I've been meaning to post about this for a while now and hadn't gotten around to it: Trio marries in legal civil union in Netherlands.
The Netherlands is already pretty progressive, as one of the first countries to allow full gay marriage rights, so perhaps it shouldn't be too surprising that this kind of civil union (consisting of a straight man and two bisexual women all involved with one another) comes out of that part of Europe too.
Polyamory activists around the world have got to be snapping to attention over this and speculating what it could mean. As a poly person myself, I'm pretty excited about it. Not because it's likely to open any floodgates; with the struggle that gay marriage faces in the US, I'm under no delusions that our turn is coming anytime soon. But even though it's little more than clever use of a legal loophole, it's a milestone. It brings the notion of a legal polyamorous union out of the realm of the abstract and makes it an actuality. That's more than I think a lot of us thought we would ever see in our lifetimes.
Needless to say, most of the buzz I've seen about this news item has come from the wingnuts.
The reaction from the right has been fairly uniform and eminently predictable-- "SEE? We told you that if those dirty homos got allowed to marry, next thing you know GROUPS of people would want to marry, and here's the proof! Slippery slope, strips marriage of meaning, farm animals, blah blah bigoty blah ignorance ignorance ignorance..."
To them I say, well DUH. Of *course* if the question of gay marriage gets considered seriously, polyamorous advocates are going to start clearing their throats, and why shouldn't they? There is vast historical and sociological precedent for more than two adults wanting to have a long term relationship-- it's not an impulse that got dreamed up during the Summer of Love, people.
I do have to say that I particularly love the way that when the "slippery slope" argument gets trotted out, gay marriage is not only equated to polygamy but also, invariably, to people wanting to marry pets or farm animals. Now perhaps that's just wishful thinking among wingnuts of the Neal Horsley stripe, but let's be VERY clear (and use small words, since apparently this is hard stuff for widdle brains to comprehend): Your dog can't give consent to marrying you. Neither can your box turtle, your Real Doll, your sports car (however snazzy), your loofah, your daughter's box of crayons, or your Easter ham. I know "consent" is a big word for you all to understand, being as it has two syllables and all, and we all know that the conservative movement is all about forcing people to do things against their will, but see, "consent" is what makes the "slippery slope" argument a load of mule dookie (sorry, Neal).
There is one thing I find interesting about the way that just about every take on this news item, neutral or otherwise, has worded their comments. Just about everyone tends to present the situation as Victor de Bruijn *marrying both* Bianca de Brujin and Mirjam Geven as though he just picked up a couple of chicks and decided to make his three-way fantasy permanent. What gets downplayed or overlooked is that:
- Bianca and Victor were already married, so the union would more accurately be described as saying that *they both* wed Mirjam (a couple of sources do state that the couple signed a cohabitation contract with her)
- Bianca and Mirjam are both bisexual, and there is a clear implication that they are involved with one another as well as with Victor, yet the wording suggests a "V" triad where Victor is the anchor and the women's attachment is only through him (an implication emphasized by the one available photo, which shows the women on either side of him, kissing his cheeks and not touching one another).
One of the clearest elements in poly-phobia is unquestionably the sexual jealousy of people who fight their own urges in order to conform to a rigid, constrictive code of sexual morality who cannot bear the idea that other people find it OK and even healthy to have more sex with more people than they do; and there's often an element of homo- or biphobia as well. But I think the presentation of this particular item points up something else that's at work in the minds of those who hate the idea of polygamy, something that emerges from the ongoing sexism of most cultures.
In any arrangement like this where there is one man and more than one woman, the assumption is always going to be that the man is the nucleus of the marriage with his women arrayed around him in a little harem of sexually available electrons, even in a situation where the women are equally romantically involved with one another. To some extent it's an attitude that female bisexuals encounter constantly-- that a bi woman's relationship with a woman is always "play" and that one with a man is always more "real"-- but what I think is more generally going on is that women are still commodities in the sexual economy, and a man who has a commitment to more than one woman is therefore perceived as getting more than his fair share of female possessions. And since other men who, say, belong to a religion that doesn't permit polygamy aren't allowed to prove their own virility by collecting more girl-things, they want to make sure no one else can get what they can't have.
Well, I for one wish Bianca and Mirjam and Victor all the best, and I fervently hope that this will be just the first of many such unions to be celebrated.