How would you react if your partner asked you to add a romantic third party to your existing relationship? Would you be open minded or is that something which is completely off the table? This is the situation many people, especially in our younger generations, are finding themselves in. In recent times we have seen the practice of polygamy and other similar relationship styles, such as polyamory, explode in generation Z especially in cultural subsets. Could media glorifying polygamy, such as the Tiger King series, be responsible for this sudden surge we see on Tinder-style dating apps and social media, especially TikTok, of couples seeking to add third parties in their relationship? Why is this alternative lifestyle suddenly gaining traction and popularity? Could the US be headed towards legalizing polygamy and polyamory in the future?
Polygamy Vs. Polyamory
Polygamy and polyamory fall under the broader umbrella non-monogamy. Polygamy is a relationship style in which a relationship consists of more than one spouse at a time. Polyamory is having more than one romantic partner, not necessarily all spouses, with all parties aware of one another. The term “Ethical Non-Monogamy” is often used to describe people who practice polygamy or polyamory. This term is used to differentiate the two communities from other forms of non-monogamy such as infidelity, “open” relationships, and swingers. True ethical non-monogamous relationships have set boundaries that have been openly communicated and are practiced in a way, so everyone is safe and happy in the relationship.
A paper published in the journal Psychology & Sexuality found that those in ethical non-monogamous relationships are seen in a more positive light than either swingers or those in open relationships. Those in polyamorous relationships were regarded as more moral, motivated by loyalty, and family-oriented than swingers and those in open relationships. According to an article from BBC published in March 2020, people engaging in polygamous relationships are less likely to have anxious and avoidant attachment styles due to the open communication required to make sure the relationship is healthy.
Who Practices Polygamy and Polyamory?
People who engaged in polygamy and polyamory in the United States range from those religious practitioners of Islam or the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), who are often personally and politically conservative. These religious groups often practice polygamy and, often, men take more than one wife. Then on the opposite ends of the spectrum we see polyamory practiced by cultural subsets who are generally liberal and progressive. Significant overlap is seen with non-monogamy and Pagans, gamers, the goth or alternative sectors, and science-fiction enthusiasts, and LGBTQ community. People within these sects, and Gen Z alone, are 15 percent more likely to be in an alternative relationship style, such as polygamy or polyamory.
Where are Polygamy and Polyamory Legal Today?
Today, most countries that permit polygamy, such as India and countries in the middle east, only allow people of certain religions such as Islam practice it. In others, such as Russia and South Africa, polygamy is illegal but not criminalized. In those countries we see significant instability socially and economically. Judge Richard A. Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit rejected a right to plural marriage because it would lead to gender imbalances if ‘the five wealthiest men have a total of 50 wives.’ Similarly, the same-sex marriage advocate Jonathan Rauch has argued that polygamy allows ‘high-status men to hoard wives’ and destabilizes society. While arguments could be made that we have significantly higher populations of LGBTQ in the US so the numbers should even out across the board, historically speaking, the dynamic of one many with many wives has been the most common seen in polygamous and polyamorous relationships.
Despite having many religious freedoms in the US polygamy is still illegal. However, According to PewResearch.org researcher, Stephanie Kramer during the February 2020 Utah passed a bill to reduce the penalties for adults who voluntarily live-in polygamous relationships, making the practice an infraction, a low-level offense that is not punishable with jail time. When it comes to legalization of anything, in the past we see one state decriminalize, and within a few years, a snowball effect causes whatever was illegal to be legal almost anywhere. Would you vote to legalize Polygamy or Polyamory if given the opportunity? Do you think non-monogamous relationships could negatively affect the already fragile social stability of the US?
Written by: Erinn Malloy