Facebook Pixel

Open Relationships and Sexual Fantasies

Rate This

Ever since the hit HBO television series 'BIg Love' hit the bedrooms and living rooms of Americans, there has been a judgmental, curious and downright fascinated buzz about polygamy. When a man chooses more than one woman not only to marry but to raise children with and share a life with, things get complex and, not only is it an alternative lifestyle, it can seem to have the feel of an alternative dimension.

If any of you have not had the opportunity to watch this show I'll keep it shrouded in mystery for you, but I will uncover the fact that, yes, the wives have rotating nights with their husband and, yes, there is in-fighting, jealousy and bickering and, yes, the characters do all seem quite as miserable, confused, betrayed and stressed out as any couple does in a more traditional dysfunctional relationship.

I myself have never met anyone personally in this type of plural marriage situation, so all I have going for me is a superficial sense of it based on a television series. However, from my experience with human relations, it appears to me that we are under utilizing our fantasy muscle in the bedroom. If indeed you are in a monogamous relationship and would like to keep it that way, bringing fantasies of others into your sex life while remaining true to your life partner can really work to diffuse some temptation not only to cheat, but to continually look for a back door exit to your relationship. No matter how you slice it, people are quite complicated. Adding another person to your already complicated relationship will undoubtedly make things even more confusing than they may be already. Some critics have pointed to deep unhappiness among wives in polygamous marriages and that men do it as an excuse to be adulterous. Please see the following link for more on this.

While I have never been in a plural marriage, I have been exposed to the complexities of "cheating" in every way imaginable, and, as may be expected, it is not worth the trouble.

In the heat of the moment, of course, caution may get flung to the far reaches of the stratosphere.

Add a Comment9 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Thank you for your article, but I think it's important that we not confuse polygamy and open relationships. There are MANY different styles of open relationships, polygamy being the most heard about because it is the most sensationalized by the media. Polygamy is based on religious beliefs. Open Marriage, is, by and large, chosen by partners for other reasons, be it mis-matched libidos, the notion that monogamy goes against human nature, exploration, and a myriad of other reasons.

Healthy Open Marriages DO exist. I have one and I write about it daily in my blog, (google Sexie Sadie blog)

Also, I write a mainstream column for a news source on Open Relationships.


August 2, 2009 - 10:30am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

It is sad that you can not commit yourself to an idea or person. The very sense of being human is not only to want to explore all of our thoughts, desires, wants, fascinations, etc. Rather, it is also how to set a limit, be able to say no and focus on the other individual. I want, I want, I want.... how egoistic! How can you really know the other person? I hope you live to be 150 because only then you will truly be able to understand more than 1 individual well enough.... good luck!

August 2, 2009 - 11:56am

Thanks for your comment! I think you point out a good part of this; it is absolutely possible to become fascinated or intrigued by something emotionally/physically/sexually and not want it in your life and still have sympathy, empathy and deep concern for those who may not be experiencing the benefits or positive aspects of that situation.

You can be a feminist and a political activist and a role model for young girls, and a knowledgeable, informed and caring woman and still get "turned on" by a variety of thoughts, images, ideas.

To say that is wrong is to really dial women back to the Victorian Era when even thoughts of sex were deemed evil, or certain African tribes where the ritual mutilation of women to insure their lack of sexual pleasure is alive, still, to this day.

I also think that women need their fantasies in order to keep their love alive, just as men do, and that if we were less upset by our own "shadows" and fantasies, perhaps we would act out less in detrimental ways.

June 17, 2009 - 4:48am
EmpowHER Guest

Yes, men may get more power in polygamy than in monogamy. But I think that at the extreme end of egalitarianism marriage must cease to exist altogether.

I know single mothers who seem to have a series of us men who don't treat them well. Would the elimination of marriage altogether let even more guys say that they are free of responsibility yet free to procreate with these women? Isn't marriage therefore a protection, a power, for women.

So before we talk about politics when we want to talk about sex, let's acknowledge that it can only take us just so far. Then if Aimee finds that in the bedroom, her mind is wandering a little, and she therefore empathizes with those that would live in polygamy with others they also love, why should she be castigated?

June 16, 2009 - 11:32pm

Ms. Ignatin,
Thank you so for sharing this letter and your perspective here. as well as the almost unfathomable bravery and inner fortitde of your friend who is not only saving her own life but now, I am sure, countless other victims.
I think it's crucial that, as Americans, we preserve our right to freedom of expression which clearly so many of our sisters are lacking in many parts of the world. By continuing to discuss these issues we become part of the solution, not part of the problem; we bring things out of the darkness and out of the closet and into the light.

I appreciated the fact that while the HBO series "Big Love" may have been controversial at best and loathed at worst, it truly did open the eyes of many people who hadn't even considered the very confusing and often stark and abusive realities that so many women live with day in and day out.

Polygamy is an extremely emotionally charged topic and that is what I was attempting to tap into in my article... my own very deep emotional reactions to men with multiple partners due to my personal experiences and those of my friends for countless years, as well as women in my family who have been devastated by adultery have been stifling at certain times in my life. Watching that series prompted me to really take a look a the issue; not only as a feminist and as someone who has lesbians and political activism for generations in her family; who had a subscription of Ms. Magazine and was reading about the abuses of the Taliban toward women since she was 17 years old, but also as a woman who thinks and feels, who is trying her best at growing sexually and in all other ways and who questions not only her own motives and fears in her relationship, but those of her partner and of all men and women.

The blatant subjugation of women is alive and rampant in many subtle forms that certainly do not come across as obviously as it does in 'Big Love.' Modern polygamist women will certainly argue that they are not abused and that this is their choice.

For some of us struggling to wrap our minds around the issues of fidelity, monogamy, adultery, polygamy, polyandry, intimacy and sexuality, there is not a lot of differentiation. These issues all interconnect. Women throughout time have been used and kept in poverty. Clearly we still have mountains to climb in our own country, in our own lives and in our willingness and ability to stay connected with women who need our help.


June 16, 2009 - 5:51pm

Hi all,
I am not an expert on polygamy but I am a woman, not a little girl, and have been in many situations and have been close to other women in many situations where the drive on the part of the man was to be with multiple partners.

I don't agree that sex has nothing to do with polygamy. I am entitled to my opinion. To assume that I don't understand that it's an actual lifestyle that people engage in for complex and varied reasons is insulting. Also, to assume that I don't have a background in reading and watching the news about how devastating plural marriage can be to women is also a false assumption.

In fact, 'Big Love' brought many real life 'compounds' to the fore of the news for quite sometime. There were news programs about underage teenage girls being denied their education and being coerced into marrying elderly and sometimes abusive men.

This is a real issue. Monogamy has been failing in this country as is evident by the glaringly high rate of divorce. My point in writing this article was to deeply entertain the idea that part of what keeps us falling in apart in monogamy is our denial of our adulterous urges, and that as mature, secure women, we would do ourselves and our mates a favor in bringing some of these thoughts and feelings out of the closet and into our intimate lives.

One comment says, "Implying that bringing sexual fantasy in your (monogamous) bedroom has anything to do with polygamy is puzzling at best."

That is a strange statement. Our senses are titillated by polygamy and, I would argue, by polyandry. And, in my experience, love and marriage and child rearing and devotion have very much to do with sex.


June 15, 2009 - 7:15pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Aimee Boyle)

Thanks Aimee,

I appreciate your willingness to look at the facts of polygamy, worldwide.

Here is a letter from a dear friend of mine in Iraq,

Dear k.Dee Ignatin,

It seems that we fight for the same cause on opposite sides of the globe.

Although polygamy was about to end in the modern Iraq, the political mess of the new millennium has introduced us into a new age of politicized misogyny. The new mutations of Islamism into an uncontrolled beast has made most feminists and egalitarian of the Middle-East lay low.

A few of us are still determined to stand against them and tell the whole world that we, the women in Iraq, reject polygamy, paedophilia (of female children), and submission.

I personally have gained a reputation at that, but it always comes with a high cost.

Our current "democratic" constitution has given way to polygamy while it was penalized before the occupation.

You have an ally and a supporter in Iraq.

Keep on leading the struggle for women's liberation and do not wait for appologists to make you stronger. You do not need them.

In Solidarity,

Yanar Mohammed
Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq,
president OWFI

My friend, Flora Jessop was the first FLDS Child Bride to successfully escape the cult, in 1986.

Like my friends in the Middle East, Flora says she did not come out of polygamy hating men, but women. The cruelty and abuse from some of the top dog first wives, and favored concubines, was far more painful than simple rape, or regular beatings, but there were plenty of those, too.

A powerful wife or concubine can determine what your chores are, or which children will eat last, or at all, and may decide to "discipline" your children herself.

That's my experience with the dozens of women who have successfully escaped from American polygamy, I've met.

Thanks again for keeping the issue out there.

Just blowin' my Texas sized whistle down here,

k.Dee Ignatin
Executive director
Americans Against Abuses of Polygamy

June 16, 2009 - 3:13pm
EmpowHER Guest


It is completely offensive for you to describe the author of this article as a "little girl grown tall". You talk about the dark ages and treating women like second class citizens but you've stooped to a low and sexist blow.

why don't you cite some of the social "studies" you're talking about?
I can assure you that there have been very few rigorous academic studies on polygamy and its effects on women, and much of the research shows that criminalizing this lifestyle is actually what causes a great deal of the "impoverishment" you discuss. I also recommend that the you pick up a book, because the "internet" is not where you get "facts".

However, I take issue with the article AND the comment asserting that polygamy is about sex.
Aimee, one of the hugest hurtles for those in these kinds of relationships is the idea that it is based on sexual desire: it isn't. Implying that bringing sexual fantasy in your (monogamous)bedroom has anything to do with polygamy is puzzling at best.

Polygamy isn't just fodder for tv, it's an actual lifestyle that real people engage in for complex and varied reasons--not just because they're not satisfied in the bedroom. the link between what you're writing and polygamy really, really isn't evident at all.

June 15, 2009 - 8:23am
EmpowHER Guest

You seem like a little girl grown tall. What you haven't considered about polygamy (too busy feeding on TV fantasies to think clearly, I guess) is that social studies show that polygamy impoverishes women... click on the Internet, where you can read the facts, not the latest plot line of HBO's Big Love. Concubines in the man's harem cannot benefit from his health insurance, life insurance, dental plan, child benefits, pension plan etc,, and when he dies (worn out from all that-you-know-what) the woman will have to share his estate with 4, 5, 6 or more other women, all desperate for some support for themselves and their children. Any woman who goes into a polygamous relationship does herself and her kids great harm. This is why the world-wide organization, Sisters in Islam, are petitioning their governments to end polygamy, claiming that the practise discriminates against women and treats them as second-class citizens. And who would know more about polygamy than those women who are forced by their culture to live it? Polygamy belongs to the dark ages -- let it stay there.

June 15, 2009 - 7:46am
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

Relationships & Family

Get Email Updates

Relationships & Family Guide

Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!