Alternative Forms of Marriage Multilateral or Group Marriage Part 1
About the alternative form of marriage known as multlateral or group marriage, history of the practice and people who have them.
Alternate Forms of Marriage
MULTILATERAL (GROUP) MARRIAGE
The Practice: True multilateral marriage, which involves intimate and equal bonds among several (though not necessarily all) of the spouses, is a phenomenon of our times; it is an outgrowth of the liberation of women, the sexual revolution, and the fragmentation of society. (Technically, multilateral marriage involves three or more people, while group marriage involves at least two men and two women.)
Among primitive people and historically, multilateral marriage has been quite rare. In fact, it was not included as a category in the World Ethnographic Sample of 1957 by George P.Murdock. Only 8% of the semimigratory Kaingang of Brazil, who allow any kind of marriage have engaged in group marriage in the last 100 years. Mentions in history are sparse. Julius Caesar reported of ancient Britain: "The husbands possess their wives to the number of 10 or 12 in common, and more especially brothers with brothers." In the 19th century, the several hundred adults of the Oneida Community, a commune in New York, all considered themselves married to each other. The experiment lasted nearly 40 years.
Modern interest in multilateral marriage was spurred by several novels of the 1960s, among them Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, whose Martian hero preached intimacy with many, and Robert H.Rimmer's The Harrad Experiment, which featured "Insix," a group marriage of three males and three females.
Surprisingly, however, the 1960s hippie communes were not noted for multilateral marriages, though the concept of group marriage was the basis for a few, among them High Ridge Farm, which used a chart to assign sleeping partners.
Rimmer suggested a "corporate family," and many middle-class communes of the 1970s are composed of people who have combined utopian idealism with hardheaded practicality, founding multilateral marriages in order to create a nonprofit corporation or foundation to finance cooperative housing, provide schooling and child care, invest money, buy luxuries like boats or swimming pools, cover for long-term unemployment, and--not incidentally--live in a richer emotional and sexual network.
Perhaps the most extensive study of multilateral marriages was made by Larry L. and Joan M. Constantine, who traveled 32,000 mi. throughout the U.S. in order to conduct firsthand investigations. They contend that people involved in such marriages are, on the average, psychologically healthy, well educated, and middle-class. Most entered the multilateral marriage already married, often with children. (Single people, particularly males, find it difficult to become part of such arrangements.)
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