Weekly reader’s beef: slippery slopes and whataboutery

July 12, 2015 • 1:45 pm

by Grania

Note: these opinions are mine, Jerry may (or may not) disagree with me on some of these points.

Reader “lpadron” wrote a long comment on the post Brother Tayler’s Sunday Sermon: Conservatives’ reaction to the gay marriage ruling, Jerry felt it was deeply misguided, but was neither crazy nor intemperate, so he let it post.

It rambles a bit and seems to contradict itself completely at the end, but the general gist of it seems to be this:

You write about right to same-sex marriage but you never write about the right to polyamorous marriage or consanguineous marriage because you just know they are wrong even though the arguments against them are the same as the ones against same sex marriage. Therefore gay marriage should not be allowed. Also, you are a hypocrite.

Direct link here to read the whole thing.

So, the first thing that needs to be said, because clearly it hasn’t quite sunk in yet, is that same-sex marriage is neither a gateway drug nor an infectious disease. As the picture says, the only consequence of legalizing same-sex marriage is that same-sex couples will get married.


It’s never clear to me why certain people assume that society cannot deal with separate issues separately. Colorado’s legalization of marijuana has not led to mass orgies of licking Colorado River Toads.

However, if the argument is that having dealt with one issue where human rights were being denied to a group for bad reasons; society might turn around and ask: who else might we have been unfairly denying human rights to? Well, then yes. But then who could possibly have a problem with that?

I’m really not going to deal with the Argument from Icky. Most of us don’t particularly want to see our parents copulate, however most of us also realize that it doesn’t mean that our parents shouldn’t be allowed to, let alone that we should be able to terminate their access to certain basic human rights on that basis. If other people’s sexual activities make you feel nauseous, stop thinking about them in terms of sex and try seeing them as people instead.

Polyamory has been around a long time, and is probably not as rare as people think.

Geri Weitzman writes:

While openly polyamorous relationships are relatively rare (Rubin, 1982), there are indications that private polyamorous arrangements within relationships are actually quite common. Blumstein and Schwartz (1983, cited in Rubin & Adams, 1986) noted that of 3,574 married couples in their sample, 15–28% had an understanding that allows nonmonogamy under some circumstances. The percentages are higher among cohabitating couples (28%), lesbian couples (29%) and gay male couples (65%) (p. 312).[79]

In the Netherlands polyamory is legal in as much as such partners are entitled to civil unions, effectively the same place that same-sex marriage was in Ireland a year ago. In other iterations, it is legal in about 25% of the world’s countries.

The chief objection to it seems to be that in countries where it is legal is that it is often not truly consensual, particularly in countries where polygamy is legal but polyandry is not. That’s a valid concern, but I don’t really see how it is relevant to whether polyamorous partners should be allowed the same right to marriage as others. No-one has ever seriously argued that marriage between a heterosexual, monogamous couple should be banned on the basis that in some countries women are not required to consent to matrimony. In most countries where debate about polyamory is at issue, adult consent free from duress is an essential prerequisite for a contract. Without such consent, any contract is null and void.

Marriage between consanguineous couples is probably society’s Last Great Taboo, in spite of it being rampant in Genesis and prevalent in certain Egyptian Dynasties and right up until fairly recently in European Royal Families.

In the USA, only 25 states prohibit marriage between first cousins, and Wikipedia says that it is estimated that 55% of marriages between Pakistani Muslim immigrants in the United Kingdom are between first cousins[19]France decriminalized incest during Napoleon’s time, although marriage is still prohibited. Sweden, god bless it, has legalized marriage between siblings.

However, incest remains a crime in many countries, and still occasionally but rarely has tragic results as in this German case where a brother and sister both served prison sentences for incest despite it being completely consensual. The case opened up public discussion in the country about whether it really needed to be criminalized.

Joachim Renzikowski, a criminal law professor at Germany’s Halle University wrote on the subject:

“I don’t believe that because incest is banned, there’s a certain attraction about doing it, but I doubt equally that getting rid of our incest law will result in any measurable increase in cases. Our moral guardians don’t need to get too worked up about this.”

Wise words in my opinion. Genetic sexual attraction is minuscule, less than a percent of any population and hardly likely to bring about the downfall of any society.

The only sane argument even worth considering is the obvious danger of recessive genes causing serious genetic diseases in offspring.

Jerry wrote me this on the subject:

You cannot predict the results of consanguineous matings, as any rare deleterious recessive could be exposed, but with matings between, for example, carriers of sickle-cell anemia, you can concentrate on that one disease and test the fetus for it. It’s a lot easier for us to deal with carriers of known genetic diseases than, say, a brother mating with a sister.

You should also read the excellent article Greg Mayer wrote here on the Inbreeding Depression in Man.

However, as serious as these biological problems are, it still isn’t clear to me why consanguineous couples can’t get married at all. Same-sex consanguineous couples would have no such problems anyway. And we do after all, live in a modern world where such couples, made aware of the dangers of procreating could be aided with options of birth control, optional sterilization, optional donor pregnancies, adoption etc.

So in summary, no, I don’t believe that any consenting adults should be denied the right to marriage. I do think that in the case of consanguineous relationships, access to medical advise and aid should be provided as a matter of course.


132 thoughts on “Weekly reader’s beef: slippery slopes and whataboutery

      1. I think that your typical Fox viewer would take that chart at face value and agree with it completely.

  1. You mention the consanguineous marriages in Pakistani communities in the UK and there is , as the wiki link showed, clear and unambiguous evidence that repetitive such marriages running through multiple generations is carries a considerably higher risk with conditions such as Downs being present at a much higher rate than the background average.


  2. Before passing any laws, I wish our politicians here in the US would ask: What would Sweden do? We could learn so much from other countries, but ‘mercun exceptionalism leaves no room for learning.

  3. I agree. But parent-child marriages would be a challenge for even the most thoroughgoing liberal to accept. Yikes!

  4. You responded to lpadron with logic, reason and evidence so his/her head will probably now explode.

    As far as hypocritical goes, there is nothing more hypocritical on this topic than the bible, where rulers had hundreds or thousands of wives and/or concubines. Kind David had 7 wives, Solomon had 700 Wives + 300 Concubines.

    I still want an answer to this biblical puzzle: If Adam and Eve were the first humans and had 2 sons, and one killed the other, who did he marry? It must have been a sheep.

    1. Abraham and his first wife Sarah were half-siblings; they had the same father:

      Genesis 20:12 Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife.

      Boom O_O

    2. The 17th century ‘pre-Adamite’ scholars believed that the first Creation story in Genesis described the origin of the non-Jewish peoples, and the second one that of Adam’s own race, the Jews. So they could reconcile Adam & Eve with the (much older) stories of the Egyptians etc; and also account for the suddenly large numbers of people available for Adam’s family to mate with.

      Makes sense, eh? Especially if you don’t look at any actual evidence.

    3. If Solomon really had that many wives, either a lot of men were killed fighting his wars for him, or there were a lot of frustrated young male Israelites who couldn’t find a wife because so many of the eligible women were in the harems of King Solomon and other wealthy, upper-class Israelites. BTW, after reading the bible, for the life of me I could not determine where he got the reputation of being so wise. He certainly wasn’t admirable and was loathsome as a character. But then King David was a pretty nasty piece of work too.

      1. “…men killed fighting his wars..” Reminds one of the New Pope gushing yesterday over the Paraguayan women who survived the War of the Triple Alliance.. Supposedly up to 3/4 of the adult male population was killed in the war [with many W+C of course], leaving a post-war adult sex ratio of roughly 4 women to one man…

        Somehow, life found a way…

      2. Those frustrated young male Israelites were wearing ties, riding bicycles and knocking on doors all over the known world.

  5. Going back to Ipadron and his argument, he is into the apples/oranges problem so his piece holds no water. Same sex marriage is a civil rights issue and being gay is not a choice.

    When a society decides to have these other types of marriage, that is a choice for the society to make but it does not become a civil right by any natural reason. I don’t know of any people who are born with the need to have two or more wives/husbands or to marry their sister/brother or first cousin.

    There are plenty of biological and social reasons not to have these types of marriages and they are evident without going into it here.

    1. This describes rather exactly my feelings on the matter. Sexual orientation is not a choice, and so allowing marriage between couples that are sexually oriented to each other is a perfectly natural way to secure long-term beneficial partnerships. It makes no sense to encourage such partnerships for some but deny it to others.
      But the other proposed forms of marriage are more likely choices. Also, there has not been a recognized need to legally permit it. There are not millions of people striving for this right and suffering from the lack of it. If the need were recognized then maybe we can arrange for it. But that is in the unforseeable future.

      1. “There are not millions of people striving for this right and suffering from the lack of it.”

        Morally speaking, why should there need to be millions? One case should be enough, surely.

        To my mind, it’s NOT a case of ‘why should the law permit it?’ but ‘why should the law forbid it?’ What good grounds does the law have for creating a ‘victimless crime’?


        1. I agree, +1. I think we (the general moral zeitgeist) need to start looking at marriage as a relationship between people instead of staying fixated on just the sex.

          Procreation is no longer something that needs special consideration. We don’t need to encourage people to reproduce. We need to shed Christian inspired attitudes about sex being sacred for reproductive purposes, sinful otherwise. Sex needs to be thought of as merely a perfectly ordinary bonding activity.

        2. I agree; that is the legal approach to take. However the answer to that legal question is not entirely clear to me because if we stick to issues of informed consent, I can still see reasons to limit polyamory at least.

          Grania comments that just because some cultures ‘do it badly’ doesn’t mean other cultures can’t ‘do it right.’ That’s true, but I do think we have to take empirical evidence as to the likely results into account. If we look at polyamorous marriage as it is used today throughout the world , there is a much stronger pattern of coercion of young women than there is in monogamy. This is not to say that all polyamorous marriages are coercive or that no monogamous marriages are coerced, but that if we made a graph with “level of coercion” on the x axis and charted histograms of monogamous vs. polyamorous marriages, the polyamorous bell curve would have a higher average. Yes, there would be overlap too.

          Those sorts of distributions of behavior (drug use is another one) are often difficult for western legal systems to deal with, because we like our laws binary. A ‘drinking age’ sucks for the mature teenagers who don’t need it and also poorly serves genetic alcoholics, but that sort of bright line distinction is the sort of law we like to make.

          In this case I think I’d like the US to try two things: first, conduct limited trials. As we did with assisted suicide, allow a couple of states to try it for 10 or so years and see what actually happens before we start making federal laws legalizing it. If it is actually much more abusive of women (than monogamy), don’t allow it on a federal level. If it actually isn’t, allow it. Either way, it would be good to inform our social policy with facts, not just legal theory. Second, I think it would be reasonable (in this initial phase) to set a higher age requirement for those participating in a poly marriage. Say, 25-30. This would largely (hopefully) prevent the practice being used by social patriarchs in order to abuse teen girls. It would also largely ensure that the people entering into plural marriages have the life experience and job experience to walk away if they later feel that they’ve been coerced; most 30 year olds can largely make it on their own in a way that most 17 year olds cannot, so less women (and men) will become ‘trapped’ into such marriages due to a lack of skills and an inability to live on their own if you set the minimal age requirement a bit higher.

          Okay, that’s long enough but those are my thoughts on it.

          1. My argument was a generalisation aimed ‘in principle’. I agree that there may be practical reasons for forbidding something. Still, I think that the onus should be on the ‘prohibitionists’ to show cause why whatever-it-is should be illegal, rather than the ‘abolitionists’ being required to show why ‘it’ should be legalised.

            And ‘the Bible forbids it’ (as misinterpreted by innumerable people with an ax to grind) should not be any reason at all.

            On eric’s examples, I wouldn’t disagree with the idea of limited trials.


          2. “If we look at polyamorous marriage as it is used today throughout the world , there is a much stronger pattern of coercion of young women than there is in monogamy.”

            I would suggest if you look at regular marriages that take place in those same communities you are likely to see arranged marriages where the woman has little to no choice and is coerced into the marriage.

            The problem is in those communities women have little to no power. They are frequently little better than chattel. This effects their entire life not just marriage. This appears true in certain places in Utah and British Columbia Canada and in various Islamic countries and in fundamentalist orthodox Judaism.

            Those who engage in polygamy are often in isolated communities in larger communities that don’t allow polygamy, or Islamic. In those where the large community allow polygamy women tend to be second class citizens, like under sharia law. In many Islamic countries there is no age of consent for girls or women.
            The entire concept of consent is moot if there is no age of consent. Child or adult, the female is likely to be in an arranged marriage without any say in the matter.

            In almost all cases where polygamy is practiced women may not have more than one husband. There is no equality.

            This is less about polygamy than it is about cultures that make women subservient to the male.

            I think we could look at fundamentalist cults and religions and see many ways they are inflicting harm on their members. We’ve read accounts of such on this website many times, yet religions continue to get a pass when it comes to special dispensation and privileges.

            Let’s place the problem firmly where it belongs, religion in general and fundamentalist religions in particular.

      2. From an incompatiblist perspective, there should be no difference between same-sex marriage and consanguineous marriage. From an incompatibilist perspective, how could consanguineous attraction be any more a choice than same-sex attraction?

        Let the debate commence!

        1. In the same vein, I’d be interested to see someone try to unpack Grania’s criterion of “adult consent free from duress” in strictly incompatibilist terms.

          1. I don’t see free will incompatibilists (like myself) demanding that all laws be negated or everything be made legal because we have no choice in what we do. AFAIK event the most strict determinists agree with legal frameworks that punish/reward certain behaviors. How would marriage law any different from any other sort of law in this respect? Coerced marriage is very analogous to kidnapping; if you have no problem with a determinist saying the former should be illegal, then you really shouldn’t have a problem with them saying the latter should be illegal too.

            1. I don’t know about Gregory, but I wasn’t addressing any legislative issues, just the ontology of “choice”.

              You mention coerced marriage. Acknowledging that we can talk about a real distinction between coercion and freedom, and acknowledging that this distinction only makes sense in the context of conscious agents, is pretty much what compatibilism is all about.

              1. Hard Determinism eliminates the justification for assigning moral responsibility to peoples choices and actions.

                Think of Dennet without the (moral)
                responsibility and you are pretty close.

                So for the hard-determinist there is still the same distinction between coercion and freedom as for the compatibilist ( = soft-determinist).

            2. What beef said. As a determinist myself (of the compatibilist stripe), I have no problem outlawing various forms of coercion. But I’m still waiting to hear a coherent account of what coercion, consent, and “freedom from duress” actually mean to an incompatibilist.

              1. “Coercion” means actions determined, in part, through threat (implied or explicit) of physical or social punishment. A non-coercive marriage is one in which saying yes is determined by the presence of other factors, but not those.

              2. Why should we care whether the determining factors are of type A or type B? Because we feel that a person’s own desires and intentions should properly play a dominant role in determining their choices. But that entails that we accept desires, intentions, and choices as real phenomena with real causal power to affect behavior. Which is, as beef says, essentially a compatibilist position.

              3. Hey, you asked how we distinguish coercive marriages from non-coercive ones. That’s how we do it. My rough definition is probably reasonably acceptable regardless of whether one is noncompatibilist, compatibilist, or full-on dualist.

                And you’re conflating separate things. I would agree that we care because we think peoples desires and intentions matter. They matter regardless of whether their choices are real or illusory. If you scientifically prove tomorrow that my cat runs on pure instinct and has no choice, I’m not going to say its now okay to torture cats. Because even without choices, feelings matter. So why would you ever consider treating humans worse than a cat?

                So no, compatibilism is not logically or rationally necessary before we can view coercion as a bad thing. Unless you want to claim that the torture of feeling but run-on-instinct animals is perfectly okay under compatibilism – if you do that, you can reach the conclusion you’ve reached. Are you claiming that?

              4. Seems to me that you’re conflating coercion with torture. Torture is odious because, as you say, feelings matter. Coercion is odious, even when it causes no physical distress, because autonomy matters. Feelings and autonomy aren’t the same thing (unless you assume your conclusion by claiming that autonomy is “just a feeling”, not a real thing).

                But OK. You’ve given an operational rule-of-thumb for how Grania’s criterion can be applied in practice, without worrying too much about what it actually means, and I get that you think that’s sufficient. I think the question of what it actually means is an interesting one that incompatibilists don’t seem to have a good answer for, but perhaps this is not the place to get into that in depth.

      3. From a legal/ethical point of view, whether sexual orientation is a choice should be irrelevant. From a biological point of view, whether it’s a choice in any particular instance is either meaningless (incompatibilistically)or an open question (subject to evidence either way) and should not be sweepingly generalised.
        The point of the comparisons of states and nations in this post is that legal systems are subject to the same sort of ‘outsider test’ as religious beliefs (though Loftus doesn’t as far as I know cite Cicero’s De Re Publica: …nec erit alia lex Romae, alia Athenis, alia nunc, alia posthac…).

  6. I remember years ago reading about a study of two populations in India that both practiced infant betrothal. Within the one group, the “bride” was sent to live with the “groom” and his family at age 3, and the “happy couple” were married as teenagers (as was the custom). In the other group, the betrothed individuals lived with and were raised by their families of origin, only cohabiting following their wedding once they reached their teens (same age at wedding).

    The marriages where the bride had been raised in the same household as the groom produced markedly fewer children – it appears that being raised together causes people to regard each other nonsexually or something. After all, incest is much rarer than no incest. I wish I could find that study now…

    1. I haven’t read about this study, but it would seem to be another confirmation of the Westermarck Effect, a hypothesis about incest avoidance developed back in the 1890’s. The classic confirming cases are a study of the sexual habits of kibbutz adolescents and another study on Aleut marriage customs. There is also evidence that chimps also experience Westermarck imprinting.

      1. I haven’t read the primary sources, but I think it is in Pinker’s _The Blank Slate_ which references also what are called “minor marriages”, in IIRC, Taiwan, which apparently also shows this pattern.

  7. I anticipate Ipadron’s response to your clear and logical comments, but fear I’ll be disappointed. We probably won’t even get more confused arm-waving.

  8. The potential negative effects on progeny of consanguineous marriages tends to take a long time to occur. This is evident in the U.S. in a number of groups that, for one reason or another, maintain themselves separate from the mainstream population: some Jewish people, some
    Amish people, some immigrants from other countries, etc.

    I would hazard a guess that the history of most of our families contains first cousins who married. My grandfather and grandmother on my father’s side were first cousins. Having been adjudged quite intelligent, my brother and I often joke about how much more intelligent we might have been if our grandparents hadn’t been first cousins.

  9. I just learned something new about my country. I didn’t realise civil union was open to polygamous unions. It does conflict with the ideal of equality and it often leads to discrimination of women.

    1. I fully agree. In very unusual circumstances when the ratio of men to women is very lopsided for whatever reason, polyandry might make some sense, but not in a modern industrialized nation.

      1. I doubt it, for polygamy is even in the criminal code. Sloppy legislation from an era that couldn’t possibly imagine polygamy seems more likely.

  10. Secular arguments can be made relating to these cases. Universities prohibit student/teacher relationships because of the imbalance of power (as would be the case with incest.)
    Polyamory raises concerns regarding basic citizenship because it places the value of one citizen above others; whether it’s male or female. There’s an issue with resources. These families will almost certainly be at a disadvantage. Should the government endorse any situation where citizens sign on to inequality?

    1. I am unclear as to what you mean by a citizenship concern. All citizens have the same right regardless of whether they are single or married. What legal rights do you think polyamorously married people won’t have that others will?

      1. They wouldn’t have the same rights as afforded to a conventional 2 person couple. Special conditions would have to be created to resolve issues of health-care, inheritance and benefits in general.

        If a soldier dies at war, which of his wives would receive the death benefits? Does a man’s insurance have to cover the pregnancies of all his wives?

        If the government endorsed polygamy they’d be creating a situation where there’s not just inequality within the relationship, but inequality as compared to all other married couples in society. People in those situations would be at a significant disadvantage.

        1. Yes, dying intestate can create all sorts of legal problems if the inheritors decide to fight it out. But this is no different than the situation today. The courts can and do adjudicate between spouse, sibling(s), children, and parent(s) today in terms of both legal guardianship (remember the fight between Terri Schiavo’s parents and husband?) and inheritance. If there are multiple spouses, this will likely not require any new mechanism to resolve; the courts will just apply current law to the situation as best they can. Though I would agree that if the government is smart, they will pass some modified inheritance and guardianship laws in concert with any legalization of polyamory, to make the court’s job easier and clearer.

          Like the case today where families may fight it out for guardianship or a dead person’s posessions, the best solution has nothing to do with statuory law. Its: “create a Will (or living Trust) while you are still alive.”

          1. It still puts family members of a polygamist family at a disadvantage.
            Considering the average pot of resources isn’t that big to begin with, polygamy puts a further strain on those limited resources.

            1. There’s no reason to assume that polyamorous families will be limited to one income. A family with two breadwinners and one stay-at-home caregiver will be at a relative advantage compared to a traditional two-person marriage with just one breadwinner.

  11. Setting aside the question of whether it should or shouldn’t be allowed, I really don’t get why anyone’s particularly worried about siblings marrying one another. Siblings don’t want want to marry one another, and they never will. (Maybe the people who are worried about the possibility don’t get this because they don’t have siblings of the opposite sex.) No increase in freedom will result in a mass outbreak of people doing something when almost everyone in a position to do it finds the idea repulsive.

    1. I agree. I think the main reasons for it are (1) ick factor, and (2) some humans obviously feel a deep psychological impulse to control what goes on in other humans’ bedrooms.

      Maybe the latter comes from our ape roots in which a dominant pair would control the breeding of others in the social group. Or maybe not, maybe it’s just a personality foible. But wherever the urge comes from, historically it seems to be pretty prevalent.

  12. We need to separate the religious concept of marriage from the legal contractual concept of a civil union that carries with it certain legal consequences, such as tax benefits, responsibility for child care, inheritance rights, and such. I was “married” by a justice of the peace. It was a legal contract between me and my partner.

    If religions want to have a “sacrament of marriage” let them. But, society needs to establish what are the legal contract needs between two individuals who want to make a legal commitment.

    I lived in Utah for seven years and polygamy as practiced there in places like Colorado City was far from consensual. Young girls were given to old men as wives. Young men in the community were driven out so they could not compete with the church elders. I don’t know about all polygamous societies, but in the middle east, women are also forced into these polygamous marriages. Unless there is absolutely no sex discrimination in society then allowing polygamy should be banned.

    1. I think all would second that. Wasn’t it statehood that forced the Mormons to give it up and not some moral uprising.

      1. Yes, Mormons had to give up polygamy as a requirement for statehood. I seem to remember hearing that the church prophet had a revelation about it. Don’t quote me on it, since I didn’t double check.

        A lot of people abandoned the practice (or maybe didn’t do it in the first place), but a lot of people just went underground. A lot of men kept their first wives with them in Utah and sent their second (or whatever) wives to Mexico. Others, like the FLDS separated themselves into their own communities or went very underground, like the Kingston clan. I understand the Kingston clan is pretty inbred, and there is a high percentage of birth defects and death, although what I know is very second hand and extremely vague.

        I don’t have a problem with multiple spouses, but the practices of the FLDS and Kingston groups (and other sects in Utah) make me want to keep polygamy illegal. Those groups are terrible, and I don’t see a good way to ensure genuine consent, unless they give up their separate communities and live with the rest of us. Or something.

          1. A good way of ensuring genuine consent is to ensure that everyone in a society gets a decent education and all women have access to birth control.
            I am hyper aware that in certain ultra conservative religious communities, women don’t get to consent to much. But take a look at the polyamorous trio in the article I linked to above, Are you going to argue that they didn’t consent?
            Or should we also be banning heterosexual monogamous marriage on the basis that hundreds of thousands of women don’t get to genuinely consent to their arranged marriages either?
            The answer is not to ban marriage that you don’t personally approve of, it’s to try to change the standing of women in those societies.

            1. Education is similar to my suggestion, which is that you have a higher age requirement for it. That way (1) no teen women are getting coerced into it, and (2) most of the people doing it can, economically, walk away from it if later they think they need to.

              I would also suggest that we probably need no-fault, relatively easy divorce laws in any state allowing it, in order to make leaving a lot less harrowing for people. That goes for monogamous marriage too, but probably moreso for hypothetical polyamorous ones. Under many state laws, if you continued to cohabit or sleep with one of your spouses, you wouldn’t be allowed to divorce (the group). That could be a big problem.

            2. I agree with you, but changing the standing of women in these societies, improving their education, or other strategies, is nearly impossible with the polygamous sects in Utah. They keep themselves intentionally walled off (literally in some cases, such as their compound in Texas)from mainstream society. Their towns in southern Utah are out in the middle of nowhere. They have their own schools, police, and courts. They work very hard to keep themselves walled off. There’s no way to educate/etc without pulling down those walls, and I don’t see how that can be done without the use of some kind of force. You either violate the rights to arrange your sexual life as you see fit, or you violate the rights of religious freedom, free association, and to live where you want.

              Like I said, I have no problem with legalizing polygamy at all. I agree with legalization in principle, and the few multi-spouse marriages I personally know cause no societal harm at all. I like the people involved and I consider their living arrangements none of my business. But the way polygamy is practiced by the FLDS and other sects really tests my belief in the right of consenting adults to do what they see fit. What the religious sects do their kids and each other is evil, but I don’t see a way to stop it without violating something. It’s a hell of an example of just how poisonous religion can be.

    2. That is not a case for banning polygamy, that is a case for banning any ‘marriage’ which is not between fully consensual adults.

      Would it have been okay if the young girls had been given to old goats who _weren’t_ already married?


      1. Coercion is analog while our laws tend to be binary, so there will never be a perfect fit. Yes (comparative) age can make coercion easier. Along with that, yes groups can often socially coerce individuals into behavior an individual (coercer) could not. Also re: incest and arranged marriages, family members can often coerce other family members into behavior some unrelated person might not be able to.

        So I think it is perfectly reasonable to have the law ‘watch out for’ coercion by groups and family members via additional legal restrictions. Not necessarily outright bans, but maybe some higher barriers to entry in marriage types where coercion historically occurs a lot more often.

    3. Except, by that argument, all marriage should be banned, since women (girls) are dragooned into monogamous marriages as well.

      I think the real problem is religious views towards multiple partnered marriages – these almost exclusively favour men having multiple partners, but not vice versa. That is the environment that leads to discrimination of women.

      Personally, I have no general problem with polyamorous, consensual relationships being recognised as marriages, but I do see untold complexities arising. For example, John is married to Jim and Rachel; but Rachel is also married to Bob and Bruce, while Jim is married to Elizabeth and so on.

      1. Plus you have tax problems: who files the joint return? Or can you file a triplicate return? Would that be giving the threesome an unfair advantage.

        1. That’s back to front. The tax system should adapt to reality, not the other way around.


      2. A bunch of marriage and tax laws would have to change with it, but I don’t see that as a particularly insurmountable problem. As a for instance, we already have a ‘head of household’ category in our tax structure, with the other spouse being treated something like a dependent (for tax purposes). I don’t see why we wouldn’t just extend that principle to multiple spouses. And if they don’t want to file jointly…well, that’s more business for tax attorneys and Turbo Tax. 🙂

  13. ” And we do after all, live in a modern world where such couples, made aware of the dangers of procreating could be aided with options of birth control, optional sterilization, optional donor pregnancies, adoption etc.”

    Unfortunately, a lot of people in this, “modern world” are still saddled with archaic belief systems that consider all forms of birth control to basically be “murder in advance”.

  14. The ‘it is bad for the children/gene pool’ argument against consanguineous marriages doesn’t hold water when non-related known carriers of a potentially disastrous genetic disorder are not prevented from breeding. I am not advocating state intervention in that space, but I have seen stories about couples having multiple pregnancies with the explicit knowledge that there was a high likelihood of an excruciating death for the resultant offspring.

  15. I was reading a rant against marriage equality recently when I had an epiphany about what they’re really worried about. Legalising gay marriage legitimises being gay. Instead of just living together, they can now be married and it suddenly becomes much easier to just accept gay people as a normal part of society, which makes stigmatising them, and oppressing them that much harder to do. In a couple of decades Christians’ diatribes against homosexuality will look so bizarre and inexplicable they may have to abandon the whole concept of gayness being a sin, in much the same way that divorce is hardly mentioned these days. Then who are they going to hate on? Who is left for them to feel effortlessly superior to?

  16. Yeah, that’s a position which is at least consistent. That’s what I can respect – a consistent position. I may not like it, but I can accept it, as long as it is consistent.

    I am puzzled by a lot of my liberal friends, who seem to not to see a contradiction between their opposition to marriages between siblings and support to gay marriage.

    I mean, personally I am against state sanctioning any type of marriage, but really all arguments for gay marraige apply for any kind of marraige (e.g. civil right to marry who you love and enjoy the privileges – why it should be civil right to love only one person, not two people?). I say it should be consistent. Once you accept gay marriage, you have no true logical arguments against marriages between three males, two males and a women, brother and sister or a male and two females. In a discussion above you can clearly see that, by people trying to argue against polygamy by mimicking cnoservative arguments against gay marriage and seemingly not even being aware about that). Of course, if marriage is not about children, then you cannot argue about deletorious effects for children and not being simultunaously for mandatory genetic tests for parents. You cannot claim with straight face that one type of love is a civil right, while another type of love is not. You cannot say that “marriage definition of male+female is wrong because marriage types have changed” and then claim “marriage is about two people loving each other” (or a variation of these “marrying one human is a civil right, but marrying two people is nto a civil right”).

    1. Actually, there are multiple secular arguments against polygamy. If you take the time to read through some of the comments you might even understand one or two!

      1. I have read the thread and I have seen none, except some minor quibblings that there would be need to change some inheritance laws and similar. These are not fundamental obstacles, nor there are sound logical arguments.

        If you think about any one in particular, please point me to the comment’s number.

        1. You seriously don’t see any possible issues with consent and coercion related to group marriage?

          Do you understand that social/peer pressure can be stronger the more people that are involved?

        2. Do you really need someone to explain to you what the issues are with polygamy?
          Unfortunately I can’t repair your education with a single comment over the internet- but perhaps if you look into the historical and traditional effects of polygamy on the lives of women you might learn something.

          Are you genuinely not capable of identifying problems with polygamy or is your comment simply an attempt at demagoguery?

          1. Stop the handwaving and veiled insults, what are the secular problems with polygamy as such? As distinct from the problems of authoritarian patriarchal theocracies, of course.


            1. Polygamy has to be analyzed in the form it actually exists, not in a dreamy hollywood version where three artists decide to buy a loft together.
              In the real world it’s an oppressive system that subjugates women. As the number of wives and children grow, resources diminish. Not just financial. That means less attention, less affection, less care. The women and children are put in a position where they must compete for those resources. In those same societies there’s also a problem of hierarchy and numbers. The powerful men take multiple wives while the younger men are often sidelined if not expelled from the community all together.

  17. The other side’s arguments always seem to rely on what Julian Savulescu calls the Yuck Factor. The religious use it all the time. I remember watching a debate between Lawrence Krauss and Hamza Tsortsis(a Muslim ‘philosopher’, who approves of the beheading of apostates – bear that last fact in mind) where Krauss absolutely annihilated Tsortsis – genuinely to an embarrassing degree, to the extent that I was physically wincing. And yet when it came to homosexuality Tsortsis made the slippery slope argument about incest, and Krauss set out his position that as long as it’d be consensual and contraceptives were used he’d have no rational reason to object…and it was just an automatic victory for Tsortsis.

    He’d made no rational argument against incest, no consequentialist case – he just effectively opened the Yuck Factor trapdoor and Krauss, because he’s honest and reasonable, walked straight in. The crowd, mainly pro-Tsortsis, just reacted in joyous, disgusted disbelief. All the reasoned arguments in the world wither when they’re up against those kind of completely unreflective, evolutionarily-programmed instincts.

    It’s thankfully got to the stage with homosexuality(at least in much of the west) that just using the argument from instinctive disgust is no longer good enough, which is why you hear all these religious people tying themselves in knots trying to rationalise a position which is, at root, still motivated by nothing more than a little voice in their head that goes ‘yuck’ every time they see a guy in hot pants.

  18. I basciically agree with the points of your porsts, indeed gay marriage may lead to multiple partner marriages, and as long as it’s consensual, that’s not a a bad thing.

    As a side point, however, people frequently dismiss ‘slippery slope’ as conspiracy talk, but in some cases it is a real risk. We see it in the way the government as eroded privacy, we see it in ratcheting abortion restrictions, we see it in government inserting itself into private activities where it has no business.

    Never assume that the slippery slope is a frivolous argument.

    1. The trouble is, that like appeals to authority, slippery slope very often *is* a frivolous argument, and one much beloved by the forces of repression.

      I think any use of a ‘slippery slope’ argument should be subject to close scrutiny and the person using it should be asked to provide reasons why their scenario is credible.

      ‘Ratcheting abortion restrictions’ is a case in point – isn’t the exact same ‘slippery slope’ argument used by anti-abortionists (‘pro-lifers’?). ‘If we allow abortions on demand it’ll be infanticide and compulsory euthanasia next’ yadda yadda…

      (I absolutely agree about Governments eroding privacy, by the way, but I feel that should be fought every step of the way, and not just by ‘slippery slope’ arguments.)


      1. In this case I don’t think its necessarily a slippery slope argument to argue that polyamory could lead to greater abuse of women. Because IMO we have decent empirical evidence that the predominant form of polyamory practiced by humans today is abusive towards young women.

        Yes, you could probably say the same thing about monogamy 100 year ago. That doesn’t change the fact that today, there is probably a lot more per capita abuse of young women in illegal Mormon communities and in Islamic countries that practice polygamy, compared to the amount of coercion of young women that goes on in today’s western monogamous marriages.

        1. “In this case I don’t think its necessarily a slippery slope argument to argue that polyamory could lead to greater abuse of women. Because IMO we have decent empirical evidence that the predominant form of polyamory practiced by humans today is abusive towards young women.”

          I agree. Your point (assuming it’s valid) is NOT a slippery-slope argument.

          What I was debating was slippery-slope arguments as such – I think they’re almost always suspect and could be better expressed giving actual evidence for the ‘risks’ if such exists.


        2. The predominant form of polyamory practiced by humans today is, as you point out, practiced by misogynistic communities of religious conservatives. So that seems a poor model for extrapolating to liberal Western communities.

          It seems more plausible to argue that since liberal Western monogamy is predominantly egalitarian, liberal Western polyamory will be as well.

          1. Well, we allow mysoginistic communities of religious conservatives to live freely in the US. Our laws need to account for how they will behave, not just how you and I will behave. If a practice works wonderfully for the 1% of polyamorous groups that are liberal secularists, and is abusive of young women in the other 99% of groups who happen to be ultraconservative Mormons, then its probably not a practice we should allow.

            Drinking age limits and speed limits aren’t put in place for the people who can handle drinking and handle driving a reasonable speed; they’re put in place for the people who can’t/won’t. The same is true for age of consent and age of marriage laws. I’m sure a lot of 16 year olds are mature enough to handle a relationship with an 18 year old; age of consent rules are not designed for them. I don’t see why it would be any different for polygamy laws. Or to “Rumsfeldify” the principle: we make law for the citizenry we have, not the citizenry we wish we had.

            1. I have no problem with establishing a reasonable age of consent. (My rule of thumb is that nobody should get married until they can afford to pay for the wedding themselves.)

              My objection was to the inference that since polygamy as practiced by outlaw sects in the US is abusive to women, we should expect a similar pattern of abuse from legalized polyamory. In other areas such as prostitution and recreational drug use, the usual argument is that legalization leads to less abuse and more humane treatment of the participants.

              1. In those cases the ‘abuse’ has to do with distribution of an illegal good or service. Legalizing the distribution kicks the stool out from under the crime syndicate doing the distribution. With young women and polygamy, the abuse happens in the institution itself regardless of whether its illegal (Mormon offshoots in the US) or legal (Saudi Arabia).

                Yeah there will probably be some normalizing aspect in the secretive Mormon communities that practice it. People might no longer be killed for threatening to leave/expose the community (as in Under the Banner of Heaven). But those communities will still pressure 18 year old girls to become part of the harem of a 40-year old man.

      2. The current state of the art in some circles of research into arguments makes that case that most of the traditional fallacies are much more “complicated” than is normally allowed for. For example,one should talk about “appear to irrelevant authority” and work on so-called “critical questions” to figure out whether or not the authority is relevant. Similarly, slippery slope is likely to be fallacious sometimes and not at others.

        1. “slippery slope is likely to be fallacious sometimes and not at others.”

          I agree with that. Unfortunately, it seems to be a form of argument that lends itself to dramatic and emotive (and frequently fallacious) expressions, more often than not – hence my instinctive suspicion of it.

          If we accept slippery-slope arguments, next thing we’ll be having witch-hunts and lynch-mobs for imaginary crimes – oops! I think I just did it 😉


  19. To digress from the theme, what about this:

    “Hindu group seeks statue on Arkansas Capitol grounds”


    Since the State government passed a law to place a copy of the Ten Commandments on the Capitol grounds, the Satanic Temple wants to add a statue of Baphomet, a goat-headed version of Satan, and the Universal Society of Hinduism have chimed in with Hanuman. I wish them luck.

    Note that the Ten Commandments isn’t being placed there for religious reasons, no sirree, it’s “about the historical, moral foundation of law, and (the law) specifically states that it is not an endorsement of a religion or a denomination”. Yeah right. Better add a statue of Hammurabi, then, too.


    1. These yahoos typically cite the Supreme Court’s two friezes as precedent for their monoliths, as the Supreme Court building does have Moses carved into it. But…

      1. The two SCOTUS carvings include Menes, Hammurabi, Moses, Solomon, Lycurgus, Solon, Draco, Confucius, Augustus, Justinian, Muhammad, Charlemagne, John of England, Louis IX of France, Hugo Grotius, Sir William Blackstone, John Marshall, and Napoleon.

      2. Only commandments 6-10 appear with/on the Moses frieze. The sculptor explicitly left out the more religious commandments.

      That is how you honor religious lawmakers in a secular manner.

  20. Hello Grania and everyone else. I’ve enjoyed reading “Slippery Slopes & Whataboutery” and the comments it generated. Also, I’d like to thank Dr. Coyne for allowing me to post previously and for not thinking it crazy or intemperate.

    You got the gist but there’s a bit missed along the way. Same sex marriage isn’t a gateway drug only because polygamy and consensual incest are still illegal. Take away the “il” in “illegal” and you’d see that in fact, it is an unavoidable gateway drug. There are polygamists and consanguinists who’d like to marry and have their relationships viewed as normal as any other but are prohibited from doing so.

    Will the numbers marrying equal or exceed those of homosexual couples rushing to the altar? Will it signal the end of society? Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, it’s irrelevant. Why isn’t Dr. Coyne or anyone else who waves a rainbow flag in support of equal rights showing the same fervor and sympathy for polygamists and consanguinists is what I’m after. *That* is the gist of my previous post.

    It seems hypocritical to wag one’s finger at the intolerance of the religious when they argue “same sex marriage is a slippery slope” then turn around and admit in forums and blogs that yeah, well, shucks they’re actually right and that we should be as enlightened as Sweden on the matter. It only gets worse when having admitted no objection to polygamy or consensual incest absolutely no support is lent to the cause of either. No flag waving. No rainbows photoshopped over images of folks (or cattle!) of either persuasion. No talk of equality. Nada. Why is that? Where is the “I support consensual incest” post from you, Dr. Coyne or anyone else?

    If the “ick” factor is keeping you from taking up their cause then you’re as bad as the religious or non-religious who cried “ick” at the thought of same sex marriage. The charge of hypocisy would be earned. This does not apply to you or the others here who’ve no ick problem. But it does apply to *some* here and *many many more* out there currently charging opponents of same sex marriage with “phobia” this and “hate” that.

    But if not the “ick” factor then what’s keeping so many proponents of equality from actually fighting for equal rights for *all* as they did/do for homosexuals?

    Dr. Coyne previously asked what harm could come from same sex marriage. I propose at least two.

    First, I’m of a mind that associating same sex marriage with polygamy and consensual incest generates the kind of backlash that can put a nice dent on gainful employment and career. There is evidence of this already. And from my experience the ones generating the bile aren’t the religious folk, but proponents of same sex marriage. In every discussion or debate I’ve had the reaction is the same: anger, hostility, threats. 99% want anything but for gay marriage linked to polygamy or consensual incest.

    I’d love to see a celebrity or someone of Dr. Coyne’s stature try to move that flag forward a bit just to see the reaction. And if that celebrity or Dr. Coyne got the reaction I’m suggesting, one could safely imagine the effect on the not so famous.
    The loss of free speech or retribution for excercising it, then, are one potential harm.

    Second, there are some districts who’ve taken the bull by the horns and introduced same sex marriage and LGBTQ issues into public schools. If there are no legitimate objections to polygamy and consensual incest should these not be added to the mix? Shouldn’t children be taught or at least have materials that affirm polygamy and consensual incest as legitimate attractions and relationships?

    No matter how I slice this particular pie I can’t find a reasonable objection to presenting polygamy and consanguinaity in public schools *if* gay marriage and LGBTQ issues are being introduced to students. I can see this only as a harm and a great one at that.

    A word on the Swedes: they allow marriage between siblings who share only *one* parent; that is, stepbrothers and stepsisters. This is not the consensual incest we are discussing. In either case, the Swedish remain only half as enlightened as Szopeno @ comment 22 above.

    Looking back on what I’ve written it’s a jumbled, somewhat erratic mess. It is no less rambling than my previous entry. You can blame all of it on the abysmal state of public education. I’ll just blame my too-damned-tight shoes.

    Apologies to you and Dr. Coyne if any of this claptrap offends. ‘Twasn’t my intent. I appreciate your honesty. It’s awful rare in this kind of discussion.

    Finally, I’m interested in knowing in what way Dr. Coyne found my previous (and likely THIS!) post “misguided”.

    Gracias and regards,

    1. Why isn’t Dr. Coyne or anyone else who waves a rainbow flag in support of equal rights showing the same fervor and sympathy for polygamists and consanguinists is what I’m after. *That* is the gist of my previous post.

      I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, those two forms of marriage carry with them potential issues with informed consent that do not crop up for monogamous same sex marriage between adults. See my replies to @6 and @15 for my more detailed opinion.

      Dr. Coyne previously asked what harm could come from same sex marriage. I propose at least two.

      First, I’m of a mind that associating same sex marriage with polygamy and consensual incest generates the kind of backlash that can put a nice dent on gainful employment and career.

      You have completely missed the boat here. JAC’s challenge to you was to ask what harm is caused by gay people marrying. You have claimed that advocates of unpopular causes may face some social opprobrium – loss of job, etc. Yes that’s possible. But it has nothing to do with Jerry’s question.

      No matter how I slice this particular pie I can’t find a reasonable objection to presenting polygamy and consanguinaity in public schools *if* gay marriage and LGBTQ issues are being introduced to students.

      1. SSM between adults is no different than opposite monogamous marriage between adults in terms of informed consent. Historically however, poly marriage does seem to be different in that young women are regularly coerced into marriages – well, at least far more often than they are coerced into monogamous marriages in the west.

      2. You seem to be intentionally trying to tar the baby here by forcing teachers to promote an idea that is currently illegal. Frankly, a HS social studies teacher’s job is not to promote SSM, polygamy, consanguinuity, or straight marriage or remaining single. Its their job to teach the facts (the former two are legal, the latter aren’t), to teach the government’s position on those facts, and in some cases to teach the historical background to why we arrived at laws we have today. If they get a question about whether polygamy ought to be legal, the proper answer is probably the teacher’s best standby: “that’s an interesting question – what do you think?”

      1. oops after reordering my list my ‘former’ makes no sense. The first one and last two are legal; the middle two are not.

      2. szoreno below addresses the red herring of consent.
        Retribution for expressing opposition is a harm stemming from gay marriage.
        Contrary to what you believe a K-12 teacher’s job is the fact remains that some districts have made available material that is LGBTQ and SSM friendly. If *consensual* polygamy and *consensual* are given legal marriage status, and there is no good logical reason to deny it that, then they should also be represented in public schools along with SSM and LGBTQ.

        1. Retribution for expressing opposition is a harm stemming from gay marriage.

          No, that’s the heckler’s veto argument. Using that logic, the 9/11 attacks is a harm stemming from western democracy. In both your marriage and my terrorist example, it’s invalid. The people doing the retribution are wholly responsible for their actions. The gays getting married and the bankers doing the banking are not responsible for those other people’s responses to their lifestyles.

          some districts have made available material that is LGBTQ and SSM friendly.

          Yes, because the government’s policy and legal position is that discrimination is illegal. Social science teachers teach (in part) such government policy positions.

          If *consensual* polygamy and *consensual* are given legal marriage status, and there is no good logical reason to deny it that, then they should also be represented in public schools along with SSM and LGBTQ.

          As a hypothetical future claim, yes: if the government legalizes poly marriage, then yes social science teachers will almost certainly be required to teach that poly marriage is policy-wise and legally okay.

          However you have snuck your conclusion into the meat of your argument: that middle bit (“…and there is no…”) is what you’re trying to prove. I have argued across several posts as to why that conclusion is at best premature (and at worst, just plain wrong), and you have given no substantive response to any of those posts. Not one. The best you’ve been able to do is point me to some other speaker (szorenzo), to whom I’ve responded. But you yourself have given no cogent counter to my points. You simply keep asserting what you are trying to prove.

          1. Wow, my sincere apologies for not closing those blockquotes correctly. Here it is again, using italics instead of blockquotes just to be safe:

            Retribution for expressing opposition is a harm stemming from gay marriage.

            No, that’s the heckler’s veto argument. Using that logic, the 9/11 attacks is a harm stemming from western democracy. In both your marriage and my terrorist example, it’s invalid. The people doing the retribution are wholly responsible for their actions. The gays getting married and the bankers doing the banking are not responsible for those other people’s responses to their lifestyles.

            some districts have made available material that is LGBTQ and SSM friendly.

            Yes, because the government’s policy and legal position is that discrimination is illegal. Social science teachers teach (in part) such government policy positions.

            If *consensual* polygamy and *consensual* are given legal marriage status, and there is no good logical reason to deny it that, then they should also be represented in public schools along with SSM and LGBTQ.

            As a hypothetical future claim, yes: if the government legalizes poly marriage, then yes social science teachers will almost certainly be required to teach that poly marriage is policy-wise and legally okay.

            However you have snuck your conclusion into the meat of your argument: that middle bit (“…and there is no…”) is what you’re trying to prove. I have argued across several posts as to why that conclusion is at best premature (and at worst, just plain wrong), and you have given no substantive response to any of those posts. Not one. The best you’ve been able to do is point me to some other speaker (szorenzo), to whom I’ve responded. But you yourself have given no cogent counter to my points. You simply keep asserting what you are trying to prove.

    2. Finally, I’m interested in knowing in what way Dr. Coyne found my previous (and likely THIS!) post “misguided”.

      What’s misguided is the implication that if we legalize SSM, we must then legalize (or advocate legalizing) polyamory and consanguinuity to remain consistent to our principles.

      This is not the case. At least, not to me; other people may have different opinions. As I’ve said above, its not clear to me that the three types of marriage are the same in terms of informed consent, so I think its perfectly reasonable to advocate for SSM while not necessarily advocating for the latter two.

      1. The *exact* same could be said of heterosexual and homosexual marriage. And in all cases it is irrelevant to what I’m arguing.

        1. Its not irrelevant. If social convention A leads to 1% person abuse and social convention B leads to 80% person abuse, the government has a perfectly legitimate basis for criminalizing B while allowing A even if, in theory, they involve similar rights. Ground truth matters. How people really use these various institutions matters, not just how well they can work in theory. If the rate of abuse of women is higher in poly marriage than in monogamous marriage – and empirically, this seems to be the case – then the government has a legitimate basis for regulating it. Just as if drug A use causes 10x the number of car accidents as drug B use, the government has a legitimate basis for more heavily regulating use of drug A.

  21. Nightglare @ 4 – yes. exactly. but why?

    Randy Schenck & Mark Sturtevant @ 6 – see responses from infiniteimprobablit & musical beef & John Scanlon.

    Acharchno @ 8 – I’d like to think I haven’t disappointed but likely have.

    daniel bertini @ 12 – just about every married man I know agrees with you.

    Henry Fitzgerald @ 14 – you’re incorrect. There are siblings and parents/children who would like to marry. The stigma attached to their relationships keeps them far from the public eye. They’ve too much to lose.

    Bill turner @ 18 – Exactly why “siblings will have handicapped children” isn’t a sufficient reason for withholding the right to marry from them.

    Marella @ 19 – BINGO! And if you legitimize homosexual attractions you must, as both a matter of logic and fairness, legitimize polygamous and sibling/parent/child attraction as well.

    szopeno @ 22 – agreed.

    Saul Sorrell-Till – I’m far less concerned with the “yuck” factor from the religious in regards to homosexuality than the “yuck” factor from the non religious to incest. And I’m even more concerned with the disdain for the handicapped and women’s reproductive rights shown by Krauss. Why should a woman have to use contaceptives because he doesn’t like the risk of her having a handicapped child? Isn’t it her body to do with as she pleases? And how does he get to decide what handicaps are permissible to bring into the world?

    1. “And I’m even more concerned with the disdain for the handicapped and women’s reproductive rights shown by Krauss. Why should a woman have to use contaceptives because he doesn’t like the risk of her having a handicapped child? Isn’t it her body to do with as she pleases? And how does he get to decide what handicaps are permissible to bring into the world?”

      You seem to have just put forward both sides of several arguments. Perhaps you can please be clarify you position on the issues, and the issues those issues bring up.

      Are you for handicapped infants being born, or against handicapped infants being born?
      Should women be allowed to have babies if the fetus is handicapped?
      Or should they be forced to abort them?
      Because your own statements would lead one to believe you would want them aborted, considering the abhorrence you show towards poor handicapped children.

      Are you for birth control or against birth control?

      Are you for only female birth control, or only male birth control? Or both having the ability to use birth control?

      Are you for humans having autonomy over their own body, or against it?

      Are you for humans having individual responsibility for their actions?

      Do you know how much greater the chances are of first cousins having handicapped babies over unrelated people? Should they be allowed to get married since the odds of their having children with problems are greater than non related couples?

      Exactly how distant should two people be related before they can marry?

      a brother and sister can create a baby without getting married. The problem you are concerned with already exists. Allowing them to marry does nothing to reduce the issue that you are concerned about.

      In other words, we already rely on the brothers and sisters who have sex to use birth control, get an abortion, or deal with the consequences of their actions.

      It doesn’t seem to be a large problem in our society.

      1. Michael Michaels, I’m rather short on time at the moment. Please re-read my posts and I think you’ll find most of what you asked answered there.

    2. “I’m far less concerned with the “yuck” factor from the religious in regards to homosexuality than the “yuck” factor from the non-religious to incest.”

      Really? You’re far more concerned about a kind of inequality(the lack of rights for the incestuous) that affects an absolutely infinitesimal fraction of the number of people who are affected by gay inequality?
      You’re far more concerned about the lack of action in regards to incest even though there are virtually no incest campaigners demanding their rights(this is striking – even paedophiles are more visible in organising themselves in order to campaign for their rights, so it’s unlikely that societal opprobrium is stopping incest campaigners from coming out.)?
      And you’re far less concerned about the religious ‘yuck factor’ towards homosexuals even though it results in gay people being thrown off tower blocks, buried alive, stoned to death, beheaded, denied employment, beaten, disowned, etc.? I find the kind of posturing you’re engaging in irritating. Unless you really do feel that way, in which case I seriously question your priorities.

      1. Google consanguineous marriage. Read up on the state of the issue. Then google those interested or involved in such relationships. Take into account this kind of relationship is as taboo as homosexuality was 50, 60 years ago. Take also into account that you’re willing to deny “equal rights” to people because they’re only a fraction of the population, just as the LGBTQ community is. Finally, it says something that you seem to believe that rights are only for those you deem sufficiently willing to risk everything.

  22. “… even though the arguments against them are the same as the ones against same sex marriage.”

    Somehow the commenter fails to mention that they were also the arguments used against interracial marriage.

  23. In response to Ipadron’s (13 July 9:25am) proposition that if gay marriage is legalised, so also should consanguineous marriage and polyamory (multiple parter marriage) be legalised. I would argue that in a humane society these are not compatible. Firstly homosexuality is an orientation which does not implicitly oppress others, whereas I would argue the other two arrangements are highly likely to lead to the oppression of others and can not be allowed to be legal (in the case of consanguineous marriage, certainly not in terms of marriage within first degrees of relation between parent and child because illegality will maintain a taboo effect that is necessary here to maintain a sense of safety for children within the family and reduce the risk of child abuse, and the risk of genetic abnormalities. Unlike the other two factors, homosexuality between partners – even where serial monogamy – is victimless as well as consensual – it does not lead to a high likelihood of humiliation, exploitation, burden or subordination further down the track. Historically religions have been enforcement mechanisms for norms of sexual behaviour and long term sexual relationships. Traditionally, the consequences of infidelity and illegitimate birth has been placed squarely on unmarried women – who have been abandoned to raise the child or executed for infanticide if left without means with an illegitimate child (or for infidelity if married in Muslim societies). (Hardness of Heart, hardness of Life: The stain of human infanticide. Larry S. Milner, Morris Publishing)

    Polyamory in reality is almost always oppressive (humiliating, exploitative and representative of a power relationship) because in reality all marriages represent a lasting commitment – which logically in terms of equality is between two people and where children are involved the stakes are even higher because of the huge investment of care by (usually) the mother and the requirement the child be supported financially as well either by the father or by extended family or by state support structures or by social arrangements that allow the woman to earn money, utilise child care and raise the child and sleep sometime. In other words the relationship involves long term commitments and interests of all the parties involved including likely children, not just the current sexual attraction of the parties involved. This is true whether the polyamory involves bisexuality, or long term infidelity (usually a mistress) with another unmarried party, but the point is elevating such practise to the status of marriage removes all taboos on abuse of relationships and clears the way for totally subordinating relationships.

    I understand polyamory is a committed, long term multi-partner relationship with more than two partners involved, not necessarily involving children and not necessarily for life. Marriage is a formalisation of a sexual commitment which publicly signals a committed and long term union, which in the past, but not necessarily today, is intended to produce children. In the absence of consistent use of contraception heterosexual marriage, will naturally lead to pregnancies. Legal status gives recognition and helps to remove any taboos banning a particular type of union – but the point is that marriage is a public signal of long term commitment which has public legal status. Infidelity has always existed and is often understandable even though it is hurtful. With the advent of contraception, responsible adults can still indulge in serial casual relationships prior to the decision to have a child. In many countries today, couples with children choose not to marry, and if they do marry, most choose a civil marriage. Modern society makes allowances for sex before marriage, and in countries like Australia rates legal entitlements to the partners in cohabitation without marriage for over one year in terms of property. However if there is a child and the relationship ends it will be more difficult to secure equitable terms of care and maintenance that are in the best interests of the child and fair (or realistic) for the partners. Hence most couples in an informal relationship get married, whether by civil marriage or religious marriage, once they have a child, or once one partner is pregnant. We have now long had no fault divorce in Western countries which either party can instigate even if the other doesn’t agree; our courts also grant custody according to who is judged the better primary carer for the children; usually the woman, with the other party required to make some form of maintenance payment, and usually given partial custody. This arrangement is humane but still requires legal responsibility and commitment from the partners for each original and subsequent relationship involving children. Polyamory implies no clear trail of responsibility.

    In other words, if people can’t stand a marriage or are overpoweringly attracted to someone else they can leave but they also legally have responsibilities. Some people will rather have affairs within marriage; but again these are a calculus in case their spouse is so annoyed they leave. The fact is, longer term sexual relationships, especially heterosexual ones, involve consequences, responsibilities and adjustments, because of the chance or likelihood of children and the need to agree either on the wellbeing of the child or on sexual behaviour to avoid pregnancy. At any rate any long term relationship involves financial and domestic decisions and personal adjustments which accompanies and is assisted by the sexual element but whose longer term satisfaction is not a matter of temporary infatuation. Marriage becomes unworkable with more than two partners, and in fact needs a controlling individual – just like in Victorian England, one party, the man, controlled custody and finances, and quite often could have a mistress too. Thus a special legal status to polyamory – polygamy or polyandry as opposed to current modern arrangements for monogous marriage with possibility of divorce and settlement – depends on intense patriarchy and/or dissolution of familial responsibilities with all the social problems and suffering this entails.

    The fact is that wherever infidelity within a childbearing relationship is promoted (eg Stalinist Soviet Union) it is usually males to benefit to the humiliation, poverty and exhaustion of the spouse. In the Soviet Union, where female labour was desperately needed, but marital fidelity was considered bourgeois, when the birth rate consequently went down, the authorities eventually began to discourage infidelity and to emphasise the importance of family. (1) Polygamy, and the much rarer polyandry, are inherently unequal. This site has already exposed the abuses that happen within polygamous Mormon marriages. Polygamy in Islam is exploitative to women (I could go on but this is a post not a book), and of course leaves many young men without wives. Girls as young as nine can be married to old men; the man can simply announce divorce.
    (1) Women, Work and Family in the Soviet Union, Book by Gail Warshofsky Lapidus; M.E. Sharpe, 1982. accessed on Questia site 2 January 2010.
    “Ideology is Destiny?”, by Rochelle Ruthchild, Review of Women and Ideology in the Soviet Union, by Mary Buckley, Ann Arbor, MI, University of Michigan Pres, 1989 in Jstor, http://www.jstor.org/pss/4020742, accessed 2 January 2010.

    Regarding Consanguinous marriage, I have no problem with cousin marriage, though the parties should be made aware that there is some elevated genetic risk to their offspring. However marriage within the first degree (ie marriage between siblings or parent and offspring) is socially unacceptable and needs the taboo of illegality. I say that both because of the very high genetic risk (and no one has an unlimited right to anything – just as people shouldn’t have a right to give their child dangerous medications for some religious reason) but probably even more important is the potential for normalising sexual abuse. It could normalise sexual abuse within the family because it could not be argued it was not consensual given the child is in a relatively powerless situation, and the teasing and fluctuation in relations between siblings. Many cultures have a taboo against immediate family incest and I think there are actually times when taboos serve a good purpose. Regarding marriage between siblings – mixed feelings on that one – abuse can happen between siblings and again its an issue of security within the home. Its possible the marriage is because she’s pregnant and feels under pressure from the family to cover it up so pretends its consensual. I suppose you could make it a minimum age of 18 for both parties if its siblings, and on condition that no current or prior pregnancy resulting between the parties.

    A humane society must be concerned about the freedom from material want of its people and their freedom from subordination – that is – from the oppression and exploitation that I was talking about earlier. However this has to be taken in context so that interests are judged in terms of the relative number of people benefitting and the degree of benefit or pain offsetting or adding to that.

    1. “However marriage within the first degree (ie marriage between siblings or parent and offspring) is socially unacceptable and needs the taboo of illegality.” – Not really.
      Given the existence of strong social taboos and the instinctive ‘yuck factor’ that prevent the vast majority of potential cases from arising; the fact that assault, abuse and sex with minors are already illegal; and a good argument that reproducing with a known first-degree relative is a form of reckless endangerment of the progeny (who certainly ought to be able to sue for damages resulting from foreseeable genetic defects); the ‘need’ for specific laws against consanguineous marriage has not been demonstrated at all. Is it necessary to prevent the long-separated siblings who fall in love from cohabiting, or to pry into their sex lives, if they remain childless or adopt? Should the law automatically dissolve a marriage between partners who didn’t even know they were related, and society treat them with the utter (and traditionally terminal) horror of a Sophocles tragedy? No, it’s obviously inhumane as well as legally superfluous.
      However, the civilized world is ready for gay marriage right now, so there’s no need for it to wait for any other cases.

      1. I still think coercion comes into play here; the desire of offspring to please their parents can be so immense, subtle, and unconscious that you would have a hard time convincing me that a parent-child ‘marriage’ was ever truly consensual. This is the ‘boss/teacher asking you out’ problem, but on steroids. So quantitatively greater in terms of social pressure that it is reasonable to treat it as qualitatively differently. The same would be true to a lesser extent with siblings; your sibs feelings can exert a social pressure on you that a strangers’ feelings mostly cannot.

        As the degree of familial bonding lessens, then yeah I think the risk of coercion goes down. For cousins or maybe ‘separated at birth’ situations, I would likely favor something analogous to the legal ability of kids to emancipate themselves. I.e., I’d keep such things illegal but allow people to go to court to get an exception, allowing the courts to adjudicate whether such marriages are non-coercive based on the facts of the individual situation.

        Should the law automatically dissolve a marriage between partners who didn’t even know they were related, and society treat them with the utter (and traditionally terminal) horror of a Sophocles tragedy? No, it’s obviously inhumane as well as legally superfluous.

        Hard cases make bad law. I have little problem with a general law that isn’t a perfect fit to extremely rare cases. As I said above, I think a reasonable way to deal with these cases is to allow such people to do the equivalent of legal emancipation. IMO it would be a mistake to make all parent-child marriages legal just because illegality is unfair in the hypothetical ‘separated at birth’ scenario.

        1. This doesn’t address sibling relationships nor parent/child relationships that are *not* coerced. Coercion is also possible in heterosexual and homosexual marriages. Finally, look up “genetic attraction” or “genetic sexual attraction”.

          1. Yes it does, in two ways.

            First, under my system, such couples can go to court and convince a judge their relationship is consensual.

            Secondly, I have said several times now that no law is going to be a perfect fit. I recognize that any law will have ‘casualties’ – truly consensual relationships that suffer because some general law makes them illegal. But this is not a valid argument against making such laws. Unless you are willing to allow 30 year olds to marry 8 year olds because its possible some such relationships are consensual, you have to agree that a general law with some casualties may be the best legal solution. And if you agree to that, then your argument against incestuous marriage and poly marriage prohibitions falls apart.

            1. Why should anyone have to go to court to prove they are acting ‘of their own free will’? That way lies paradox. Let the state prove coercion if it can, or fuck off.

    2. I disagree with all the arguments.
      (1) Making polygamous marriages legal does not endosre exploitation of humiliation. This is jsut your opinion. The fact that marriage in some backward societies means exploitation of women is not an argument against same sex marriage. The fact that in the past control of parents over the children was often extended to the point of parent having right to sell and kill their children does not mean children should be takien away from the parents. Moreover, what e.g. _I_ am saying is about also marriages between, for example, three males or three females. Why three males cannot engage into a marriage, if two males could? A weaker partner in a marriage can always be subject of humiliation and exploitation, no matter what is his/her sex. Exploitation surely is likelier if husband is older than his wife – should you argue that marriages between 50 years old males and 20 yeasr old females should be delegalised?

      (2) Legalising marriage between siblings does not legalise abuse, just as marriages being legal does not legalise domestic violence. You do not fight marital rape and domestic violence by delegalising marriages. You address actual crimes and you put institutions and laws fighting those crimes and preventing societal attitudes which could enable them.

      (3) If marriages are to be prevented whenever the risk of bearing children with handicaps is too high, then you should advocate for mandatory genetical tests for all marriages. Note also, that risk for children increases with age of spouses – should you argue that elder people should have no right to marry?

      You should be consistent. If you are concerned about some forms of marriages may lead to oppresion of one party, then you should address all possible forms of marriage possibly leading to oppression. If you are concerned about genetic risk, you should be concerned about all cases of nicreased genetic risk. If you are concerned about increasing abuse, you should be concerned about all forms of abuse (as I met some people in my life who argued that marriage enables domestic abuse to exist and is form of patriarchal oppression, maybe all marriage should be made illegal). If you are say that hey, in this case I am concerned, but in this case I am not, you are basically revoking that your reasons are not really those which you have stated, but rather you created those reasons after you had preformed opinion about poly-any marriages or consaguinous.

      As I wrote, I don’t really care which way it goes, as long as it is consistent. I have “yuck” factor about homosexual and incest marriages, but I can accept both as being legal (or being illegal, I don’t really care) – after all, I have also a “yuck” factor about old pricks marrying young females. What I cannot accept is lack of consistency.

      1. Why three males cannot engage into a marriage, if two males could?

        Because two people can exert more social pressure on someone than one person can. Three can exert more pressure than two. And so on. This does not mean that all polyamorous marriages are coercive nor does it mean all monogamous marriages are not, but it does mean that as the group size goes up, our suspicion of whether coercion might be involved should go up. From the State’s perspective, it means a statistically higher percent of such unions will likely be coercive rather than consensual.

        As I said in reply to #6, this effect is analog while our laws tend to be binary, so there will never be a perfect fit; no law will prevent all ‘truly coercive’ relationships while allowing all ‘truly consensual’ ones. However, like with speed limits or age of consent laws, I see no problem with society setting a limit on that sliding scale with the goal of preventing most of the coercive/abusive types of marriage while trying to preserve as much individual freedom as it can. For me, that means setting a higher age limit for polyamory and/or having a few states try it out for a number of years, observing the impact on people’s lives, and then setting federal law based on (in part) the empirical results. If it turns out that we, as a society, can do polyamory without a high rate of abuse of young women, great. Legalize it across the country after we know that. If a trial period shows that we can’t, that (for example) 8 out of every 10 polyamorous marriages are 40-year-old religious fundamentalist men using theocratic social pressure on young women to produce harems, keep it illegal.

        1. We already have the answer to that. From what I understand, 18 year old girls have still not formed an association to fight for their right to marry elderly Mormon men.
          I’m also under the impression any and all efforts for polygamy are led by religious groups. Not women, not gays, not even leprechauns- just patriarchal religious communities where the patriarch gets to choose to have multiple wives.

        2. This is just going to be a batting game but various points to Szopeno, Ipadron and John Scanlon.

          I reiterate. Re Polyamory. Individual sex acts are often purely fun with no intention and minimal risk of pregnancy but Heterosexual sex does (ahem) have a very strong tendency to produce children in the long run. Marriage involves legal provisions (financial, property, powers of attorney, wills, obligations of care if there are children). Serious obligations and need for a framework of obligations doesnt come into play even for an unmarried person person having lots of relationships (even simultaneously) who if the relationships aren’t gay takes steps to ensure one or other partners has contraception or is definitely infertile. Some partners will get hurt if they form an emotional attachment – especially when multiple relationships are going on at one time – but this is not an issue seriously affecting multiple people or the life prospects or even survival of children. As also mentioned earlier – where there is no socially recognised pact or strong custom of economic or social support structures for a child (e.g. illegitimate relationships in traditionalist pre modern societies where the woman is likely to be blamed and deserted) the child is often given away with little chance of survival or even killed (Larry S. Miller, Hardness of heart; hardness of life. Moreover even in gay relationships simultaneous sex with multiple partners may be fun for a while but it is likely to lead to a lot of emotional pain further down the track. There’s a fine line between polyamory and using people. Just like a triangle stands for power relationships. In the case of heterosexual polyamory where theres one of the one sex and lots of the other – well the more people at the bottom the more unequal it is. This applies whether the polyamory is polygamous or polyandrous, though the patriarchal polyandry example I gave was in a low tech society without special valuation on women’s work and pre enlightenment values and circumstances – in which case women are weak because they are such a minority in society as a whole due to female infanticide in this case and valued work requiring significant physical strength on the other. It stands to reason polyamory is unequal. No need for legal tests.

          There are always some people unhappy with a law – just because some people are unhappy with it doesn’t mean it isn’t overall humane – as I explained at the end of earlier post and which is ignored. And on a flippant note; just because some people might want to pick their nose everywhere and all the time should a law be passed to grant everyone an *absolute* right to do this?

          Regarding the argument that child abuse is illegal and so legalising polyamory (or for that matter incest) won’t create non consensual or abusive relationships. I think this is disingenuous. In the case of polyamory – marital relationships require rules because they necessarily involve commitments – in childless relationships its to care for each other in sickness and health and deal with property – and where children are involved to care for the child. Social expectations are inherently involved; the law crystallises some key elements of obligations and social expectations do the rest. A polyamorous marriage will still have expectations of provision and care to the parties – however expectations will come to be unequal because one person is in charge and the others will necessarily have smaller voice. Moreover polyamorous marriages (at least polygamous ones) historically tend to have lots of children – so more mouths to feed and financially support for the one provider. Or you could get the women to work and be carer, taking turns caring for each others children, but there is a history of jealousy and rivalry between spouses of polygamous relationships even extended to children of rival spouses
          Kooshyar Karimi Fatal Secrets
          Regarding incest – enough real abuse goes on now that is not reported because of the childs feelings of shame or because they are afraid of the consequences – to other family members and to themselves – if they do report. If incest is illegal in the first place it places a barrier to it happening in the first place, where I said before, the more powerful party can get the weaker party to pretend its consensual for fear of consequences, and then even outsiders (teachers, other siblings, the other parent) reporting it cant do anything about it.

          Another post argued that taboos have no place in rational social discourse. Steven Pinker (and neurophysicists generally) point out that emotions are motivators that colour our memories and responses and thus our beliefs and actions. Attitudes are necessary to guide social action. Thus whilst laws can help to change a culture, they are ineffective if the culture does not slowly change to reflect beliefs embodied in the law. Laws should change according to the survival requirements of society and what freedoms it can promote and actions it prescribes to the extent they do not materially harm or substantially oppress without a pressing reason of actual social survival (eg a demonstrable in terms of very high likelihood argument for environmental scarcity or defence security reason). This is entirely rational because it serves – overall a humane purpose. Absolute human rights are not humane or rational because they are context free. Interests have to be balanced overall by context and impact in terms of number and severity on people in society, – sometimes also on the very viability of society itself. Thus women in modern society have freedoms unimaginable in the first half of the twentieth century because of the state of the economy, and the fact that physical strength is no longer a major contributor to this and the society can provide paid child care, and due to viable family planning. Modern society has made these things possible.

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