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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Column: Sister Wives and Oprah

The TLC reality show “Sister Wives” follows Koby Brown, his four wives (Christine, Meri, Janelle and Robyn) and their combined 16 children. Basically they’re one big happy polygamist, fundamentalist Mormon family.

At first I was purely cynical about the matter. I thought, there is no way this guy really loves these women equally, and there is definitely no way these women are happy sharing one man amongst them. I mean I can barely share food with my roommate, let alone share a romantic partner. I instantly wanted these women to revolt; overthrow this husband-dictator who thinks he can take advantage of their lives and emotions so easily.

Then Oprah came along. The Browns went on her show and talked about how their family is about more than just each individual woman’s relationship with her husband. It’s more about the five of them working together. The term “sister wife” implies that these women are not in competition with each other but are in fact sharing a deeply familial relationship with one another as well.

“I never wanted to just be married to a man,” Christine said. “I honestly wanted sister wives more than a husband. I wanted the whole family. I didn’t just want Kody.”

It might have been the combination of having only four hours of sleep the night before and Oprah’s unexplainable powers over my brain, but I actually understood where these women were coming from.

Since being on the show the family has also been under police investigation. They could face jail time because although Koby is only legally married to his first wife Meri, Utah law states: “A person is guilty of bigamy when, knowing he has a husband or wife, the person purports to marry another person or cohabits with another person.” Not only are they being aided by Oprah’s powers, but they got the cops against them. How could I not be on their side now? I figure, just because this is not the lifestyle I would choose, it’ll do no good condemning them for wanting to do it.

Then Koby had to go open his mouth and ruin everything. He and Meri discussed jealousy issues on the show, and Meri asked Koby how he would feel if she started dating another man.

“The idea of you with two husbands or another lover sickens me,” Koby said. “It seems wrong to God and nature. I understand this seems somewhat hypocritical, and I don’t know how to get around it.”

Wait, does ‘hypocritical’ mean ‘sexist’ in fundamentalist Mormon talk? If so, then this makes a lot more sense. Note that I emphasize the fundamentalist part. I know not all Mormons are polygamists, and for that matter that not all religious people participate in sexist ideology (there just happens to be a strong correlation). But in this case Koby is directly saying Meri having two husbands would be wrong in the eyes of God. So the way I take it, God must have told the fundamentalist Mormons there’s a right polygamy and a wrong polygamy. The right polygamy involves one penis amongst an ocean of vaginas. You can’t have an ocean of penises; it’ll be too pointy and harder to surf through.

Although this statement took away my faith in the Browns (and in Oprah’s magical powers) I do still stand behind my original thought that Koby should not be imprisoned. I guess that’s what having an open mind is all about. It’s hard sometimes, especially when it’s for someone who is so … hypocritical.

Instead, I prefer the idea of polyamory, because both genders can participate equally. Polyamorous people believe in having relationships with more than one person. Now, before you go running to your boyfriend or girlfriend saying, “I wasn’t cheating on you honey. It was just an experiment in polyamory,” there’s more to it than that.

Polyamory requires all those in the relationship to be aware of one another’s existence. Also, each couple is to be emotionally invested in each other, not just sexual partners. To successfully be in one of these relationships you really can’t have commitment or jealousy issues.

Personally, I don’t see myself being able to invest equal attention to two boyfriends. I can barely handle my hypothetical ones now. When it comes to the idea of a boyfriend having another partner along with me I don’t think my ego could handle it. Then again, having an open mind means one should never say never.

ALISON STEVENSON would like all of you to attend the first Birdstrike show of the quarter. Tomorrow at Kleiber 3. Also, e-mail her some article suggestions or feedback at amstevenson@ucdavis.edu.


  1. Shame on you…this is a mistake my first-year college journalism students would never make. The husband’s name is KODY, not Koby!


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