For those of us who are happily set in our monogamous ways, polygamy can seem like a strange and exotic world that is nothing if not a constant source of fascination. How do they not get jealous? Do they work to a schedule? WHO SPOONS WHOM? Naturally, with this come a few rumours and myths. But with Escaping Polygamy giving us the inside story on what life in a polygamous society can be like, it's time to put a few misconceptions to bed and properly debunk those common myths.
1. It's a Mormon thing
It's really not. Although a number of Mormons practised plural marriages in the mid 19th century, believing it was God's will, the LDS Church banned polygamy back in 1890. Today, the church distances itself from polygamy, although that hasn't stopped around 40,00 breakaway members from continuing. It's estimated there are somewhere between 50,000 to 100,000 families living in polygamist communities in America at the moment and general acceptance of the practice has spiked, with 16% of Americans not objecting to the concept. Purely a Mormon thing it is not.
2. Polygamists are all part of cults
Though this is the case with the Order (as seen in Escaping Polygamy) and other famous Mormon polygamist set ups, such as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, presided over by the infamous Warren Jeffs, not all polygamists live in cults. Many are your average citizens (see point number one).
3. It all began because there were too many women
Leaving men to take more than one wife so the spinsters and widows could be cared for properly. Touching as that no doubt would have been, it's not the case. In fact, it was to enable men to better spread their “righteous seed,” meaning it would be easier to produce children and spread the Mormon population if a man could move between multiple wives.
4. Polygamists live in harems
One man, legions of women on hand to do his bidding, right? Actually, most of the time, each of the wives will have their own home. That is, as long as the family is able to support numerous households. In other words, it's pretty much your average set up, times two, four or possibly up to 20.
5. Child brides are a thing of the past
Yes, there are modern, adult women ready to stand up and proclaim themselves polygamists (you may have seen them on Oprah). Polygamy has definitely lost some of its shady reputation. But Escaping Polygamy is making it all too clear that there are plenty of others that are using it to abuse minors and force them into it unwanted matches.
6. They don't exist in normal society
That one depends on your views on Utah, but in general, polygamist families fail to restrict themselves to the isolated compounds you might be imagining. Your neighbours could be polygamists and you might not even know about it (more likely if you're in Utah, mind).