Good Reading: The Perils of Polygamy

Christopher Kaczor has an interesting article on The Public Discourse entitled “The Perils of Polygamy.” He breaks down the problems with polygamous societies and examines the difficulties that accepting various forms of polygamy can create for families, children, and civil society. Here is an excerpt:

In a polygamous marriage, the man does not give himself qua husband entirely to his wife. A polygamous husband gives himself qua husband to however many wives he has. Wives, by contrast, are expected to reserve themselves in a sexual way for their husband alone. Moreover, wives face inequality among themselves as “senior wives” enjoy rank above “junior wives.” The polygamous relationship can never attain the mutual and complete self-donation of spouses in monogamous marriage because it is intrinsically impossible to reserve oneself in a sexual way entirely for one person and at the same time reserve oneself in a sexual way entirely for a different person (or persons). Marriage understood as a comprehensive union can exist only between two persons, and never more than two persons. Society, therefore, has good reason not simply to proscribe polygamy, but to endorse monogamy.

The discussion surrounding the political/legal definition of marriage going on in our society today has mostly focused on same-sex marriage. However, the debate has also opened the question of polygamous marriage. Kaczor has exposed many of the problems with polygamous marriage and why society should not go down that path even though nearly 85% of all societies in history have practiced polygamy. Take some time to read the article–it is worth your time.


Christopher Kaczor, “The Perils of Polygamy,” The Public Discourse, May 21, 2012.