Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The mathematics of marriage

128 Responses

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  • Moz, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    For that matter, not everyone wishing to engage in a same-sex marriage is gay or lesbian, and it is a bit annoying to subsume those other identities into that when discussing this issue.

    I'm not sure how they are not subsumed. The change extends legally privileged serial monogamy to same-sex couples of either gender, it does not allow for anything more. So "I'm bisexual/genderqueer/asexual/poly" doesn't come into it, legally you are only one of male/female, married to only one of male/female. We've long lost the legal requirement for fidelity/monogamy, so I can't see how that enters into it, since this bill doesn't extend legal privileges to anyone outside the marriage.


    But I'm curious to hear how other arrangements and identities are being recognised in this bill.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 463 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Sacha,

    “When left untreated"… #GoldenGlobes

    That's what Daniel Day-Lewis looks like?

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3000 posts Report Reply

  • Euan Mason, in reply to Max Rose,

    but among the people I know who are or have been in long-term polyamorous relationships, more often than not it’s the woman* who has a secondary partner or has more adventures outside of the marriage or primary relationship

    You are right that we need data. Among cultures that allow more than two in a marriage, I can think of several that allow polygamy but I can't think of any that allow polyandry. No doubt they do or at least have existed? It would be interesting to know what power relationships existed in any that allowed both.

    Canterbury • Since Jul 2008 • 178 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to TracyMac,

    As for the remark about “what is marriage equality”, come on, disingenuous much?

    I really did wonder how far it went. I found out, for example, that it is not age-limited, but competency-based.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3000 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac, in reply to Moz,

    I disagree it has to be done at "much greater expense" after the initial transition if standard-form contracts are developed for these kinds of transactions rather than the custom ones we have to do these days. (Unless of course we're entering into a heterosexual marriage.)

    But regarding toy-throwing, one can have an ideal and still grit one's teeth and endorse the marriage equality bill. Which I did (petition, email to MP, yadda yadda).

    In terms of my ideals, it feels like a backwards step, not even incrementalist. But in terms of practicalities in achieving rights equivalent to everyone else in this society, what else can you do?

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 477 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Fair enough.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 477 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    There were people who - perhaps quite sensibly - ignored the arguments anyone put forward about politics who mentioned Helen Klark, or Helen Clarke. There are people today who ignore the comments of those complaining about (or complimenting) John Keys.

    So can people please take the time to refer to Bob McCoskrie?

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3000 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Euan Mason,

    Among cultures that allow more than two in a marriage, I can think of several that allow polygamy but I can't think of any that allow polyandry.

    Euan, you mean polygyny. "Polygamy" doesn't specify gender. It's often used as a synonym for polygyny, as Max said, which is why I prefer to talk about polyamory, even though that's not specific to marriage.

    Cultures that have practiced polyandry.

    What we'd be talking about with legalising polyamorous marriages is legal recognition for relationships that already exist, and to characterise those relationships as overwhelmingly sexist patriarchal one-man-many-women constructs is inaccurate and unfair, particularly to the poly people who are part of the PAS community.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4360 posts Report Reply

  • Euan Mason, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    So can people please take the time to refer to Bob McCoskrie?

    Sorry, Graeme, I thought the K was the correct spelling. I would never wish to denigrate people in that way.

    Canterbury • Since Jul 2008 • 178 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Oh, and the difference between incrementalism and a slippery slope? Is right there in the metaphor. It's the difference between a series of steps - any one of which may be anybody's stopping point - and an actual slippery slope, where stepping on at all means going the rest of the way. That's why it's called a "slippery slope".

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4360 posts Report Reply

  • Coley Tangerina, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    I hear kids hate nudity.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2013 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Euan Mason, in reply to Emma Hart,

    What we’d be talking about with legalising polyamorous marriages is legal recognition for relationships that already exist, and to characterise those relationships as overwhelmingly sexist patriarchal one-man-many-women constructs is inaccurate and unfair, particularly to the poly people who are part of the PAS community.

    Point taken, and I didn't intend to characterise them in that way. If polygamy was legal, then I would expect that we would see an increase in polyamorous homes and that the demographics of such relationships would change to reflect the power relations that already exist in our society. Is that what we want?

    Canterbury • Since Jul 2008 • 178 posts Report Reply

  • Max Rose, in reply to Euan Mason,

    You are right that we need data. Among cultures that allow more than two in a marriage, I can think of several that allow polygamy but I can’t think of any that allow polyandry. No doubt they do or at least have existed? It would be interesting to know what power relationships existed in any that allowed both.

    I don't think that comparing to cultures that formally recognise n>2 marriage is the way to go. Instead, we'd need to look at what is desired and practised, without legal recognition, in our culture and others like it. Even then it's difficult, as we have long cultural taboos against nonmonogamy, so that even among the more liberal and secular of us it's hard to tell from what's publicly lived or expressed what might be secretly or unconsciously wanted. But the closest we would have is people who more-or-less openly practise polyamory, among whom polygyny is far from the only or even dominant form of relationship (AFAIK).

    Wellington • Since Sep 2011 • 81 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac, in reply to Euan Mason,

    I totally agree that "polygamy" smacks of horrible patriarchal institutions - despite the fact it's supposed to technically mean "multiple marriage" these days, there is the etymology and associated baggage.

    That's why a bunch of hippie Westerners invented terms like "polyamory", which still gives me the shits with its wankiness, but is the best way to describe my relationship style.

    Sure, there are a bunch of unreformed Mormons who call themselves "polygamists" in the US, and traditional Middle Eastern/African immigrants (not just Muslims) in many places, but I would guess there is a good proportion of us liberal polyamorous types in Western societies, in comparison. That is, engaged in multiple and more-or-less egalitarian relationships (no less so than the majority of marriages/relationships in broader society - in fact, I would go so far as to say they are often more egalitarian).

    Since it is the laws in countries like ours that we are considering, I don't see why it should be too problematic to support multiple marriage laws. If you are concerned about the effects on communities that endorse "harem-style" setups, our marriage laws now make no difference to those situations , evidently, oppressive or not.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 477 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie, in reply to Moz,

    Because, for instance, you can still be bisexual and married as a man to a man without subsuming your identity into a gay identity.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1347 posts Report Reply

  • Max Rose,

    This paper by Elisabeth Sheff would seem to be highly relevant, but it might have to wait until after I've had a monogamous 8-hour relationship with my bed.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2011 • 81 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Euan Mason,

    I disagree that marriage between men and women made same sex marriage easier to implement.

    I was being facetious, following your lead. I'm not disagreeing with you, just pointing out that even if there are probabilistic connections along the chain of horrors on the slippery slope, it's still not clearly more reasonable to therefore avoid the first step. You might really want what's on the first step.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8499 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Max Rose,

    it might have to wait until after I've had a monogamous 8-hour relationship with my bed.

    I hope I won't be judged for sharing my time between couch and bed. One is easier to go to sleep on, the other easier to be asleep in, and much nicer to wake up to. I also share both of them with my partner, although the couch is in dispute, since it doesn't like the whole group thing. We've tried it, but everyone agreed it was uncomfortable.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8499 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Coley Tangerina,

    [Longtime listener, first time caller / Russell et al. coaxed me into coming along because of how “polite” ya’ll are]

    Ahem. I believe what I said was “terribly fucking reasonable”. It was Emma who said “polite”. I’m not sure I could cope with having to answer for what she says …

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18839 posts Report Reply

  • Max Rose, in reply to BenWilson,

    I hope I won’t be judged for sharing my time between couch and bed.

    My couch is my secondary partner, but I've lingered with it for a while longer than I expected. I've had a chat with my bed, though, and it's fine with that.

    Anyway, I've just skimmed that article so far, but this conclusion is worth excerpting at length:

    In the act of publicly discarding the yoke of heterosexuality, lesbigay families and communities open other restrictions such as monogamy to scrutiny, creating exactly the slippery slope that opponents of same-sex marriage fear. Only the end of the slope that need concern them is not the extreme fringe of bestiality with which they appear so preoccupied, but rather the far more mundane continuation of changes already in progress—ongoing shifts toward individuality, tolerance of diversity, and gender equality.
    ...
    Refusing to change marital laws to reflect the true composition of society damages far more people than would the potential loss of privilege for heterosexual men in patriarchal marriages. In the highly unlikely event that same-sex and poly marriages actually do obliterate monogamous, heterosexual marriage as Kurtz (2003b) claims they will, it will result from the inadequacies of that “traditional” family form, not the “wickedness” of lesbigay and polyamorous families.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2011 • 81 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Coley Tangerina,

    I hear kids hate nudity

    boobs just freak em out

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16614 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    He seems to have been right about the slippery slope of civil unions leading to same-sex marriage, however.

    With the proviso that his real warning was “civil unions might cause you to change your mind about same-sex marriage”.

    The current bill wouldn’t have been politically viable if there hadn’t been a measurable public swing in behind same-sex marriage.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18839 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie, in reply to Moz,

    Also this -- " legally you are only one of male/female, married to only one of male/female " -- is inaccurate. At clause 5 the Bill states: “marriage means the union of 2 people, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity”.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1347 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to TracyMac,

    Anyways, as I have said before, being a queer poly person who is pretty fervent about the whole thing ("activist", meh), this is why I don't actually support marriage as a legal concept, full stop.

    I tend to think this is why there's not a deafening roar from polygamous marriage activists. Anyone that is into polygamy, and has made it work, is most likely not about marriage. When they see a need to protect some right or other, they just arrange for that to happen, insurance for the kids, property ownership etc. They're basically people who aren't going to leave it to society to sort out how they should live in the first place. It might not even be legally formalized, just strong agreements made as a group which are generally honored, in a communal fashion.

    ETA: At least that seemed to be how the only fully functional, lasting poly situation I know of (and I don't know many) worked. A particularly charismatic and clever woman who was a schoolteacher, some guys, and a lot of kids. They were all just one happy family, so far as I could see. It was just normal for them. I don't know the background of how they got it all to happen, but I presumed they were just idealistic people who mostly liked each other, and their lifestyle, which was very pleasant.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8499 posts Report Reply

  • Euan Mason,

    Very interesting posts from all of you on this issue. I've been married with the same person for over 30 years and no doubt this affects my perspective. I find myself asking whether or not I would be more concerned for one of my children if she became (1) the sole wife with one husband, (2) one of several wives with a single husband, (3) one of several wives with several husbands or (4) the sole wife with many husbands. I think I'd fear more for her harm in situations 2 and 4 than in situations 1 or 3. Power relations are important in any marriage, and it seems more might go wrong for her in situations 2 and 4, where she would be more likely to emerge emotionally scarred.

    Canterbury • Since Jul 2008 • 178 posts Report Reply

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