There are many people opposed to the concept of polygamous marriages. Polygamy is legal in some countries, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, but illegal in others, such as the United States of America. Many have personal, religious, and/or cultural reasons to disagree with such practices, but is the practice of polygamy morally wrong, or is it acceptable? Some argue that it is wrong because of the negative consequences caused by such marriages; yet ignore successful polygamous marriages altogether. I do not agree that all polygamous marriages have negative consequences. I argue that the practice of consensual polygamy can be morally acceptable under these conditions; (1) All parties must be aware, in advance, of the arrangement they are entering into. (2) No one should be coerced into such marriages and must enter willingly. (3) All parties must approve of the new spouse(s) entering into the family. (4) All parties must have the option for divorce.
The most common type of polygamous marriages is polygyny, where a man has multiple wives, as opposed to polyandry, where a woman has multiple husbands. Polygyny can be found in many Mormon and Islamic societies. Some cultures do not give the choice of monogamy to the women entering marriage and strip them of the right to choose. In some cases, the women enter seemingly monogamous relationships, only to discover that their husbands already had or have recently acquired other wives. Often times, the wives do not have any vote on whom can or cannot enter into the family. In Islamic cultures, divorce is not an option for many women unless the husband is the initiator. My argument is not for any of these types of situations but only the ones that possess the 4 conditions I have stated previously. Consensual polygamous marriages that allow the participating parties the freedom to enter and depart (as they please) do not violate the rights of individuals. These individuals are not disrespected or harmed by the practice of polygamy itself.
There are many ways to determine the level of morality in any particular act or practice. There have been many experts on morality, such as the Greek Philosopher Aristotle, German Philosopher Immanuel Kant, and British Philosopher John Stuart Mill, but I will choose to adopt a Raymond Belliotti’s Sexual Morality in Five Tiers (S.M.I.F.T.) to determine the moral permissibility of consensual polygamy. S.M.I.F.T. is a system that calculates the permissibility of sexual acts. Within the five tiers, each tier has a numerical value and all values are placed into an equation resulting in a number between zero and 350. Any number between 0 and 279 is impermissible and any number between 280 and 350 is permissible.
The first tier is the Libertarian agreement, which encompasses freedom and autonomy. This is the most important tier because it expresses the importance of the consensual agreement of all parties involved. The consent of the individual must be free of pressure, coercion, or desperation. If the decision to participate in an act or practice is not one hundred percent voluntary, then it immediately becomes morally impermissible. All parties must be legal adults and should be in a state of mind that allows them to make thoughtful and informed decisions. This tier has a numerical value of zero or one, and it is the only tier value that is multiplied by the subsequent values, not added, therefore if it has a zero value, it immediately voids the entire equation.
Consent is the key in moral permissibility. A husband or a wife must be clear about his or her intentions prior to the marriage. Each spouse must be aware of the situation they are entering and choose it willingly, without coercion. If the decision or idea of polygamy arises after the marriage, each spouse must have the option to leave the marriage if he or she does not choose to participate. So whether a couple decide to start their marriage...