of genetic defects in the Saudi royal family. Still, it may have been worse among European royal families (who used to marry cousins) since they would marry only once and then have all of the kids with a cousin. If a Saudi prince first marries a cousin and then produces plenty of kids with genetic defects, wives #2, #3 and #4 (assuming these wouldn’t be cousins) would still add to the royal gene pool some valuable outbreeding.

  • prince of dorkness

    @54,
    marriage rules/practices have more to do with keeping or acquiring property than avoiding birth defects. The Habsburgs were masters of it, but the price of 1st cousin or uncle-and-niece marriages did start to show in the Spanish branch of the family:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_II_of_Spain

  • Helsinkian

    pod: marriage rules used to do with property. Modern people are quite interested in avoiding birth defects. Besides, today’s Saudi princes are guys who have it all. Sure, some of them are into keeping or acquiring property but many of them are simply into spending huge sums of money. Since they can be married to more than one woman, they can in one marriage take into account all the dynastic aspirations and all this premodern thinking and then in another marriage they might simply want to bring in some beauty they spotted at a casino while gambling away some of the excess money. So they can combine traditional royal reasons for marrying with more modern reasons.

  • http://m-sandt.blogspot.com Mikko Sandt

    Phil:
    “and even though I disagree with polygamy, I can’t understand why it shouldn’t be one of the socially and legally acceptable forms of marriage.”

    Agreed. Both men & women should have the right to be married with as many people as possible and the state should stay out of it. I see no reason why the state should have a monopoly over granting marriage “licenses” in the first place.

  • Anonymous

    I work with a lot of Muslims, who are of course allowed to have four wives. When I feel like winding them up I fake ignorance and ask if a woman can have four husbands. They find this idea very amusing…

    I don’t know, four wives? I agree with Hank. That’s four mother-in-laws. Not to mention, four wives is like having the ultimate surround sound nagging system.

    I’m told that few Muslim men have four wives because it gets “expensive.”

  • Abuahmad

    Dear all,
    One thing ones always misunderstood Islamic law or shariah is so called “asbabun” or reasons literally, and also so called “muamallah” or community\social perspective of an Islamic law. I said, ones always misunderstood or even misused it, was because even many “muslim” in muslim countries misunderstood and misused many Islamic law. Man can marry four womens, man get more inheritance, slaves and so on. If many muslim misunderstood and misused such law, I can easily imagine that many western people (regardless unjustice media) could misinterprate Islamic law.

    In Islam, for such ritual ways and methods, the way how the law come to the first ummah (community) was direct and specifics. But many law about muamallah had been delivered gradually (evolve). For instance, before Islam came, in arab such hammr (alcohol drink) was normal habit. But when Islam came to protect (losing) people mind and healthy, the was not forbidden in once. First, it only suggested that the bad effect of hammr are more that its amusement. Then came again verse to forbidden people from praying when they were drunk. Until came the last verse that forbidden the hammr.

    Same like that, before Islam came, women are nothing. A men can rape a women and then kill her, and her brothers or father did not care about. Women also mostly only babies producer if not just an amusement just like hammr. There were no such law to protect women and (girl) chilren. In fact, it was a shame to get a babygirl !!!. At that time also, a man can marry any women he wanted, maybe his sister, his father’s ex-wife, and UNLIMITED of number of women. So the islamic married law, make the criteria who you can married, many detail direction how to treath your wife lawfully, and restrict the number of women you consideribly can have a responsible married. Actually, Islamic law discouraging many bad habits a man can do, and encouraging a responsible married. I would say that the kind of “Big love” tv story moral representation actully almost meet to ideal condition what Islamic law for. Not such example taken from uneducated man from such “Islamic” (don’t you try to find out whether they really practicing Islam truely?) country.

    When it is not forbidden, it does not mean that you can do what ever you want. It is true, it is not a very amusing for a women who totaly share his love with a man, when her lover said want to marry another women. But, actually it is not an easy process and practice for a responsible man to say to his wife that he will marry another women. One example, there was once upon a time in ancient Islamic community in madinah, where many men were encouraging by the state to marry a lot of widows of death Islamic troops (of course all regard to Islamic law), but them it was really up to them to decided if they want to have more than one wife and responsible for all their live (including the children from the women) or not.

  • Abuahmad

    To anzi,

    In Islam, polygamy is always polygyny. The reason behind is that a man should responsible to the children from his married. (At that time, no DNA test yet), How could one now, whose baby the women carring, if there are several men making sex with her. However, even though now we have the DNA test, the law does not change.

  • Abuahmad

    The religion of Islam was revealed for all societies and all times and so it accommodates widely differing social requirements. Circumstances may warrant the taking of another wife, but the right is granted, according to the Qur’an only on condition that the husband is scrupulously fair. No woman can be forced into this kind of marriage if they do not wish it.

    Polygamy is neither mandatory, nor encouraged, but merely permitted. Images of “sheikhs with harems” are not consistent with Islam, as a man is only allowed at most four wives only if he can fulfill the stringent conditions of treating each fairly and providing each with separate housing etc. Permission to practice polygamy is not associated with mere satisfaction of passion. It is rather associated with compassion toward widows and orphans. It was the Qur’an that limited and put conditions on the practice of polygamy among the Arabs, who had as many as ten or more wives and considered them “property”. It is both honest and accurate to say that it is Islam which regulated this practice, limited it, made it more humane and instituted equal rights and status for all wives. What the Qur’anic decrees amount to, taken together is discouragement of polygamy unless necessity for it exists. It is also evident that the general trend in Islam is monogamy and not polygamy. It is a very small percentage of Muslims that practice polygamy over the world. However, permission to practice limited polygamy is only consistent with Islam’s realistic view of the nature of man and woman and of various social needs, problems and cultural variations. It also is the frank and straightforward approach of Islam in dealing with practical problems. Rather than requiring hypocritical and superficial compliance, Islam delves deeper into the problems of individuals and societies, and provides for legitimate and clean solutions which are far more beneficial than would be the case if they were ignored. There is no doubt that the second wife legally married and treated kindly is better off than a mistress without any legal rights or expermanence.

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