Many women may casually date multiple guys, but some modern-day women are practicing polyandry: having multiple husbands (or, in a contemporary, repurposed definition, several serious or life-long partners).
Polyandry, the female-focused version of polygamy, is technically illegal in the United States; thus, those who practice it do so without literally getting married. "I would say [polyandry] is when a woman has many male partners," says Dr. Denise Renye, a San Francisco-based psychologist who specializes in sex and intimacy.
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But that doesn't mean a woman can't dream of putting a ring on those many male partners. "Having multiple husbands was something I had thought about since early adolescence. I even asked my mother about it, and she laughed said it would be way too much work," a 44-year-old woman from Boulder, Colorado, who goes by Jislaaik tells Broadly. Very active in her local kink community as a mistress, Jislaaik is currently seeking three husbands in a scenario she likens to Big Love, only with "a higher level of control and authority on my part, and way better sex."
While some women like Jislaaik relish the chance to celebrate polyandry, other women in polyamorous communities view having multiple male partners as simply an inherent facet of the general polyamorous lifestyle. "Polyandry is polygamy for women. In either case, marriage is the key component that differs it from polyamory. It's not something that is widely discussed in the polyamorous community, unless someone is correcting a misunderstanding," says Effy Blue, a New York City-based life coach who specializes in unconventional relationships.
Blue has multiple male partners herself and says more men offer more emotional support—not to mention the sexual benefits. "My partners have different strengths, styles, points of views, all coming together to be an amazing support network for me. It also provides me different sexual experiences, somewhat eliminating monotony that inevitably happens in all long-term relationships. The variety ultimately keeps all of our sex lives exciting."
Those who are specifically seeking a modern American version of polyandry view the distinction between polyandry and polyamory as one that stems from differing power dynamics. These women want to have multiple male partners, but their men must be completely devoted to them, a different relationship structure than what Blue practices.
Having multiple husbands was something I had thought about since early adolescence.
"I tried polyamory first but found that to not work for me at all. The poly world wants you to be completely open. The mono[gamous] world, well, we already know what they want," says a 38-year-old Colorado woman who asked to be called Goddess Andromeda.
"My ex tried really hard to give his power to me. One day he came to me and declared, 'I've lost that subbie feeling,'" says Andromeda, referring to a dominant/submissive relationship. "We tried to work on it until one day he called me late at night and told me that he wanted to be full-on polyamorous for a while. I told him, 'Fine, but it would be without me.' He did not appreciate that and decided that it was too late at night to communicate about it. The next day I gave him his wings to explore."
Like Jislaaik, Andromeda's ideal relationship scenario would be with three husbands. As Andromeda's name suggests, polyandry can contain elements of goddess worship, as well as men's rights activists' worst fear: female superiority. "There is a couple I worked with in couple's therapy. They had a set-up where it was a man and a woman. The woman had other male lovers, and they did a lot of worshipping to Lakshmi," says Dr. Renye. Lakshmi is a Hindu goddess associated with wealth and fortune. "There was an element of in their relationship where it was almost the expression of abundance of wealth through the devotion to Lakshmi, which was symbolized through the devotion to this woman."
Dr. Renye works in San Francisco, and most of the other women spoken to for this article either live in New York City or Colorado. Some women in less progressive areas of the country report difficulties finding men to enter their desired relationship model. "I haven't had the privilege to find my two or three men," says Rachel, a 28-year-old from Georgia, adding that she's been called a slut and whore for bringing the idea up. "I really haven't had too many experiences with [polyandry], as it is very difficult to find a man or men who are open-minded [and] can also deal with the idea of being involved with a woman who has more then one man."
If you're a woman looking for multiple men to devote themselves entirely to you, established communities of polyamory or kink may be your way in, as both promote the communication skills and the open-minded attitude necessary for polyandrous relationships. "Honestly, in the kink community, it might be easier for women to have multiple male partners," says Jislaaik. "I had been hearing from cuckolds and other men who had no problem with the idea of women with multiple partners, while they remained exclusive to her. It's possible, after all."
When asked if she's seen female clients have success at polyandry, Dr. Renye, like Jislaaik, says that most of them had come to the relationship structure through established polyamorous communities. When asked what advice she would give to women seeking polyandrous relationships, Dr. Renye responds, "If that's what's desired, create it—because it's possible, but no matter which people are seeking in love and sex, there is inevitably somebody else out there who is also seeking that."
And what about the men? "To the man, I would call it as a psycho-spiritual development exercise. It would be a practice," she says. "[Observe] his feelings and experience and communicate about it."
And of course, remember to worship your goddess.