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On the world of Thirdrock, the humans there practise group marriage: one to three women marry one to three men, with a maximum of four people in the marriage (or occasionally five under rare and temporary circumstances), and at a minimum one male and one female. The men are not married to each other, and neither are the women married to each other, each is married to all the members of the opposite sex.

The people of Thirdrock are extremely homophobic for the most part. Homosexuality is illegal, as is failing to report it if it is observed. Therefore, no-one wants to admit that it occurs, or be seen to condone it in any way... and that includes designing bedroom furniture.

On Earth, where most marriages/partnerships are between two people, we have double beds. However, I was wondering about beds for people on Thirdrock... how might they be designed to cater for the variable numbers of males and females in the marriage, up to five people total, and with at minimum one male and one female?

Any design that would appear to discourage nocturnal homosexual activity would be preferred if it is at all possible.

The people of Thirdrock have an approximately mid-1940's tech level, and in some ways, a rather Victorian-era morality.

Edit:

Group sex is permitted and encouraged but is ultimately optional.

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    $\begingroup$ If Alice is married to Bob. Charlie and Dave, I think you should count Bob, Charlie and Dave to be married between them ('part of the same marriage' if you wish, to please your society), as all of them count to the maximum of four people. Otherwise Bob could be married to Alice and Eve. Charlie, to Alice, Faith and Grace. Grace could be married to Charlie, Dave and Frank... $\endgroup$ – Ángel Dec 4 '20 at 0:31
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    $\begingroup$ I tend to think you might confusing group marriage with group sex. $\endgroup$ – a4android Dec 4 '20 at 1:24
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    $\begingroup$ @LiJun There is always at least one man and at least one woman in a marriage. Additional men and/or women may be added to the marriage until there are 4 people in the marriage, so it is technically polyamory. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Dec 4 '20 at 3:01
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    $\begingroup$ What happens to a 1-3 marriage if the 1 dies? Are the 3 allowed to keep living together as widow(er)s? $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Dec 4 '20 at 10:59
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    $\begingroup$ @RBarryYoung That's a very good point. After having accepted an answer to this question, I'm leaning towards a model where there is a room for sex, and each member of a marriage has their own room with their own bed, and the thought of having sex in a bed would be 'Eww... messy!', and therefore to be avoided. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Dec 4 '20 at 23:02
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Conjugal Visit Model:

The Romans believed it was bad for marriage for a husband and wife to sleep in the same bed, preferably not even in the same room. If you've watched any TV shows about plural marriage, they all have different houses.

Given a plural marriage of multiple men and multiple women, I think sleep would likely be apart. People would sleep in their own rooms, or in dorm-like conditions depending on economics and social practices. That being said, until recently, it was assumed no impropriety was involved in sleep, and visitors to the White House would sometimes share a bed with the president (and no one assumed anything inappropriate).

Who you slept with for much of history had more to do with the temperature than sex. In Minnesota, I live near Fort Snelling, where each soldier shared a tiny bed with another soldier - but if you've gone through a Minnesota winter in a poorly heated building, you would too.

So whatever your sleeping arrangements, I think you'd be more likely to have a sex room for such things than a bedroom. There would probably be a schedule (if I know relationships, run by the women) for who was 'sleeping' with who when (they would probably use a different euphemism). At your option, it could even be randomized like the Kali cultists of India, where bras were supposed to have been dumped in a pile and drawn like cards from a deck (I'm not so much a historian to judge the accuracy of that, but it's not the point).

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    $\begingroup$ I like the idea of that... I already had at least a partial model of this, in that married people have complementary but different keys. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Dec 4 '20 at 2:19
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    $\begingroup$ @DWKraus: Do you have a reference for Ancient Roman couples not sleeping in the same bed? I have seen it a few times without reference now. $\endgroup$ – Daron Dec 5 '20 at 12:25
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    $\begingroup$ I like the idea of needing a different euphemism for sex than sleeping if they don't actually share a bed. $\endgroup$ – Llewellyn Dec 5 '20 at 15:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Daron I saw it on a documentary. Finding lots of references ( news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8245578.stm ), but no good hard articles. Will update when I have more chance to research... $\endgroup$ – DWKraus Dec 5 '20 at 16:02
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    $\begingroup$ The most authoritative source I can find is a furniture seller website that claims a double bed was called a "lectus genialis". $\endgroup$ – Daron Dec 5 '20 at 22:09
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From experience: Everyone needs their own double bed.

As a polyamourous hetrosexual my suggestion is to give everyone their own bed. Our poly of 5 has 3 kings and 2 queens (and a 4sqm couch) - we like to stretch out and we have lots of large pets that like taking up bed space. (But if we didn't have large pets doubles would be fine.)

You have your own space, and you invite your other partners into it when you're wanting company. But more importantly you can have alone time and can get a night to yourself when you want it.

I have lived in polys where 3+ people shared a bed (me and 2 or 3 girlfriends) and it's suboptimal. It seems like a fantasy but it really isn't. Someone always snores, and if you can't hear anyone snoring - it's you. Someone's always got a cold and you're going to catch it next. 4 people all mutually farting and stealing the quilt is a recipe for conflict. Someone's always out late or got to get up early. Someone always overheats, someone is always freezing, someone wants cuddles and someone wants space. Someone has a nightmare and wakes 3 people up. 2 people want sex and the 3rd has a headache no-ones getting any. It's not sustainable long term. 3+ people sharing a room also limits storage of things like clothing and decoration, and everyone needs their own "space". Not to mention Friday and Saturday most of us need to be out of the house at all costs as one of them got a tinder match and wanted the room to herself.

Since declaring that poly housing is "N people need N rooms" our poly experience has been much better.

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  • $\begingroup$ I've had 3 to a bed work out pretty well, but you really need all 3 of those people to be of the right temperament for it to be sustainable. 4 or more I agree, I don't see that happening. $\endgroup$ – Nosajimiki Dec 4 '20 at 21:41
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    $\begingroup$ This was entertaining to read. $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen Dec 4 '20 at 23:52
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    $\begingroup$ I was very tempted to accept this as the answer, but the accepted answer had just a few more pertinent details. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Dec 5 '20 at 1:03
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    $\begingroup$ +1 for experience-based answer. Also, even if the legal position is that all the men are married to all the women, the reality is unlikely to be that symmetric. Some pairs will be more interested in sharing space than others. $\endgroup$ – Geoffrey Brent Dec 6 '20 at 1:07
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I think the best answer lies (no pun intended) not in redesigning the bed, but in redesigning the house. Why even have the sexes in the same room when they're doing it, if they're that homophobic?

In the Victorian era, different areas of the house were for different people. You would have certain stairs and entrances for servants, for instance, and the male servants might live in the basement while the female servants lived in the attic. Certain rooms would be the domain of men to smoke and drink with their male guests and certain rooms were for women to do their sewing or whatever. Mind you, this was to keep the men and women apart and the same sexes were put together, but homosexuality was illegal during this time. Maybe it can be adapted or inverted some how.

Perhaps looking at cultures that have multiple people married to one another in our world can help. I know in some African tribes, a man would have a central hut where he would live, and each of his wives and their children would have their own huts, forming a sort of compound.

Putting this all together, it might be a good idea to give everyone their own space but set it up in such a way that you can observe everyone coming (no pun intended) and going. This way if Bob visits Billy in his room, everyone will know. The socially acceptable place for the same sexes to interact is in the communal areas. Perhaps also put the (thin) walls together, with doors facing outward, and no locks on the doors, if you even have doors. If you had just a curtain for privacy, you would have to be not only quiet with your same sex encounter, but anyone could walk in at any moment.

It might help if only one sex even had beds. A common problem in relationships with more than two partners is the equitable distribution of sex. You could have only men having rooms at all, and the women rotate between them, or the other way around. This way, not only is everyone getting a fair shake, but there might always be someone spending the night, reducing the chance of sneaking someone in.

That all being said, I don't think there would be a way to keep members of the same sex apart and still have a functioning society. The best you could do is give people as little privacy as possible and ensure the only one-to-one encounters they have are in specific locations where they can't get a member of the same sex without everyone knowing.

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    $\begingroup$ That's true about not being able to keep people apart... these group marriages being havens for homosexuals is a central part of the story: Alice is married to Bob, and then marries Charlie and Dave... but Charlie and Dave are homosexual. Alice and Bob are sympathetic to Charlie and Dave, and help to hide their illegal trysts. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Dec 4 '20 at 1:55
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    $\begingroup$ @MontyWild and that's the place where it all works... because the system is designed so that the other members of the marriage are expected to be enforcing things - the women are expected to spot and prevent male homosexuality, and vice versa. Thus, the structure makes it so that it's very hard to hide such things from your wives/husbands. $\endgroup$ – Ben Barden Dec 4 '20 at 15:20
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There are single SLEEPING beds, and there are sex locations. And the two are never the same place!

Only a deviant sort would want to sleep in the fornication bed, and the opposite is even worse! Fornicating in the sleeping bed is like... doing it on the kitchen counter! How taboo!!

p.s. Note that the sex location is just that. It might contain only a bed for the boring-minded, or any other facility or equipment or setting. It is a designated functionality, not a piece of furniture. The actual mechanics of the location would be purely up to the participants, the Moral Uprighteous Board has no purview with how you do your sex, merely with whom you do it with.

By completely segregating the concept of sleeping spot and sex location from each other, you eliminate many of the potential pitfalls of a multiple partnership. No more getting woken up at 2am because husband#3 is feeling frisky with wife#2! If he wants that, then he will get up out of his own bed, approach his chosen wife, and invite her to the sex room. And all the more fun to them, I need to get my sleep for tomorrow's evaluation at work!

As for the homophobia viewpoint. Well, the designated sex room is for that, and ONLY for that. When it is occupied, the persons in the room had better have a very good reason for it! Consenting members of suitable genders of suitable marriages, of course. (or a single person, for cleaning the room). Similarly, having sex anywhere other than the designated place is simply not on! No normal person would do such a thing, and any deviation from this societal norm will be fuel for gossip at the very least, and reported to the Moral Uprighteous Board at worst.

It is rumored that the inhabitants of Thirdrock get to make a lot of whoopie, but are sadly lacking in cuddly-snuggly time. This is an unfortunate effect of their marital mores.

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    $\begingroup$ Very good point. They may not even have the concept of having sex on a bed. That maght be something that has to be done in a pool, in the garden so they can smell certain flowers considered to be aphrodisiac, under the sunlight... Then beds wouldn't be an issue, because it wouldn't even cross their minds that could be a suitable location. $\endgroup$ – Ángel Dec 4 '20 at 22:25
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The preferred option is, of course, the double bed. Persons of the opposite sex can sleep together. Partners can attain their conjugal rights on a roster basis. This is provided only couples of the opposite sex are in bed at any time.

Group marriage does not a priori mandate or imply group sex. This seems to be the case, historically, here on good old planet Earth with polygamous societies. This should be more so with the extreme homophobic sanctions on planet Thirdrock.

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    $\begingroup$ Ah, good job. While I was proofreading my answer you pretty much gave the same one more succinctly. Leaving mine up for the few extra details, though. +1 $\endgroup$ – Morgan Dec 4 '20 at 1:44
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    $\begingroup$ Crap! Me, too. very similar in the general meaning. $\endgroup$ – DWKraus Dec 4 '20 at 2:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Morgan. Your few extra details consisted of a lot of thoughtful text. For which you were justly rewarded. $\endgroup$ – a4android Dec 5 '20 at 6:27
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    $\begingroup$ @DWKraus I feel your pain. Often I've seen a question, thought of an answer & found someone has beaten me to the same solution. All part of the rich tapestry of life. $\endgroup$ – a4android Dec 5 '20 at 6:29
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To give you a different point of view:

In Western countries, children are encouraged to sleep alone in their beds. In other cultures families sleep together in a room, for example in Japan many families roll out their futons and put them in the middle of what is called the living room in Western countries. So they don't need separate sleeping rooms. Incidentally that's what my family does.

In your world you could posit some Victorian-style rules:

  • Two people of different sex aren't allowed to be by themselves if they aren't married

  • Two people of same sex aren't allowed to be by themselves even if they are married

  • In such cases they need to be accompanied by a gouvernante much older or younger than them, or by a group marriage member of other sex, etc.

  • Families must sleep together the night using futons in the living room

  • It is taboo to talk about how two people of different sex get to have sex but somehow they succeed, for example the father tells his sons about some tricks he had in his pastime but it is a secret

This means that homosexuality is hidden but probably rampant.

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You need a flexible form - with a united structure. A radial framework suits best.

A common architectural problem is to create a unified unit but with variable (at least during planning) way to accommodate individuals. Typical examples are dormitory rooms - where disparate individuals need privacy, but yet are arranged together.

You can use various techniques to ensure this, however one example is a radial form. This way, each person has separate access, yet also a unified central area. A sketch of one such dorm proposal as follows: enter image description here

Translating this to a more intimate setting, by having a large radial circular bed, partners have reasonable privacy and separate access from the outer edge. As intimacy develops, a central area could be used to develop the relationship further amongst individuals within the unit.

This also has the ability to expand to much larger family units if necessary, while keeping the same familiar structure.

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  • $\begingroup$ Given the homophobia, this might be something that would naturally evolve - everyone has their own rooms, but everyone can see who goes in and out of each room. The bedroom section would need a hallway to connect to the rest of the house, so no barriers to line of site happen in the central area. $\endgroup$ – David Rouse Dec 4 '20 at 19:47
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Your group marriages are a little small for this one, but it's worth a thought.

The reason they're quite so hot on homosexuality is because there's too much opportunity for it in a situation where it's possibly easier to be homosexual than straight.

That means single sex dormitories are the default. Batchelors live together in large halls, spinsters live together in large halls (when away from home). This is on the surface to prevent inappropriate activity due to the large number of other people in the room. Victorian morality would make all the beds in the room narrow singles, not that that ever stopped anyone.

The same extends to the marital home, the women have one room, the men have another, a third room is set aside for conjugal matters without disturbing the people sleeping in the dorms.

These dorms will have the desired "legal" effect some of the time, and the rest of the time they're going to have entirely the wrong effect.

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In the real world, polyamorous people exist, including groups living together.

The most common model, as far as I've gathered, is that of ordinary double-beds and couples or threesomes sleeping together, just the constellations change. So today, Alice and Bob sleep in bedroom one, while Chantalle, David and Eve sleep in bedroom two. Tomorrow, Alice wants some alone time and claims the guest bedroom, Bob snatches Eve while David and Chantalle enjoy couple time.

There may be some scheduling or just spontaneous whoever-feels-like-what.

The main change in furniture would probably be tripple-sized beds, essentially a bit larger than king-size. Blankets might also see some change because if you think the tug-of-war between two people is bad, wait till there are three.

For the one-to-many marriages, where one man is married to 2-3 women or one woman is married to 2-3 men, also look at the real world. Arab countries have polygamous marriages, but the custom is that each wife should have not just her own bed, but her own house (which is why in reality, most muslims have one wife despite Islam allowing up to four).

So it may well be that there are no hot threesomes at all, and your multi-marriages are simply a form of more permanent open relationships.

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