Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The mathematics of marriage

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  • Euan Mason,

    I should have added (5) one of many wives with no husbands or (6) married with a sole wife, and in either case I'd have fewer worries than in cases 2 and 4.

    Canterbury • Since Jul 2008 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    I think the reason that I have problems with polygamous relationships (as opposed to polyamorous ones, which are inclusive, egalitarian, consensual and nonviolent due to their involvement of bisexual and straight feminist women at their core) is because patriarchal polygynous forms of polygamy tend to involve spousal violence and child sexual abuse.

    In a recent Canadian case, which debated whether or not British Columbia and Canada should strike down Section 293 of the Canadian Criminal Code under the religious freedom guarantees of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Justice Robert Bauman found that the risk of escalated spousal violence and instances of pedophile 'child marriage' justified keeping polygamy illegal. Citing evidence from the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy organisation, though, he distinguished polygamy from polyamory, so the latter isn't illegal.

    The CPAA applauded the decision, and has said it'll probably take a breather before working on polyamorist spousal rights. Even advanced jurisdictions with full civil marriage equality for monogamous same-sex spouses don't have polyamorist spousal rights movements yet. It'll probably take ten to fifteen years to generate enough social scientific and psychological research to buttress any case for spousal equality in the context of polyamorous relationships.

    I'm open to the concept of polyamorist spousal rights, but it's up to the bisexual community and their straight and LGT allies to mobilise a mass movement and do the neccessary legislative lobbying, judicial case argument and enable social scientific and psychological research into their relationships to do so.

    However, that shouldn't delay monogamous civil marriage for LGBT couples now.

    Useful websites:

    Reference re: Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada:2011 British Columbia Supreme Court 1588 CanLii: http://canlii.ca/en/bc/bcsc/ doc/2011/2011bcsc1588/ 2011bcsc1588.html

    Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association: http://www.polyadvocacy.ca

    Jeff Fraser: “Polyamory: Three or Four or Five’s Company” Globe and Mail: 22.09.2012: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/relationships/polyamory-threes-or-fours-or-fives-company/article4560587/service=mobile

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 573 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

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

    It's a fair cop. Once people got proof that the end of civilisation did NOT occur as a result of civil unions - then they became much more comfortable about being fair to all members of society and to hell with the doomsayers.

    Essentially his argument was "if we do the experiment we might prove me wrong and that would be bad".

    (Now if only the public would notice that GMOs haven't destroyed the planet ...)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    In terms of LGBT political priorities, though, we have other ones to contemplate- most obviously, the further expansion of the Human Rights Act to directly encompass gender identity, with an omnibus bill or subsidiary clauses within ancillary legislation to iron out issues like transwomen prisoners being kept in male gender inappropriate prisons while transitioning, remaining issues of official document gender reconciliation, best practise standards of pre-operative and post-operative care, transgender youth needs within the education system, transphobic bullying etc. All of Australia's states and territories have already got trans-inclusive antidiscrimination laws, so we're dragging the chain on that one.

    Then there's amending Section 204C (bans female genital mutilation) of the Crimes Act to include informed consent requirements for early infantile forced sex reassignment surgery in the case of intersexed infants. Or to ban the practise?

    To all intents and purposes, until and unless an issue like induced human parthenogenesis comes along (although it may not be scientifically feasible), the LG section of LGBT rights have had most of our needs dealt with, so now we need to concentrate on the BTI elements.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 573 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    Moz, what's the debate like within the bisexual community? Other bifolk have told me that it's between serial monogamists and polyamorists. The serial monogamist contingent seem to support (deep breath) monogamous civil marriage equality because it will mean that their own same-sex relationships will be entitled to equal recognition.

    I do regard bans on greater polyamorist spousal rights as biphobia. However, as I've said above, there has to be much greater homework when it comes to social scientific and psychological research when it comes to that issue than is currently available. Speaking of which...
    In Atlanta, Elisabeth Sheff, a sociologist, has studied polyamorous families in detail since the nineties.Within polyamorous relationships, female participants share sexual power more equally with men – because women value interpersonal relationships and emotional contact with their sexual partners, and find new ones more easily, which gives them leverage within their relationships.

    Earlier this year, Canadian Simon Fraser sociologist Melissa Mitchell carried out an Internet survey of 1,100 polyamorists – the largest academic survey of polyamorists to date. She found that most polyamorist individuals (64 per cent) have two partners. Sixty one per cent of the women identified their two closest partners as both men and eighty six per cent of men identified their two closest partners as both women.

    Most of the women in the sample identified as bisexual (at sixty-eight per cent), while bisexual men were less frequent (only thirty nine per cent) and exclusive lesbians or gay men were rare (only four percent identified as lesbians and three percent identified as gay men).

    Polyamorists spend more time with and feel more committed to their primary partners than their secondary partners, according to Sheff’s survey. However, they may also find that secondary partners are more amenable to their sexual needs. Seventy per cent of the sample live with their primary partner and forty-seven per cent are married to them. The average relationship duration was nine years for primary partners and three years for secondary partners.

    The Canadian survey is self-selected, so it cannot provide a representative sample, but Sheff says the Simon Fraser University results line up with those of other studies, such as seventy-one focus group interviews that she made with Midwestern and Californian polyamorists over a thirteen year period (1996-2009). Sheff also notes that despite the importance of feminism to polyamorists, it’s not unusual for straight men to become involved because they believe that it will lead to “easy sex” or sex with more than one woman. However, straight or bisexual male swingers tend to have a difficult time meeting the emotional demands of polyamory and are either turned off – or ostracised – by polyfidelity as a social norm within polyamorous relationships

    “Ongoing poly relationships can be enough of a challenge, and require so much communication, that there is often less sex than talking. If the men come in thinking, ‘This is going to be a big free-for-all,’ and they’re not willing to put in the effort to maintaining the relationship part of it, they get a bad reputation.”

    According to a growing body of research, the community consists of white professionals and college students. Ninety per cent of the respondents to Ms. Mitchell’s study were Caucasian-identified, and ninety-five per cent had some access to higher education. Amongst Sheff’s interview participants, eighty-nine per cent were white, three-quarters were in professional employment and two-thirds had at least a bachelor’s degree.

    According to a 2011 polyamorist literature survey by Sheff and Corie Hammers, racial and class data on polyamorists and related groups was compiled from thirty six independent studies, and confirmed that sexual minorities largely consist of upper-middle-class Caucasians. Sheff concludes that lower socio-economic class individuals and people of colour cannot usually afford to take the risks associated with defying social norms, which could lead to employment, accomodation, parental or other forms of discrimination against polyamorists, given that legal protection is particularly scarce for polyamorists. This provides community participation advantages for those with the financial resources to hire legal assistance.

    On the other hand, some individuals and families may participate covertly within non-monogamous relationships, but refuse to consider “coming out” and adopting an identity that could lead to further stigmatisation or experiences of discrimination. This is one of the reasons it is hard to estimate the scale of the US polyamorist community– researchers are unsure about operational definitions in this context.

    Once again, here's a useful Canadian piece on the subject...

    Jeff Fraser: “Polyamory: Three or Four or Five’s Company” Globe and Mail: 22.09.2012: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/relationships/polyamory-threes-or-fours-or-fives-company/article4560587/service=mobile

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 573 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    I can't claim to be a barrister or solicitor, but my understanding of the current New Zealand legal situation is as follows. Under the New Zealand Crimes Act 1961, it is illegal to engage in a non-monogamous or bigamous marriage within New Zealand territorial confines (Section 205). Moreover, this is based on the perennial Hyde versus Hyde case (1866), which ruled that the polygamous marriage of a former Mormon and his ‘plural’ wife was not recognised under British law. In the context of New Zealand, Hassan versus Hassan (1978) remains the relevant case law in the context of polygamous marriages contracted overseas.

    As for polyandry, I may be helpful here too. Polyandry is about a woman espousing multiple men. It is practised in the Irigwe community of Northern Nigeria, the Masai African tribal community, Bhutan, some Sri Lankan ethnic communities, Rajasthan, Ladakh and Zanskar (India). In Canada’s Sasketchewan province, it is permissible under family law. Now, apart from India and Sri Lanka, none of the above are significant immigration sources for New Zealanders and there isn’t an organised national or international pressure group pressing for the recognition of polyandrous relationships.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 573 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    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”.

    Exactly Emma. You can make links from 1960s - 1970s from civil rights to womens rights to gay rights. The creation of an environment in which equal rights were raised and granted and battles fought and won creates space and momentum for battles on other fronts. Indeed many of the first second-wave feminists were female activists from the new left whose first battles in the sphere were being unhappy about how they were dominated and ruled by men in their activist groups.

    But did American society slide down an inevitable slope from a Woolworths in Greensboro through bra burning to Stonewall? Clearly not. Lots of issues sitting on that slope weren't picked up and won at the time.

    Civil Unions certainly made same sex marriage easier - the issues are clearly closely linked. Same sex marriage might make polyamory marriages easier to happen, but that's unclear. But they're conscious steps and choices and we'll clearly reserve the right to skip parts of the 'slippery slope' as other societies did.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Perhaps a little bit of NZ history: 'bigamy' used to be a lot more common, largely because divorce was next to impossible - if it didn't work out people would just upstakes and move elsewhere where no one knew them and get married - usually no one noticed - but it's why if you look in old newspapers there was obviously a lot more 'bigamy' (really serial monogamy) going on than these days when an actual bigamy case is very rare.

    (My family tree has a case of bigamy, and murder on discovery, not by my actual ancestor, where they moved to Otago from NSW to start afresh)

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Craig Young,

    Moz, what's the debate like within the bisexual community? Other bifolk have told me that it's between serial monogamists and polyamorists. The serial monogamist contingent seem to support (deep breath) monogamous civil marriage equality because it will mean that their own same-sex relationships will be entitled to equal recognition.

    I dunno, I'm only on the fringe of one little part of it. I'm more "will campaign a bit, but not hugely active", so I'm not seeing the full gamut of opinions within the supporters camp. And the part that I'm on the fringe of seems to match the Canadian stats - it's mostly white, educated etc. Obviously enough I'm on the poly side of the debate and tend to hang out more with the poly crew (where all the women are bisexual and all the men are frustrated horndogs :) than the bi crew. I do meet monosexuals in this context, but they're almost always poly. Or "not poly but in a poly relationship" [1]

    There's also a bit of a gap between the youf, some of whom are not so much into rigid gender/sexuality roles, and the older generation (me!) who like nice solid boxes to put ourselves in. I know more under-25 people who identify as genderqueer polyamorous than as GLB. But that's possibly because mostly I meet them via poly groups. It's also a useful identity when you're young and growing/ changing/ exploring, as well as being so new that anyone over 30 is unlikely to really have had the opportunity to use it. When I was at university I knew people who fitted the description and behaviour to some extent, but having a more overtly known description and label makes it easier to reveal the behaviour.

    So, for me, marriage equality is about trying to find something that works for more people, rather than drawing a line and saying "this far, and no further. Ever!" My lived experience is that being recognised as a monogamous bisexual is hard and I cannot for the life of me see how being a gay-married, monogamous bisexual would make that easier. I haven't seen it happen with straight-married monogamous bisexuals. The desire among many marriage advocates is very much for traditional rigidly defined marriage, just with one little tweak to the rules. And there are a lot of bi/poly/queer kids going "meh, not relevant to me or anyone I care deeply about". Some of them are active in the campaign anyway, because they are incrementalists or simply because they're in activist circles and this is the current campaign. I suspect a few are even "this will screw up marriage, bring it on".

    [1] whether it is "a poly relationship" or "some poly relationships" is an interesting question. I tend to count one relationship per couple, because IME that's what it ends up being. Triads are rare (and seem to be fluid when they happen), more common are V's, W's etc. So a monogamous monosexual can be in a relationship with a polyamorite who is in multiple relationships with people of multiple gender identities.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1233 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Moz, I'm curious where you draw a line of calling something a poly relationship, as compared to merely causal and non-monogamous. Is there a line?

    I'm just trying to find out if poly means more than "sleeps around", in your understanding of the term. Is it a continuum from that to having a polygamous relationship, which presumably involves at least some commitments being made.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    Well, I'm not bi, but I consider myself reasonably well informed about polyamory. But it's a good question- what about polyfidelity? How practical is it? How challenging is it?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 573 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    And while we're waiting for Moz's reply to that, here's a little background on why the Christains are being sneaky and duplicitous about their own polygamist past. You see, it all started with Martin Luther...

    What, Martin Luther, the very founder of Protestant Christianity himself- and an advocate of polygamy. What?!! Yes, that is correct. Luther believed that polygamous marriages were preferable to extramarital sex (or 'fornication') or adultery. Indeed, Luther and Phillip Melancthon, another early Lutheran theologian and pivotal figure, advocated that Phillip, Landgrave of Hesse (a German principality within the Holy Roman Empire) covertly and bigamously marry two women- Christine of Saxony, an invalid and alcoholic, and one of her ladies-in-waiting, Margarethe van der Saale. However, it doesn't end there. Instead of divorcing Catherine of Aragon, his first wife, Melanchthon also advised future serial monogamist Henry VIII to bigamously marry Anne Boleyn. Henry didn't take his advice, divorced Catherine instead and monogamously remarried Anne, future mother of Elizabeth I of England.

    (Meanwhile, Henry VIII also theoretically criminalised gay male sex within the Buggery Act 1540 at the same time, although there were few criminal prosecutions for it until the advent of the first "Christian Right," the eighteenth century Societies for the Reformation of Manners).

    However, Phillip of Hesse did take Melanchthon's advice and covertly married Margarethe in 1539. Amusingly, Phillip's sister Elizabeth couldn't keep quiet about her brother's multiple marriages, embarrassing Luther and Melanchthon seriously when she blabbed about it a year later. Altogether, both Margarethe and Christine provided Phillip of Hesse with nineteen children, so infertility wasn't a problem in that dynastic context.

    Nor were German Lutheran princes the only ones to undertake polygamy. Take Michael Kramer, a hapless Saxony Lutheran minister, and his multiple marriages. In 1525, the Lukas Town Council noted that the man had three living wives, although two of them had abandoned the poor fellow. He contacted Luther who counselled him to consider his two undivorced prior wives, Dorothea and Margaretha, 'spiritually dead" to him and contract a third marriage. Shortly afterward, in 1533-34, the Lutheran hierarchy would officially condemn the polygamist commune of Munster, occupied by theocratic revolutionary Anabaptists (a radical Protestant sect). Lutheran marital theology was still in flux at the time and working out whether or not it condoned divorce, and under what circumstances.
    This provided wives of Lutheran clerics with escape clauses if the marriages earlier contracted turned out to be unsuitable or distasteful to them, which unfortunately happened quite frequently.

    To be fair to the Lutherans, they weren't the only Protestants with these problems. Calvinist Geneva was scandalised when Bernardino Ochino published a Dialogue on Polygamy in 1563. They expelled poor Bernardino and his children from the Swiss canton, and three of the latter starved to death. Nor was this an isolated instance- celebrated English Puritan author John Milton, author of Paradise Lost, also defended polygamy in De Doctrinae Christianae in 1673, dictated to another after the author went blind and published posthumously.

    Nor did Lutheranism itself calm down after the passage of the Carolina (1532), German civil law that criminalised undivorced remarriages as bigamy and mandated divorce as the solution for unsuitable prior marriages, much to the anguish of Martin Luther himself. Unfortunately, in the seventeenth century, Johann Lyser wrote three polemical treatises that advocated polygamy and was forced to seek the protection of a sympathetic count. On that prince's death, Lyser was forced to flee to Hanover, where he was imprisoned, Italy and ultimately, the Netherlands. Destitute, he died in an Amsterdam garret in 1682, worn out by his ordeals.

    The eighteenth century witnessed similar theological radicalism- English Methodist Michael Madan (1726-1790) wrote a book entitled Thelyphthora, another defence of polygamy- much to the horror of other early evangelical Methodists. In Poland, Samuel Friedrich Willenburg wrote yet another volume on the subject, but the King of Poland ordered it incinerated in 1715.

    Nor has conservative Christian tolerance of polygamy evaporated completely today. Nigeria and Uganda have both been at the forefront of antigay African fundamentalist activity during the last decade, criminalising same-sex marriage in the case of Nigeria and threatening 'unrepentant' lesbians and gay men with death or imprisonment within Uganda's notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Straight polygamy is perfectly legal in both societies, and not only practised within Muslim communities. The Nigerian Celestial Church of Christ condones polygamy, as does the Lutheran Church of Liberia. Uganda last tried to criminalise polygamy in 2005, but abandoned the attempt that year due to Muslim opposition- much to the anger of Ugandan feminists, who regard polygamy as a violent and misogynist practise. Nor has Uganda criminalised marital rape, for that matter.

    I realise that some conservative Christians may object to my account above, arguing that I have welded together fragmentary accounts into a cohesive 'tradition' of polygamy advocacy within Christian early modern history. However, I would respond that if Bob McCoskrie can similarly do so with ephemeral and transient isolated pressure groups and selective focus on isolated Canadian Law Commission reports, as opposed to Canadian case law, which upheld Section 293 of the Canadian Criminal Code in the British Columbian Supreme Court in November 2011, he should realise that turnabout is fair play.

    How can same-sex monogamous marriage possibly 'lead' to recognition of polygamy when there is an undeniable Christian historical tradition of far stronger polygamous advocacy which considerably precedes it?


    John Cairncross: After Polygamy was Made a Sin: A Social History of Christian Polygamy: London: Routledge: 1974.

    Eels Hastings: Attitudes of Martin Bucer toward the Bigamy of Philip of Hesse: Brooklyn: AMS Press: 2004.

    Paul Robinson: Martin Luther- A Life Reformed: New York: Longman: 2010.

    Marjorie Plummer: "The Much Married Michael Kramer: Evangelical Clergy and Bigamy in Ernestine Saxony: 1522-1542" in Robin Barnes and Marjorie Plummer (eds) Cultural Margins in Early Modern Germany: Farnham: Ashgate: 2009 (pgs 99-116).

    Freethinkers and Fanatics: http://www.djmacadam.com/fanatics.html

    Thelyphthora: http://www.phelyphthora.com

    Philip Jenkin: "One man one woman?" Christian Century: 26.01.2010: http://www.readperiodicals.com/201001/1950523351.html#ixzz26P8vHyUr

    Paul Vallely: "What's the History of Polygamy and How Serious a Problem is It in Africa?" Independent 06.01.2010: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/the-big-question-whats-the-history-of-polygamy-and-how-serious-a-problem-is-it-in-africa-1858858.html

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 573 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to BenWilson,

    I'm just trying to find out if poly means more than "sleeps around", in your understanding of the term. Is it a continuum from that to having a polygamous relationship, which presumably involves at least some commitments being made.

    Ben, this post of Max's might help, where he runs through a few different kinds of polyamory. For me personally, it's more been polyfidelity, where I've had more than one long-term partner at the same time, and that's the model I've seen most with other people, too.

    OTOH, I often get approaches on FetLife from people where there's a long-term relationship, which is open to temporary play-partners. (This is almost always a male-female pairing, and the approach is from the male.)

    For other people, there is no primary partner, and they're open with the people they have romantic/sexual interaction with that there isn't going to be.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Greg Sands,

    So is there any constraint at all? Siblings? Parent/child(ren)?

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 8 posts Report Reply

  • Max Rose, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Ben, this post of Max's might help, where he runs through a few different kinds of polyamory. For me personally, it's more been polyfidelity, where I've had more than one long-term partner at the same time, and that's the model I've seen most with other people, too.

    Emma, I was about to respond to Craig's question ("what about polyfidelity? How practical is it? How challenging is it?"), but your response already covers some of that.

    Personally, I'd find strict polyfidelity too limiting: even when I'm in love with one or more people, I still want to feel that there's at least the possibility of other adventures. In reality, when I have been in a longish-term poly relationship (always as the secondary in a V), I haven't usually felt the drive to seek out other affairs. It's the freedom to flirt, and occasionally (within mutually-agreed boundaries) take that further, that I need in addition to more stable love(s). I suspect that a lot of polyamorous relationships are a bit like this: theoretically open, but practically polyfaithful.

    Craig's quote from Sheff is interesting:

    If the men come in thinking, ‘This is going to be a big free-for-all,’ and they’re not willing to put in the effort to maintaining the relationship part of it, they get a bad reputation.”

    I tend to think, "hey, what's wrong with a big free-for-all?", but then I'm an unreconstructed slut at heart. But "free" doesn't mean you don't fall in love, or that you don't consider the feelings of your lovers. My ideal is more along the lines of a broad group of friends, some of whom have had sexual encounters that strengthen community bonds. Some of these become more established partnerships at times, and may become monogamish in practice, but the defining feature is fluidity, and friendship is the most powerful bond rather than the norms of "romantic" love. (Of course, this tends to work best among youngish privileged people without interests in property or children).

    That's not to say that jealousy and awkwardness can always be avoided, but I've mostly found that relatively casual sexual encounters among loving friends usually strengthen those friendships. It's what "Sex at Dawn" calls "Socio-Erotic Exchange", but I prefer to call it "Wellington".

    Wellington • Since Sep 2011 • 83 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    No, Greg, that's 'consensual adult' incest, which I'm profoundly sceptical about. For a very good reason- it tends to resultg from genetical sexual attraction, an unforeseen side effect of adult adoption information reforms in the eighties. It means that previously seperated adopted out adult children, and adult children and their parents, haven't experienced the normal developmental processes that inhibit incest between siblings or children and parents. Most of that appears to occur in (illegal) monogamous relationships, such as the highly problematic Stuebing case in Germany, recently rebuffed by the European Court of Human Rights.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 573 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Max Rose,

    Ta, that non-monogamy graph you give pretty much sums up why lawmaking around it is a low priority. I pity the fool who tries to sum that graph up in legalese.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Max Rose, in reply to Euan Mason,

    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.

    While I don't know you or your children, I'd like to think that if she entered into any serious relationship, she'd be doing it as a consenting adult and because she loves the person or person involved.

    Presumably you reason that if she had multiple male partners, she'd be more at risk from abuse, whereas if she was one of many female partners she'd suffer from divided attention and the stigma of being in a "harem". While I recognise that power in unequal in society, and that most domestic abuse is male-on-female, this seems like a particularly jaundiced view of men, with a tendency to see women primarily as potential victims.

    If she were to have a monogamous marriage, I would hope that your joy for her love would far outweigh any small concern you might have about her husband becoming abusive. Do you think that the potential for abuse increases non-linearly with increasing partners? Or that the love and joy does not increase for polyamorous people when they have more lovers? Or perhaps the thought that a single lover might not meet all her needs seems unbecoming for a woman?

    In scenario 4, would you trust her not to make this commitment unless she knew what she was doing? Might it be possible that she's quite independent and either doesn't need a lot of time and attention from her husband or finds it outside the marriage? Perhaps she would feel compersion for her husband when he is able to express his love for his other partner(s)? Perhaps those other women provide companionship (sexual or otherwise) for her as well?

    Finally, some people such as Sheff suggest that polyamorous groups are better able to cope with breakups than monogamous couples, because they have different expectations and often a wider support network. Sure, there are opportunities for her to "emerge emotionally scarred" from a poly marriage, but there opportunites for such scarring within a traditonal marriage: if she fell in love with someone else when she's expected to be monogamous; if her husband left her; if the two of them evolved into different people who no longer suited each other or went through the slow heat-death of passion into a bitter and unfulfilled old age.

    Love always carries the risk of loss. Trust your loved ones to chose that risk.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2011 • 83 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Craig Young,

    No, Greg, that’s ‘consensual adult’ incest, which I’m profoundly sceptical about.

    I think, but may be wrong, that he was looking at the definition of marriage equality I was offered, and found that it would include the marriage of siblings (or other other couples within the pairings we currently consider too close).

    Marriage equality as defined would seem to permit that.

    I note that in one sense, we have already allowed for it, for example, in the Stockman-Howe Marriage Act 1985.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3215 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    As for the Stuebing case, here's the reference:

    Stubing Versus Germany (European Court of Human Rights: 2012): http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/sites/eng/pages/search.aspx?i=001-110314

    The facts of the case are these:

    As a consequence of family violence, Patrick Stuebing was adopted out of his birth family as a child. As an adult, he was reunited with his family origin and started living with his mother, since remarried, and his adult but dependent and learning- disabled sister, Susan Karolewski. After their mother died in 2001, Patrick and Susan began a sexual relationship and had four children as a result. Of them, Eric and Sarah have severe physical and intellectual disabilities, and Nancy had a heart malady at birth, since remedied. All three older siblings are in foster care and only the youngest, Sofia, still lives with her parents. Under Paragraphs 153 and 173 of the German Criminal Code, Patrick served a two year sentence for committing incest with Susan (2005-2007).

    In 2008, Germany's Federal Constitutional Court upheld the legality of Paragraphs 153 and 173. Stuebing and Karolewski have had no more luck with the European Court and Convention of Human Rights, which similarly upheld Germany's aforementioned anti-incest laws, on April 12, 2012. Stuebing complained that the Federal Constitutional Court and Paragraphs 153 and 173 violated Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, his right to form a family and privacy rights. The ECHR rejected this argument.

    Insofar as 'consensual' sibling incest goes, wouldn't that be prevented under

    Section 130 of the Crimes Act:
    2) Every one of or over the age of 16 years who commits incest is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years. ...?

    I don't think Louisa's proposed legislation repeals that section of the Crimes Act.


    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 573 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    Was there anyone that seriously thought civil unions were anything but a nose-under-the-tent for marriage equality?

    Well, perhaps I’m a naive old whoopsie but I took the folks who went hither and yon saying that same-sex marriage was totally unnecessary because civil unions were effectively the same thing at face value, and criticized them for it.

    And I’ll continue to pay the same courtesy to Louisa Wall, who the likes of McCoskrie and Colin Craig are perfectly happy to passive-aggressively call a liar.

    This is probably being tediously literal minded, but could anyone point me to a single jurisdiction where same-sex civil marriage is legal along with polygamy, incest and bestiality? (Funny how McCoskrie and Colin Craig are keeping the more absurd pillars of anti-marriage equality slippery slope-ism on the downlow.) Hell, a serious attempt to make it legal to marry your same-sex sibling and a whole litter of house cats would do.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    Namesake, you left out (deep breath) the Zombie Apocalypse. Actually, I'm just waiting for someone other than Robert Mugabe to bring that up. And yes, I'm afraid that the Zimbabwean dictator in question did. Or necrophilia, apparently illegal under Section 150 of the Crimes Act (although apparently a mostly female pastime, it seems...) I know I'm usually a firm supporter of women's sexual freedom, but I do draw the line at pedophilia and necrophilia, it has to be said.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 573 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    As for interspecies marriage, I think we're probably a few centuries too early for that. Why do I have a horrible suspicion that the descendants of today's Christian Right will be whingeing about human-alien intimacy, sexual contact and relationships, especially if the aliens in question resemble nonhuman animals from our own world? I suspect that Futurama's 'robosexual' episode will happen before that, just as soon as an AI passes the Turing Test.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 573 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    Insofar as I know, zoophile unions are legal nowhere on Earth. However, some jurisdictions haven't criminalised zoophilia/bestiality/animal sexual abuse, including (snicker) some Aussie jurisdictions and parts of the Deep Southern United States (hee hee hee). Think I'll root out (....) the guilty statelets and pop back here...

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 573 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    Damn it, the Australian Capital Territory has recriminalised zoophilia, meaning no Aussie states and territories are a soft touch for zoophiles. However, in Arkansas, Louisiana and Utah, zoophilia is a misdemeanour, not a felony. Zoophilia is legal in Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Mexico, the Phillipines, Sweden, North Sudan (!) and Thailand. Possession of zoophile porn is not penalised in Brazil, Belgium, Canada, Finland, Hungary, Germany (although sales and distribution are in Canda, Finland, Germany and Hungary).

    As for 'consensual adult' incest, it has been either decriminalised, or there is no legal prohibition against it in a handful of jurisdictions have decriminalised 'consensual adult' incest- Israel, Turkey, France, Spain, Portugal, China, Japan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, Ukraine and Argentina- or else it has never been a criminal offence, unlike parent/child rape and child sexual abuse.

    However, the European Court of Human Rights noted that Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Moldova, San Marino, Slovakia, Denmark, Italy, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, Hungary and the United Kingdom had all criminalised 'consensual' adult sibling incest.

    This means that Belgium has same-sex marriage equality, legal zoophilia and CAI decriminalised, but not polygamy. The Netherlands has SSME, CAI but not polygamy or legal zoophilia. Sweden has SSME, legal zoophilia, but not CAI or polygamy. South Africa has SSME and polygamy, but not legal zoophilia or CAI. Argentina has SSME, CAI but not polygamy or legal zoophilia. Denmark has SSME, CAI and legal zoophilia but not polygamy. Norway has SSME only. Portugal has SSME and CAI, but not polygamy and legal zoophilia.

    So in answer to Namesake's rhetorical question, nowhere on Earth has all four. Denmark and Belgium come close, although neither have decriminalised polygamy.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 573 posts Report Reply

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