Thursday 3 February 2011

Let's be controversial: Legalise polygamy and incest!

Nearly all my blogs to date have been on cosily uncontentious matters; so it's high time I entered the lion's den and gave my opinion on a few subjects which many would consider taboo.

I read of opponents of gay marriage saying things like "Well, if we allow people of the same sex to marry what will be next? - marriage to children? marriage to animals? " The answer to that argument is obvious, and I just cannot understand why it's not so to everyone. These latter two must remain illegal because they're not between consenting adults mutually wishing to marry. And if it's (quite rightly) considered that human beings under the age of consent are unable to signify their understanding and agreement to all the ramifications of a legally binding contract, why should anyone even think that animals are placed to do so? Utterly absurd, of course, and anyway, I've yet to detect a significant demand for child-sex and bestiality to be legally sanctioned. The fact that child-marriage is still accepted, and even required, in some countries' cultures - often promoted, of course, on a religious pretext (now there's a surprise!) - does not make it any less undesirable, oppressive and cruel. But that's a subject for another day.

What I would propose is that there are two particular types of relationships between consenting adults which ought to be seriously considered for de-criminalisation.
Firstly, polygamy. I don't see why we are all bound to adhere to the traditional Christian concept of monogamy, when so many of us are not Christian, or even theist. If two or more adult women wish to marry one man, or two or more men wish to marry one woman, or two or more men wish to marry each other, or several women equally wish to marry - why on earth not? Some would doubtlessly argue that such marriages would constitute a 'legal minefield'. That may or may not be so, but it's hardly a reason for criminalising them. Since when did legal expediency determine one's emotions? Besides, I would imagine that there are more than a few lawyers around who would relish the prospect of caring for their legally-recognised polygamous clients. If several adults of sound mind wish to enter such a relationship I think it's arrogant for anyone else to tell them that they mustn't. If churches refuse to recognise such marriages that's their prerogative, only please don't think that a religious viewpoint is the only acceptable position. It only makes the secularisation of marriage more urgent. Let's get churches out of the equation for good! Why don't more countries see religious wedding ceremonies as an optional 'add-on', as is done in France? That seems more sensible by far.

As for incest, I accept that there is an additional factor to be considered here, namely the higher chance of any offspring of such a union being physically and/or mentally 'enfeebled' through close inbreeding, though that need not always be the case - and certainly isn't always the case in the animal world. Anyway, should such pregnancies occur, there is always the ultimate, though intensely grave, option of abortion - as there is to any prospective mother with evidence that the foetus is irretrievably damaged. ("Oh horror!" say those who maintain that conception is always God's will and must be allowed to take its course - and thus shoot themselves in the foot by saying such.) But if the m/f adult couple of brother/sister, father/daughter, mother/son, really do not wish to have a child, then there are all the options open to them as there is to any other couple not wishing to reproduce.
As for relationships between closely related adult males or between closely related adult females, I see no counter-arguments at all. Not a single one! Furthermore, in any such adult relationships, I do not see why they should be barred from marrying, should they wish.

It's a shame that words like 'incest' and 'adultery' can carry such a baggage of disapproval and prejudice, accrued over centuries of (religious) intolerance and bigotry, which are plainly unfair in contemporary enlightened times. Indeed, in both cases, it could be that acts within those particular definitions may be more honest and loving than any act within a legally recognised marriage to which either or both parties may belong. If only they could be called by different names.

I would admit that, unlike in the case of gay marriage, there is no groundswell of significant opinion calling for polygamy and incest to be legalised. I think the numbers who would wish for either to be pretty small, though I do particularly feel for those mature persons who are unable to declare publicly their sexual love for a close relative. I think the number may actually be greater than many would like to think, though as it's so (understandably) hidden because of the opprobium directed at this type of relationship, I doubt if there's been any reliable data collected on the subject.

Anyway, so there's a few thoughts from outside my comfort-zone. I fully expect others to want to shoot them down, but that's fine with me.

Next time - Making religious-only marriages invalid, and recognising civil partnerships as being the compulsory minimum for validity in law! Well, maybe not.... However, hmmmmm...........


  1. Well said and brave of you to approach such topics.

  2. Thanks for that, Wonderboy - but I'm actually only aspiring to be as candid as you always are in your own blogs.

  3. Thanks for your solidarity. I plan on linking to this from my own blog. Consenting adults should have their right to love, sex, and marriage regardless of birth or the number.

  4. Thanks for your visit, M.Eq. Glad you found my thoughts useful.

  5. "Why don't more countries see religious wedding ceremonies as an optional 'add-on', as is done in France?" I don't know what they do in France. Would you explain?

    Discomfort. It all comes down to discomfort. The majority of people may be against polygamy and incest for one basic reason: it causes them discomfort. It's the same reason so many are against same-sex marriages. It causes them discomfort. The is no logical reason to be opposed to same-sex marriage (religious rationale are not logical), so the only thing left is discomfort.

    As more and more of our society becomes comfortable with same-sex marriage, it is slowly becoming accepted. Someday other forms of marriage may become more comfortable and thus more accepted. If we want to speed it up we need to work on making people feel comfortable about it.

  6. Cubby: In France a religious wedding ceremony in a church (or mosque, temple etc) does NOT make the marriage valid by itself, unlike in the U.K. and most(?) other countries. There MUST also be a civil ceremony, usually conducted by the local mayor or his/her representative, often in the Town Hall or a local civic building, for the marriage to be recognised in law. A significant number of couples opt to have a civic ceremony alone.

    Re: Same-sex marriage - I've talked before about my hope that as it becomes more and more common, so the number of those people who know someone who is thus married grows, (or maybe someone closely related, perhaps in their very own family) there must eventually come a 'tipping-point' when a majority of the population accept the institution as a reality. Of course I know that there will be those who prefer rather to disown their friends, colleagues, even family members etc than to accept such a marriage, but I would expect the latter to be quite significantly outnumbered by those who support and stand by the married couple. At least that's what I hope will happen.

    Yes, I agree that the feeling of discomfort is the basic problem. When I was growing up anyone who was known to be illegitimate was looked down on as someone shameful who was to be pitied. Now that most births in our country occur out of wedlock nobody bats an eyelid. The same for divorced people - nobody gives a hoot now. If even that 'respected' arbiter of public morals, the R.C. Church, has gone (very strangely) almost entirely silent on these two issues, (they were so vociferous about them in the 1950s, I recall) there must inevitably come a time when even THEY will recognise the validity of same-sex marriage, (protest at the very possibility as they currently will) though, alas, hardly likely to happen in my own lifetime.

  7. I read aloud to Greg what you said about marriage in France. That sounds like such a great system. That is exactly what so many gay folks in America wish would happen here.

  8. You like to take on the easy topics dont you?!

  9. Not really, Stephen. I spent a lot of anguish before posting these thoughts fearing that I'd cause offence, but decided to go for it anyway. It might be a long time before other contentious subjects get aired - and there is one especially waiting in the wings.

  10. Cubby, I've only just noticed your more recent comment above. I'm pleased your 'spreading the word'. Thanks.

  11. Brilliantly progressive! Ray, I'm sure you won't be surprised that I agree with you one hundred percent on these issues. Brave and bold post.

  12. Kyle, although one can never take another person for granted I am especially pleased that YOU agree with my views. I'd like to say I was surprised but I would have been moreso if you has DISagreed. Thanks, pal.