Globally, the prevailing form of polygamy is of one man with multiple wives – generally older men marrying younger wives. Social scientists have quantified that crime rates are higher in those cultures, with younger men having few prospects for family life. And it is no great shakes for young, often pre-pubescent girls forced into marriage by culture, economics, and tradition. Here in America, polygamy is associated with fundamentalist Mormons, Warren Jeffs’ harem of underage girls, or HBO's "Big Love."
Absent from the conversation is the possibility that plural marriage could have deep feminist roots. Radical utopians in the Victorian era and progressive-era anarchists, and free-love era feminists renounced traditional marriage. And today, communities of women are championing polyamory as an alternative lifestyle. Libby Copeland traces the pro-female history of polyamory for Slate.