Exotic Extended Marriage YKTTW Discussion

Exotic Extended Marriage
Polygamy emphasizes the foreignness of a culture or species
(permanent link) added: 2012-09-17 23:58:03 sponsor: Xtifr (last reply: 2012-11-11 13:29:18)

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Indexes: Otherness Tropes, Marriage Tropes

As [maternal grandmother] was in early clan marriage (Stone Gang) and shared six husbands with another woman, identity of maternal grandfather open to question. But was often so, and I'm content with the grandpappy she picked.
--Manual Garcia O'Kelly-Davis, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein

People of strange, exotic cultures are often depicted as being far more open to extended marriages, with three or more participants, than we are. Common in Speculative Fiction, this helps emphasize just how different these people are from us, especially if they are human or Humanoid Aliens that resemble us.

In most of the world today, marriage is limited to two people at a time, but that has not always been the case, there are a few places where it's not the case now, and some authors like to speculate that it may not be true in the future.

Historically, the most common form of extended marriage was one man with multiple wives. The technical term for this is "polygyny", and it has appeared in a wide variety of cultures. For this reason, adventure stories set in an exotic corner of the Earth are most likely to feature polygny. To some extent, this can be Truth in Television; more of the world allows or at least accepts polygamy than many westerners realize.

In works set on other worlds, all sorts of extended marriages can be found, often associated with a Free-Love Future. Extended marriage is often shown as an element of both utopias and dystopias. And when it comes to exotic aliens with bizarre alien biology, all bets are off. Monogamy may not even be physically possible.

Subtrope of Polyamory. The existence of this trope is often a necessity for a Marry Them All scenario. See the Useful Notes page, For the Love of Many, for a broader discussion of the general topic.


Anime & Manga
  • In Cat Planet Cuties, the Catians have no issues with a male choosing multiple mates. This becomes relevant to the plot when Kio's house is converted into the official Catian embassy, leaving Kio free to marry all three of the girls in love with him.

  • In Robert A. Heinlein used this trope a few times, as part of a broader theme of Polyamory in his works:
    • The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress features extended marriage as a common part of life on the moon, in large part because of a shortage of women. The protagonist, Mannie, is part of what he calls a "chain marriage".
    • Friday starts with the protagonist in a group marriage in New Zealand, although they divorce her after she exposes their racist hypocrisy. She later joins a much healthier group marriage.
  • In Donald Kingsbury's Courtship Rite, the harsh life on the Lost Colony of Geta has led to extended marriages being quite common. Marriages of up to six people are allowed, and a six-marriage is considered the most perfect, balanced ideal.
  • In C. J. Cherryh's Chanur Novels, the cat-like Hani form prides, with one dominant male and a group of related females.
  • In the Earths Children series, set in the distant past before the rise of civilization, most matings are one man & one woman, but sometiems a man will mate with two women, or a woman with two men. Whatever works for them.
  • The Sharing Knife has a case where a Lakewalker couple couldn't have children, their families were pressuring them to break up, instead they brought a second husband into the relationship. The husbands are married to each other as well.
  • The novella "The Outcasts of Heaven Belt" by Joan Vinge features a starship crew who are all an intermarried group (although it's usual to have a "special" relationship with just one spouse).
  • Gail Dalton's One Rose Trilogy has a society where the size of a marriage ranges from a minimum of four to a maximum of twelve.
  • In Wen Spencer's A Brother's Price, a plague has left the world seriously gender-skewed, with 5-10 girls born for every boy. The solution for this is for boys to marry all sisters in a family. The hero, of course, goes on on to marry all of the princesses of the realm.
  • In the Honor Harrington series, the planet Grayson (where Honor has dual-citizenship) allows extended marriages.
  • In Nnedi Okorafor's The Shadow Speaker, Badass Princess Sarauniya Jaa has two husbands.
  • In David Brin's Uplift series, uplifted chimps are often involved in group marriages, and the species known as the Gubru forms marriages in threes, and don't become sexually differentiated until after marriage, when one member of the threesome will become dominant and the sole female, while the other two become male.
  • Vonda N. McIntyre's Starfarer series has at least one married triad.
  • In Jack McDevitt's Omega (part of the Priscilla Hutchins series), the newly discovered alien race known informally as the Goompahs have a complex system of shared spouses that the researchers studying the race have a hard time figuring out. Conjugal relations are allowed throughout a particular marriage group, but most individuals seem to have one or two preferred spouses within their group.

Live-Action TV
  • In Farscape, Rygel once had many wives, before he was deposed and ended up with the rest of our refugees.
  • In Star Trek: Enterprise, Denobulans (both male and female) tend to have three spouses each. Dr. Phlox, the Enterprise's chief surgeon, thus had a total of 720 people he was directly or indirectly married to.
  • In Babylon 5 Londo Mollari has three wives, all Arranged Marriages, whom he hates. It's apparently not uncommon for high status Centauri nobles, and made easier by their six "appendages".
  • Clarice on Caprica is married to multiple men and women, who are all married to each other. This is implied to be unusual but perfectly legal.
  • In an early episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Enterprise crew has visitors from an alien race where the women are larger in stature than the men and hold all of the business, scientific, and government jobs as well as any occupations requiring physical strength. The smaller men are thought to be better suited for domestic and artistic endeavors. Important women, especially, have multiple husbands, and they all share a marital bed.

Tabletop Games
  • Blue Rose has "star marriages", where all the participants are considered to be the spouses of all the other participants, even if they are not sexually involved with each other. They are quite common in the islands, uncommon in Aldis and almost unheard of elsewhere.

Web Original
  • In Chakona Space Chakats are polyamorous, with a saying that "love doesn't divide, it multiplies". In addition Foxtaurs and Caitians are polygynous due to skewed gender ratios (3-1 and 8-1 females to males respectively). The former two species are Terran, but uncommon enough on earth that mates of different species have to get used to their idea of monogamy as a foreign concept.

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