Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thoughts on Polygamous Lifestyles

I was thumbing through "Escape" by Carolyn Jessop and got online to look up what her sister wives and husband looked like so I could put faces with the pictures. (Interestingly, to me, is that none of the photos in her book include her "spouses," and even the pictures of her children were obviously taken anywhere other than on Merril's property. Legal injunction or personal choice?) This brought me to a lot of articles and websites and I spent several hours pouring over them. There were opinions from both sides, and I found myself wanting to leave replies to others comments without wanting to waste the time or space on people who wouldn't appreciate it, so I'm doing it here. I'm going to start by saying that there are many different types of polygamous lifestyles, and maybe I'll address more than one, maybe even without rambling and going on forever. That last part is highly unlikely.

First point I want to make is that marriage at the tender age of 16 is allowed is just about every country in the world, including the United States, as long as there is parental consent. In some places that age is even lower, sometimes as young as 12. In fact, in some countries, including South Africa, Jordan, and Scotland, you don't even need parental consent to marry younger than 18. The concept of marriageable age being the age of majority is an extremely recent development. That doesn't make old men having sex with teenagers right, it just means it's not a new concept. Not just that, it's an extremely old concept. An older man is wealthier and has more prestige (obviously in general) and therefore when he has a need to marry of course he prefers a young, beautiful woman who has many childbearing years before her to a woman his own age who is going to hit menopause in the next decade and is at an increased risk for pregnancy complications. They are called trophy wives for a reason. In years past, when women didn't contribute income to the family, marriage was something a man planned for. He had to have a job, a house, a means to support a family, and not all men even wanted that, much less were capable of providing it. And when I say he "had" to have those things, that was because a woman generally needed parental approval for the marriage, if not legally then to avoid being disowned. Arranged marriages were extremely common place. Marriage wasn't about love, it was about continuing the family line, breeding with other ones, and daughters were viewed as a means to an end, being legally unable to continue the family line in many cases. I admit, I'm digging back in history quite a bit. My mindset is in the 14-1800s, but I'll give some examples. Henry VIII's wives, with the exception of his last, continually got younger and younger. Anne Boleyn was 10-16 years younger than Henry (there is continual debate over whether she was the older or younger sister and birth years and yada yada, I digress) and he began pursuing her when she was 16. The got married when she was 24 and he was 42. Bet you didn't guess that watching the Tudors on Showtime. Jane Seymour was 17 years his junior. Anne of Cleves, 24. Catherine Howard was 30 years younger than he was, and they were married when she was 19. Tudor history provides us with other great examples, such as Mary Tudor, Henry's sister, who was 18 when she married the king of France, who was 52. Her second husband, Charles Brandon, was 12 years her senior. To move a little further forward, Napoleon married his second wife, Marie Therese, when she was 19 and he was 41. Catherine de Medici and Marie Antoinette (now I'm just bouncing around) were both married to similarly aged men when they were 14. Royalty is the easiest to trace because it's recorded, but these were by no means exceptional cases. At the time, the production of heirs was most important, with the intention of improving the family's position through marriage. In fact, marriage as an institution was first developed from such a simple idea as guaranteed paternity. A man paid her father for exclusive sexual rights to her, hence the concept of a bride price.

Whew. Long paragraph. Moving along.

Childhood being it's own separate part of life is also a recent development. For a long time children were expected to act as adults, dress as adults, talk as adults. It wasn't until the Victorian era that childhood was recognized as it's own stage, although not in such terms, certainly. But the innocence of childhood was respected, for the most part (we're going to conveniently forget this was the era of increased child labor). Childhood most certainly was not supposed to be fun. That period of time was useful to groom a child for adulthood. Boys and girls received their education, though usually of extremely differing sorts. My point here is that you can't point at these marriages, distasteful as they may seem, and try to say that you have any biblical or historical basis on which to base your opinion. In truth, the Bible put up no resistance to such marriages until the past 100 years. Remember that only puts us back to 1909, it was 11 more years before women had the right to vote, to put things in perspective.

I have to get dressed and start the day, I've been messing around on the computers for about four hours now, and it's not even 10AM! Perhaps this has satisfied my urge to share my opinions on what I've read, perhaps I'll pick it up again later, we'll see. I still have opinions on the YFZ raid, modern polygamous marriages (as opposed to prairie dress people), and people who need to shut their bigoted, intolerant, hateful mouths and learn to live and let live. Children were regularly beaten for the majority of our existence. It's great that we're evolving to better solutions, but we're all here, right? And go back 300 years and I don't know that there was a man or woman alive who hadn't been beaten at one time or another. Not smacked, beaten. And I bet they had just as many well adjusted people as we do. Now there's a social stigma that frowns upon it. Before it was viewed as effeminate and weak not be seen in complete control of both your children AND your wife. Consider yourself lucky. Ok, I'm really done for now.