The term polygamy (many marriages in late Greek) is used in related ways in social anthropology, sociobiology, and sociology. Polygamy can be defined as any "form of marriage in which a person [has] more than one spouse."
In social anthropology, polygamy is the practice of marriage to more than one spouse simultaneously. Historically, polygamy has been practiced as polygyny (one man having more than one wife), or as polyandry (one woman having more than one husband), or, less commonly as "polygamy" (having many wives and many husbands at one time). In contrast monogamy is the practice of each person having only one spouse at a time. Like monogamy, the term is often used in a de facto sense, applying regardless of whether the relationships are recognized by the state (see marriage for a discussion on the extent to which states can and do recognize potentially and actually polygamous forms as valid).
Polygyny is described as when a man is either married to or involved in sexual relationships with a number of different females at one time. This is the most common form of polygamy. Polygyny is practiced in a traditional sense in many African cultures and countries even today, including South Africa and most of Southern and Central Africa.
Polyandry is a breeding practice where a woman has more than one male sexual partner simultaneously. Fraternal polyandry was traditionally practiced among nomadic Tibetans including Nepal and parts of China, where it meant that two or more brothers share the same wife, with her having equal sexual access to them. Polyandry is believed to be more likely in societies with scarce environmental resources, as it is believed to limit human population growth and enhance child survival. A woman can only have so many children in her life time, no matter how many husbands she has. On the other hand, a child with many "fathers", all of whom provide resources, is more likely to survive. (In contrast, the number of children would be increased if polygyny were practiced, and a man had more than one wife. These wives could be simultaneously pregnant). It is a rare form of marriage that not only exists among poor families, but also within the elite.
Group marriage, or circle marriage, may exist in a number of forms, such as where more than one man and more than one woman form a single family unit, and all members of the marriage share parental responsibility for any children arising from the marriage. Another possible arrangement not thought to exist in reality, although occurring in science fiction (notably in Robert Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress), is the long-lived line marriage, in which deceased or departing spouses in the group are continually replaced by others, so that family property never becomes dispersed through inheritance.
Bigamy is when one individual is married to two people at the same time and at least one of the marriages is a legal marriage. Most western countries have laws making any secondary marriage a crime. For example, in the United States, because of a contract a bigamist makes with the government, he is under obligation not to marry a second wife; stipulations of the marriage license applying.
The purpose of bigamy laws is to protect a spouse from entering a marriage based upon deceit.
In seventeenth to nineteenth century England, Trigamy referred to someone who had three spouses at the same time.
The term is typically used for comic reference as is alluded to in the William Cosmo Monkhouse limerick poem:
There was an old fellow of Lyme
Who lived with three wives at one time.
When asked, 'Why the third?'
He replied, 'One¡¯s absurd,
and bigamy, sir, is a crime.'
From the modern legal perspective, this is just seen as two counts of bigamy.
The term polyamory refers to romantic or sexual relationships involving multiple partners at once, regardless of whether they involve marriage. Any polygamous relationship is polyamorous, and some polyamorous relationships involve multiple spouses. "Polygamy" is usually used to refer to multiple marriage, while "polyamory" implies a relationship defined by negotiation between its members rather than cultural norms.
The phrase serial monogamy has been used to describe the lifestyle of persons who have repeatedly married and divorced multiple partners.
Other forms of nonmonogamy
Other forms of nonmonogamous relationships are discussed at Forms of nonmonogamy.
Benefits of polygamy
Philip Kilbride, an American anthropologist, in his provocative book, Plural Marriage for our Time, proposes polygamy as a solution to some of the ills of the American society at large. He argues that plural marriage may serve as a potential alternative for divorce in many cases in order to obviate the damaging impact of divorce on many children. He maintains that many divorces are caused by the rampant extramarital affairs in the American society. According to Kilbride, ending an extramarital affair in a polygamous marriage, rather than in a divorce, is better for the children, "Children would be better served if family augmentation rather than only separation and dissolution were seen as options." Moreover, he suggests that other groups will also benefit from plural marriage such as: elderly women who face a chronic shortage of men.
According to the Ethnographic Atlas Codebook, of the 1231 societies noted, 186 were monogamous. 453 had occasional polygyny, 588 had more frequent polygyny, and 4 had polyandry.
Patterns of occurrence
At the same time, even within societies which allow polygyny, the actual practice of polygyny occurs relatively rarely. There are exceptions: in Senegal, for example, nearly 47 percent of marriages are multiple. To take on more than one wife often requires considerable resources: this may put polygamy beyond the means of the vast majority of people within those societies. Such appears the case in many traditional Islamic societies, and in Imperial China.
Within polygynous societies, multiple wives often become a status symbol denoting wealth and power. Similarly, within societies which formally prohibit polygamy, social opinion may look favorably on persons maintaining mistresses or engaging in serial monogamy.
Some observers detect a social preference for polygyny in disease-prone (especially tropical) climates, and speculate that (from a potential mother's viewpoint) perceived quality of paternal genes may favour the practice there. The countervailing situation allegedly prevails in harsher climates, where (once again from a potential mother's viewpoint) reliable paternal care as exhibited in monogamous pair-bonding outweighs the importance of paternal genes.
Polygamy in Chinese culture
Since the Han Dynasty, technically, Chinese men could have only one wife. However throughout the thousands of years of Chinese history, it was common for rich Chinese men to have a wife and various concubines. Polygyny is a by-product of the tradition of emphasis on procreation and the continuity of the father's family name. Before the establishment of the People's Republic of China, it was lawful to have a wife and multiple concubines within Chinese marriage. An emperor, government official or rich merchant could have up to hundreds of concubines after marrying his first wife, or tai-tai.
The Chinese culture of Confucianism and thus the practice of polygyny spread from China to the areas that are now Korea and Japan. Before the establishment of the modern democratic mode, Eastern countries permitted a similar practice of polygyny.
Situation in east Asia
After the fall of Imperial China and the success of Communist Revolution in 1949, polygamy was banned. This occurred via the Marriage Act of 1953.
In Mongolia, there has been discussion about legalizing polygamy to reduce the imbalance of the male and female population.
In Hong Kong, polygamy was banned in October 1971. However, it is still practiced in Hong Kong and Macau. One example of this is Stanley Ho. Another is Lim Por Yen. Some Hong Kong businessmen have concubines across the border in mainland China. International Herald Tribune Kevin Murphy had reported the cross-border polygyny phenomenon in Hong Kong in 1995.
Man-Lun Ng, M.D. of Humboldt University of Berlin reported the situation in Hong Kong: it was estimated that out of the approximately two million married couples in Hong Kong, about 300,000 husbands had mistresses in mainland China (1996). In 1995, 40% of extramarital affairs involved an enduring long-term relationship with a stable partner.
The traditional attitude toward mistresses is reflected in the saying: "wife is not as good as concubine, concubine is not as good as prostitute, prostitute is not as good as secret affair, secret affair is not as good as the affair you want but can't get"
The number of women becoming the secret second wife is ever increasing in east Asia. The terms (er nai/ yi nai) (bao er nai / bao yi nai) refer to the second woman and the act of having the second woman respectively. Mansions and villages are now nicknamed (er nai cun / yi nai tsuen) (village of second woman) when a number of secret second wives live.
Polygamy and religion
Both polygamy and polyandry were practiced in ancient times among certain sections of Hindu society. Hinduism during the vedic period seems to have neither prohibited polygamy, nor did it encourage it. Historically, kings occasionally took concubines. For example, the Vijaynagara emperor, Krishnadevaraya had multiple "wives." Under Hindu Marriage Law, as understood by the constitution of India, polygamy is forbidden for Hindu, Jains, and Sikhs. However, Muslims in India are allowed to have multiple wives. Marriage laws in India are dependent upon the religion of the subject in question.
Scriptural evidence indicates that polygamy, though not extremely common, was not particularly unusual among the ancient Hebrews, and certainly not prohibited or discouraged. The Hebrew scriptures document approximately 40 polygamists, including prominent figures such as Abraham, Moses, Jacob, Esau, and David, with little or no further remark on their polygamy as such. The Torah (the five books of Moses, a portion of what Christians consider the Old Testament) includes a few specific regulations on the practice of polygamy, such as Exodus 21:10, which states that multiple marriages are not to diminish the status of the first wife; Deuteronomy 21:15-17, which states that a man must award the inheritance due to a first-born son to the son who was actually born first, even if he hates that son's mother and likes another wife more; and Deuteronomy 17:17, which states that the king shall not have too many wives. One source of polygamy was the practice of levirate marriage, wherein a man was required to marry and support his deceased brother's widow.
In the modern day, Rabbinic Judaism has essentially outlawed polygamy. Ashkenazi Jews have followed Rabbenu Gershom's ban since the 11th century. Some Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews (particularly those from Yemen and Iran, where polygamy is a social norm) discontinued polygamy much more recently, as they emigrated to countries where it was forbidden. The State of Israel has forbidden polygamous marriages, but instituted provisions for existing polygamous families immigrating from countries where the practice was legal.
Polygamy is non-existent among Karaite Jews today primarily because Karaites interpret Leviticus 18:18 to mean that a man can only take a second wife if his first wife gives her consent (Keter Torah on Leviticus, pp.96¡ª97). Furthermore, Karaites interpret Exodus 21:10 to mean that a man can only take a second wife if he is capable of maintaining the same level of marital duties due to his first wife; the marital duties are 1) food, 2) clothing, and 3) sexual gratification. Because of these two biblical limitations, polygamy is impractical in this day and age and there are no known cases of it among Karaite Jews.
Marriage is considered a secular issue in Buddhism. As such, the religion is silent on issues of polygamy and monogamy. However, the third percept aimed at lay followers of basic Theravada Buddhist philosophy, suggests refraining from extra-marital affairs which would harm the existing relationship between two, in some forms of interpretations. In Tibetan Buddhism, namely Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism, it is not uncommon to take a consort in addition to a spouse, though it is namely for certain spiritual practices that the spouse may not be able/ready to participate in--or if the husband/wife are at different levels on their spiritual path. A consort is appropriate in such cases. Within this context, either the husband or wife, occasionally both, might take a spiritual consort. This is known as Consort Practice, and there are specific teachings and mediations that go along with it. Consort Practice is often very private, however, and not openly discussed outside of followers of Tibetan Vajrayana--which tends to be a very private form of Buddhism to begin with--hence it is not very well known. Husbands and wives also engage in Consort Practice together, monogamously.
Saint Augustine saw a conflict with Old Testament polygamy, and wrote about it in The Good of Marriage (chapter 15, paragraph 17), where he stated that though it "was lawful among the ancient fathers: whether it be lawful now also, I would not hastily pronounce. For there is not now necessity of begetting children, as there then was, when, even when wives bear children, it was allowed, in order to a more numerous posterity, to marry other wives in addition, which now is certainly not lawful." He declined to judge the patriarchs, but did not deduce from their practice the ongoing acceptability of polygamy. In another place, he wrote, "Now indeed in our time, and in keeping with Roman custom, it is no longer allowed to take another wife, so as to have more than one wife living [emphasis added]."
Periodically, Christian reform movements that have aimed at rebuilding Christian doctrine based on the Bible alone (sola scriptura) have at least temporarily accepted polygamy as a Biblical practice. For example, during the Protestant Reformation, in a document referred to simply as "Der Beichtrat" ( or "The Confessional Advice" ), Martin Luther granted the Landgrave Philip of Hesse, who, for many years, had been living "constantly in a state of adultery and fornication," a dispensation to take a second wife. The double marriage was to be done in secret however, to avoid public scandal. Some fifteen years earlier, in a letter to the Saxon Chancellor Gregor Br¨¹ck, Luther stated that he could not "forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict Scripture." "Ego sane fateor, me non posse prohibere, si quis plures velit uxores ducere, nec repugnat sacris literis."
"On February 14, 1650, the parliament at Nurnberg decreed that because so many men were killed during the Thirty Years¡¯ War, the churches for the following ten years could not admit any man under the age of 60 into a monastery. Priests and ministers not bound by any monastery were allowed to marry. Lastly, the decree stated that every man was allowed to marry up to ten women. The men were admonished to behave honorably, provide for their wives properly, and prevent animosity among them."
The modern trend towards frequent divorce and remarriage is sometimes referred to by conservative Christians as 'serial polygamy'. In contrast, sociologists and anthropologists refer to this as 'serial monogamy', since it is a series of monogamous (i.e. not polygamous) relationships.
The history of Mormon polygamy begins with claims that Mormonism founder Joseph Smith received a revelation from God on July 17, 1831 that some Mormon men would be commanded to practice "plural marriage". The July 12, 1843 recording of a Smith revelation on plural marriage is now canonized as scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants by the LDS Church. For years the practice of plural marriage by Mormons in the United States was not publicly known. In the 1835 edition of the 101st Section of the Doctrine and Covenants it publicly condemned polygamy and this scripture was used to quash Mormon polygamy rumors; for example, a denial by John Taylor during 1850 in Liverpool, England. Polygamy was illegal in the state of Illinois during the 1839-44 Nauvoo era when several top Mormon leaders including Smith, Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball took plural wives. Mormon elders who publicly taught polygamy were subject to discipline; for example, the February 1, 1844 excommunication of Hyram Brown. In May 1844 Smith declared, "What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one.". On June 7, 1844 the Nauvoo Expositor criticized Smith for plural marriage. The Nauvoo city council declared the Nauvoo Expositor press a nuisance and ordered Smith, as Nauvoo's mayor, to order the city marshall to destroy the paper and its press. This controversial decision led to Smith going to Carthage Jail where he was killed by a mob on June 27, 1844. The main body of Mormons soon followed Brigham Young to Utah where the practice of plural marriage continued.
On August 29, 1852 the church began to publicly acknowledge their practice of plural marriage through a sermon on the subject given by Apostle Orson Pratt. Additional sermons by top Mormon leaders on the virtues of polygamy and the evils of monogamy followed. Much controversy ensued and many novelists began to write books and pamphlets condemning polygamy, portraying it as a legalized form of slavery. The key plank of the Republican Party's 1856 platform was "to prohibit in the territories those twin relics of barbarism, polygamy and slavery". In 1862 during their first term with full control of both Congress and the White House, the Republicans issued the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act and the Emancipation Proclamation. The Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act clarified that the practice of polygamy was illegal in all U.S. territories. Latter-day Saints believed that their religiously-based practice of plural marriage was protected by the Constitution. However the 1879 unanimous Supreme Court Reynolds v. United States decision declared that polygamy was not protected by the Constitution, based on the longstanding legal principle that "laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices."
Increasingly harsh anti-polygamy legislation penalized church members, disincorporated the church, and permitted the seizure of church property. Members of the church were subsequently sent to Canada and Mexico to set up communities free from prosecution; for example, Charles Ora Card founded Cardston, Alberta at the direction of John Taylor. The church's fourth president, Wilford Woodruff, issued a public declaration (commonly called the Manifesto) announcing the official discontinuance of the practice in 1890. Woodruff indicated in his diary that his action was taken "for the temporal salvation of the Church" which had been shown to him as being in danger through a vision from the Lord. Much of the opposition against the church ceased because of the Manifesto. Statehood for Utah was granted in 1896 as opposition because of the controversy over Mormon polygamy waned.
National attention in the United States again focused on potential polygamy among the church in the early 20th century during the House of Representatives hearings on Representative-elect B. H. Roberts and Senate hearings on Senator-elect Reed Smoot (the Smoot Hearings). Sixth church president Joseph F. Smith issued his Second Manifesto against polygamy in 1904 which clarified that all members of the LDS Church were officially prohibited from performing or entering into polygamous marriages, no matter what the legal status of such unions was in their respective countries of residence. In 1909 a committee of apostles met to investigate post-Manifesto polygamy, and by 1910 the church had a new policy. Those involved in plural marriages after 1904 were excommunicated; and those married between 1890 and 1904 were not to have church callings where other members would have to sustain them. Although the LDS Church officially prohibited new plural marriages after 1904, many plural husbands and wives continued to cohabit until their deaths in the 1940s and 1950s. Seventh church president Heber J. Grant who died in 1945 was the last LDS Church president to have practiced plural marriage.
The LDS Church now excommunicates members found to be openly practicing polygamy. The "Teachings of Brigham Young" and a LDS website on Joseph Smith are some examples on how LDS Church publications now commonly characterize the history of early church leaders on the practice of plural marriage.
Although most Mormons now accept the prohibition on plural marriage, various splinter groups left the mainline LDS Church to continue the open practice of plural marriage. Polygamy among these groups persists today in Utah, neighboring states, and the spin-off colonies, as well as among isolated individuals with no organized church affiliation. Polygamist churches of Mormon origin are often referred to as "Mormon fundamentalist" who often use a disputed September 27, 1886 revelation to John Taylor as the basis for their authority to continue the practice of plural marriage. The Salt Lake Tribune states there are as many as 37,000 fundamentalists, with less than half of them living in polygamous households. Most of the polygamy is believed to be restricted to about a dozen extended groups of polygamous fundamentalists. The LDS Church asserts that it is improper to call any of these splinter polygamous groups "Mormon."
In Islam, polygyny is allowed, with the specific limitation that men can only have up to four wives at any one time. However, the Qur'an specifically states that men who choose this route must deal with their wives as fairly as possible, doing everything that they can to spend equal amounts of time, money on each one of them. Although many Muslim countries still retain traditional Islamic law which permits polygyny, certain elements within Islam challenge its acceptability. For example, polygyny in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Syria, and Lebanon is prohibited by law, In Pakistan if the first wife has not officially given her permission for the second marriage, it is not considered legal and the husband will end up in jail..
Secular law in most western countries with large Jewish and Christian populations does not recognize polygamous marriages. However, few such countries have any laws against living a polygamous lifestyle: they simply refuse to give it any official recognition. Parts of the United States, however, criminalize even the polygamous lifestyle; these laws originated as anti-Mormon legislation, although they are rarely enforced. Polygamists may find it harder to obtain legal immigrant status.
Multiple divorce and marriage for polygamy
Some polygamous families use a system of multiple divorce and legal marriage as a loophole in order to avoid committing a criminal act. In such cases the husband marries the first wife, she takes his last name, he divorces her and then marries the next wife, who takes his name. This is repeated until he has married and divorced all his wives, except possibly the last one. This way the wives feel justified in calling themselves Mrs. [husband's last name] and, while legally they're divorced from the husband, they still act as if married to him and expect those around them to acknowledge and respect this.
Since only one wife is officially married to the husband at any one time, no law is being broken and so this type of polygamous family unit can be overt about their relationship.
The conviction of Thomas Arthur Green in 2001 may have made the legal status of such relationships more precarious in Utah, although Green's bigamy convictions were made possible only by his own public statements.
Recent polygamy cases
The practice of informal polygamy among Mormon fundamentalist groups presents itself with interesting legal issues. It has been considered difficult to prosecute polygamists for bigamy, in large part because they are rarely formally married under state laws. Without evidence that suspected offenders have multiple formal or common-law marriages, these groups are merely subject to the laws against adultery or unlawful cohabitation ¡ª laws which are not commonly enforced because they also criminalize other behavior that is otherwise socially sanctioned. However, some "Fundamentalist" polygamists marry women prior to the age of consent, or commit fraud to obtain welfare and other public assistance.
In 2001, the state of Utah in the United States convicted Thomas Green of criminal non-support and four counts of bigamy for having 5 serially monogamous marriages, while living with previous legally divorced wives. His cohabitation was considered evidence of a common-law marriage to the wives he had divorced while still living with them. That premise was subsequently affirmed by the Utah Supreme Court in State v. Green, as applicable only in the State of Utah. Green was also convicted of child rape and criminal non-support.
In 2005, the state attorneys-general of Utah and Arizona issued a primer on helping victims of domestic violence and child abuse in polygamous communities. Enforcement of crimes such as child abuse, domestic violence, and fraud were emphasized over the enforcement of anti-polygamy and bigamy laws. The priorities of local prosecutors are not covered by this statement.
Edith Barlow, a mother of five in the polygamous community of Bountiful, B.C., was denied permanent residence and has been asked to leave the country after ten years in Canada. In Canada, polygamy is a criminal offence but prosecutions are rare. The Attorney General in British Columbia has expressed concerns over whether this prohibition is constitutional; an independent prosecutor in British Columbia recommended that Canadian courts be asked to rule on the constitutionality of the law against polygamy. A 2005 report by the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre recommended that Canada decriminalize polygamy, stating: "Criminalization is not the most effective way of dealing with gender inequality in polygamous and plural union relationships. Furthermore, it may violate the constitutional rights of the parties involved."
Current proponents and opponents
David Friedman and Steve Sailer have argued that polygamy tends to benefit most women and disadvantage most men. Friedman uses this viewpoint to argue in favor of legalizing polygamy, while Sailer uses it to argue against legalizing it. The idea is firstly that many women would prefer half or one third of someone especially appealing to being the single spouse of someone that doesn't provide as much economic utility to them. Secondly, that the remaining women have a better market for finding a spouse themselves. Say that 20% of women are married to 10% of men, that leaves 90% of men to compete over the remaining 80% of women.
The Libertarian Party supports complete decriminalization of polygamy as part of a general belief that the government should not regulate marriages.
Individualist feminism and advocates such as Wendy McElroy also support the freedom for adults to voluntarily enter polygamous marriages.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah is opposed to Utah's law against bigamy.
Those who advocate a Federal Marriage Amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage generally word their proposed laws to also prohibit polygamy.
The Roman Catholic Church clearly condemns polygamy; the Catechism of the Catholic Church lists it in paragraph 2387 under the head "Other offenses against the dignity of marriage" and states that it "is not in accord with the moral law." Also in paragraph 1645 under the head "The Goods and Requirements of Conjugal Love" states "The unity of marriage, distinctly recognized by our Lord, is made clear in the equal personal dignity which must be accorded to man and wife in mutual and unreserved affection. Polygamy is contrary to conjugal love which is undivided and exclusive."
Currently the vast majority of Protestant congregations take the Catholic view on polygamy.
The illegality of polygamy in certain areas creates, according to certain Bible passages, additional arguments against it. Paul of Tarsus writes "submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience" (Romans 13:5), for "the authorities that exist have been established by God." (Romans 13:1) St Peter concurs when he says to "submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right." (1 Peter 2:13,14) Pro-polygamists argue that, as long as polygamists currently do not obtain legal marriage licenses for additional spouses, no enforced laws are being broken any more than when monogamous couples who similarly co-habitate without a marriage license.
At the present time, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supports enforcing laws against polygamy, although historically this denomination practiced polygamy which they considered to be a principle revealed by God, and fought vocally against those seeking to establish such laws. Today, the church will excommunicate any member found to be practicing polygamy.
Controversial Christian vegetarian activist and leader Nathan Braun implies a positive stance towards polygamy in his fourth edition of The History and Philosophy of Marriage.
Those who live in their own communities tend to find their additional spouses from within their own communities or networks of like communities. In many cases, this involves daughters of polygamous families entering into arranged marriages with much older men who already have a number of wives. In some cases, a man marries a woman who has children from a previous marriage, then marries the children.
Marriage age is often young and sometimes below the legal minimum. It is also not uncommon for fairly close relatives to marry, leading to inbreeding, though part of this comes from the difficulty of keeping track of the complex net of familial relations.
Those who are geographically separated from other polygamists in their culture use other means to find additional spouses. Some polygamists use the Internet. Some join together with a friend.
Many polygamist families exist today that consist of only consenting adults. These families are egalitarian in nature. Many of these families live within the US also. In these families, women as well as the men hold careers and attend school.
In Mormon fundamentalism
Some sects which can be slimly related to Mormonism, that practice or at least sanction polygamy are the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Latter-day Church of Christ and the Apostolic United Brethren. These sects tend to aggregate in communities where they all commonly share their own specific religion and thus basis for polygamy. These small groups ranging from a few hundred to about 10,000 are reported to be located in various communities of the Western United States, Canada, and Mexico including:
Bountiful, British Columbia
Pringle, South Dakota
Centennial Park, Arizona
Colorado City, Arizona
Bonners Ferry, Idaho
Davis County, Utah
Salt Lake County, Utah
Tooele County, Utah
Utah County, Utah
Cedar City, Utah
Rocky Ridge, Utah
Sanpete Valley, Utah
Muslims & traditionalist cultures
Polygamy, and laws concerning polygamy, differ greatly throughout the Islamic world and form a very complex and diverse background from nation to nation. Whereas in some Muslim countries it may be fairly common, in most others it is often rare or non-existent. However, there are certain core fundamentals which are found in most Muslim countries where the practice occurs. According to traditional Islamic law, a man may take up to four wives, and each of those wives must have her own property, assets, and dowry. Usually the wives have little to no contact with each other and lead separate, individual lives in their own houses, and sometimes in different cities, though they all share the same husband. Muhammad, for example, married many of his wives because they were war widows who were left with nothing and took care of them. Thus, polygamy is traditionally restricted to men who can manage things, and in some countries it is illegal for a man to marry multiple wives if he is unable to afford to take care of each of them properly.
In the modern Islamic world, polygamy is mainly found in traditionalist Arab cultures, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for instance, whereas in secular Arab states like Tunisia and non-Arab countries with Muslim population, Turkey for example, it is banned. However, polygamy is still practiced in Malaysia, a non-Arab Muslim country, but there are restrictions as to how it can be practiced. In traditionalist cultures where polygamy is still commonplace and legal, Muslim polygamists do not separate themselves from the society at large, since there would be no need as each spouse leads a separate life from the others.
Shiite Islamic law accepts temporary marriage, called Nikah Mut'ah. Because of changing norms in the Islamic Republic of Iran, where a majority of the population is still under the age of 25. Places called Chastity Houses have been sanctioned by the Islamic government to allow youth to go against conservative cultural norms of older generations that see such sexual activity amongst younger people as taboo. This temporary marriage is allowed for males who are already married to someone. This form of polygamy is many a times considered "mistress marriages" by critics in the West.
On the Internet - polygamy personals
When it comes to seeking polygamous family situations via the internet, the options are very limited.
For polyandrists, there are no web-sites dedicated to providing ads for single men seeking polyandry or even for polyandrous families seeking such single men. The only online opportunities for such ads would likely be found on polyamory sites.
However, the very different kinds of relationship-seekers who would advertise on such polyamory sites involve additional issues with which most polygynists would never be interested in nor comfortable with being associated. Mormon, Muslim, and Christian polygamists are all exclusively polygyny-based, and all typically do not involve bisexual issues. Even most secular polygamists tend to be polygynists too, although bisexuality is accepted.
A handful of polygamy web-sites have attempted to offer such "polygamy personals" for polygynists. But such sites accomplish very little because they always lack the most sought-after individuals: single women who are actually and currently interested in marrying polygynously.
Polygamy in fiction
Oscar Wilde on the subject. Writing in one of his plays: "Bigamy is having one spouse too many. Marriage is the same."
A popular joke with Mark Twain has Twain asked to cite a Scripture reference that forbids polygamy, and he responds with, "No man can serve two masters."
A number of writers have expressed their views on polygamy by writing about a fictional world in which it is the most common type of relationship. These worlds tend to be utopian or dystopian in nature. For instance, Robert A. Heinlein uses this theme in a number of novels, such as Stranger in a Strange Land.
Polygamy is practiced by the Fremen in Frank Herbert's Dune as a means to pinpoint male infertility. It is socially accepted as long as the man provides for all wives equally. Cultures described within the Dune novel series have intentional similarities to Islamic, Arabic, and other cultures.
Similarly, the Aiel society in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series practice a form of polygamy, in which multiple women may marry the same man; in that fictional culture, women are the ones who propose marriage. Among Aiel, sisters or very close friends who have adopted each other as sisters, will often marry the same man, so that he will not come between them.
Dan Simmons describes a culture of three-person marriages (any gender ratio) in his book Endymion.
Noted libertarian author L. Neil Smith included a character married to two sisters in his book The American Zone. The dominant culture in the novel sees one's religion and personal living accommodations as no one else's business, and "acts of capitalism between consenting adults" as the norm instead of something immoral.
Jean M. Auel in the pre-historic Earth's Children series depicted several instances of "co-mating," where a person could have more than one mate. Examples included the headwoman Tulie in the Mammoth Hunters, and a man who married a pair of twins in the Shelters of Stone. Also of note was Vinavec, the headman of the Mammoth Camp who wished to mate with the protagonist Ayla and was willing to take her Promised, Ranec, implying a bisexual relationship as well.
A Home at the End of the World is a novel and film about a polyandrous family. It explores issues of homosexuality and families.
In the Sci-Fi Star Trek television series Enterprise, the ship's physician, Dr. Phlox (who is a Denobulan) has three wives, and each of his three wives have three husbands (including Dr. Phlox) of their own. One of Phlox's wives seemed to be interested in having extramarital relations with a Human, which Phlox himself did not oppose, and even encouraged. It has also been established on multiple occasions that the Andorian species enter into group marriages.
In the Sci-Fi television series Babylon 5 the Centauris allow for men to have more than one wife.
In Star Wars Expanded Universe, it is explained that Cereans (like Ki-Adi-Mundi) have a much higher birth-rate of girls than boys. Thus, every male Cerean must have one wife and multiple "honor wives", to increase the chance of giving birth to another male. Jedi Cerean Ki-Adi-Mundi was allowed to marry multiple times, although Jedis were not supposed to marry at his time; but Ki-Adi-Mundi got a dispense of that norm.
Big Love is an HBO series about a polygamous family in Utah in the first decade of the 21st century. In the series, Bill Henrickson has three wives and seven children, who belong to a fundamentalist Mormon splinter group. Big Love explores the complex legal, moral, and religious issues associated with polygamy in Utah. Henrickson's three wives each have separate houses beside one another, with a shared backyard. By outward appearances, he lives with his primary wife, and has two "friends" living close by, while in reality taking turns sleeping at a different house each night. Henrickson effectively balances his work, the continuing demands of his wives, and his wives' relatives.
Duke of the Mount Deer /The Deer and the Cauldron by Hong Kong famous writer Louis Cha (Jin Yung): he assigned 7 willing wives of different characters for the very capable leading role Wai-Siu-Bo (Wei-Shao-Bao).
The politics, office-politics, romance & kung-fu survival story was based in early Ching(Qing) Dynasty (of Kangxi reign 1654--1722).
The saga has been made into films & TV series several times since 1960s.
Famous idol actors like Tony Leung(Leung Chiu Wai), Steven Chow(Chow Sing Chi) & Dicky Cheung(Cheung-Wai-Kin) have played the role acquiring 7 wives along his various adventures.
Random House will publish award-winning author David Ebershoff's next novel The 19th Wife in 2008. It is about Ann Eliza Young and the legacy of Mormon polygamy in the United States today. Ebershoff is the author of the international bestseller The Danish Girl.