Nobody calls me monogamous with malice.
May 11, 2011 11:16 AM   Subscribe

Monogamous Privilege Checklist. Cory Davis, who is polyamorous, wrote a checklist in the style of Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. Davis interviews with Cunning Minx of Polyamory Weekly podcast (3:00-28:00ish Site header NSFW) and discusses the nature of privileged relationships and her pushback from monogamous and polyamorous alike.
posted by jenlovesponies (266 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite


 
This is neither here nor there, but it's sort of weird to me that that checklist is illustrated by a prominent image of a man, a woman, and two children sitting on a couch. Because, uh, well – is this supposed to be... well, I'll just say I'm not sure why they made that choice.
posted by koeselitz at 11:20 AM on May 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm thinking (hoping) that's an illustration of the privileged monogamists, not....
posted by Pants McCracky at 11:21 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Relationship orientation?" So, I guess he was born that way?
posted by The World Famous at 11:22 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Whenever I hear about the Invisible Knapsack, I always imagine George Clooney's character from Up in the Air and his relationship backpack.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:22 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


7) No one tries to convert me to their relationship orientation.

I've definitely witnessed a lot of nudging from polyamorous-types (even in AskMe) who urge monogamous people to consider "opening up" etc.
posted by hermitosis at 11:23 AM on May 11, 2011 [71 favorites]


Not all of these things seem to be negative. That is of course a matter of opinion. But what they are, is assumptions, based on other people's limited knowledge of the speaker and their relationship(s), history, behavior, etc. I'd submit that monogamous people deal with the same kind of assumptions, albeit occasionally different ones. I'm not sure what a world would look like where people didn't extrapolate that way.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:25 AM on May 11, 2011


I've definitely witnessed a lot of nudging from polyamorous-types (even in AskMe) who urge monogamous people to consider "opening up" etc.

It really seems sometimes that the polyamorous are the most evangelical of orientations.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:27 AM on May 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


I think this list is helpful if you want to be sensitive to the feelings of non-monogamists, but I'm not really sympathetic to the idea of talking about this in terms of privilege. IMHO it cheapens the term when we're talking about a lifestyle that is freely chosen by it's participants, as if polyamorists ate in the same class as women, LGBT people, nonwhites, etc. I do agree though that polyamory is unfairly stigmatized.
posted by Pants McCracky at 11:29 AM on May 11, 2011 [58 favorites]


"Ate" Yeah, I'm eating lunch as I read this.
posted by Pants McCracky at 11:30 AM on May 11, 2011


7) No one tries to convert me to their relationship orientation.

I've definitely witnessed a lot of nudging from polyamorous-types (even in AskMe) who urge monogamous people to consider "opening up" etc.


One of my closest friends (someone who was a friend-with-benefits 20 years ago) is a swinger, and for YEARS was trying to get Mrs. Deadmessenger and I to come to one of her and her husband's parties, despite our repeated insistence that we really were perfectly OK with our two-person sex life. Regardless of the other points made in this article, this particular point is total crap.
posted by deadmessenger at 11:31 AM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Ninety percent of these are restatements of "People in the majority tend to assume, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that other people are like them." Yeah, it kinda sucks. Wouldn't it be so much nicer if, every time you met someone, you traded CVs, only they also included romantic details, allergies, food preferences and phobias? shudder

We're moving the "privilege" goalposts so close together that I expect the next one of these to be complaining about the privilege of not having transposed viscerae and having to deal with the shame of people expecting your heart to be on the left side.
posted by Etrigan at 11:32 AM on May 11, 2011 [20 favorites]


9) It is not generally understood that I am unfit to raise children because of my relationship orientation.

Based on the pictures selected, I think you may be unfit to raise children because you let them ride bikes with helmets dangling from their handlebars. They *have helmets*. They should be wearing them.
posted by norm at 11:33 AM on May 11, 2011 [24 favorites]


Yeah, I agree with Pants McCracky... unless we are now suggesting that individuals are born monogamous or polyamorous, rather than one or the other just being something they pursue because they want to, this isn't really a case of "privilege" any more than being a non-vegetarian is. The list comes from a good place in the author's heart, but it cheapens the idea of what privilege is and its pernicious influence.
posted by modernnomad at 11:33 AM on May 11, 2011 [15 favorites]


The World Famous : "Relationship orientation?" So, I guess he was born that way?

40 years ago, they considered homosexuality a "choice", too... ;)

/ Can honestly say my little BooBooKitty gives me no choice in the matter.


Pants McCracky : but I'm not really sympathetic to the idea of talking about this in terms of privilege. IMHO it cheapens the term

It can't cheapen the term any more than merely using it seriously. I've learned, since coming to the Blue, not to refer to various BS social policies as "PC" if I want the reader to take me seriously. On the liberal side of that coin, however, you'll find the idea of "Privilege" - And this link nicely illustrates why. Discounting someone's view because of their race/gender/age/orientation/religion/whatever commits the SAME sin regardless of which side of the fence they occupy.
posted by pla at 11:36 AM on May 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


The list comes from a good place in the author's heart

Or maybe it comes from a self-promotion-through-perpetual-aggrievement place in the writer's heart.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 11:36 AM on May 11, 2011 [22 favorites]


unless we are now suggesting that individuals are born monogamous or polyamorous, rather than one or the other just being something they pursue because they want to

I agree the list overall feels weird and not like actual victims of privilege, but there might be a minor point in the whole "born that way" or "by choice" thing -- a lot of people have made the point that polyamorous lifestyles are almost always observed in nature (even among our closest DNA relatives, the chimp) and that it's quite possible everyone is sort of "born this way" but society has imposed the monogamous-as-normal stigma.
posted by mathowie at 11:37 AM on May 11, 2011 [13 favorites]


Every time someone wants to be treated nicely, the same thing repeats. When will humans learn?
posted by DU at 11:37 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


In fact it strikes me that if this is all privilege means now, one could probably write a similar list of "privileges" of the average sexually-active college student in comparison to a stereotypical fundamentalist Christian "no sex before marriage" virgin, but I doubt it would get circulated online in the same fashion, or have people patting themselves on the back for their open and understanding treatment of Christian virgins in Texas.
posted by modernnomad at 11:38 AM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


The term "privilege" has joined "genocide" in the collection of words that have lost their original gravitas because of overuse by cranks.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:38 AM on May 11, 2011 [22 favorites]


I think it's important to point out that nobody, not even a white Christian heterosexual male traditional manly man sort of person (in the US, anyway), is ever free from being judged unfairly or having people question his choices or identity. Inherent social insecurity is not the same as being on the wrong side of privilege.
posted by clockzero at 11:39 AM on May 11, 2011 [15 favorites]


When will humans learn?

Not to be nice to anyone? Learned that a while ago bucko. Also give me your lunch.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:39 AM on May 11, 2011


Agree with modernnomad and Pants McCracky. Moreover, a lot of the things on this list are trivial compared to getting to regularly have sex with multiple partners. That totally made any awkward uncomfortableness worth it to me when I was in a poly relationship.
posted by Jon_Evil at 11:39 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


If we use 'privilege' in this way, we're in danger of making the word essentially meaningless. It's not about choices or life decisions. I didn't choose to be a person of color, I didn't carefully consider the alternatives and decide on something and declare myself to have a 'non-white orientation' after the fact. It's just who I am and who I've been since I was born, and includes difficulties and things I'm forced to think about on a daily basis that caucasians have the privilege to not have to consider. On the other hand, as someone who's single and free-minded I could choose right this very second to do anything I want relationship-wise.

If we're going to use the word in this way, then eventually people will start making lists like "the higher education privilege checklist" and whatever else crosses their mind.
posted by naju at 11:39 AM on May 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


a lot of people have made the point that polyamorous lifestyles are almost always observed in nature

Are these chimps genuinely polyamorous, or are they just players, slutting around and cheating on their partners?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:40 AM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, lazy fuckin' people, get your own ideas. Just grabbing the invisible knapsack idea and radically, inappropriate transposing it is incredibly arrogant and utterly myopic. It demeans the critical insight of that text.
posted by clockzero at 11:41 AM on May 11, 2011 [16 favorites]


5) No one argues that my relationship orientation is impractical, unstable, incompatible with commitment, or otherwise effectively impossible to realize. No one argues that my relationship orientation works better in theory than in practice.

Seriously, even leaving #7 aside, this guy needs to come spend some time on MeFi. People talk that way about marriage around here all the time.
posted by The Bellman at 11:42 AM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sharing this site with all of you is all the privilege I need. But next time, I get to be Matt.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:45 AM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm not convinced that individuals aren't born monogamous or polyamorous (or, erm, whatever the term would be for somebody who can be happy either way). I'm not convinced that they are, either. I don't know why we would all blithely assume that polyamory and monogamy are pure and simple lifestyle choices with absolutely no genetic predisposition whatsoever, without (afaik) any evidence about this one way or the other. Is this something that has been studied?

I think privilege applies. Any time something which has nothing to do with your job can be used to fire you should your employer find out about it, privilege applies. Any time something prevents consenting adults from marrying, privilege applies. It seems to me pretty straightforward actually, and I am surprised to see people here - who are presumably in favor of marriage equality for gays and lesbians - arguing that marriage discrimination, for example, shouldn't be taken seriously simply because there are three people involved instead of two. Isn't that pretty much displaying our privilege?
posted by joannemerriam at 11:46 AM on May 11, 2011 [15 favorites]


I'm polyamorous, but I'm also a queer woman of color and the whole idea of monogamous privilege makes me cringe. There are things that are easier about being monogamous, but...I can't get worked up about it on a social justice level.

I will say that custody of children should have nothing to do with whether one is monogamous.

People, of course, are recruiting for serial monogamy in every aspect of our culture from birth on, so I can't get too worked up about people who merely suggest polyamory. It's not the same.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:47 AM on May 11, 2011 [17 favorites]


PeterMcDermott: "Are these chimps genuinely polyamorous, or are they just players, slutting around and cheating on their partners?"

Yeah to me that is the funniest thing. To such a large degree the poly people and the monogamous people are doing the same damned things, but for the monogamous people it just happens that they are cheating sometimes and for the poly people they just have fewer partners sometimes so it makes it sound like radically incompatible lifestyles. Well yeah the narratives accompanying the lifestyles are very different but the things people do are not so much.
posted by idiopath at 11:48 AM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


They want it to seem like its not a choice. Well, until I can see the data from the shrinks and biologists who tell me that being polyamorous is hardwired into some of us and not just the (or a manifestation of the) greediness instinct that blights all of humanity to varying degrees I'm not buying it.

Also, there are very, very good reasons why one male (or female) should not have a hold, its almost ownership in a way, over several females (males). Aggression within the harem, aggression between single members of the population without a mate available to them, possibilities of corruption (I'm thinking Caligulan levels of excess here), etc.
posted by Slackermagee at 11:49 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was struck by the fact that all the monogamist privileges for were phrased in terms of "This doesn't happen to monogamists!" whereas the Invisible Knapsack was written in positive terms of things that actually happen to people with white privilege as opposed to things that don't happen to them.

It reads to me, just in terms of this one language choice, that the author isn't really writing about monogamists at all. He's writing about himself. Which is a legitimate thing to write about, but why call it other than what it is?
posted by chatongriffes at 11:49 AM on May 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


I was once in a debate during law school with someone on the issue of gay marriage, and my opposition pointed out that the same arguments could be used to justify polygamous marriage, and what was my rejoinder to that? I thought about it (having not really considered the issue before, frankly) and answered that I thought the government could probably stand to butt out of people's choices in that matter as well, assuming (of course) that the choices were between consensual adults. I don't know if it's odd or not that my position on the issue hasn't really moved since then.
posted by norm at 11:49 AM on May 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


a lot of the things on this list are trivial compared to getting to regularly have sex with multiple partners

Is that polyamory or is that just not being exclusive?
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 11:49 AM on May 11, 2011


It really seems sometimes that the polyamorous are the most evangelical of orientations.

Coco and I don't throw out invites to freaky three ways like mardi gras beads. Jeez.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:49 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


" I am surprised to see people here - who are presumably in favor of marriage equality for gays and lesbians - arguing that marriage discrimination, for example, shouldn't be taken seriously simply because there are three people involved instead of two. "

That's because the only reason for not letting two people get married is bigotry. There are a billion and one practical reasons for three people not to get married, and it's importance (or desirability) is something that is argued with frequency and gusto within polyamorous communities.

It's not really comparable to same-sex marriage at all.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:49 AM on May 11, 2011 [17 favorites]


I've learned, since coming to the Blue, not to refer to various BS social policies as "PC" if I want the reader to take me seriously.

But you haven't learned not to refer to not referring to various social policies as "PC"?

ELEPHANTS ALL THE WAY DOWN!
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:50 AM on May 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Not to say that all polyamorous relationships would lead to this, that the if it happened on a wider scale I don't think we'd like the results.
posted by Slackermagee at 11:50 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


It seems to me pretty straightforward actually, and I am surprised to see people here - who are presumably in favor of marriage equality for gays and lesbians - arguing that marriage discrimination, for example, shouldn't be taken seriously simply because there are three people involved instead of two. Isn't that pretty much displaying our privilege?

In other words, if I'm against something a person chooses to do, I'm displaying "privilege."
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 11:52 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


if I'm against something a person chooses to do, I'm displaying "privilege."

Actually, if you get to do something (get married, etc), and you're against somebody else doing it, you're not just displaying privilege, you're enforcing it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:55 AM on May 11, 2011 [12 favorites]


Also, in a perverse way, this dude has privilege written all over him. Who else but someone utterly accustomed to various significant forms of privilege would be so clueless about what it actually is?
posted by clockzero at 11:55 AM on May 11, 2011 [10 favorites]


The problem with discussions of invisible privilege is that they ignore the overlap between privileges and rights. Not always: sometimes they're designed to point out inequalities without describing the appropriate rectification. But when I try to teach the original McIntosh Knapsack essay, I find that students tend to assume that every "unearned advantage" is something to be stripped from the dominant group rather than claimed by the subordinate group. I think it's the language of 'privilege' itself that does this, as well as the way it's written from the perspective of the (presumed guilty) privileged subject.

Human rights are the biggest "unearned advantages" there are. It's good to be aware of these advantages, especially if you want to assert them against those who would trample them, but no one should feel guilty for having them. We should feel guilty for perpetuating a system where some people *don't* have them.

In this regard, the original work done by Pateman and Mills on the Sexual and Racial Contracts is far more nuanced.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:55 AM on May 11, 2011 [17 favorites]


"No one argues that my relationship orientation works better in theory than in practice."


Uhhh...
posted by gagglezoomer at 11:55 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am totally going to do a Vanilla Privilege checklist next! You non-BDSMers don't know how good you have it!
posted by desjardins at 11:55 AM on May 11, 2011 [15 favorites]


I'm totally in favor of granting privilege to the polyamorous. I think you should be able to abstain from having sex with as many people as you want before marrying them.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:56 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


As a gay man, married (during the short window in California when it was legal) reading this list made me irrationally angry.

Here's the honest report of my feelings: Here I am, fighting for what I believe are basic human rights for all people to be able to get married to the partner of their choice...and here's someone who wants to muddy the waters with polyamory acceptance crap.

Upon reflection, I realize that my feelings are not fair. I have my issue that's important to me, and he has his issue. I may feel mine is more important, and that's just me.

As to the design of the list - worst stock photo selection ever.
posted by Futurehouse at 11:57 AM on May 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


I wouldn't call it privilege either.

But there is something interesting that the invisibility of privilege and the invisibility of default choices have in common. So often we take the standard explanations, the standard array of presented social choices, for the reality of human possibility or desirability. In some cases that leads to inequality of power and oppression (race, gender), in others it leads to closed mindedness about lifestyle choices (certain drugs, polyamory, how we choose to perform the gender we have). The fact that the social dynamic works similarly is valuable to take notice of. But I think it is important to reserve that word privilege for cases were the victims don't have a reasonable choice that lets them opt out.
posted by idiopath at 11:57 AM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Going down the whole "born that way" vs "choice" thing seems like it's playing into the hands of retrograde knuckle-draggers social conservatives; it implies that as long as a behavior is chosen, it's free game for discrimination. In other words, it makes choosing to be different inherently wrong and punishable.

I think that's pretty shitty. It puts the onus on the person or group being pressured for their difference to demonstrate that they didn't choose it, that it's some sort of biological or medical reality, rather than pushing back against the assholes doing the discrimination and asking them "where's the harm?"
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:57 AM on May 11, 2011 [40 favorites]


That's because the only reason for not letting two people get married is bigotry. There are a billion and one practical reasons for three people not to get married, and it's importance (or desirability) is something that is argued with frequency and gusto within polyamorous communities.

It's not really comparable to same-sex marriage at all.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:49 PM on May 11


I guess I don't see why not. What practical reasons are you talking about? I can see that it's more complicated, but so is serial monogamy, and we allow divorce and remarriage.

If the poly community argues about the desirability of marriage, that isn't really an argument against allowing it. The gay community has those discussions, too. So does the straight (monogamous) community.
posted by joannemerriam at 11:58 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am totally going to do a Vanilla Privilege checklist next! You non-BDSMers don't know how good you have it!

I saw this on ONTD_feminism (a livejournal community) and I'm sure there's already one floating around fetlife.

I was very sad that it had nothing to do with ice cream.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:59 AM on May 11, 2011


Going down the whole "born that way" vs "choice" thing seems like it's playing into the hands of retrograde knuckle-draggers social conservatives; it implies that as long as a behavior is chosen, it's free game for discrimination. In other words, it makes choosing to be different inherently wrong and punishable.

I think that's pretty shitty. It puts the onus on the person or group being pressured for their difference to demonstrate that they didn't choose it, that it's some sort of biological or medical reality, rather than pushing back against the assholes doing the discrimination and asking them "where's the harm?"


Except we've shown that there's harm. There was a post (which I can't find) that linked to a paper detailing increased aggression (or the propensity for increased aggression?) in un-matched males when females were 'hoarded' by a select few.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:01 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]



It's always kind of shocked me when people run on and on about how spiritually and emotionally and psychologically defunct monogamous oriented people are-- in the context of expecting that I will accept polyarmory without question.

I'll put it a different way, I think it's fine for polyarmorous people to think that they are more enlightened than monogamists. If they would like to express that belief than they should kindly accept that others believe that monogamy is more enlightened than polyarmory.

I find it really distasteful when someone tells me they have evolved and advanced past the greed and selfishness of monogamy when I would never speak about polyarmory like that. I've know craploads of very self centered polyarmorous people( and some great loving polyaromorous people). Some people believe that sharing love between two people is more healthy for them and I see no reason why monogamists should be called selfish unevolved people if polyarmorists are hoping for respectful consideration for their own relationships. How about we all just do what feels healthy/right/desireable etc between our consensual partners and not pressume we are more enlightened or less selfish because of that?

That being said, shouldn't we be able to do research on and talk about different lifestyles being healthy/unhealthy?

Some people believe that eating at McDonalds every day is unhealthy, are we not allowed to think some lifestyle choices are unhealthy for the human body/psyche in general? Perhaps it's more about not being judgemental about the reasons people might partake of such things or have a differing belief about what's healthy, and the fact that ultimately we don't know what is right for any specific person given their life circumstance.
posted by xarnop at 12:03 PM on May 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


"I guess I don't see why not. What practical reasons are you talking about? "

Overhauling everything that has to do with marriage including government benefits, assumed paternity, divorce, inheritance, the right to make medical decisions for an incapacitated spouse...

Divorce and remarriage have been around forever.

Yes, it genuinely hurts to not be able to have more than one person get the same amount of legal recognition as my (legal) spouse.

But it makes sense and I am insanely privileged when compared to people who can marry no one. I think comparing the two is stupid.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:03 PM on May 11, 2011 [10 favorites]


4) It is not assumed based on my relationship orientation that I or any of my former or current partners has been misled, coerced, manipulated, or used in any way.

Can this even be serious? Monagamous people are not presumed ever to have been lied to? In any way? This is sooo omphalocentric.
posted by Casimir at 12:03 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Slackermagee: "Except we've shown that there's harm. There was a post (which I can't find) that linked to a paper detailing increased aggression (or the propensity for increased aggression?) in un-matched males when females were 'hoarded' by a select few."

Maybe you are confusing polyamory and polygamy? If yer hoardin' yer wimmen, yer doin' polyamory wrong.
posted by idiopath at 12:04 PM on May 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


"I am totally going to do a Vanilla Privilege checklist next! You non-BDSMers don't know how good you have it!"

That's because you BDSMers have it bad, so very, very, bad. You need spankings. Bad.
posted by klangklangston at 12:04 PM on May 11, 2011 [44 favorites]


klang---HA!!
posted by xarnop at 12:06 PM on May 11, 2011


All I know is that I like to fuck trees.

That's literally all I know.
posted by COBRA! at 12:08 PM on May 11, 2011 [26 favorites]


Actually, if you get to do something (get married, etc), and you're against somebody else doing it, you're not just displaying privilege, you're enforcing it.

Polyamorous people can still get married, just not to all of their partners. It's a little different. Same-sex marriage does not redefine the contract of marriage, nor does it particularly complicate issues of benefits, inheritance, adoption, and so on that multiple partner marriage would.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:09 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am totally going to do a Vanilla Privilege checklist next! You non-BDSMers don't know how good you have it!

No, really, you don't. And as I read the Monogamous Privilege checklist, I couldn't help but mentally apply all of the scenarios to kink.

I think the argument that a person is born one way or another is sort of moot. We are who we are. Some of us love multiple partners and choose to form families that are arranged non-monogamously. The point is that not only is there nothing wrong with that choice, but that a person should be able to pursue her heart's desire without having to deal with constant judgment, shunning, and personal risk.
posted by KinkySockPuppet at 12:09 PM on May 11, 2011


As a member of a heterosexual, monogamous, married couple, I actually do get a lot of the questions on the list. Not all of them, no, but a damned-whole-lot of them. Why? Because I'm white, and my wife's black. Sure, the legal protections are well in place, and living in an uber-liberal area cuts down on a lot of the stupid comments, but, yes, people do give us double-takes and question why we're together and if it's good for the kids and assume all sorts of things about us and never think we're together when ordering at Starbucks.

It sucks, it's hurtful, and I hereby pledge to stop making fun of polyamorous people.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:10 PM on May 11, 2011 [15 favorites]


Actually, if you get to do something (get married, etc), and you're against somebody else doing it, you're not just displaying privilege, you're enforcing it.

So, if I'm against childrens getting married, I'm enforcing adult privilege? I'm okay with that.
posted by nooneyouknow at 12:10 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe you are confusing polyamory and polygamy? If yer hoardin' yer wimmen, yer doin' polyamory wrong.
posted by idiopath at 12:04 PM on May 11 [+] [!]


I thought the thread had headed down Marriage Rights Line, straight into the tunnel under BornThisWay mountain?

Regardless, if marriage rights were granted, it would get sticky quickly.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:11 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh God, I didn't think before I typed those last two words.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:11 PM on May 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


"I guess I don't see why not. What practical reasons are you talking about? "

Overhauling everything that has to do with marriage including government benefits, assumed paternity, divorce, inheritance, the right to make medical decisions for an incapacitated spouse...
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:03 PM on May 11


Thanks. Not for calling my question stupid, but for the rest of your response. These seem like solveable problems if we wanted to solve them, but I can see where it's quite a bit more complicated than allowing LGBT couples marriage equality.
posted by joannemerriam at 12:11 PM on May 11, 2011


I am totally going to do a Vanilla Privilege checklist next! You non-BDSMers don't know how good you have it!

Already been done. But I guess another one can't hurt.
posted by nooneyouknow at 12:13 PM on May 11, 2011


Heh. If marriage rights did exist, I (female) would be out hoarding men before you could say "boo". The idea that one man, multiple women would be the default poly setup is not in any way reflective of the reality on the ground. Polyamory is very much a female-led (and feminist-led) movement.

There is a whole cultural idea out there that women are naturally monogamous and men just suck it up, but it is very much not the case.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:15 PM on May 11, 2011 [13 favorites]


These seem like solveable problems if we wanted to solve them, but I can see where it's quite a bit more complicated than allowing LGBT couples marriage equality.

No question it is more complicated, though I think this is one of the author's points. All of those things listed would have to be overhauled precisely because their current implementation is based on the assumption that only monogamous relationships will be recognized by the state for those purposes.
posted by FishBike at 12:15 PM on May 11, 2011


Going down the whole "born that way" vs "choice" thing seems like it's playing into the hands of retrograde knuckle-draggers social conservatives; it implies that as long as a behavior is chosen, it's free game for discrimination. In other words, it makes choosing to be different inherently wrong and punishable

You're making too broad of a generalization here, this is not a binary "acceptable vs bad" equation and not all differences need to be considered wrong or punishable. I am not sure why all choices must be treated equally, there exists the possibility of unwise choices with adverse effects. I am not convinced polyamory is such a choice, but I think it's entirely reasonable to discriminate against people who have made certain choices.
posted by Hoopo at 12:17 PM on May 11, 2011


A lot of the things on this checklist still have the asterisk if you're heterosexual and monogamous in a relationship with someone not of your race, skin color, or ethnic background. Haters gonna hate.
posted by phunniemee at 12:17 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


enh...the list is ok, but honestly, I feel like a lot of people credit themselves with being forward thinking just because they wrote or read a list, and never take it much farther than that.

Also, a lot of those things just...haven't come up because I'm not "out" and I don't want to be married, or ever have children.

I think the most common things are:

1) there are very few media examples that don't run polyamory to some pornographic extreme
2) OMG do I have to come out to my family that I'm in an interracial, bisexual, poly relationship? All at once?
3) if I did come out, the closest approximation to truth is to leave my relationship status on social networks "open" "complicated" "singlish" or "dating but somewhat available" and
4) people who know seem to think that because I've got a girlfriend AND a boyfriend that I'll just fuck whomever, or that the people I'm dating aren't "real" relationships, or that I'll get past this "phase"
5) I don't mind too much, but friends frequently ask me to explain for them "how it all works" and seem to think it's a way to get out of real commitment.



I don't really recommend poly to anyone in my daily life...or "recruit" (especially not my monogamous friends) but I probably do talk too much to my friends about how happy it makes me.
posted by nile_red at 12:18 PM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


In my ideal leftist, pinko, bleeding-heart world, we'd have universal healthcare, and marriage would not be a government concern, but a private ritual of personal choosing. People would just pick healthcare proxies and co-guardians—It would be more "fave five" and less "'till death do us part." And nobody would have their children taken away, or be denied the opportunity to adopt, for engaging in healthy, consensual adult relationships.

Bonus: Ponies, for everyone! Yaaay!
posted by evidenceofabsence at 12:19 PM on May 11, 2011 [35 favorites]


I think the argument that a person is born one way or another is sort of moot. We are who we are. Some of us love multiple partners and choose to form families that are arranged non-monogamously. The point is that not only is there nothing wrong with that choice, but that a person should be able to pursue her heart's desire without having to deal with constant judgment, shunning, and personal risk.

Recognizing polyamorous relationships in the law would require dramatic changes in the way our law works and in our institutions. Inheritance, taxes, and especially family law. The issues with divorce, alone, would be enormous. This would be true even if polyamorous relationships were as likely to be til-death-do-we-part as monogamous ones are.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 12:21 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I read that as healthcare ponies. Now I want one.
posted by joannemerriam at 12:21 PM on May 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


These seem like solveable problems if we wanted to solve them, but I can see where it's quite a bit more complicated than allowing LGBT couples marriage equality.

"A bit more complicated" does not even come close to describing it. For starters, monogamous marriage is a contract with pretty clear boundaries -- at some point you are married, then, at another, you are not. There are sharp divides. In a polyamorous marriage, it's much more nebulous -- two people are married, then a third marries both of them. Later, one of the original two divorces the others. Does the original relationship still exist? If so, to what extent? There are significant legal issues to all of this that can't be resolved with a little "oh, we can work it out." It would be a much much more significant reworking of marriage than anything that has been tried. Most historical polygamous cultures keep the legal issues clear by having all the partners marry one person (often in situations where the (almost always) women had little legal standing), but that does not seem to be a model that we she emulate....

Which is not to say that people should not have polyamorous relationships if that's what makes them happy, but I see the legal issues of multiple-person marriage as an enormous problem.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:23 PM on May 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Polyamorous people can still get married, just not to all of their partners.

Well, sure. And gay people can get married, just not to people of the same gender.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:23 PM on May 11, 2011 [13 favorites]


Arguers for recognizing polygamy in law never, but never, discuss how that would work. It's always framed as "it's unfair that we're not allowed to do it." There is never a discussion of what would happen to children in such an arrangement if the union fell apart, other than something along the lines of "Well, because we're so liberated and mature and honest with one another about our desires, we'll be able to come to an agreement."
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 12:25 PM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Mayor Curley said:"The term "privilege" has joined "genocide" in the collection of words that have lost their original gravitas because of overuse by cranks."

I agree. Also the term "trauma". Everyone is not going to accept everything other people do. There are real horrors, and there are attitudes and things that are unpleasant, but are part of life, Words become trite and meaningless when applied to everything with no scale of seriousness and harm done,
posted by mermayd at 12:26 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


There is never a discussion of what would happen to children in such an arrangement if the union fell apart, other than something along the lines of "Well, because we're so liberated and mature and honest with one another about our desires, we'll be able to come to an agreement."

My parents didn't really have that discussion either when they married.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:29 PM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, when I was canvassing for gay marriage, I got the "what about polygamy?" stuff all the time (it's never "polyamory," since it's always thrown out there as a rebuttal to the idea of equal rights).

And it's always been one of those, "Well, I don't have anything against it in theory, but in practice it's a tremendously untenable with the current legal system. So how about we do the same-sex stuff first, then after that we can worry about redesigning the entire system of how relationships are legally recognized. I'll be happy to help, but I don't want to let the perfect be the enemy of the good."
posted by klangklangston at 12:30 PM on May 11, 2011 [12 favorites]


My parents didn't really have that discussion either when they married.

Yes, and I suppose next you'll tell me that your parents didn't live in a society in which we have the rule of law, which consists of specific words that are specifically enforceable.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 12:31 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


The fact that you can't be bothered to think about the societal consequences of things doesn't mean that other people, people charged with the care of children in our country, for example, don't have to.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 12:32 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Most of this list works for people's relationships in the kink and bdsm communities as well. Although that can be better hidden.
posted by By The Grace of God at 12:32 PM on May 11, 2011


I think it's entirely reasonable to discriminate against people who have made certain choices.

I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you, but that discrimination needs to logically follow in some way from the externalized harm that their choice entails.

At the logical extreme, someone who makes a "lifestyle choice" to rob banks is going to get "discriminated" against. Being a bank robber is not a choice that we let people get away with, but not just because it's different-- it's because there's a clear, externalized harm involved in robbing banks.

But that's pretty much by definition not what social conservatives are doing when they discriminate against basically any sort of non-mainstream lifestyle; what they tend to go after is the difference, irrespective of any sort of effect. In some cases a rational analysis might come to the same conclusions (e.g., pedophilia is wrong and ought to be both socially and legally punishable) as the typical social-conservative kneejerk one, but that doesn't validate their underlying logic (or lack thereof).
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:33 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


There are a billion and one practical reasons for three people not to get married

[citation needed]
posted by fritley at 12:34 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I guess I can say: I don't know how I feel about "privilege checklists" in general. They seem to be sort of popular now, but do they really do any good? Checklists which are supposed to tick off all the various ways that a particular group are privileged rarely seem designed to convince people who don't understand or aren't able to accept that they're privileged in the first place. More often than not, these things seem to take a shove-it-in-their-face sort of attitude, rather than what I think would be more productive – a rational, reasoned discussion of the facts and what's going on in society. Maybe that's just my feeling, however. Has anybody felt like they really had a revelatory moment reading a privilege checklist, a moment when they changed their mind and decided they were privileged after all?
posted by koeselitz at 12:35 PM on May 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


In some cases a rational analysis might come to the same conclusions (e.g., pedophilia is wrong and ought to be both socially and legally punishable) as the typical social-conservative kneejerk one, but that doesn't validate their underlying logic (or lack thereof).

In the case of polyamorous relationships being recognized in law, a rational analysis might conclude that the fundamental changes to family law that this would require are extremely dangerous to the well-being of children.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 12:36 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


joannemerriam- Maybe this?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 12:37 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, and I suppose next you'll tell me that your parents didn't live in a society in which we have the rule of law, which consists of specific words that are specifically enforceable.

You've never been through a divorce, have you?
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:40 PM on May 11, 2011


Arguers for recognizing polygamy in law never, but never, discuss how that would work.

In my experience this is untrue. Also, there are multiple legal systems in the world that recognize polygamy, so you could, you know, do some research and find out how this WACKY CRAZY SYSTEM would actually happen. This isn't exactly my bailiwick, but making blanket statements about how complicated it would be and won't someone think of the children and the like is pretty much the same thing that the gay marriage bigots say too. One suggestion as to a starting point for figuring out custodial relationships: there tend to be a maximum of two parents for every child. I don't see it as terrible to continue a legal policy of maintaining that.
posted by norm at 12:41 PM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Astro Zombie, actually, I have been through one. Yes. There were laws on the books in the state in which I lived. Those laws assumed two-person marriages and would have to be rewritten. I am wondering how they would be written -- would you like to share your thoughts? I mean that, I would like to hear some thoughts.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 12:43 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am not a lawyer. However, were I to want to be in a group marriage, I would be happy to hire one to draft a prenup addressing these.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:45 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a gay man, married (during the short window in California when it was legal) reading this list made me irrationally angry.

Here's the honest report of my feelings: Here I am, fighting for what I believe are basic human rights for all people to be able to get married to the partner of their choice...and here's someone who wants to muddy the waters with polyamory acceptance crap.


I'm in the minority among progressives, but I've thought all along that the attachment of the important rights to the specific institution of marriage is where the waters got muddied. I think the goal should always have been a broader class of domestic statuses and legal agreements that could serve everybody, rather than one status for every situation. It both would have both calmed some of the opposition along the cultural fronts (there's a good chunk of the middlin'-conservative social spectrum that has zero problem with live-and-let-live attitude regarding lifestyle choicesbut still feels a sense of alarm at the reconception of a traditional institution) and allowed for a broadening that would have included this.
posted by namespan at 12:49 PM on May 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Let me be completely clear: I think that people should be able to marry whomever they want, whenever they want, as many times as they want. Have three husbands. Have a group marriage. Whatever works for you, whatever cultural or religious practices you want to preform, fine by me.

I think that it is currently practical and fair for everyone to get to pick one legal spouse.

I think that focusing overly much on legal marriage between more than two people is distracting from the more significant fight for legally recognized same-sex marriage. I think that bringing up polyamorous/polygamous marriage in the context of same-sex marriage is a derail and I dislike it enormously when the two are compared.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:49 PM on May 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


In the case of polyamorous relationships being recognized in law, a rational analysis might conclude that the fundamental changes to family law that this would require are extremely dangerous to the well-being of children.

Well, yes, it might. That said, your argument would be a lot more convincing if you actually made that rational analysis, rather than simply asserting that it a) exists and b) is so serious that we cannot possibly write up laws which would allow three people to be married to each other (as opposed to cohabitating, which is already permitted) without "being extremely dangerous to the well-being of children".
posted by vorfeed at 12:50 PM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am not sure why all choices must be treated equally, there exists the possibility of unwise choices with adverse effects. I am not convinced polyamory is such a choice, but I think it's entirely reasonable to discriminate against people who have made certain choices.

I don't think the nature of polyamory as hardwired vs. chosen is necessarily relevant to its status as a protected vs. censured lifestyle choice. There are plenty of genetically- or neurologically-influenced behavior patterns that we nonetheless generally agree should be negatively incentivized (whether legally, or informally, through societal disapproval) for the good of the community-- addiction, violent behavior, and ADHD-style irresponsibility are three good examples. Maybe people often unfairly assume adverse effects from choices or characteristics that are merely different, but it's also not rational to assume that just because a choice is different, it must therefore have no adverse affects at all.

I worry about propelling this into the realm of ideology before we have objective information one way or the other about the causes and effects of polyamory. For instance, have there been serious, large-scale studies demonstrating comparable outcomes for children raised in polyamorous vs. stably monogamous households, when matched for other relevant variables? Do we know based on hard data whether polygamous relationships are (on average) more stable or less stable than monogamous ones? Are there any interesting demographic patterns associated with adherence to a poly lifestyle? What's the degree of correlation between polyamorous inclinations as an adult and (for instance) the experience of abuse, chaos or trauma in childhood? Any other causal possibilities?

It seems as though there are a lot of casual assertions about the harmlessness or harmfulness of polygamy, but I have yet to see hard data on any of this stuff. Is it out there?
posted by Bardolph at 12:51 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, sure. And gay people can get married, just not to people of the same gender.

You really see an absolute equivalence in those two situations?
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:52 PM on May 11, 2011


a rational analysis might conclude that the fundamental changes to family law that this would require are extremely dangerous to the well-being of children

That's entirely possible and would be an interesting argument, but I haven't seen anyone seriously advance it in any sort of convincing way.

I'd imagine such argument would have to be more than just "think of the children!!1!" as a justification for refusing to consider any changes to family law, particularly given the obvious flaws in current family law, and the fact that it seems to be a pretty fluid and subject to changes in the past as society has evolved. I think such an argument would also open up an obvious objection in the form of why such a narrow restriction on rights is justified to prevent a theoretical risk to children, when there are many other behaviors done by adults that have a deleterious effect on children that are nonetheless legal.

It doesn't seem to me on its face that there's much of an argument there, but good-faith, rational discussion about balancing conflicting interests is quite different from foot-stamping, irrational social conservativism; speaking only for myself, I'm quite open to the former as long as it's not just a cover for the latter.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:54 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


You really see an absolute equivalence in those two situations?

No. Because something is like something else does not mean it is identical to something else.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:56 PM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hi there. I'm a lawyer and wanted to chime in on one point. Some folks are suggesting that monogamous marriage is a clear, well-defined contract whose dissolution is simple, and that polygamy would totally screw that up. As a lawyer, I can tell you this bears almost no resemblance to my experiences in probate court.

I'm not an expert on the history of marriage as an institution in Western society. But I do work with it every day. In my jurisdiction, at least, it isn't nearly as clean as some people above have described it. It's often complicated and messy. Our probate courts have a lot (!!!) of problems, but in my experience divorce is never as connect-the-dots simple as, for instance, bankruptcy.

I also think it's silly to simultaneously argue that polygamy is impractical because it would require major changes, but same-sex marriage is a great idea nownowNOW. If you see value in preserving the status quo for stability's sake, that's a perfectly fair argument—but sorry, then you can't have your pet cause, either.
posted by red clover at 12:58 PM on May 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


Also, there are multiple legal systems in the world that recognize polygamy, so you could, you know, do some research and find out how this WACKY CRAZY SYSTEM would actually happen. This isn't exactly my bailiwick, but making blanket statements about how complicated it would be and won't someone think of the children and the like is pretty much the same thing that the gay marriage bigots say too. One suggestion as to a starting point for figuring out custodial relationships: there tend to be a maximum of two parents for every child. I don't see it as terrible to continue a legal policy of maintaining that.

The easy conflation of gay marriage with polygamy again. It would seem that it's not only conservatives who do this.

One suggestion as to a starting point for figuring out custodial relationships: there tend to be a maximum of two parents for every child. I don't see it as terrible to continue a legal policy of maintaining that.

How would this be assigned? Would we make the polyamorous group register each child with two particular parents? And I'm guessing there are a fairly small number of people out there who support recognizing polyamorous relationships in law but would be willing to enforce "only two parents for each kid" rules. I mean, that doesn't mean it's not a good idea, but it seems to run counter to the polyamorous ethos.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 12:59 PM on May 11, 2011


The easy conflation of gay marriage with polygamy again.

I have never separated the two. I support gay marriage because I believe that people should be allowed to marry who they love, as long as that relationship is honest and consensual.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:02 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


redclover, How do we divide child custody, responsibility for children, etc., when there are many different partners? Someone has proposed that we continue enforcing a "two-parent-per-child" rule, which is interesting, but I'm skeptical, since the point of polyamory seems to run counter to that, and since marriage law essentially is family law, and it's hard to think of how other marriage rights could be disentangled from children's issues.

If you see value in preserving the status quo for stability's sake, that's a perfectly fair argument—but sorry, then you can't have your pet cause, either.

If you're claiming that gay marriage would require the same kind of reconsidering of family law that polyamorous marriage would, then you are being disingenuous or dumb, lawyer or no lawyer.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 1:02 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


In my jurisdiction, at least, it isn't nearly as clean as some people above have described it. It's often complicated and messy. Our probate courts have a lot (!!!) of problems, but in my experience divorce is never as connect-the-dots simple as, for instance, bankruptcy.

I'm not arguing that divorce isn't a tragedy. I'm arguing that, because it is such a tragedy, let's not force kids to be divided up among 5, 7, 14, or 322 parents.

Which reminds me. I'm also curious as whether supporters of polyamory being recognized in law support a cap on the number of people allowed to enter into a single union.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 1:05 PM on May 11, 2011


Well, OK, but the reason they aren't identical is because one involves a near-complete redesign of a part of our legal system. Maybe I have an inadiquate legal understanding, but I can't imagine a system that would be able to address all of the nuances while offering protection to all partners. Yes, I am sure contracts could be created, but should everyone have to hire a lawyer before the wedding? That's what divorces are for.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:07 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, I am sure contracts could be created, but should everyone have to hire a lawyer before the wedding? That's what divorces are for.

Wow. That's the road to a miserable divorce. Yes. Everybody should have a prenup. It may not seem romantic, but it will save amazing amounts of heartbreak and quite a lot of money if your marriage is one of the 50 percent that breaks up.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:09 PM on May 11, 2011


Maybe I have an inadiquate legal understanding, but I can't imagine a system that would be able to address all of the nuances while offering protection to all partners.

You're both underestimating the ability of lawyers, judges, and legislators to reinvent the law on a whim and overestimating the extent to which the current legal system fairly addresses the nuances of family law in non-polygamous circumstances.
posted by The World Famous at 1:10 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


And I believe if we can create a legal system that looks after the rights of every shareholder in a corporation, we can certainly create one that will protect the rights of a three- or four-person marriage. Lawyers are pretty smart.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:10 PM on May 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


" If you see value in preserving the status quo for stability's sake, that's a perfectly fair argument—but sorry, then you can't have your pet cause, either."

It's not my "pet cause". It's a human rights and basic social issue that affects a whole hell of a lot of people, some of whom I love dearly. Maybe rethink that terminology in the future.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:11 PM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's a human rights and basic social issue that affects a whole hell of a lot of people, some of whom I love dearly.

You're getting hot under the collar about word choice and missing what I saw as the message: If you oppose group marriage because it undermines the status quo, you will have a hard time making the case for anything that upsets the status quo.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:14 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, there are multiple legal systems in the world that recognize polygamy, so you could, you know, do some research and find out how this WACKY CRAZY SYSTEM would actually happen

Recently, I heard a lecture where it was explained that in Islam, a wedding is not a religious ceremony. For each and every couple, a unique contract is drawn up, stipulating the terms of the marriage, including provisions for divorce. So a man with four wives may have four different contracts, each negotiated and finished before the wedding. (Now, there should of course be separate contracts with the other wives and the other men etc.., but that is another story).

I'm not sure if the lecturer actually knew what he was talking about, or he was was just extrapolating some local customs to the whole of Islam. But I as a divorced monogamous person, I liked the idea of a cool contract instead of all the "till death does us part" romantic stuff.

BTW, I'm amazed at how everyone seems to know polyamorous people. I know lots of different people who are open about their relationship choices, and I live in a community where no one would raise an eyebrow if someone was polyamorous. But I can't recall having met anyone for ages. Strange.
posted by mumimor at 1:17 PM on May 11, 2011


If you oppose group marriage because it undermines the status quo, you will have a hard time making the case for anything that upsets the status quo.

No, people are opposing group marriage for much more specific reasons, which you are hand-waving away by saying "Well, lawyers are smart, they'll figure it out." Show us a similar issue with gay marriage that isn't already addressed in the law.
posted by Etrigan at 1:18 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


How do we divide child custody, responsibility for children, etc., when there are many different partners

You put this out there like it's some sort of impossible question, but it doesn't really seem that difficult to me. I'm actually quite certain that family courts probably deal with stickier situations on a regular basis than a hypothetical three-person partnership who are trying to divvy up custody of a child.

I know personally of situations where there have been more than two people involved in a custody dispute (e.g. grandparent, mother, father is not terribly uncommon) and those weren't even particularly complicated "blended family" situations.

Family courts deal with this stuff, not necessarily well but at least in theory, by balancing what's in the best interests of the child with some level of recognition of parental rights. There doesn't seem to be any obvious reason why the general principles wouldn't work just as well (or poorly, depending on your views on the current system) with formalized multiple-partner relationships. In many ways, I suspect that formalizing the relationships might actually make the custody disputes more straightforward if the formalization of the relationships involved from the outset an agreement on child-custody among all partners.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:19 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Astro Zombie: "And I believe if we can create a legal system that looks after the rights of every shareholder in a corporation, we can certainly create one that will protect the rights of a three- or four-person marriage. Lawyers are pretty smart."

I want it to go full Corporate Law.

I want partners to sign NDA about performance in bed, agree to non-compete clauses to prevent their ex from going after their sister. I want annual performance reviews and 10 sick days. I want to be able to sue the marriage itself if it tries to divorce me for reasons of alcoholism or obesity.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 1:19 PM on May 11, 2011 [13 favorites]


I could write one of these for single mothers, too. Just a data point.
posted by jokeefe at 1:20 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


And I believe if we can create a legal system that looks after the rights of every shareholder in a corporation, we can certainly create one that will protect the rights of a three- or four-person marriage. Lawyers are pretty smart.


Well, it depends on what you value as "rights." You value the rights of adults to do what they want to do, and I think that adults shouldn't have the "right" to create situations in law that are bad for kids. It's already bad enough for children when their parents get divorced and they have to split their time between two parents and two homes. They shouldn't have to be split between three, four, five, or more.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 1:20 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


"And I believe if we can create a legal system that looks after the rights of every shareholder in a corporation, we can certainly create one that will protect the rights of a three- or four-person marriage. Lawyers are pretty smart."

I've heard of polyamorous people forming corporations for this very purpose.

What about a three person marriage--first, is it one marriage, or three marriages? Meaning, do you have to marry both people at once? What if you're already married and want to add another person? Can you "marry" an already married couple? If the marriage of three people is one marriage, does one person filing for divorce automatically divorce the other two people from each other, as well?

I can sit here and do this all day.

Whereas women and men are supposed to get equal protection under the law (ha) so it shouldn't matter if a man is divorcing a man or if he is divorcing a woman. It absolutely should be the same law. What changes for same-sex marriage are anything near the changes needed for a marriage with multiple parties?
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:21 PM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


It seems to me that the best thing that could happen to this whole messy debate is a jettisoning of the whole bourgeois fiction of companionate marriage and the nuclear family, and a clear-thinking decoupling of the idea of romantic love from the process of childrearing. What breaks the system is the requirement that marriage stand simultaneously as a state endorsement of the legitimacy of a romantic relationship, AND a legal system for ensuring the safe and stable rearing of children-- whereas it's perfectly clear to the most casual observer that those two things are today just as likely to be found separately as they are to be found together, so that insisting on pairing the two inevitably ends up being unjust either to the adults or to the child.

Isn't the maintenance of a divide between sexuality and the creation of children part of the whole point of our progress over the past fifty years? Why should we keep pretending that who I choose to sleep with tonight has any logical bearing on who I want picking up Junior from daycare tomorrow?
posted by gallusgallus at 1:24 PM on May 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


You value the rights of adults to do what they want to do, and I think that adults shouldn't have the "right" to create situations in law that are bad for kids.

Hm. I am not clear on what you think is bad for kids about multiple parents, except that the law hasn't yet addressed it. Most children of divorce have multiple parents. They just have them sequentially, rather than all at once.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:24 PM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


fugitivefromchaingang: “Well, it depends on what you value as "rights." You value the rights of adults to do what they want to do, and I think that adults shouldn't have the "right" to create situations in law that are bad for kids. It's already bad enough for children when their parents get divorced and they have to split their time between two parents and two homes. They shouldn't have to be split between three, four, five, or more.”

It sort of seems like you're assuming that isn't already a consideration that has to made in divorces. Rest assured, it's already entirely possible to screw up a kid for life by making them a football in these things – most of all, by bouncing them from foster care to foster care, and yet keeping control of them by bringing them "home" at holidays, etc. This is more common than it should be. And there is no way that adding parents could make it worse.
posted by koeselitz at 1:26 PM on May 11, 2011


They shouldn't have to be split between three, four, five, or more.

Continuing on my previous line of thought, the only way to ensure this doesn't happen right now is to prevent divorced parents from remarrying and having children. My girlfriend's niece and nephew go to at least six different houses with half-brothers and step parents and whatnot every Christmas.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:26 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Family courts deal with this stuff, not necessarily well but at least in theory, by balancing what's in the best interests of the child with some level of recognition of parental rights. There doesn't seem to be any obvious reason why the general principles wouldn't work just as well (or poorly, depending on your views on the current system) with formalized multiple-partner relationships. In many ways, I suspect that formalizing the relationships might actually make the custody disputes more straightforward if the formalization of the relationships involved from the outset an agreement on child-custody among all partners.

Rather than "balancing," why not solely focus on what's in the best interest of the child? Why add more "parents" with "rights" to the equation if it means they have to balanced against the best interests of a kid?

As for formalizing relationships in law making things easier, that would of course

Hm. I am not clear on what you think is bad for kids about multiple parents, except that the law hasn't yet addressed it. Most children of divorce have multiple parents. They just have them sequentially, rather than all at once.

Yeah. And I think divorce is bad for kids. Is your argument that it isn't?
Divorce is bad for kids, and it'll be even worse than it is with 8 different parents splitting up.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 1:28 PM on May 11, 2011


It's already bad enough for children when their parents get divorced and they have to split their time between two parents and two homes. They shouldn't have to be split between three, four, five, or more.

Speaking for my own experience, it's not necessarily that bad, actually. I'm sure life is just as bad or worse for many children with married parents.

What about a three person marriage--first, is it one marriage, or three marriages? Meaning, do you have to marry both people at once? What if you're already married and want to add another person? Can you "marry" an already married couple?

This is an interesting point--who is the contract binding upon? What if not all partners are directly linked to each other--wouldn't the relationship between 2 heterosexual men or women sharing a partner in such an arrangement be more of a sibling relationship than a marriage relationship? What obligations should they have contractually?
posted by Hoopo at 1:29 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


It sort of seems like you're assuming that isn't already a consideration that has to made in divorces. Rest assured, it's already entirely possible to screw up a kid for life by making them a football in these things – most of all, by bouncing them from foster care to foster care, and yet keeping control of them by bringing them "home" at holidays, etc. This is more common than it should be. And there is no way that adding parents could make it worse.

Having 18-partner marriages will make it both more common and worse.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 1:30 PM on May 11, 2011


Very few problems are intractable, given sufficient goodwill, intelligence, and creativity. The lack of one or more of these three does not give you the right to declare that problem "insoluble", let alone declare its very existence as somehow "dangerous" to children.

Polygamy may be a difficult problem for marriage law but it isn't insoluble. Seems to me the easiest approach is to subclassify polygamous marriages: harem (traditional polygamy, one husband married to several wives, who are not fully married to each other); multi-corner (mutual marriages of equal strength among all members); and plural ("stronger" sub-marriages joined in a greater marriage).

I'm probably missing other options, but those seem unique enough to require their own individual contract. I see individual contracting as an entirely valid legal solution to problems that affect small percentages of the population, whatever the area of law. In employment law, for example, because so many people work for other people during set hours, at set hourly rates, in specific locations etc etc, it's entirely reasonable for legislators to come up with default contracts for employment, and to set conditions that must be met for individual contracts to be valid. Within those constraints, you and your employe(e/r) are free to individually contract. In marriage law, certain basic conditions should be satisfied, eg legal age, non-coercion, clarification of the new contract in terms of extant contracts with other people, a basic list of rights and duties, etc. But satisfy those basics, and I see no reason why you should be forbidden to write your own marriage contract(s).

Harem marriage is quite common in history and geography and there are plenty of real-world examples of courts and legislatures addressing property, custody, etc matters in cultures where it is allowed. A state wishing to legalize harem marriage can take the best and most culturally acceptable rulings from these cases as the starting point for their own Act. There may be some differences with child status, rearing, custody etc under the one wife/many husbands model that do not exist under the one husband/many wives model, but broadly speaking these differences will be cultural rather than logical, and the genders should be reversible in the arrangement.

The major problem of multi-corner marriages, I think, is conflicting equal rights, and it seems to me that the best resolution there is to require the participants to address it in the marriage contract, or if for some reason they do not, to resolve the inequality by some easily decided and not-obviously-unfair rule, such as time sequence of marriage or if the marriage was simultaneous, in descending order of age. (Which isn't obviously fair either, but it has the advantage of being clear, and this is usually sufficient in law.)

Plural marriages and similar arrangements (eg wife and acknowledged mistress) hardly need to be addressed at all under marriage legislation; the primary spouse should have primacy for decision-making--this is what "primary" implies--and any secondary "spice" should have rights enumerated in wills, prenuptials, contracts, leases etc as would any other person contracted with outside of a two-person marriage. The legal rights of "illegitimate" offspring are well-established already.

As for estate law: any person genetically half of Person A (or more, if we want to address cloning while we're at it :D), has a rebuttable claim on A's estate. Any person legally adopted by, or married by, A, has a rebuttable claim on A's estate. Any person residing with A for a sufficient period of time, in a relationship such that their financial lives are intertwined and A openly supports that person financially at least to some extent, has a rebuttable claim on A's estate. A's will can void or modify most of these claims; generally only complete failure to address it at all, or legislative fiat, will lead to a will being modified by a court. (Your Jurisdiction May Vary.)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 1:30 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


JeremiahBritt- Ah. You mean The Confidentiality Agreement. SLCCV (Single-Link Comedy Central Video)
posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:32 PM on May 11, 2011


Divorce is bad for kids, and it'll be even worse than it is with 8 different parents splitting up.

Perhaps. It's also harder for kids to have a parent remarry multiple times, as I said. If your case is "if it's harder for kids, it should be illegal," we have a whole lot of criminalizing we have to do.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:33 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Harem marriage is quite common in history and geography and there are plenty of real-world examples of courts and legislatures addressing property, custody, etc matters in cultures where it is allowed

I have no doubt, however I'm not sure those decisions and outcomes are desirable given our own cultural norms and standards.
posted by Hoopo at 1:33 PM on May 11, 2011


Having 18-partner marriages will make it both more common and worse.

I do appreciate your endlessly expanding number of partners. Do you have any statistics at all that marriage will suddenly be dozens of people sharing hundreds of kids? From what I have seen, most group marriages are limited to three partners. Your arguing the exception, and expanding it to absurd amounts, which is a pretty cheap way to argue.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:35 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


You value the rights of adults to do what they want to do, and I think that adults shouldn't have the "right" to create situations in law that are bad for kids.

What about the large number of folks who would like to be in a polygamous marriage but don't have kids? Do they not get to "do what they want to do" because there is a small chance that a child somewhere might be upset because they have 4 sets of parents to visit in a breakup?

I dunno, objecting to an adult social policy change because we need to think of the children makes my teeth itch.
posted by jess at 1:35 PM on May 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Kadin2048: “Family courts deal with this stuff, not necessarily well but at least in theory, by balancing what's in the best interests of the child with some level of recognition of parental rights.”

fugitivefromchaingang: “Rather than "balancing," why not solely focus on what's in the best interest of the child?”

This doesn't sound like an argument against polyamorous marriage. It sounds like an argument against the current divorce regime.

fugitivefromchaingang: “Having 18-partner marriages will make it both more common and worse.”

You're arguing under the assumption that, in a divorce, the kid's interest isn't currently taken into account; and that therefore poly divorces will mean that the kids get shafted.

It's equally plausible that poly divorces will present the judges, the lawyers and the parents with more options, and therefore give them more of a chance to set up a situation where the kids are much better off. Arguably, kids are generally left out in the cold because parents and courts lack extra options, not because they have too many. The assumption that multiple parents will automatically mean children slingshotting to a different one every few days is utterly unwarranted; also unwarranted is the assumption that children will be worse off if they have three loving homes rather than two.
posted by koeselitz at 1:38 PM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hoopo I have no doubt, however I'm not sure those decisions and outcomes are desirable given our own cultural norms and standards.

Many of the decisions and outcomes in other areas of law aren't desirable given present cultural norms and standards. As time goes by, decisions and outcomes that satisfy us today, here, will become unacceptable to our successors. There is no way to make law stay universal and just forever; there are a constant series of adaptations and modifications to be made.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 1:39 PM on May 11, 2011


I do appreciate your endlessly expanding number of partners. Do you have any statistics at all that marriage will suddenly be dozens of people sharing hundreds of kids? From what I have seen, most group marriages are limited to three partners. Your arguing the exception, and expanding it to absurd amounts, which is a pretty cheap way to argue.

No, those who want to change the law as it currently is need to explain what they want the law changed TO. I asked before if those who support polyamory being recognized in law support a cap on the number of partners. Do you? Do you support it being capped at 3?
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 1:39 PM on May 11, 2011


Yeah. And I think divorce is bad for kids. Is your argument that it isn't?

No, I think the argument is that insisting that gay people not get married because it might hurt marriage polyamorous folks not get married because it might hurt kids, while straight folks treat marriage like a fucking carnival ride monogamous folks engage in marriage-related behavior that's bad for the kids regularly, is a jerkass thing to claim.

I mean, if we really want to center 'what's good for the kids' then sure, let's outlaw divorce. Let's also require parenting classes before you're allowed to have kids. Let's require couples counseling, every week, for all parents. Let's not allow interracial marriages, because statistics show that mixed-race kids on average don't do as well. Let's outlaw gay marriage, because those kids will undoubtedly get teased.

If we're utterly unwilling to do any of the shit that might actually affect a statically meaningful number of kids, it takes a hell of a lot of gall to argue that what we need to restrict the rights of consenting adults 'for the good of the kids' here but not anywhere else.

Furthermore, this just continues the trend of wanting to restrict the rights of a minority in order to compensate for the irresponsibility of the majority. Gay people didn't make Newt Gingrich leave his wives. Poly folk didn't make my parents treat me like a football.
posted by Myca at 1:40 PM on May 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


No, those who want to change the law as it currently is need to explain what they want the law changed TO.

I want the law changed to allow multiple partners. Your demand for a complete inventory of every single aspect of how this will play out is absurd. As I said, I am a lawyer. There have been lawyers in this thread, though, who have said it's not a big deal.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:41 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do you? Do you support it being capped at 3?

Why would I?
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:42 PM on May 11, 2011


fugitivefromchaingang Rather than "balancing," why not solely focus on what's in the best interest of the child?
koeselitz This doesn't sound like an argument against polyamorous marriage. It sounds like an argument against the current divorce regime.

It sounds to me like an argument against the process of intelligent consideration of divergent rights and interests. Parents are actual people too, and have rights.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 1:42 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


fugitivefromchaingang, the more that I consider the basis for your arguments, the more I think that either marriage or divorce should be illegal, period. Or completely disconnected from parenthood and custody.
posted by idiopath at 1:43 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


95) It is easy to find stock photography of people of my relationship orientation.
posted by Gordafarin at 1:45 PM on May 11, 2011 [13 favorites]


In a lot of the places where it's normal for men to have multiple wives don't the women pretty much have zero property rights? Very few rights, in general. I'm not comfortable with pointing to that situation and saying it works.

Which is not to say that these things can't be worked out. And some of these examples seem to have this underlying assumption that the women tend to the kids and the men have the money.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 1:45 PM on May 11, 2011


fugitivefromchaingang: “No, those who want to change the law as it currently is need to explain what they want the law changed TO. I asked before if those who support polyamory being recognized in law support a cap on the number of partners. Do you? Do you support it being capped at 3?”

What exactly are you trying to prevent, here? Child abuse and child neglect are already illegal. I'll note that the slippery-slope scare tactic of "if you allow this marriage, then that horrible and frightening marriage will occur!" has not been incredibly successful in the past.
posted by koeselitz at 1:48 PM on May 11, 2011


mandymanwasregistered: this already happens with monogamous heterosexual marriage and divorce. Look at the comparative likelihood that a man vs. a woman will be granted alimony, or will even seek it. Or people's assumptions about custody.
posted by idiopath at 1:48 PM on May 11, 2011


I'll note that the slippery-slope scare tactic of "if you allow this marriage, then that horrible and frightening marriage will occur!" has not been incredibly successful in the past.

It seems to me it has been quite successful.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:49 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Frankly, overcoming those pesky polygamy laws will be awesome for the Moonies, who are already nominally married to both their spouse and Moon, but who would actually be able to legally get married to Moon and their spouse under polyamory.
posted by klangklangston at 1:51 PM on May 11, 2011


It sounds to me like an argument against the process of intelligent consideration of divergent rights and interests. Parents are actual people too, and have rights.

Parents' first responsibilities should be to their children, and the law should reflect that. "Divergent rights and interests" should not get the same kind of consideration in the law.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 1:54 PM on May 11, 2011


Given that his husbands and wives could then sign him up to contracts and leases, could divorce him and claim alimony, and would have a claim on his estate in the event of his death, that could become a very interesting situation for Reverend Moon.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 1:54 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Parents' first responsibilities should be to their children, and the law should reflect that.

Now you're talking like there is some absolute consensus as to what is best for a child. I think you will find there is considerable difference of opinion here.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:55 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


koeselitz, I'm trying to prevent split custody between 27 different parents. Some have said that even in polyamorous relationships, only two parents should be recognized in law. Some have kinda-sorta suggested that maybe there would be a cap on the number of people who are allowed to enter into a union. Some have said "look to other cultures and see how they've handled it."
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 1:56 PM on May 11, 2011


I'm trying to prevent split custody between 27 different parents.

Ridiculous straw man, akin to "if we allow gay marriage then people will want to marry their dogs."
posted by desjardins at 1:58 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


koeselitz, I'm trying to prevent split custody between 27 different parents.

No you're not. That has yet to arise. At the moment, you're trying to prevent three or more consenting adults from making a group decision that's really nobody's business but their own, based on a fantasia you have about children being unhappy because they have to go to a million Christmases. When the 27 parents thing actually comes up, I am willing to entertain the discussion. At the moment, it's pure invention on your part.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:58 PM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Now you're talking like there is some absolute consensus as to what is best for a child. I think you will find there is considerable difference of opinion here.

Well, no. There isn't even consensus, on here anyway, that parents staying married is better than divorce for children. But I'm comfortable saying that's so. Divorce divides a family, is economically difficult, and it signals to children that their parents simply could not work out their differences with one another enough to keep their family together. That is bad for kids.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 1:59 PM on May 11, 2011


As time goes by, decisions and outcomes that satisfy us today, here, will become unacceptable to our successors

what I'm getting at is that in many of the cultures where polygamy is practiced, women do not enjoy the same legal rights as here and as such examples of divorce law precedent from cultures where polygamy are practiced are not necessarily transferable or applicable in a society where equal rights are enshrined in law. In that sense I think that any solution to the problems posed by the dissolution of a polygamous union will need to be generated from within our existing system.
posted by Hoopo at 1:59 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


There isn't even consensus, on here anyway, that parents staying married is better than divorce for children. But I'm comfortable saying that's so.

Well, thank God your opinions don't become law.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:00 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ridiculous straw man, akin to "if we allow gay marriage then people will want to marry their dogs."

No one here who supports polyamory being recognized in law has yet offered cap to the number of partners allowed to enter a union.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 2:01 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


No one here who supports polyamory being recognized in law has yet offered cap to the number of partners allowed to enter a union.

Because it has not come up as a problem yet. I don't believe in outlawing something before it's actually an issue.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:03 PM on May 11, 2011


Divorce divides a family, is economically difficult, and it signals to children that their parents simply could not work out their differences with one another enough to keep their family together. That is bad for kids.

ahaha. Here in Milwaukee we had a woman who hit her husband in the face with a hot frying pan. They should stay together for the kids, though.
posted by desjardins at 2:03 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


A cursory trip to Google yields a number of people in other parts of the world who were involved in polyamorous relationships with more than 27 partners.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/22/ziona-chana-worlds-largest-family_n_826178.html
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 2:04 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes. So?
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:05 PM on May 11, 2011


fugitivefromchaingang-

Divorce can actually improve conditions for children from fairly terrible domestic situations including domestic violence, abuse, and heated arguments. Saying that divorce is bad for children PERIOD is simply wrong. No one is saying divorce is an ideal outcome, but sometimes reality is less than perfect.
posted by Hoopo at 2:06 PM on May 11, 2011


There isn't even consensus, on here anyway, that parents staying married is better than divorce for children. But I'm comfortable saying that's so.

Do you believe that divorce ought to be illegal, full stop?
posted by Myca at 2:06 PM on May 11, 2011


Look, I don't have a dog in this race, really. I'm a jealous, possessive motherfucker and thus am not capable of poly at all. I do have poly friends (who don't evangelize at all, don't know where that comes from) and if they want their relationships to be legally recognized, why should I give a fuck? How does that impact me in any way? I suppose my [husband's] health insurance costs could go up a bit at work, but if the new spouse didn't have insurance, I'd be paying for his/her healthcare via tax money anyway. So the government has to print out some new forms and enact some new laws. Who cares.

If you're against poly marriage, why? How specifically does it affect you?
posted by desjardins at 2:09 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Look, I don't have a dog in this race, really.

I do. So I married it! And 16 of it's closest friends. But then we got divorced. Bitches were always playing around on me.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:14 PM on May 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


(on preview: This isn't a response to desjardins; I'm pretty in favor of poly marriage)

I do think that there would have to be some kind of numbers cap, or maybe just some significant changes to how some of the benefits of marriage work--some of the places where you have the option of doing things as either an individual or individual+1. How many people could file their tax returns jointly? How would immigration work when you marry non-US citizens? (note: I don't actually know how either of those things work with monogamous marriages now)
posted by Vibrissa at 2:16 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Arrgh. I hate feeding trolls. But smart people might be reading, so ...

It is much more likely in a group marriage that one adult will want to leave (or the others will expel him/her from) a polygamous marriage, than that the entire structure will collapse. Even if it collapses, individual pair-bonds may persist, and the biological parents of children can be presumed to have primary rights to their custody and visitation.

If the leaving ex-partner is a parent, his/her rights and duties to his/her children are fairly obvious and don't really differ from present law. If the leaving ex-partner wishes to take his/her children with him/her, that's a question of relative financial and emotional support. Granted, we can assume significant prejudice from people like fugitivefromchaingang (hmm, I wonder if that name and the frothing hatred for polygamy are related?) and it's fairly likely in our present cultures that the parent still in a polygamous relationship will be discriminated against in terms of custody. However he/she is still unlikely to be denied visitation entirely, and any non-parental partners who have an emotional bond with the child, are probably going to be allowed to visit the child in the company of the non-custodial parent, unless the custodial parent vehemently objects to that individual personally. (Even then, conflict and jealousy between the ex-spouse and the present spouse is fairly common in monogamous divorces, and this is what supervised visits are for.)

In a harem marriage the linchpin partner leaving will collapse the marriage, but this is functionally no different from serial monogamy and divorce. That he/she was married to these four folks at the same time, then divorced them at the same time, is much the same in effect as if he/she had been married four times separately.

The only way I can see this being a real separate issue for polygamists is if the children of the group marriage are primarily raised by a subgroup of more child-oriented people within the group. In that case, I would question firstly whether the biological parent wants to take the child, and if not, he/she can sign over custody and the biological parent is still liable for child support. Formal adoption by the parental type(s) may change this, and would in any case greatly strengthen his/her/their rights to the child. So if this is how your polygamy is to be set up, I recommend you include strategic adoptions in your "making this work legally" toolkits.

In any case, consideration of the rights and interests of children is of vital importance. One of those rights is to be supported emotionally and financially. Capacity to do so is the usual divider.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:17 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Divorce can actually improve conditions for children from fairly terrible domestic situations including domestic violence, abuse, and heated arguments. Saying that divorce is bad for children PERIOD is simply wrong. No one is saying divorce is an ideal outcome, but sometimes reality is less than perfect.

Do you believe that divorce ought to be illegal, full stop?

I think the "things will be better for the children if the parents get divorced" thing is a way for adults to justify to themselves the decisions they themselves want to make. Vast numbers of divorces happen because we've created a culture of divorce in which it's normalized. We have no-fault divorce for parents with children (not in NY, but in most other states.)

If a married couple has children, divorce should be more difficult to get than it is. People should have to do more to try to save the marriage. But too many people today think of marriage as something that adults do because it suits them, and if it doesn't suit them anymore, then end it and start a new one. Honestly, if only adults were involved, I would have no problem with this. But when kids are involved, I do have a problem with it. As adults, we want a lot of different things, and we have a lot of different feelings and desires. But we all pay the price as a society when we change the law to reflect our wants and needs more so than the needs of children, which are much greater than ours. If talking that way sets your teeth on edge, I'm sorry.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 2:18 PM on May 11, 2011


fugitivefromchaingang: “There isn't even consensus, on here anyway, that parents staying married is better than divorce for children. But I'm comfortable saying that's so. Divorce divides a family, is economically difficult, and it signals to children that their parents simply could not work out their differences with one another enough to keep their family together. That is bad for kids.”

This is arguably not a central part of this thread, but I want to say: this is emphatically untrue, and it's patronizing to children to suggest that it is.

I come from the first post-divorce generation. My parents' generation came of age and started families in the 60s and 70s and early 80s. I have a slew of friends who experienced what people used to call "broken homes" – situations where their parents, after a long stretch of struggling, finally divorced.

You know what? I can name right now at least six people I know very well who, after a lot of thought, will insist that they're damned lucky their parents got divorced. In fact, most of those children of divorces wish it'd happened earlier; they spent years watching their parents fight, watching them unhappy, watching them upset, watching them become more and more ineffectual as parents. Around these friends, when I mention couples who "stay together for the kids," eyes roll hard – because there is no such thing.

The thing is: kids aren't as stupid as this assumes them to be. Kids can tell. Kids are aware of it when their parents are deeply unhappy. Kids are aware of the strife, the trauma. And kids sure as hell can tell when their parents are going through the motions of a play-acted marriage put on solely for their benefit.

Seriously, the whole "divorce is always bad for kids" thing is, well, wrong. Sometimes it's very good for kids. The point is: if a marriage is broken to the point of a divorce being really desired, even by only one party, there is absolutely no way to "shield the kids from it" by faking like nothing is going on. Because, like I said, kids are not stupid.
posted by koeselitz at 2:18 PM on May 11, 2011 [12 favorites]


think the "things will be better for the children if the parents get divorced" thing is a way for adults to justify to themselves the decisions they themselves want to make.

Things would have been better for me had my parents divorced before I was in my 30s. Their misery became mine as well.

But you go ahead and make assumptions about other people's relationship, and what will be best for them and their children. That's exactly the sort of thing that people should do to each other.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:19 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Real live question, no agenda: Are there any believable references for numbers like how many people in the US identify as poly?
posted by gurple at 2:20 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder what percentage of people who are intellectually pro-legalized-poly-marriage (but perhaps nominally monogamous) read a lot of Heinlein as a kid?

Because Heinlein presents many different types of workable poly marriages. The corporate model would, perhaps, fit easiest in our current legal system. Poly adherents form a corporate marriage - spouses are added or removed by (I think it was) a vote, and they have to buy into the corporation (essentially a dowry). Kids would presumably belong to the corporation (I don't remember exactly how Heinlein handled this), meaning that if a parent is voted out, they lose custody. An alternate divorce scenario would involve joint custody between the corporation and the parent.

Is it a perfect solution? Of course not, but monogamous marriages weren't divinely inspired, either.
posted by muddgirl at 2:22 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I do appreciate your endlessly expanding number of partners. Do you have any statistics at all that marriage will suddenly be dozens of people sharing hundreds of kids?

Heh. I gotta say, I have no idea where this is coming from, and it's kind of irritating, because all it does is muddy the waters.

Also, the "think of the children!" angle isn't helping because, as has been pointed out above, there are plenty of polyamorous people who don't want kids or can't have kids or whatever. Kids are an additional complication to the argument, and, besides, while a multi-parent divorce would be likely much worse than a two-parent divorce, I suspect that a multi-parent household would be better for kids in general, with more attention and more support (at least in theory).

However, I still think that significant structural issues are there. In a couple of posts above people have pointed out how messy two-person marriage is and how courts are often infinitely capable of making it worse. Now, even in a three- or four-person relationship, those problems are going to be magnified immensely. And, given human nature, multi-partner marriages will likely have a higher divorce rate merely by the virtue of having more members.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:22 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm waiting for "Osama Bin Laden had multiple wives!"
posted by desjardins at 2:24 PM on May 11, 2011


If you're claiming that gay marriage would require the same kind of reconsidering of family law that polyamorous marriage would, then you are being disingenuous or dumb, lawyer or no lawyer.

This is a fast-moving thread and you've been going back-and-forth with several people, and I'm sympathetic to that. I don't want to pile on. But I do think that a lot of your comments sound like, "Gay marriage requires a 5% adjustment from the status quo, and is worth it. Polygamy would require a 12% adjustment, and is not worth it." In other words, it sounds a lot like you're making a value judgment of exactly the same kind that's been used to oppose gay marriage.

If this is reflective of your personal beliefs (e.g., referring to polygamy in deliberately absurdist terms: first five partners, then 18, and now 32), then so be it. I don't think the principles involved in marriage, divorce, and child-custody are as simple or as bedrock as you make them sound. And I think it's inconsistent to believe that gay marriage is a human-rights issue but prohibiting polygamy is justifiable based on convenience. If you were opposed to both, I would see less inconsistency. Just my two cents.
posted by red clover at 2:25 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think children were better off when their mothers were enslaved to their fathers. Also when they had actual slaves to attend to their needs. Children were also better off when they could be seen, but not heard, as they worked in the factory from dawn until dusk, just like God mandated in his bestselling autobiography. When a man could be a man, and nobody pressured him to marry the sheep when he fucked them out behind the barn. Yeah, those were the good old days.

*sigh*
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:25 PM on May 11, 2011


That he/she was married to these four folks at the same time, then divorced them at the same time, is much the same in effect as if he/she had been married four times separately

I'm not so sure. A first marriage and divorce might be in a couple's youth before they have much established, and any settlements or dividing up of assets may be significantly different than a fourth. Dividing assets among 4 or more partners in a simultaneous divorce could easily leave 4 people in dire straits who were previously comfortable living under one roof.
posted by Hoopo at 2:25 PM on May 11, 2011


The corporate model would, perhaps, fit easiest in our current legal system. Poly adherents form a corporate marriage...

Try to untangle who was in the Ink Spots some time, then come back and tell us how these corporate marriages with children would work again.
posted by Etrigan at 2:28 PM on May 11, 2011


Yeah, going by what fugitivefromchaingang has written here, he has a problem with divorce, and possibly is a little weird about demanding that people become Parent Robots the moment they have a child, but I don't really see what it has to do specifically with polygamy, per se.

So, I guess, going back to the article, I do dislike how people who practice polyamory are often portrayed as hedonistic rampant sluts (male and female) with highly deviant lifestyles. I mean, some are! Others are folks who are just in love two people at the same time, and it kind of sucks to have to frantically hide that fact for career or family or just social acceptance purposes. (This applies to more than just poly folks, obvs.)

Given that, though, I personally dislike it when people extend the "privilege" concept beyond things that we are born with.
posted by jess at 2:29 PM on May 11, 2011


Try to untangle who was in the Ink Spots some time

Jerry Daniels
Bill Kenny
Charlie Fuqua
Deek Watson
Hoppy Jones
Bernie Mackey
Huey Long
Billy Bowen
Cliff Givens
Herb Kenny

But I see your point. No band should ever consist of more than two people. It's too legally complicated otherwise.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:29 PM on May 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


fugitivefromchaingang If a married couple has children, divorce should be more difficult to get than it is.

This is what bothers me. This idea of yours that one should have to get a permission slip to not be married any more. I don't want someone to be married to me who doesn't actively want to be married to me. If we have kids, we'll work out who does what, and if we can't work it out ourselves, we'll go to court to have it worked out for us.

Marriage is not a slave contract. Even when it sort-of is, as some BDSM-ers and Christian Covenanters do; that's something the participants voluntarily pretend to do, as a role-playing exercise, that can have no legal effect whatsoever, and if one partner sincerely wanted out, there is no way in hell that the court can or should enforce the role-play contract against them.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:29 PM on May 11, 2011


The thing is: kids aren't as stupid as this assumes them to be. Kids can tell. Kids are aware of it when their parents are deeply unhappy. Kids are aware of the strife, the trauma. And kids sure as hell can tell when their parents are going through the motions of a play-acted marriage put on solely for their benefit.

Kids want to have two parents who are commited to them before anything else, because kids cannot take care of themselves. Divorce signals to children that they are not the central force in their parents' lives, that their father or mother cares more about himself or herself and his or her own romantic fulfillment. Children can't understand this, and it affects them forever.

If this is reflective of your personal beliefs (e.g., referring to polygamy in deliberately absurdist terms: first five partners, then 18, and now 32), then so be it.

Again, how is this absurdist when polyamory supporters decline to cap the number of partners who would be allowed into a union? There's this sort of assumption that all polyamorous people will stop at 3. Or that we'll deal with it when we come to it. It won't be a big deal. I don't understand. If I kept using 5 as my hypothetical number, would that be OK? What about 6?
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 2:30 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ugh. fugitivefromchaingang, this is not the divorce thread. You have some strong ideas about the subject, and they are going to completely derail this thread.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:31 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the "things will be better for the children if the parents get divorced" thing is a way for adults to justify to themselves the decisions they themselves want to make

I've already told you that having lived through when when I was a child it's not necessarily that bad. Some married couples manage to be completely terrible to their children and suck at parenting. Divorce is not always a terrible burden to children if their parents aren't assholes. Frankly my adult friends whose parents got divorced had a worse time of it than anyone I know whose parents got divorced when they were kids.

If a married couple has children, divorce should be more difficult to get than it is. People should have to do more to try to save the marriage.

Like that movie with Ashton Kutcher where he got drunk in Vegas and married that woman and the judge made them go to counselling and then it all worked out in the end? So many life lessons learned.
posted by Hoopo at 2:32 PM on May 11, 2011


This is what bothers me. This idea of yours that one should have to get a permission slip to not be married any more. I don't want someone to be married to me who doesn't actively want to be married to me. If we have kids, we'll work out who does what, and if we can't work it out ourselves, we'll go to court to have it worked out for us.

Well, what bothers me is this emphasis you have on marriage being all about you. What you want. What fulfills you. If you have kids, you'll work it out, or not, or have the courts work it out. Whatever. The kid'll be OK. He'll see that you weren't truly happy and fulfilled, and he'll understand. Whatever. It's about you.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 2:32 PM on May 11, 2011


Kids want to have two parents who are commited to them before anything else, because kids cannot take care of themselves.

If you're a mind-reader, then The Amazing Randi will give you $1,000,000.

Otherwise, this "two parents" thing was made up in your head. Some kids probably need 3 or 4 parents to commit to them. Some kids need only one. Some kids get lots of parents. Some kids only get one.

You've constructed a fantasy world where everyone is exactly like you. It's strange and disconcerting for the rest of us.
posted by muddgirl at 2:32 PM on May 11, 2011


fugitivefromchaingang Again, how is this absurdist when polyamory supporters decline to cap the number of partners who would be allowed into a union?

The cap is set by the partners presently in the union.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:33 PM on May 11, 2011


It's about you.

And this sort of response is totally unacceptable. Jesus.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:33 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've already told you that having lived through when when I was a child it's not necessarily that bad.

I'm glad it wasn't that bad for you, and I sincerely mean that. I still say that a culture which is as indifferent to divorce and its effect on children as ours is is not good for children. It suggests to children and adults alike that the primary purpose of marriage, when children are present, is not the well being of kids but of the adults.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 2:34 PM on May 11, 2011


Actually, the marriage is all about you. I know this, because the last time I tried to marry a kid, they tossed my ass in jail.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:37 PM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


So what fugitivefromchaingang is describing is two kinds of marriages: childless marriages which are about the adults, which may switch to childful marriages which are now about the children. (We also completely ignores children born out of wedlock. They obviously can't exist.)

Sounds like we need two kinds of marriage contracts. But our poor simple legal system couldn't possibly handle a change of that magnitude!
posted by muddgirl at 2:39 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


fugitivefromchaingang Well, what bothers me is this emphasis you have on marriage being all about you. What you want. What fulfills you. If you have kids, you'll work it out, or not, or have the courts work it out. Whatever. The kid'll be OK. He'll see that you weren't truly happy and fulfilled, and he'll understand. Whatever. It's about you.

You really don't have a nuancer in your intellectual toolbox, do you?

Divorcing people should consider the rights and interests of their children, of their former partner, of their new partner if any, of their new partner's children, of the grandparents of the children, of the children's friends, of the school, of their employers, etc etc etc. On occasion these interests may conflict, in which case, in consultation with those affected, you work it out. That's what being a decent adult human being is all about.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:39 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Divorce signals to children that they are not the central force in their parents' lives, that their father or mother cares more about himself or herself and his or her own romantic fulfillment. Children can't understand this, and it affects them forever.

Man what?

1) There's a difference between "not the central force" and "not the only force." Sometimes we had to move because my mom got a job elsewhere ... it didn't produce buckets of existential angst about how clearly I'm not the central force in her life. It taught me that even though my friends lived here in order to make ends meet, we had to do something we'd rather not. Frankly, more people ought to learn that lesson.

2) My folks split up when I was 5, and I think I understood pretty well that it wasn't about me. "Children can't understand this, and it affects them forever"?! That's crap.

3) And, yeah, sometimes divorce is better. I was only 5, so I don't have memories of the fights, but both of my parents are good people, and both of them say that their lives (and by extension, my life) were much healthier and more stable post-divorce.
posted by Myca at 2:39 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


As long as were throwing out ridiculous arguments, I bet a poll of most American kids would be in favor of 27+ Christmases.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:39 PM on May 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


I bet a poll of most American kids would be in favor of 27+ Christmases

I bet a poll of most American kids would be in favor of replacing school with 8 hours of free time.
posted by muddgirl at 2:42 PM on May 11, 2011


Sometimes I read threads like these and I wonder if this us what it was like when the Calvinists got together to discuss original sin and predestination.
posted by Diablevert at 2:42 PM on May 11, 2011


Hi, I'm a child of divorced parents. My parents have both remarried and subsequently divorced themselves from relationships that lasted longer than my parent's relationship did. I have 2 people that consider themselves my "real parents" and another 5 that claim some right to my time at holidays, email announcements, phone calls just to see how things are going, sporadic visits etc. My brothers are the product of a marriage between my mom and not-my-dad. Living in multiple houses with multiple (unstable, changing) parent situations was odd and definitely shaped me in some way, but I wouldn't say I am at all a disastrous result (or that it would/could have been better for my parents to stay together).

Hi, I have been in several monogamous relationships. They don't work for me. I have been in just a few poly relationships. They do work for me. The proportions of male-female-other gender have been different, and race mixes have been different, although age ranges are pretty constant.

So when I say anything about poly issues, [or in other threads: kink, abuse, divorce, GLBT, etc] I'm not talking on behalf of a friend, relative, or someone I suddenly, strangely know.
posted by nile_red at 2:43 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are you kidding?!?! If there had been 27+ Christmases I would have had NO incentive to beat Metroid or any of the Super Mario Bros. games. One or two NES games a year was a golden rule that made me the obsessive completionist I am to this day.
posted by nile_red at 2:49 PM on May 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


as if polyamorists ate in the same class as women, LGBT people, nonwhites, etc.

Not at my segregated Woolworth's lunch counter.
posted by orthogonality at 2:52 PM on May 11, 2011


If there had been 27+ Christmases I would have had NO incentive to beat Metroid or any of the Super Mario Bros. games.

Maybe a compromise. 27+ Christmases, but every one after the first ... nothing but socks.
posted by Myca at 2:53 PM on May 11, 2011


Personally, I think poly marriages would be a good thing, and I think people should be able to have them. However, I have concerns about the significant segment of the population which would see this as an undeniable sign that the antichrist has taken over and the end times are upon us. Those people frighten me. They've got to be eased into it. Let's just get through, or at least further with, this whole sexual orientation equality thing first, then we can work on the relationship orientation equality thing.

Wait ... are we talking about divorce, now?
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 2:53 PM on May 11, 2011


Maybe a compromise. 27+ Christmases, but every one after the first ... nothing but socks.

Wow! That was fast! Already with the war against 27+ Christmases!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:55 PM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


You know how gay people didn't like it when their marriage rights kept getting pushed back?
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:55 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


...are you saying a Kilo of Kids March on Washington? All demanding more presents, fewer white poly-cotton athletic socks?
posted by muddgirl at 2:56 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Already with the war against 27+ Christmases!

Frankly, I just wish people would understand that 27+ Jesuses are the reasons for the season.
posted by Myca at 2:56 PM on May 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


fugitivefromchaingang: “Well, what bothers me is this emphasis you have on marriage being all about you. What you want. What fulfills you. If you have kids, you'll work it out, or not, or have the courts work it out. Whatever. The kid'll be OK. He'll see that you weren't truly happy and fulfilled, and he'll understand. Whatever. It's about you.”

Heh. I've heard this before. Ironically enough, I've often heard it from guys who were in denial, guys who were pissed off and bitter at having been left; these guys often talk about how selfish their partner was, how wrong, how they weren't willing to make the necessary sacrifices. I've been through divorce, too – I didn't have kids, but I guess I still get to join the little "divorce club" that's forming here. And my experience is that self-fulfillment is a very real thing, and it can't easily be shoved aside just because there are kids.

Parents like to think of themselves as being strong, and since they often love their kids deeply, they like the idea of being strong for their children. But there are some things that nobody is strong enough to do. One of them is to raise healthy children while you're unhappy.

Our lives are shaped by our parents in ways they can't even fathom – that's why parenthood is such a huge thing. Very few responsible parents can know well the mistakes they made raising their kids. I have friends whose entire lives were shaped by the fact that one or both of their parents was suffering through a bad relationship all through that friend's childhood. Those long-suffering parents who "stayed together for the kids" might never have mentioned it; they might never have talked about the coldness mommy and daddy had toward each other, might never have fought in front of the children, might never have let the kids see them raise their voices in anger, might even have navigated successfully and managed to keep from pulling the child in two different directions (although this is very, very difficult, and almost never happens.) But even so, even if all those things are prevented, a child learns those things; a child picks up on the phrasing of certain sentences, on the lack of affection in certain circumstances, on the general spiritual disconnection between two people.

Kids see this stuff. That's a scary thing for a parent, I think – I plan on being a parent someday, and it sure as hell scares the crap out of me. The lesson, though, is this: self-fulfillment matters. Happiness matters. Contentment matters. And there is no way for two unhappy people who are not fulfilled and not content to raise really healthy kids.

In cases where divorce is the only thing standing in the way between mommy or daddy and actual happiness, divorce is better for the children.
posted by koeselitz at 2:57 PM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


"You know how gay people didn't like it when their marriage rights kept getting pushed back?"

As someone polyamorous, I am more than happy to focus on same-sex marriage (which seems rather obvious and should be legal under existing equal protection laws anyway) before dealing with marriage with multiple partners.

Polyamorous people are generally not clamoring for legal marriage rights (unless they want to marry their same-sex partner). There is a lot of disagreement within the community, with most people seemingly happy with the status quo.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:04 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


60) No one takes issue with their children being around me based on my romantic preference.
Unless you're an old guy with a mustache and a stripper gf.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:12 PM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ridiculous straw man, akin to "if we allow gay marriage then people will want to marry their dogs."

I heard that one too in the same law school debate referenced upthread. This is a pretty easy one to answer, along the same lines as "you have to let 14 year olds get married too!!!" The key is consent. If the parties meaningfully consent, then why not allow it?
posted by norm at 3:13 PM on May 11, 2011


I don't know that divorce when you don't feel particularly fulfilled by a marriage is necessarily better for the kids. I have known a number of couples who went through MANY years of unhappiness in marriage but stayed together, not only for the kids, but because they were committed to each other as well.

For some this resulted in a terrible outcome. For some this resulted in a lifelong partnership and happiness in sharing old age with someone that is beautiful to witness. And it was good for the kids. I have an aunt and uncle that stayed together when things were awful. He slept on the couch every night. They didn't speak. The kids were happy to have both of their parents together. I have talked to my cousins in depth and they are happy their parents stayed together. I have an aunt and uncle who divorced when the wife decided she just wasn't pleased any more. The kids both wound up getting involved in hard drugs and have remained so to adulthood.

I think people jump to encouraging divorce too soon. I think people have unrealistic expectations that marriage is going to lead to gleeful happiness and fulfilment all the time and if your partner doesn't manifest that for you, you are IRRESPONSIBLE for staying.

It's one thing to say, sometimes people need to get divorced. It's another thing to say, people are wrong for staying together when things are hard and very imperfect. It's fine to say it's wrong for YOU. But dictating divorce is best for the kids is the same as dictating staying together is best for the kids. It's very circumstantial and personal and each couple has to figure that out.
posted by xarnop at 3:13 PM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's another thing to say, people are wrong for staying together when things are hard and very imperfect

Gosh, it's a good thing no one is saying this!

I simply don't think we need to wring our hands about too many divorces, unless we are also wringing our hands about too many marriages. Divorces are value-neutral. Marriages are value-neutral.
posted by muddgirl at 3:18 PM on May 11, 2011


We're moving the "privilege" goalposts so close together that I expect the next one of these to be complaining about the privilege of not having transposed viscerae and having to deal with the shame of people expecting your heart to be on the left side.

It's not so much that or the green blood. But the pointy ear jokes are quite illogical.
posted by Splunge at 3:21 PM on May 11, 2011


[I did at one span of time have 4 Christmases...but it's like they conspired together to make each one really a 1/4th Christmas]

Where are all the evangelical 27+ partner relationships with lots of random kids?

The biggest poly relationship I was ever in was 5 people including me, and from what we heard in forums etc., 5 was quite unusual. [broken up because of job+moving=distance]
posted by nile_red at 3:29 PM on May 11, 2011


We're moving the "privilege" goalposts so close together that I expect the next one of these to be complaining about the privilege of not having transposed viscerae and having to deal with the shame of people expecting your heart to be on the left side.

This is as good a time as any to come out. I have horseshoe kidney, and I am so tired of you bi-kidneys and your renal privilege. Won't someone think of us... uh... differently organed? Goddammit, I was born this way.
posted by norm at 3:40 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's another thing to say, people are wrong for staying together when things are hard and very imperfect. It's fine to say it's wrong for YOU. But dictating divorce is best for the kids is the same as dictating staying together is best for the kids.

No one's saying divorce is the best thing for kids. People are taking issue with someone saying divorce is "bad for kids" always. Sometimes divorce is bad for kids and sometimes it's good and sometimes it's neither good nor bad depending on circumstances. Can we be finished with this?
posted by Hoopo at 3:46 PM on May 11, 2011


Divorces are value-neutral.

I would tend to agree if there are only two consenting adults involved. But in the case where their are dependent third parties living in the household --- i.e., children of the married pair --- I do not think that that is so, because the divorce will have important emotional and economic effects on the dependent person. I think one can say, it is more beneficial to the dependent person and likelier to lead to better life outcome for the dependent person to be cared for by two loving adults in a single household. Simple resource allocation: Time, attention, money, care, affection.

Frankly, I don't think anyone is arguing that divorce is straight up beneficial to the dependent person. They're arguing that there are cases where divorce cause less harm then keeping a household together where the adults aren't happy.

I think it depends on how unhappy they are.
posted by Diablevert at 3:53 PM on May 11, 2011


I would tend to agree if there are only two consenting adults involved. But in the case where their are dependent third parties living in the household --- i.e., children of the married pair --- I do not think that that is so, because the divorce will have important emotional and economic effects on the dependent person.

But this is true in the cases of marriages, when one or more of the spouses-to-be have kids. Marriage is not always Good, and divorces are not always Bad.
posted by muddgirl at 4:01 PM on May 11, 2011


Marriage is not always Good, and divorces are not always Bad.

I dunno. I think divorce, like surgery, is always bad. However, it may well be the least bad option. (Full disclosure: I have never been divorced, but I have had a couple of surgeries.)
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:08 PM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I thought monogamous privilege was the privilege of only having to deal with the stresses of one relationship, instead of those of n relationships.
posted by everichon at 4:13 PM on May 11, 2011


I dunno. I think divorce, like surgery, is always bad.

Why? Like others have mentioned above, is it "Bad" for someone to correct a previous mistake, simply because that mistake was an Institution like marriage?
posted by muddgirl at 4:25 PM on May 11, 2011


I think divorce, like surgery, is always bad.

Aw, you say that now, but trust me, it's only because you haven't been divorced from the right person yet! Once you meet that special someone, your one and only soul-non-mate, you'll know. Sometimes, it hits you like a thunderbolt; sometimes the certainty creeps up bit by bit over time, but eventually, you realize the truth you can't run away from: "Yes, oh yes! I was meant to divorce this person and (s)he was meant to divorce me! It's our destiny to be as far away from each other as humanly possible as long as we both shall live!"
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:25 PM on May 11, 2011 [12 favorites]


is it "Bad" for someone to correct a previous mistake, simply because that mistake was an Institution like marriage?

It would be better to not make the mistake in the first place. Much like I would have been much happier if the conditions that led to surgery had never happened, but much less happy has surgery not been possible. The least bad option is still a bad option.

This is not quite as nitpicky as it seems, because I think it's part of the disagreement on the thread. From an absolute view, any divorce is bad, because it means that there was a mistake. From a relative view, if a divorce is the best possible option, the divorce is good, because it's the best way out of a worse situation. Neither is wrong, but it's hard to argue between them.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:40 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think people are saying the same thing from two opposite directions: Divorce is always bad, in that it indicates a failed marriage. Or - it was the marriage that was bad, but the divorce was perfectly swell. Same thing. Same pain. Different directions.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:42 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Preview is for closers.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:43 PM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm confused why a poly divorce would hopelessly confuse the legal system any more than how it currently handles custody issues when a woman has children by more than one man or if a couple where one parent is the biological parent and one is adoptive get divorced. The two biological parents have parental rights unless the parties come to other arrangements or a court deems that the welfare of the child creates a need for something else (grandparents getting custody or the like). It's not that complicated.

According to a recent study, 28% of American women who have two or more children have had them with different men. If complicated custody issues is the apocalypse, it's already upon us. No amount of handwringing is going to put the genie of casual sex back into its bottle and children are part of the results of casual sex. Regardless of polyamory, we have to deal with these issues already.

Whether three or more people should be able to have legal structures that create legal structures to handle things like having contracts together or being able to have rights when it comes to medical treatment and visitation is a different issue and confusing that discussion with the standard "think of the children" argument doesn't actually address it.

Honestly, as liberal as Mefi tends to skew, I was surprised at some of the reactions in this thread. Anyone who thinks that the default for humans is strict monogamy and that deviating from that is an unusual choice is naive. Multiple partners and infidelity is common throughout history and cultures but our current norms say it's more acceptable to lie to your spouse than to acknowledge that you have an outside interest.
posted by Candleman at 4:44 PM on May 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Neither is wrong, but it's hard to argue between them.

But I think one comes from a place that implies "Marriages are good, full-stop. We should encourage people to get married and to stay married, no matter what." I obviously have problems with this.
posted by muddgirl at 4:51 PM on May 11, 2011


Anyone who thinks that the default for humans is strict monogamy and that deviating from that is an unusual choice is naive.

I don't think anybody is saying that. I think the point is that everybody should have to be miserable in monogamous heterosexual marriages, preferably to their first or second cousins, and that sex outside of marriage is something to be enjoyed for the dirty shame of it in secret no-tell motels, back alleyways, and confession booths, then repented for in the sulfurous Nick of time, like our parents and grandparents did it. Without tradition, how can we tell ourselves from the animals?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:54 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think people are saying the same thing from two opposite directions: Divorce is always bad, in that it indicates a failed marriage. Or - it was the marriage that was bad, but the divorce was perfectly swell. Same thing. Same pain. Different directions.

While I do think government sanctioning of any domestic/lifestyle arrangements should be abolished, it's perfectly possible to have a good marriage and then a good divorce, with neither one being a mistake. Does changing or ending a relationship automatically mean it "failed"? Does it automatically mean you no longer have respect or affection or family bonds with the person? Maybe the relationship morphs into a different one, or maybe it just naturally reaches the end of its lifespan. Well hey, nobody necessarily has to die over it.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:57 PM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Honestly, as liberal as Mefi tends to skew, I was surprised at some of the reactions in this thread.

Being liberal isn't being free of prejudice. I recognize I'm prejudiced on this issue, and I won't fight against a polygamist movement if it comes down to it. My own prejudice here is the idea that the harem-type polygamous relationship is not equitable or fair to all partners and tends to heavily favor the male.
posted by Hoopo at 4:57 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


The fact that this guy thinks most of us give a fuck about what he does speaks volumes aboute either a)how much he talks about how terrific his lifestyle is or b)how insecure he he is about how terrific his lifestyle is.
Dude, fuck whoever you want. have daisy chains stretching from coast to coast, orgies so big you have to have cartons of cigarretes so everyone can enjoy the pensive reflection afterwords. Just shut the fuck up about it.
posted by jonmc at 4:58 PM on May 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


I was just re-stating the arguments as I was reading, them, FelliniBlank. I don't personally care what other consenting people do with or without each other.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:01 PM on May 11, 2011


I bet a poll of most American kids would be in favor of replacing school with 8 hours of free time.

Won't somebody please think of the children? (and the rest of us too)
posted by jonmc at 5:03 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


But I think one comes from a place that implies "Marriages are good, full-stop. We should encourage people to get married and to stay married, no matter what." I obviously have problems with this.

That's not what I am thinking. Obviously, not all marriages are good, as the divorce and domestic abuse statistics tell us (for starters), but, from the Absolute view, any divorce will be bad because it requires a failed marriage as a precondition. It would have been better to never be married in the first place. I don't think this privileges marriage; it privileges happiness.

The Relative view, on the other hand, is mired in the sticky business of life and recognizes that happiness is a moving target that may require different things at different times. In this sense, getting divorced is good, because it lets you move toward a more-good situation.

Again, neither iew is wrong, but, if you aren't sharing the same view, you are really arguing over what "good" and "bad" mean, which is rarely productive.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:03 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I got that, IRFH. Your comment just succinctly summarized the conv. trend I was wanting to yammer about.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:04 PM on May 11, 2011


Ah. Good. Carry on, then. Or don't. Either way. I'm easy.

*whistles, walks away
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:07 PM on May 11, 2011


From an absolute view, any divorce is bad, because it means that there was a mistake.

I don't know if I can really even agree with this. You have to take a pretty absolutist view on marriage for this to be the case.

E.g., consider a couple who meet, get married, have some not-insubstantial number of years of great times together, then grow apart and have an amicable divorce. Was the marriage necessarily a "mistake"? Maybe, but maybe not, and I'd be hard pressed to say that a divorce makes the entire marriage retroactively a bad decision in every circumstance. People learn, people grow, sometimes what was a good decision at one point in time turns out to not work.

I think the problem is more the absolutist view of marriage as something that will or even ought to last forever, for most people. It's a nice romantic notion but the numbers don't back it up as actually working out that way for most marriages.

People get married for lots of reasons, and presumably in most cases it seemed like a good idea at the time. Divorce, in my opinion, doesn't retroactively make that decision wrong, or mistaken -- that implies that the problem was foreseeable and avoidable, that there was some sort of an error in judgement. That seems to underestimate how people and circumstances can change over time. While certainly some or even many people who are divorced may regret and view the original decision to get married as an error, not everyone does.

And the whole idea of "divorce is always bad for kids" ... ugh. Some of the most dysfunctional families I ever knew while growing up were the ones where the parents were obviously just staying together "for the kids." Horrible all around. It's not as if the kids in question don't eventually notice, and when they do it puts them in a really shitty position: it makes them responsible for their parents misery, dysfunction, and bitterness. Hell, I remember one of my best friends in highschool celebrating her parents' divorce, because it meant she was no longer in the middle of a domestic Verdun, watching her parents take emotional potshots at each other from entrenched positions across the dining-room table. Her relationship with both her parents was dramatically improved by them splitting up and dropping the happy-family facade. I doubt this is very rare.
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:16 PM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


But this is true in the cases of marriages, when one or more of the spouses-to-be have kids. Marriage is not always Good, and divorces are not always Bad.

I was not arguing that marriages are always good; as I said, I think divorce can be value neutral when it comes to two consenting adults.

When it comes to two adults who are caring for a third party who cannot care for themselves, then I think divorce almost certain to cause some harm to that third party, simply they're not going to get the time, care, affection, and money that they would have gotten if the two adults had stayed together.

I agree that it is quite clear there are many situations in which divorce may cause less harm than the two adults staying together; the obvious case is one in which one adult is abusing the other.

To me it is not clear that in all cases where one or both of the adults is unhappy, it is better for the third party for them to separate. Take pure economics, for example: Elizabeth Warren's pointed out that in vast swaths of the United States, to afford to purchase a home in an area with low crime and good schools requires the equivalent of two median incomes. In a case where two median income adults split up and establish separate households, it's more likely that each will have to move to poorer neighborhoods, where the kids will have less access to educational resources, and will likely spend less time with at least one of their parents.

"More likely" is, of course, far from "certain." Each individual case will be affected by a million unique circumstances. But even an obvious and clear benefit to the personal fulfillment of the adult does not obviate or lessen the many of the costs to the child of a divorce. It is not clear to me that the personal fulfillment of an adult should in all circumstances take precedence over the needs of a dependent third party.
posted by Diablevert at 5:55 PM on May 11, 2011


Maybe it would be a lot more complicated if we allowed polamory or polygamy. Probably it would be. But the easy thing is not always the right thing.

If consenting adults want to get married, why stop them? Because of the kids? There's always going to be one biological father and one biological mother for each child. That's how reproduction works. But in many cultures it is taken as a given that "it takes a village to raise a child." Having additional adult role models and caregivers in a child's life does not strike me as inherently bad. I think that if they can work out a plural marriage, they can probably work out other relationships as well. So what if they want 27, 29, 30 partners? If they can make it work, what business is it of yours?

If a married couple has children, divorce should be more difficult to get than it is. People should have to do more to try to save the marriage.

Well, maybe. But maybe that mindset is what made a lot of abused women stay with their husbands, and vice versa.

And why are you focusing on divorce? Are you saying that if there were more plural marriages, there would be more divorces? I don't see how that follows. It seems more likely to me that the more restrictions we put on what people can and cannot do, the more miserable they'll be when confined by those restrictions.

And besides, there is no reason to think that people in plural marriages think any differently than you do about kids and divorce. Just because they believe in multiple partners doesn't mean they are any less committed to "saving a marriage" than you are with your one partner.

I also think that you are conflating the thought "people can have plural marriages" with "Everyone is going to have a plural marriage!" Which, coming from someone so obviously against the idea in the first place, I have to say surprises me. Would you have more partners if it were legal to do so? Probably not. I don't see everybody running to get married to just one partner now, so I really doubt plural marriage would become the default state for everyone in the country.
posted by misha at 5:58 PM on May 11, 2011


You have to take a pretty absolutist view on marriage for this to be the case.

Not an Absolute view of marriage; and Absolute view of... well, everything. It's like my surgery example above. In the Absolutist view, surgery is bad, because it's pretty unpleasant -- painful, debilitating, risking unintended consequences, etc. The Relative view points out that, although unpleasant, surgery is better than not having surgery because it corrects something with even more unpleasant outcomes -- say, blindness or death. Same with marriage.

Neither the Absolute nor the Relative view is correct or incorrect; they are just ways of looking at things. Upthread, there were a lot of pixels being used to argue a point, "divorce is bad," which couldn't be resolved because they were using different metrics. That was my point.

For my part, my parents' divorce was good for my mother, who found space to grow into herself, and bad for my father, who lost his moorings and started 20+ years of untreated depression. I don't think either of them would have called the years of their marriage a mistake (although I could be wrong about that), however. As in most things, they are mixing the Absolute and Relative views.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:13 PM on May 11, 2011


So... you... agree with me. OK.
posted by muddgirl at 6:19 PM on May 11, 2011


So... you... agree with me. OK.

Assuming that is aimed at me, probably more than I disagree with you (at least on the subject of divorce, probably because I lean more towards a Relative view than an Absolute view most of the time). However, as for the upthread argument, I think people were talking at cross-purposes because they hadn't agreed on terms or even the field on which they were playing. And neither set of metrics is more correct than the other, leading to a stalemate of unconvincing.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:31 PM on May 11, 2011


i just want to make the obvious point that if you want to hypothetically compare duopolistic marriages with poly marriages, you have to compare the best case of one against the best case of the other, and then the worst case of one against the worst case of the other. i think the person who's getting all the flack in this thread is getting it because they're not being sufficiently generous in finding the best, strongest arguments for the proposition they're attacking.

also, if we as a society had sufficient motivation to do so we could admit that people aren't hardwired to have one lifelong sex partner, and that if it works out that way, it's very lucky and very exceptional. if we started from that premise, then we could design institutions for supporting whatever the hell it is people actually want, rather than what they tell themselves they should want (50% divorce rate again).
posted by facetious at 6:36 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Astro Zombie:

What about, to cut and paste the rest of the list from Wikipedia: Adriel McDonald, Ernie Brown, Teddy Williams, Jimmy Cannady, Bob Benson, Asa "Ace" Harris, Bill Doggett, Ray Tunia, Harold Francis, Fletcher Smith, Henry Braswell, Everett Barksdale, Curtis McNair and Harold Jackson, Simon Pico Payne and Biggy McFadden? How about these guys? Or these? Or these?

But no, I'm sure that those smart lawyers will be able to figure out who should have custody of a child when a "corporate marriage" dissolves, because that's so much less emotional than who should have custody of a band name. Yes, the current system is just as fucked up when two people divorce -- you really want that compounded by polyamory without even discussing what might work better first?
posted by Etrigan at 6:50 PM on May 11, 2011


Won't someone think of the databases??
posted by heatherann at 7:06 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Think of the poor songwriters!
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:16 PM on May 11, 2011


I expect the next one of these to be complaining about the privilege of not having transposed viscerae and having to deal with the shame of people expecting your heart to be on the left side.


I have complete situs inversus, you don't hear me whining on a blog about strangers on a bus prodding me to have my liver and pancreas swap spots.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 7:46 PM on May 11, 2011


I can't help but wonder if this is a case of Oppression Envy.

And by that I am saying that these guys strike me as middle-class, mainly heterosexual, mainly white, fairly well-educated folks who deeply want to have the gravitas that they associate with being members of an oppressed minority.
posted by jason's_planet at 8:10 PM on May 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


Geez, this is what qualifies as "privilege" these days? That's a pretty low bar. Next up: nerdy dudes writing long screeds about how much they resent "hot girl privilege". (please don't feel obligated to link if it's already happened...I bet it has, hasn't it?)

Actually, that one might even be more valid than this, the more I read this list and it's mostly just "other people don't have to get pigeonholed into stereotypes" over and over. No, they do, they just get put into different pigeonholes. I really, really wish people could be made to understand that just because other people don't fit the same stereotypes you do does not mean they fit fewer stereotypes than you do.

Also:
6) It is not assumed that my life must be overly-complicated because of my relationship orientation.
If he really can't grok why people might assume that, this person needs to read more AskMe human relations, until he begs for mercy notices how difficult monogamy is for most people. I'm sure most people do assume that his polyamory must complicate his life, because they're extrapolating from how much their "simple, straightforward" monogamy complicates their own lives, and the fact that almost anything gets more complicated by involving more people.

Hey - if you can make it work, great. And not all monogamous relationships are going to be equally complicated, and I'm sure polyamorous relationships vary just as much or more, so there are going to be polyamorous relationships that are less complicated than some monogamous ones - but it seems pretty logical to assume they're going to be the exception rather than rule. So with this point, the guy's gone from bitching about people making unreasonable, unfair assumptions about him to whining about people making fairly reasonable assumptions about him. Harden the fuck up, mate.
posted by mstokes650 at 8:19 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


nerdy dudes writing long screeds about how much they resent "hot girl privilege".

We had a short screed on the blue earlier this week in the thread about the guy vlogging romantic advice to 15-year-old girls. Does that count?
posted by immlass at 8:51 PM on May 11, 2011


I really hesitate to respond to the whole "divorce is unequivocally bad" discussion, because 1) It's an obvious derail and 2) I highly suspect that we're being trolled. But one of the things I like about Metafilter is that even trolling can lead to genuine, well-thought-out discourse amongst the non-trolls.
So, I want to respond to this:
Kids want to have two parents who are commited to them before anything else, because kids cannot take care of themselves.
As someone who was raised by two parents who should have gotten divorced much, much, much sooner than they did, I have to say: Put in that situation, I had to learn how to take care of myself much too young. Consequently, I feel I was basically robbed of my childhood. I took a 20-30/hour a week job in middle school (breaking labor laws, naturally) so that I could help pay the electricity bill when they put notices on our door, because my dad would drink away all the income he made. I was always the mediator when my parents had drawn-out arguments. I studied psychology books to better deal with my mom when she needed to cry on my shoulder and tell me about everything she was dealing with because she had no one else to talk to. I took care of everything I could, shopping, cleaning, trying to calm my dad down, taking care of the pets, calling the utility companies when the threatened to turn off this or that. Basically, I pretended to be an adult and in control. I looked into emancipation, but it didn't work out. Eventually I saved up enough to pay for my mom and I to move out of that city and get the ball rolling on a divorce.
All I'm really getting at is that being in a situation where the parents really, really, really should have been divorced a long time ago puts much more strain and burden of emotional baggage on a child/young adult.
posted by mingo_clambake at 9:25 PM on May 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm surprised that everybody is quoting anecdotes or their own experience in regard to the discussion of the impact of divorce on children, rather insisting on the citing of properly conducted scientific studies.

A meta analysis by Paul Amato and Bruce Keith, for example, published in Vol 110 of Psychological Bulletin in July 1991, looked at 92 studies which "compared children living in divorced single-parent families with children living in continuously intact families on measures of well-being. Children of divorce scored lower than children in intact families across a variety of outcomes, with the median effect size being .14 of a standard deviation. (However) For some outcomes, methodologically sophisticated studies yielded weaker effect sizes than did other studies. In addition, for some outcomes, more recent studies yielded weaker effect sizes than did studies carried out during earlier decades. Some support was found for theoretical perspectives emphasizing parental absence and economic disadvantage, but the most consistent support was found for a family conflict perspective.".

In other words children of divorced parents have tended to do worse across a wide range of indicators, although there are signs that effect is diminishing - and presumably has continued to diminish over the last twenty years as the social stigma surrounding divorce has further declined. Anyway, sorry to interrupt, let the pile on fugitive continue.
posted by joannemullen at 9:54 PM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


muddgirl writes "Because Heinlein presents many different types of workable poly marriages. The corporate model would, perhaps, fit easiest in our current legal system. Poly adherents form a corporate marriage - spouses are added or removed by (I think it was) a vote, and they have to buy into the corporation (essentially a dowry). Kids would presumably belong to the corporation (I don't remember exactly how Heinlein handled this), meaning that if a parent is voted out, they lose custody. An alternate divorce scenario would involve joint custody between the corporation and the parent."

Line marriages worked well in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. They were more mercenary in Friday where the title character gets royally screwed by her S-Group.
posted by Mitheral at 10:57 PM on May 11, 2011


compared children living in divorced single-parent families with children living in continuously intact families on measures of well-being. Children of divorce scored lower than children in intact families across a variety of outcomes

Well, duh. I'm not sure anyone really brought that up because it's not especially surprising; kids whose parents don't get divorced do better than kids whose parents do ... but that doesn't really mean that divorce per se is the problem, unless they chose families at random and had half of them get divorced for no particular reason so that you'd control for other aspects of the relationship. Generally people get divorced because something isn't working out, and there's a lot of stress leading up to that point. That seems like it's likely the root cause of the adverse outcomes.

What's been brought up is that there are people who don't get divorced even though things clearly aren't working out and life sucks, and this is often worse than divorce on everyone concerned. Maybe there are some studies that get to that, somewhere, but the methodology seems like it would be difficult. (Maybe you could study married couples in societies or groups where marriage is absolutely forbidden versus married couples in societies where bilateral no-fault divorce is easier to obtain... but I suspect there would be a lot of confounding factors on the no-divorce side of things.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:46 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm doing something that's out of the mainstream and people are treating me as though I were doing something out the mainstream!
posted by kcds at 3:52 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


What about, to cut and paste the rest of the list from Wikipedia

I only cut and pasted as much as seemed necessary to tease the comment. I assume it was meant in jest, because obviously a poly marriage is not like the Ink Spots, so I was joining in the fun. But now I am not clear that you mean it in fun.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:56 AM on May 12, 2011


That's a lot of statements in that link, and a lot of them come off as entitled, and I don't think the invisible knapsack is a good metaphor in many cases.

But. But being in a polyamorous relationship - because "being polyamorous" as a phrase gets into essentialist territory - does have problems which feel like they get into social justice (or at least good social order) territory . It's possible, for example, that the best way to handle the issue of children in non-monogamous relationships is to work out which two people are most committed and have them get the legal marriage. It's a fudge, but then legal recognition of extended co-parenting, or even hierarchies of co-parent, feel a fair distance away.

Some sort of second-order entitlement to parenting status does exist at the moment, however - legal guardians can be nominated in the event of parental death, and aunts or grandparents can in extreme cases bring proceedings to have a child delivered into their care on the grounds the child's biological parents are unfit, in a way that random concerned citizens generally can't.

So, by that logic you could sign up to be a second-order rearing partner for a child, and that status would provide certain rights (primary caregiver status if the biological or first-order parents were to die suddenly or become incapable) and certain responsibilities (the obligation to provide some support for the child even if you leave the relationship with his or her first-order parents). Less firmly anchored partners could decide not to sign up for this, but it would at least give everyone a sense of where they stood.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:07 AM on May 12, 2011


> I think that focusing overly much on legal marriage between more than two people is distracting from the more
> significant fight for legally recognized same-sex marriage. I think that bringing up polyamorous/polygamous
> marriage in the context of same-sex marriage is a derail and I dislike it enormously when the two are compared.

This same comedy gets played out whenever two agendas collide. "We must deal with the central issue (mine) first. Later we can get around to less important ones (yours)." Probably the most quotable such collision occurred between the Black civil rights movement and incipient Sixties feminism, inspiring SNCC chairman/Black Panther Party "honorary Prime Minister" Kwame Ture's famous foot-in-mouth concerning the proper place of women in the Movement.

See also: furry is an LGBT issue, yes or no?
posted by jfuller at 6:15 AM on May 12, 2011


White privilege. Male privilege. Straight privilege. Monogamous privilege.

I am just one privileged motherfucker, aren't I?
posted by Danf at 6:49 AM on May 12, 2011


I am just one privileged motherfucker, aren't I?

I think a lot depends at this stage on whether you're a furry.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:55 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am just one privileged motherfucker, aren't I?

If you are white, and you don't admit it's great, you're an asshole. (Louis CK, Youtube)
posted by norm at 9:05 AM on May 12, 2011


See also: furry is an LGBT issue, yes or no?

No. Most of furrydom has nothing to do with sexuality, those are just the bits with which most people are most familiar because of how furries are generally portrayed. Furry sexuality is a subset of furry culture, and its participants fall within the spectrum of sexual preferences -- there are plenty of straight furries, gay furries, and bi furries -- making it less a sexual orientation issue and more an erotic practice issue, akin to BDSM or exhibitionism.

But, seriously, most of furry culture is not about furry sex. It is about identity, but not, in most cases, sexual identity.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 9:57 AM on May 12, 2011


" "We must deal with the central issue (mine) first. Later we can get around to less important ones (yours)." "

In this case, polyamorous marriage is much more "my" issue. I still think it's significantly less important.

I also strongly dislike the idea that institutionalized sexism is comparable to lack of enthusiasm for legal recognition of multiple partner marriage.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:09 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Let us put together the definitive non-Otherkin invisible knapsack list. All you people who aren't unicorns trapped inside a human body do not know how lucky you are. Who's with me?
posted by Justinian at 12:57 PM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Man, these threads bring out the ugly in so many people.
posted by wayland at 6:22 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well if you can't whip out your ugly stuff for your monagomous committed-for-life snowflake or all the chattel in your poly harem, who can you flash it to?
posted by idiopath at 6:29 PM on May 12, 2011


"7) No one tries to convert me to their relationship orientation."

Really? I must have missed that memo, given how many couples have tried to seduce me to be their third, sometimes pushing it to a creepy degree.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:52 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey, I explained about that! No need to be insulting. How was I supposed to know a box of weasels wouldn't survive regular air freight? I made plenty of airholes, but I think the postal workers must have put labels over them or something. And I really thought the weasels would eat the sardines. Finicky little basterds. Anyway, what are you doing tomorrow night? The new badgers came in last week!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:08 AM on May 13, 2011


The problems of not legally recognizing polyamorous marriages are indeed similar to those of not recognizing gay marriage. For example, family-based immigration: can you bring all your spouses (spice?) with you if you move to another country?

Or, if children have been raised by several parents but the original two biological parents die, do they get to stay with their other parents or do they get automatically shipped off to one of their sets of biological grandparents? (Family law judges won't necessary respect the dead parents' guardianship choices.)

Yes, gay marriage equality is lower-hanging fruit, but that doesn't mean that equality for polyamorous marriages isn't important too. Not extending legal rights to polyamorous marriages leaves their participants in a very precarious legal situation. If people want to form loving long-term bonds and families together, our laws should support that instead of creating obstacles and risks.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:19 AM on May 13, 2011


The whole divorce conversation is a complete derail since people are totally capable of having children without ever marrying any of their partners or any of their children's parents. You can't keep families together by making divorce harder, most likely you'll just make marriage less common.

Also, as someone who had more than two parents in an arrangement that didn't look anything like anybody's idea of sequential monogamy OR polyamory, I think the legal restriction on two parents per child is stupid, anyway.

I like the youngroperider's idea - one free (or very cheap, ie, no lawyer-drafted agreements required) 'spouse' per person, who will benefit from whatever legal protections we still tie to marriage (immigration, right to support, inheritance, decision-making) - where that spouse can be anybody, including a person's mom or sibling. Then people can do whatever they want with contract law. All that *completely* disconnected from parenting rights and responsibilities.
posted by Salamandrous at 1:00 PM on May 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


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