Is polygamy harmful?

Even when the mariages are between adults, if the community if polygamist, then the girls tend to be traded like cattle and low-status young men create problems for all. This is true across time and culture.

History suggests that it is. A new study out of the University of British Columbia documents how societies have systematically evolved away from polygamy because of the social problems it causes. Women are usually thought of as the primary victims of polygynous marriages, but as cultural anthropologist Joe Henrich documents, the institution also causes problems for the young, low-status males denied wives by older, wealthy men who have hoarded all the women. And those young men create problems for everybody.

For more on this, read my review of

God’s Brothel: The extortion of sex for salvation in contemporary Mormon and Christian fundamentalist polygamy and the stories of 18 women who escaped


    • I don’t think anyone much cares if adult males marry adult females (except that the offspring would then be born into the system.) The issue is older males taking very young multiple “wives”, sometimes as young as 12, who obviously have no choice in the matter and are generally treated badly.

  1. I have a couple of these “young, low-status males” in the training program where I teach. “Abandoned” is not strong enough of a word to describe what has been done to these boys. Now in their early twenties, in their teens they were literally kicked out of the community with virtually no education or life-skills. Literally disposable young males.

    What’s really interesting though, is 1) the degree they’ve gone to to abandon “god” and 2) how thoroughly they understand exactly how we all have gotten to this point. No need to indoctrinate, they’ve already figured it out.

    • Ten Bears is referring to the practice of some polygamist communities where older teenage males are simply driven to a street corner somewhere and dumped. The older males see them as competition for the young girls they want. These teenage males generally have no clue whatsoever about the outside world as they’ve never been exposed to it.

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