Up Front by Emma Hart


Sex with Parrots

Dear Mr McCoskrie,

I'd like to congratulate you on your recent press release, "Where Do Politicians Stand on Polygamy." It's the first thing I've ever seen from you that made any sense. Given you're advocating a position I support, I'd like to make some suggestions that, I feel, would easily improve the clarity and effectiveness of your release. 

To begin with, some small things. I think you'd benefit from consistent use of terminology. You refer to yourself as both "Bob McCoskrie" and "Family First NZ". This could give readers the impression that there was some difference between these two entities. I would suggest sticking to using your name alone, unless you wish to be referred to as Mr First NZ. 

Also, given your obvious aversion to digital investigation, I am having a paper dictionary couriered to your house. Relevant entries are marked with post-its. You seem to be using the terms "polygamy" and "polyamory" interchangeably, and both of them to mean "polygyny". As I'm sure you're aware now you've done some reading, polyamory – loving more than one person – is not currently illegal in New Zealand. Nor, for that matter, is adultery. So advocating legalising polyamory quite simply makes no sense at all, and is the kind of embarrassing error I'm sure you wouldn't want to make in a public forum. 

I understand it might be difficult for you to imagine a woman who would wish to be in a polyandrous relationship. She would, after all, be somewhere between the Slag – all sex, no interest in marriage and just as well – and the Angel of the Hearth – one marriage, sex only for reproductive purposes. Consciously including polyandry in your release, however, would help you avoid the possible appearance of anti-Muslim dog-whistling that appears in your latter paragraphs. 

On to more complex stylistic issues. There are places, much as in any Martin van Beynen column, where it becomes difficult to tell if you're being serious or satirical. I have gone for the former interpretation because otherwise it would appear that you were sneering at "love and commitment" as reasons for marriage, and that would be, well, not just repulsive, but surely unChristian as well. 

Also, if the piece were sarcastic, that would reduce you to your former position that marriage is primarily concerned with reproduction, which is (I hope you'll forgive me saying) obviously ridiculous. It would open you to hyperbolic and absurd arguments, such as advocating that cats be allowed to legally marry each other so they can raise their kittens in a stable and secure environment. And it would be nice if we could have this important debate without irrelevant side issues being dragged in. 

I have to say, what really puzzles me is that you've omitted what should be, from your perspective, the prime argument in favour of legalising polygamous marriages: polygamy is a Christian institution. It's in the Bible. Eliminating polygamy was "redefining marriage", and we know how fervently you're opposed to that. As invested as you are in the Christian model of marriage, and marriage as an unchanging institution, of course you're in favour of polygamy. Have the courage to argue honestly from the basis of your faith. 

One final note of caution. I'm not sure that the context of same-sex marriage equality is the best place to raise this issue. You say the argument has come up in Australia in this context, but that associates you with a number of ridiculous "slippery slope" arguments that are raised in exactly the same way. Child marriage. Dog marriage. Sex with Ducks. Also, as Girl on the Net says: 

Leaving aside the question of whether we should actually legalise multiple marriages, this is a huge, ridiculous, stinking red herring. Why? Well, legislating for multiple marriages is infinitely more complex and ethically challenging than simply removing the gender specifications from a current marriage law.

It’s not a ‘slippery slope’ – it’s a completely different mountain. 


And it is, hopefully, a mountain that one day we'll be ready to climb, as a country. I'm very happy to know that, when that day comes, we can count on your support.

      Emma Hart is the author of the book 'Not Safe For Work'. (Click here to find out more)

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