Sexual morality is one of the most important elements in forming culture. That is why those who seek to destroy existing paradigms often subvert cultural status quos through transgressive sexual advocacy, normalization, and/or behavior.
For good and ill, that was how the Sexual Revolution was won. Even so, until recently, sexual bonding was all but universally considered to be a primarily a matter of “pairing,” meaning people—whether straight or gay, married or single—coming together as couples.
Now, even that still widely shared assumption is coming under sustained assault. Indeed, promotion for polyamory is being increasingly normalized, with “throuples”—a sexually bonded threesome—or even larger polyamorous groupings increasingly depicted favorably in popular entertainment, respectfully discussed in cultural conversations, and featured positively in the mainstream media.
We only need look at recent stories and columns published by the New York Times to see how far the polyamory push has advanced already. Once known as “the Gray Lady,” when it comes to sexuality as it interacts with culture and politics, the Times is anything but staid and sober. Indeed, the Times wields its news and opinion pages as cultural cudgels attacking what still remains of traditional Judeo/Christian morality.
Here are a few recent examples. Last October, California Democratic Congresswoman Katie Hill resigned after she admitted involvement in a polyamorous relationship with her (now estranged) husband, and a campaign worker—as well as charges (denied) of a similar throupling with a member of her House staff. At one time, such a humiliating revelation would have ended the transgressor’s public life. But those days are disappearing fast.
Less than a year later, the Times published a long and clearly sympathetic feature on Hill—that eschews all moral judgments about her polyamorous bent—clearly aimed at resurrecting her chances for a public life. “In some ways, she is freer now,” editor at large covering gender and culture Jessica Bennett, sighs. “There is no re-election to worry about. No party leaders to offend. She can see whom she wants, date whom she wants, and the Covid-era mask has the nice perk of allowing her to blend in.” How nice for Hill.
Other recent Times’ pieces have more explicitly endorsed polyamory. Last year, the paper published a long photo essay entitled, “Polyamory Works for Them,” painting the relationships of the featured polyamorists—known by the nonjudgmental term, “ethical non-monogamy”—with the warmth of an autumn fireplace.
“People should have more options,” was the overarching theme of the piece, in which the polyamorous interviewees urged “more exploration and more pleasure,” in an atmosphere of “compersion,” which translates to, “the happy-for-you alternative to jealousy.” Polyamorists are presented as victims of “sex repression,” and the lifestyle is depicted as a “sex positive” way “to coexist and celebrate sex without harming each other.” No mention in the article of heartbreaks, confusion in children’s lives, or the other health and emotional costs often associated with promiscuity.
Which brings up the crucial issue of children. In a Times’ just published column by Debora Spar, “The Poly-Parent Households Are Coming”—its most pro-polygamy contribution yet—we are told that polyamorous groupings are likely to use cutting edge reproductive technologies to “dismantle the norms of marriage and parenting that have been around for millenniums.” For example, in vitro gametogenisis (IVG)—creating eggs and sperm from skin cells—“could allow individuals … to manufacture their own eggs and sperm, mixing and matching between genders and genes, and enabling more than two people to create a child together. And in the process, our basic notion of families is liable to get upended as well.”
That, of course, would be the point. Spar writes, “Once we start imagining, and then living in, a world of fluid parenting, it becomes increasingly likely that we will also undo or at least revise our centuries’ old conviction that procreative unions—like Noah’s animals—come only in pairs. Maybe our species’ new ark is composed of a motlier crew; of threesomes and foursomes, old and young, men and women and across the spectrum of gender identity, reproducing with whomever they choose and loving as they desire.”
What to do? This is a hard movement to defend against in a free society. Unrelated consenting adults should be able to engage in “domesticity” in whatever combinations they please without fear of criminal penalty. So, fear of the law is out. Most might, as I do, think it is highly immoral. Shunning might be appropriate—although we are so afraid of being labeled “judgmental” these days, that isn’t likely to succeed.
At the same time, I strongly believe there should be a strong public pushback to the polyamory push while it remains in its embryonic stage. The idea is to persuade people not to yield to sexual temptation. In this regard, we need to relearn how to make moral arguments again, and this issue could provide the opportunity to recharge that form of suasion.
Experts should also respond to the increasing pro-polygamy offerings by highlighting monogamies’ satisfactions and benefits for children, as well as the possible harms to offspring raised in such multi-numbered groupings, and the potential for emotional coercion and physical abuse among polyamorists themselves.
At the same time, we should never yield politically and legally to the polyamory imperative. Such groupings should never be recognized as a valid social institution by the state. Group marriage—polygamy–should never be legalized. Nor should inheritance rules recognize these unmarried polyamorous members as legally related.
By the way, don’t think that official recognition isn’t already a threat. The Times just chirpily reported that Somerville, Massachusetts became the first jurisdiction to grant polyamorous groups the same rights that are held by spouses in marriage. No. Of course, the story presented no opposition voices to such a radical redefining of family.
When same sex marriage was being debated, some opponents warned that legally recognizing such unions as a valid marriage would lead inexorably to normalizing polyamory. After all, the argument went, once a venerable institution like marriage is redefined so dramatically, what is there to stop the remaking of other cultural and sexual norms?
That process has now clearly started. But that doesn’t mean it will succeed. Hopefully, former political contestants on that contentious cultural and moral issue can put aside their past differences and join together to disprove the opponents’ “polygamy warning” by insisting that monogamy be maintained as the sexual and child-rearing norm for society.
Award winning author Wesley J. Smith is the chair of the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.