Sunday, November 14, 2010

Brother Husbands

Well... I mean, why not?

The success of TLC's Sister Wives has brought more polyamorous ideas to the mainstream. If you haven't seen it, this is a reality television show featuring a fundamentalist LDS guy with multiple wives and 16 kids living in Utah, and by the end the first season he'd taken on his fourth wife.

The show is kind of interesting because it does address complicated relationship problems in the form of group discussions. All of the parties are fairly open and well-spoken so that the conversation doesn't get dragged down by spirituality or dogma.

Instead, it paints a pretty compelling story of a bunch of poly-types committed to their lifestyle, open about their feelings, talking about what makes them happy, and just trying to make it in the world. It's fairly honest and includes a lot of on-screen processing by the family.

Now, I realize that a few readers out there already chomping-at-the-bit, eager to remind me that polygyny (one guy, multiple female partners) isn't polyamory and that anything that glorifies religious polygyny isn't commendable at all. Okay, point taken. Regardless, the show does put a positive spin on pluralism that seems to have reached mass-appeal, and I'm all about pluralism of any form being put forward for the public's consumption.

Besides, given the show's success, we're probably just a few seasons away from a polyamorous lifestyle reality show and that would give the public a model for contrasting polyamory and polygyny.

In particular, as the nature of their relationship would dictate and I'd hope that conversation would go, I think one thing that disturbs me about the husband is his complete distain for his wives having male relationships outside of him. It's one-penis-policy-extremism: he's viscerally offended by the idea and is just disgusted at the thought. "Ugh! My wives would be whoring!" Yet he seems to have no problems explaining nightly marital rotations to the camera. He's totally fine with sister wives. What throws him for a loop are brother husbands.

Brother husbands. PF and I have talked about what that'd look like, where she'd bring on more male partners. Myself, I don't have a problem with it and it seems only fair to transfer "ownership" away from the man to the woman in the course of the language. Why shouldn't a woman have her lot of men? Why can't matriarchy have its day? Perhaps the commanding nature of this language would shift the perception from "whoring" to something more constructive like "leading" or "fulfilling"?

Although I'd be first to admit it's mostly a power thing for me (hey, I dig powerful, confident women), this isn't a subby thing, group sex thing, or a homo-erotic thing, brother husbands. It's just a recognition of the fact that she's got multiples and is living out her own life to the fullest ... like the husband in Sister Wives. What's wrong with that? I say: bring on the husbands, brother!

Guys? Could you live with the Brother Husband thing? Women? Do you want Brother Husbands or does the idea just rub you the wrong way? What do you think of pluralism like this in the media?



Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Maybe its just me, but when I hear the terms "brother husbands" and "sister wives" I think "incest". Why couldn't they come up with a better title? I am in a loving triad relationship and I welcome mainstream exposure to polyamory, but I am hesitant to trust a show called "sister wives" to explain to people en masse what we are all about. Then again, it is my understanding that these people are polygymous, in the traditional Utah sense, with one man and several wives. I am a more new-age polyamorous twenty-something in a serious relationship with a girl and a guy my age, who are also dating each other. I don't suppose I should expect these people to represent me. It's hard, you know? The term 'polyamory' casts such a large net so as to be inclusive of so many different kinds of relationships, but in doing so it convolutes the very concept of what is and what is not considered 'poly'. Brother husbands is a great concept to show the flipside to a patriarchal poly relationship, but PLEASE change the name already!

Natja's Natterings said...

We are a FMF triad, and although I don’t see that changing any time soon, it is for a practical reason, rather than a philosophical stand.
I have never desired to have a long term, live in relationship with more than one man, mostly because I prefer female company, I think the overdose of testosterone will have me running for the nearest convent,. However, with two adult females in the house, I feel that it would be less scary a prospect to have two men, but just myself with two men? No, I wouldn’t cope very well.
To Anon, I must say I totally agree with you with these awful terms, even worse when couples request a 'bisexual sisterwife' urgh!!!

Polly said...

We have two men in our triad, and it's working out wonderfully. I'm also not a fan of the "sister wives/brother husbands" terminology. My guys are partners for me and for each other, plain and simple.

I also find it annoying to automatically assume that whichever gender is in the minority must be in power. (For example, that I have some kind of matriarchal power that parallels patriarchal power in religious polygyny). We are just people who happen to be together, and happen to be the genders that we are. Love doesn't need to have so many categories applied to it.

That said, I would also appreciate some "equal time" in the media for families with more than one male partner. I think it presents a much more balanced view. Thanks for the interesting post!

Anonymous said...

I am a woman with two male partners. They tend to refer to themselves as co-husbands. They would definitely object to brother-husbands, although their relationship is very much like brothers.
I likewise would not consider myself the partner "in power", however in a V-shaped relationship, being the "point person" requires a great deal of personal strength. It definitely reflects the level of personal responsibility and maturity required to thrive in such a configuration for all involved.

Anonymous said...

It works! Especially as a method of birth control. I saw this video when I was originally questioning.

HvnsFlnAngel said...

I've actually touched on this subject quite a bit with my friends and we are coming up with a list of people with certain qaualities that we would love to make the "perfect" mean. Even though EACH man we would pick would only instill one certain quality... ;)