What Would Polygamy Look Like With Gays And Women In Charge?

Yesterday we mentioned that “the cast of the The Learning Channel’s reality show Sister Wives plans on filing a federal lawsuit challenging Utah’s law against polygamy. One commenter criticized us for only mentioning a man with multiple wives rather than addressing gay and female-centric arrangements. So we got lesbian Queerty contributor Romaine Hall on the case.

I’m not a regular Sister Wives viewer, but I’ve seen my fair share of Big Love and Nightline specials, so I feel like I have an OK grasp on polygamy – as much as an outsider can have. Since I’m a lesbian, the idea of being some dude’s third wife is only as horrendous as being some dude’s only wife. But for the sake of feminism, I am interested in considering polygamy from a different angle: What if I wanted to have a harem of husbands?

Obviously Mormons haven’t considered this side of polygamy, but if the Sister Wives lawsuit has any leg to stand on, it will have to be non-gender specific. This means a gal could have as many husbands as she wants. In my opinion, the dynamic would be much different than one where a guy is the head of the house and the women share. If the woman were the one being “shared,” she’d be the dictator. She’d say “OK, dude 1, you have to give me a child this year. Dude 2, you just concentrate on bringing home the bacon. Dude 3, sit there and look cute. You’re the newest, so obviously you’re just a vanity pick.”

But I wonder if a woman in this position would receive more respect than one who is merely one wife of several. Women in polygamist relationships are often seen as weak-willed, or like they must believe they aren’t “woman enough” for their husband, as he obviously needs several to be fulfilled. If you’re a woman who needs several men, that would make you the strong and worthy one, wouldn’t it? And that might be enough for some ladies to start a collection of males.

It would also stand to reason that a home with one wife, multiple husbands would be well-off. Since men make more money, and a woman at the helm would probably be one that doesn’t sit on her ass all day, I can only imagine their household would be higher class than one made of Suzy Homemakers. There might even be less mouths to feed, as one woman can’t pop out as many babies as quickly as three can. (Unless she’s one of those octomom types, in which case she desperately needs more than one pair of adult hands around the house.)

In terms of the actual relationships, there would have to be some major sacrificing of pride. I’m no expert on men, but women have been beaten down and told they are less than for so long, I understand why some real life sister wives exist; why women don’t say “Are you fucking kidding me?” and hightail it out of Utah and live a much more selfish and salacious life elsewhere. But men aren’t typically raised to feel like they’re just going to have to deal with the consequences of being not as good because of their genitals, and so their competitive bravados could make a relationship with one wife, many husbands less functional and more murderous.

Now this is based on a bunch of gender stereotypes, I know, but this polygamy legalization idea really begs the question if it is for the benefit of men only. Lesbians sure as hell don’t want any part of this – we’d just go to a separatist commune and live off the land if we needed our own personal fan club. We already kind of have sister wives within our own friendship circles, as so frequently we associate with exes, exes of friends, exes of exes. Although I bet the household would manage their money better and meals potlucks would happen on the daily.

When it comes to gay men, they already seem to have a good grasp on the idea of multiple partners. I know a partnerships that seem to works where two men (a husband and a boyfriend) share one guy. How do they do it? The boyfriend lives across the street and the husband is kind of passive. For these kinds of polygamous relationships to work, there has to be sacrifice, and I’m not sure gays or lesbians are willing to give up any more than we already do as second class citizens. And as a gay woman? Forget about it.

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  • zach

    for gay people itd most likely just b polyamory i cant see three gay guys and only one can b with both other guys that just seems selfish its hard to make those relationships work though

  • sarah

    Wow, for a topic that you could write a novel of interesting philosophical and legal arguments about, this was the largest amount of meaningless drivel I could ever expect to read.

  • AJ

    As the commenter who pointed out the lack of representation for other types of plural relationships, I was pretty excited to see this article! However, after reading it, I’m disappointed in the author’s lack of insight or research into polyamorous relationships. I personally am in a polyfidelitous quad of 2 men and 2 women. None of us feel like we’re “sacrificing” or like we’re “second class citizens.” The author fell back into making fairly inaccurate stereotypes about men and women, and gay men and lesbians. Then, there wasn’t even a MENTION of bisexuals. Oh Queerty, was your editor off today?

  • AJ

    @sarah: Amen.

  • Abirdwillingtobeitself

    There’s no pride with polygamy, just shame… at least shame for everyone but the one person in control. It’s not a winning issue because it’s not about love and it’s not affirming.

  • Nick Thiwerspoon

    One of my novels is about a woman with two blokes. Her husband is bi, meets a guy who is mostly straight and falls in love with him. In the end the woman has to decide whether she loves her husband enough to share him. Then she and the other man find out they like each other and are attracted to each other, and so ….

    Before you say that’s impossible, allow me to tell you it’s based on a real-life story of a threesome I actually know. And they’re all happy with the relationship, though they’ve had to work hard to make it work.

    BTW, one woman with more than one husband is called polyandry (Greek, poly = many, ander = man)

  • Abirdwillingtobeitself

    @Nick Thiwerspoon: Polygamy is a gender-neutral word. Polyandry is the opposite of polygyny, but both those words apply exclusively to straight people.

  • Dodgy

    I’m afraid that the reality of polyandry, in those societies where it is a “normal” state is rather different than this foolish contributer has realised.

    Just because the proportions of male and female change in a relationship, or set of relationships, does not in any way predicate a change of social power from patriarchy to matriarchy.

    The fact of the situation simply changes the woman’s social role from an exclusively owned chattle to one in joint ownership of a number of men. In many (perhaps most) cases the jointly married woman simply has a variety of forms of exploitation and abuse to put up with rather than a single variety from her one husband.

    Fair and equitable multiple-individual relationships require a fundamental change in social roles in order to have any chance of success…

    Given society’s resistance to change in this area, it seems unlikely that any large numbers of multiple partner relationships, particularly of mixed gender, are going to find stability

  • mikenola

    @Abirdwillingtobeitself and Dodgy, you are both so full of fecal matter your heads should explode.

    @Abird polygamy and polyandry may not in your febrile little mind apply to gay people, but nothing in their meanings allow that thinking. your stereotypes are as asinine as your comments.

    @Dodgy your name is correct when applied to your post, dodgy logic at best, at worst a load of horse manure.

    with the exception of the mythical Amazons, no Female dominated societies (where females ruled and worked like males do in most societies) with Matriarchal led families has ever existed. There are a few cult type groups that are female only in those matters but they tend not to last real long.

    all polygamous societies that we have documentation on are male led, and dominated by patriarchal religious teachings. Those teachings shape those societies into the inequities heaped upon women. Even the Roman and Greek societies did not allow women to fuck around on their husband. It happened but “officially” it was not allowed.

    While the author of this piece leaves out huge swaths of possibilities, she does at least approach the subject with humor and the view her experience supplies.

    If you make the assumption that a female in todays world finds 2, 3 or more males willing to “share” her affections in a fashion similar to the Mormon teachings (on the subject of multiple marriage), then you also have to make the assumption that as the “head” of that family group she would hold the males as subordinate to her wishes/will and they would be following her lead. She would become their “godhead” as the Mormons teach the male is.

    Now men traditionally only share a girl sexually as a one off event, however the sexual revolution of the 60’s produced prodigious numbers of swingers who had no problem with being sexually intimate with their wife/girlfriend and another male at the same time. some with bisexual currents others without.

    if you switch the orientation to lesbian or gay what you most likely would find is that the lesbian multi-partner relationships would more resemble the Mormon model, and the male multi-partner relationships would more resemble the swingers anyone/anything goes assemblage. there of course would be exceptions but those would be the normative experiences.

    without being misogynist it can be said that women overall tend to nurture and build home-lives with their partners. yes it can also be said that lesbians tend to “shift one to the left” in their social circle, meaning their current-wife is their friends ex-wife. Hence the jokes about the U-Hauls etc.

    Guys on the other hand tend to want to spread their seed, and the old chestnut about “fucking a knothole” generally applies.

    For me personally I don’t possess the energy to date more than one person at a time and I certainly don’t have the emotional bandwidth to be involved in multiple emotion based relationships (it exhausts me just to think about putting up with more than one guy at time!). I’m glad for those that can pull it off, but not me. I guess I am just too lazy to put out the work to do that LOL

  • Abirdwillingtobeitself

    @mikenola: I won’t comment on the fecal jokes, since that’s beneath me. I will say that you don’t know the meaning of the words polygyny, polyandry, febrile, or even mythical. Another word you don’t know is banality, it seems, since you were naive enough to point out that guys “tend to want” to impregnate women. lol

  • Daniel Villarreal

    @AJ: @sarah: We hear you and Romaine is by no means an expert or a scholar on the subject. But we could easily revisit the topic. So we’re curious, what sorts of things might you add to the discussion?

  • AJ

    @Daniel Villarreal: Thanks for asking. For one thing, you could talk to people in poly relationships and ask them about why they do it, what their experiences have been, the benefits and challenges, etc. You could also look into some of the poly groups/websites like lovingmore.com or polyinthemedia.blogspot.com and read some of the books written on the subject, like “Opening Up” by Taormino or “The Ethical Slut” by Easton & Lizst. Being a site that focuses on gay issues, I’m fairly shocked you haven’t talked about polyamory before. Many polyfolk I know are GLBT.

  • AJ

    @AJ: edit: lovemore.com

  • Abirdwillingtobeitself

    @AJ: Gay people have enough of a problem being accepted by mainstream society. We don’t need polyamory added to the list of offenses. At least not by talking about it deceptively as being ethical sluts, which implies some kind of servile relation to Abrahamic religious ethics. What we need is to get out of Abrahamic categories entirely.

  • Ganondorf


    That’s the first somewhat intelligent thing you’ve posted.

    Same sex marriage is difficult enough to attain. Polygamy? Really? Too many cooks in the kitchen. That’s a separate battle for others. Gays and lesbians don’t need the additional social drag on same sex marriage by muddying the waters with unrelated fringe issues that only embolden our enemies and turn away otherwise amenable people. As it is practiced by the FLDS, it is an inherently sexist institution that promotes horrific child abuse and domestic violence. Talk about a poisonous group to hitch your wagon to.

  • Abirdwillingtobeitself

    To put it very frankly, I think the polyamory crowd is full of prudes who are just beginning to discover their own sexuality. They’re just finding out that it’s possible to love more than one person. And they’re shocked. “I need to get the word out. The Christians are WRONG. SOMEBODY SOMEWHERE needs to know that the Christians are WRONG.”

  • Matthew

    Is this supposed to be a feminist essay? It comes off mostly as terrible, unthoughtful, and superficial.

  • Carl

    @Abirdwillingtobeitself: So they think they’re pioneers or something? Like Columbus who discovered “the new world”… in spite of the Indians who were already there. It’s the new world to the half of the planet that was too dumb to find it for tens of thousands of years. They have a Davy Cockett complex, so to speak?

  • Matthew

    @Daniel Villarreal: You could start with asking someone knowledgeable about polyamorous relationships, for starters. If that’s not possible, a quick search of scholarly articles on the matter from diverse areas such as social sciences, philosophy, and jurisprudence. Testimonies of people involved in such relationships (beyond a Sister Wives marathon) are helpful. But most importantly, the writer needs to be thoughtful about the issue, and who don’t write things like, “Since men make more money, and a woman at the helm would probably be one that doesn’t sit on her ass all day, I can only imagine their household would be higher class than one made of Suzy Homemakers.”

  • Vanessa

    @Matthew: “You could start with asking someone knowledgeable about polyamorous relationships, for starters.”

    But are there are any witch doctors in the United States?

  • Vultures

    I think the “more murderous” point was a good one. Men aren’t good at giving away the goods (the women, of course) to other men. Gay men know how tough it is to get just one bisexual man to treat his partner as something other than an enemy or a piece of meat.

  • NeonLightning

    i personally have been in a relationship where i was dating a female and she had found a girl she was attracted to on an emotional level more then physical even. i was given the option to create a V a triangle or keep it with just me and my g/f and have her as a friend as i enjoyed her company. i chose for the v. as i knew they would be happy and neither one cheated durring our time together nor did i. it was great i knew my g/f would be kept happy when i was too busy on work to dedicate time to her. eventually it ended but we are all still friends via the internet(the other girl had to move for work and years later me and my g/f just decided we didn’t work as a couple anymore). i have friends that have been together in poly relationships with multiple women, and others with men and i can think of one off hand who in a group of 1 straight male 1 bi male and 1 gay female and 1 bi female have been together for over 12 years. i’ve asked them how it works and they just explain that they emotionally love eachother and even though actual intercourse isn’t involved between all of them they all still hug eachother and when they look at eachother you can see the love.

  • NeonLightning

    wow just realized how long winded and grammatically incorrect that all is and i’m sorry. this topic just hit a nerve for me.

  • Idontmostlybite:)

    Just for accuracy’s sake, we should note that Mormons technically did try limited polyandry before. During the Nauvoo Period (1838-1844/45 or so), Joseph Smith really got going with plural marriage and married the wives of several priesthood holders while they were away on missions he sent them on. So, technically, they were married to their first husbands and Smith at the same time. Much evidence points to the fact that Smith was having sex with many if not all his secret plural wives, and most of them weren’t living with him, so I’m not sure, but there is certainly a possibility, that they were sharing the bed of two men simultaneously. Some of the practice of plural marriage was also wrapped up in the ‘law of adoption’ and creating dynastic priesthood lines to the Prophet. It was all kept secret, so all the details aren’t clear, and the one document that purports to give its outlines–D&C 132–contains rules Smith did not follow and concepts that aren’t followed later on, so it’s hard to know what to make of it all sometimes.

    There has also been some recent anthropological research done in modern polygamous communities (who don’t actually practice ‘the principle’ exactly as Smith and Brigham did, despite that common conception–polygamist groups like the LDS are definitely closer to Brigham and Smith but they have their own peculiar twists on some ideas and have embraced ideas like the notion that Joseph Smith, Jr. was the Holy Ghost incarnate in a human body which were repudiated by contemporary church leaders when they first circulated after the martyrdom in Nauvoo (Orson Pratt mentions this specifically in an early post-martyrdom newspaper article and condemns it as a false belief), and there are instances where older women live together–it’s called something like ‘sisters of the principle’, and I think the researcher on the podcast I was listening too thought it was something like covert acceptance of lesbianism.

  • ST

    The assumption here seems to be that a MFF triad only benefits the man. Did you consider that the women could love each other as well? I would love to find myself in a MFMF quad as would my wife. I think your assumptions are a tad outdated. I agree that gay rights and poly rights shouldn’t be mixed right now. One thing at a time, etc. BUT, I find it unfortunate that there are a couple of posters here that seem to take a conservative view of other lifestyles beyond the traditional couple. Can’t we all just get along?

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  • Dodgy

    @mikenola: You know, I wouldn’t mind if you were to actually disragree with what I were to say. I would not even be particularly offended by your infantile scatophilic insults.

    What I do take exception to is that you couldn’t even be bothered to read anything of what I had said before you started on your horseshit-spattered rant.

    Still, at least you started with the ad hominems….saved me the trouble of giving the rest of your post any respect at all.

  • AJ

    @Abirdwillingtobeitself: “Gay people have enough of a problem being accepted by mainstream society. We don’t need polyamory added to the list of offenses.” First off, none of these relationships should be considered an “offense.” Secondly, one of the biggest problems gay people have “being accepted by mainstream society” is that much of mainstream society doesn’t believe gay relationships are legitimate or “worthy” of the same respect and benefits that straight, monogamous, heterosexual relationships receive. So, it would seem to me that gay people would be understanding and know that there are more ways than that (straight mono couple) to love, and support other people in their consensual relationships, whatever those may look like.

    With that being said, I’m also pragmatic. I think if you “throw polyamory into the mix” when trying to win the marriage equality debate, for example, then you’re going to be less successful. It takes society time to come to terms with anything out of the ordinary, and one step at a time is the best way to approach social change. This is how it has historically happened in the U.S. However, it does NOT mean that in order to get acceptance we should step on the heads of others who are also trying to gain those rights.

  • Matthew

    @Vanessa: That’s super-clever. I was speaking of scholars who have spent time studying the matter, and conducted research with people in these relationships. You know, people who are capable of sensitive, critical, and thoughtful analysis and don’t resort to snappy one-liners.

  • Abirdwillingtobeitself

    @AJ: Sorry, but I can’t sympathize at all by calling polygamy a “right.” It has nothing to do with personal identity, unless you know some polygamous kids who felt like killing themselves because they were born that way, and big bad society said they couldn’t bang five women at once.

  • Oh Dear (John From England)



    This is really disturbing and as always Queerty is pushing back gay rights advancement because a story is sooo illicit.

    You know Tony Perkins has just sent off an ‘I told you so’ press release? Of course you can all snark away of right self righteous drivel like AJ because you are all cushy in your lives either through work, a support network or living in a liberal state.

    Some gay kids who are BORN frigging gay and didn’t ASK for it like being polygamous-a frigging right my ass!-are hoping marriage is their way out of their hell hole of either having to pay so much extras for their partner or from a right wing state full of crazy homophobes.

    Now every parent who finally came round when their child told them they were gay are going to say ‘but it’s a choice isn’t it? Like wanting to have 5 wives or several partners?’

    Polygamous people are sluts. They like to love. A lot. Who cares? That’s cool. Don’t make it out as a Right. Because it isnt one. You chose to have several partners. You didn’t decide at 5 years old that you would kill yourself if you could marry 5 men or be in a swingers relationship when you leave your teens.

    Like I said. I’m open minded and whatever floats your boat. And if you’re happy. ACE, many people are not but don’t hijack something as difficult and sensitive like gay rights.

    No on tied you to a fence for dead in Wyoming because they thought you had 2 wives. No one beats you on you daily because you walk and talk like you are polygomous. You are not the but of jokes on TV or Films. You do not have people wasting millions and millions so that you can not get hospital protection for your dying partner. People do not have conversion therapy to make you be with only one partner. You were not put in mental institutions in the 50’s because you had deep attractions to have 2 boyfriends or girlfriends at the same time. You are not being lynched or killed on a dalit basis in Africa or the Middle East.

    In fact in Africa and the Middle East, you would be praised with open arms!

    Don’t be take the piss. It’s insulting that this is even mentioned on a gay blog.

  • AJ

    Wow…it’s like you didn’t even read what I said and just decided to react like a child (or republican) with hatred, intolerance and name-calling. That being said, this is obviously not the forum for an intelligent discussion about polyamory.

  • jesskat83

    Here’s the voice of reason coming in, to break up the bickering people. :)

    It doesn’t matter what label you decide to slap on for your sexual preferences. I am NOT a STRAIGHT WOMAN… I just happen to be half of a wonderful, meaningful monogamous relationship with a man.

    Yes, HALF. Two halves make a whole. And I could spew my CATHOLIC *YES! I AM DENOMINATIONAL
    and have Christian Pride— even though pride is a sin, I can’t believe it’s the standard for “love” to
    solely exist between a man and a woman. There are rules unspoken but written that just need to be
    reinterpreted sometimes. And, there are laws… yes it’s the way of the world to have justice for ALL
    PEOPLE… but we must read between lines and do what is in our hearts AND our heads. It’s just not
    so easy to find the winning combination for all of us. With this being ranted on about, I must now
    conclude that the bashing in this thread is ridiculous. We all gather to speak our hearts and heads
    about issues that matter… why must there always be people who have to poke fun at or stab their
    words at each other? THIS is not a fight. IT IS AN EDITORIAL PIECE OF THE OPINION OF WHO WROTE
    THIS… it’s not the “way it is”. Give a bit more respect whether you AGREE or NOT to the brave author.

    Without the words in this article, we’d not be able to communicate. Let’s all come together despite…
    well… maybe not despite but IN AGREEMENT THAT WE DON’T ALL FEEL THE SAME but we ALL HAVE
    THE RIGHT TO FEEL AND BELIEVE WHAT WE WILL. There is an exception, though. It’s important also
    to consider the well-being of everyone when expressing opinions. They are not finite. They are only
    standards of your own personal conduct.

    That all being ranted out at the offenders— keep your nasty insults to yourself.
    Let’s make LOVE the focus, not war :)


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