John Tierney Backs Polygamy as HBO Series Debuts

By: E&P Staff

With the heralded HBO debut this Sunday of the polygamy drama “Big Love,” pundits and experts are weighing in on the practice. While the series reportedly offers an often humorous and sympathetic look at the husband and his three (naturally lovely) wives, many have issued reminders of the well-documented abuses, such as incest a child exploitation. The first “Big Love,” in fact, briefly introduces a 14-year-old wife of a “prophet.”

It also frankly exposes the need for viagra in such situations.

But in his New York Times column today, libertarian John Tierney asks, “Who’s Afraid of Polygamy?” The answer: Not Tierney. He calls it “an arrangement that can make sense for some people in some circumstances….an institution that has been around for so long must have had something going for it.” And he complains that nowadays “the monogamous majority can safely proclaim its moral superiority and outlaw the practice for everyone else.”

An estimated 30,000 to 40,000 Americans live in polygamous marriages in and around Utah.

Responding to one critique of the practice, Tierney writes: “Some opponents of polygamy call it the exploitation of women by rich men, and that’s true if the wives are coerced into the marriages. But many wives have willingly chosen it.” He then cites as authorities women in African he once interviewed. They told him, “it was better to share one prosperous husband than to marry someone else without land, cows or a job.” He claims, “That’s the way social scientists figure it, too.”

Polygamy, he declares, “isn’t necessarily worse than the current American alternative: serial monogamy.” He quotes a woman in Utah who shared her hubby with seven others but enjoyed the shared day care arrangement.

“If I’m dog-tired and stressed out, I can be alone and guilt-free,” she explained in a speech to the National Organization for Women. “It’s a rare day when all eight of my husband’s wives are tired and stressed at the same time.” She said polygamy “offers an independent women a real chance to have it all” and represented “the ultimate feminist lifestyle.”

Tierney comments: “She won’t persuade many American women, feminists or otherwise. But if a few consenting adults like her still want to practice polygamy, there’s no reason to stop them.”

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