Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

November 27, 2006

"Polygamists Fight to Be Seen As Part of Mainstream"

Washington Post

More breakaway-Mormon polygamists are going public, going to court, and apparently, meeting law-enforcement officials halfway.

By John Pomfret
November 21, 2006

SALT LAKE CITY -- In her battle to legalize polygamy, the only thing Valerie hasn't revealed is her last name. The mother of eight has been on national TV; her photo along with that of her two "sister-wives" has graced the front cover of a glossy magazine dedicated to "today's plural marriages."...

Valerie and others among the estimated 40,000 men, women and children in polygamous communities are part of a new movement to decriminalize bigamy. Consciously taking tactics from the gay-rights movement, polygamists have reframed their struggle, choosing in interviews to de-emphasize their religious beliefs and focus on their desire to live "in freedom," according to Anne Wilde, director of community relations for Principle Voices, a pro-polygamy group based in Salt Lake.

The efforts of Valerie and scores of others like her are paying off. Utah's attorney general, Mark L. Shurtleff, no longer prosecutes bigamy between consenting adults, though it is a felony. Shurtleff and his staff have established an organization, Safety Net, to bring together at monthly meetings representatives from at least five polygamous communities and law enforcement officers.

...Authorities in the state adopted a "don't ask, don't tell" stance, Shurtleff said.... One [historical] reason was that the politically powerful Mormon Church, while officially opposing polygamy, did not want the bad press strict enforcement might bring....

Shurtleff said he decided to confront polygamy's darker side and leave the more mainstream communities alone....

[Polygamous husband] Nat said he needed to be convinced [to marry additional wives]. Far from the stereotype of the patriarch, he appears bookish and perhaps a tad meek. "Usually the women tend to be the biggest advocates of this way of life and men enter it more timidly," he said. "If you are going to do it right, it's a huge responsibility."

Read the whole article.

Also: the New York Times ran an article on November 13th about the re-emergence of polygyny in Central Asia, due to a revival of Islam and a shortage of men (they leave to take jobs in Russia), and also in other Islamic societies:

Miriam Cooke, a professor of Arab culture at Duke University, said polygamy was an emerging trend across the Islamic world, including Indonesia, “where there is a huge controversy about the perceived growing trend in polygamous marriages.” But she warns against treating it as a black-and-white issue.

“It is complicated,” Ms. Cooke said. “There are some women who consider themselves to be feminists who think it’s perfectly acceptable to be a second or third wife and to be a professional woman, a good Muslim and to have all her rights. But I would say that I would agree with the majority of Islamic feminists who consider this to be a setback.”

Read the whole article.

I see any widespread trend toward one-sided polygyny as very bad news. It's not just that where men alone can take multiple partners, women are likely to end up exploited. It's also that for every man with two wives, another man will have none. (Case in point: when I got into genealogy a few years ago, I learned of my own 19th-century Mormon relatives who had two or more wives in the farmhouse — and, apparently, crews of single farmhands who lived out their lives in all-male bunkhouses.)

When any society gets a surplus of unattached males, it's a strong indicator that the society is headed for two things: a major criminal-gang problem and pervasive warlike attitudes: internal gangs and militias, and/or a belligerent military (see for instance den Boer and Hudson’s 2004 book Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia’s Surplus Male Population.)

This, incidentally, is one reason why the CIA is so concerned about China in the long term. Due to selective abortion of female fetuses and infanticide of newborn girls, the sex ratio of the upcoming generation is skewed well away from nature's 50-50, toward boys — many of whom will never be able to marry and will devote their lives to other kinds of attachments. Historically, gangs and armies fill this role.



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