Polygamy's Latter Day Toll–a dialogue

More polygamy stuff.

In my comments, Elder T. Wanker asked some specific questions concerning polygamy and the impact it has on Mormon women today. Once again, I add the disclaimer that I cannot speak for every woman, only myself. And we know how much baggage concerning sexuality and Mormonism I still tote; with that in mind, I’ll post his questions and attempt to address them as best I can. I do this not only because he’s my favorite contrarian, but because the questions are insightful enough to spawn a whole other post. Thanks, TW.

He writes:

“I enjoyed your female side of the analysis on how it can play out today. It made me think of a few more questions that might have a bearing on your “red pill” taking young, Mormon housewife —

1. Does it create resentful feelings towards sex with her husband?

2. Does he get thrown in (with all the religious baggage he is toting around) in with the Male polygamous God — Especially if some of the evolutionary attributes described in your post are present?

3. Does it impact her ability to enjoy sex?

4. Does the generic Mormon female equate sexuality and spirituality?

5. Or is it opposite, sex and spirituality become completely antithetical because of her abhorrence of the polygamy doctrine?

I wondered about the first question, and I realized that I really can’t fully remember what it was like to be a young Mormon housewife. I can’t go back and re-create that “brain” and mindset, but I can conjecture pretty well, I think, based on how I feel now.

If polygamy were brought to the forefront of a marriage, as opposed to it staying in the background like the upper echelons of the Church like it to be, I think that polygamy would absolutely impact sex between a married couple. As a woman, I would feel a diminished connection with my husband. Knowing that he was only “all mine” for this Earthly time alone would dampen (and not in a good way) my feelings about the marriage and sex as a whole. As a woman, again, I need to feel special, and I also need the safety and security of knowing that he is there for me and only me–I am his primary relationship. The fact that his tender nature would be divided up between me and another (or other) woman would be difficult and discomfiting, to say the very least. If we don’t feel safe, valued and special, we don’t enjoy sex. Period.

But this is me now. Remembering as best I can what my mindset was like as a Mormon woman, I didn’t have polygamy in my conscious mind; I had the fact that I was sealed for Time and all Eternity, and that my marriage was sanctioned by God. That is what’s in my consciousness, and like so many other issues, the rest can be tucked away in a closet to only be examined under severe duress or life event that forces the examination.

Mormons are taught to take on faith what they don’t understand or what doesn’t make sense. And if they find scripture supporting it, all the better, their own feelings be damned. Intuition can easily be overrode if there is a blueprint of what is absolutely ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ instilled in us, and we follow the blueprint closely. This creates the disintegration of spirit and psyche, and the psyche will win every time if the opposing principals are cloaked in religion to match the conditioning (blueprint).

Now, I know for a fact that I was very pissed at the Mormon God concerning polygamy. Didn’t he understand his daughters? Hadn’t He created us to want only one partner? So why would He instate something (via flaming sword) that was so contrary to our natures, and so analogous to men’s natures? I felt unloved, diminished and betrayed.

And all of this played nicely into the all-male leadership and founding of the Church in general. Only ‘worthy’ men could have the Priesthood. Biologically, any woman can have a child. As a woman, it undermined my feelings of self worth, thus reinforcing my dependence on the Church for my identity and worth/value. Once again, our bodies are what makes us special. And what is said when a woman has a child (in every culture, not just Mormon)? In regards to the father, the saying goes “She gave him a son (daughter)”. Even what is biologically ours defers back to men.

I don’t know if the generic Mormon female equates spirituality and sexuality; I know that the conditioning of ‘sex is bad’ doesn’t just disappear on her wedding day when she is all of a sudden supposed to open her mind, heart and legs to her new husband and it’s all supposed to feel ‘okay’ because they are married. It doesn’t just go away, this connection of shame and sex. It takes a long time for a person to disconnect neural-links that have been set up in the brain. Many people aren’t aware that their beliefs are physiologically encoded in their brain. One would have to be very aware and learned in the skills of neuroplasticity to unravel their conditioning in one sitting. Toss in our cultural beliefs and societal views on female sexuality, not to mention the archetypal Prostitute and Virgin Mother within women’s psyches colliding in the mix, and you’ve got yourself a breeding ground for neuroses and confusion.

So if a woman has shame still attached to sex and she is having sex like a racehorse because she just got married, what is the impact of that on her psyche? Once again, conditioning vs. intuition vs conscious mind–and they are all saying different things. The result is spiritual disintegration. No wonder Mormon women are some of the most prolific anti-depressant users. No wonder they have so many babies; that’s the one role that makes sense. Our biology takes over and we finally get to act with integrity. We get to go back to being the Virgin Mother in our psyches, the role we adopted during our conditioning as an unmarried woman. And when we finally have the child, we can’t have sex for 6 weeks or so, protecting that sacred cavern from whence our new-found life’s purpose and meaning has emerged.

After the baby is born, so many women once again, go against what is intuitively right and go with what our society and culture tells them to do. In some “primitive” (huh don’t even get me started on THAT anthropological conundrum) cultures, when a woman gives birth, the entire community/village keeps her in a lodge or dwelling, and all she does is lay and rest, feed her new baby and spend time with him. Meals are brought in, her other children and cared for, and her whole job is to nurture and be with her new baby. At the end of the bleeding time, she is brought down to a river or stream and ritually washed and bathed, reintroducing her back into her former life.

With the impossible high standards of Mormon–and our whole society’s–ideals, I see women now with babies no more than two weeks old, walking around, shopping at Costco. I can see the giant pads resting between their legs; nature’s way of telling us we are to rest after giving birth. But they ignore it, I ignored it, because we must press on, we must endure. “Think of the poor pioneer women who gave birth on the trail and kept walking.” My mom actually told me this while brushing my hair roughly as I cried.

I can’t speak to the scope of all of the implications polygamy has on all women in Mormondom. I just know how I feel, how I see it and the impact it had on me, and still has, to some extent. The Church had to give women childbirth as their ‘gift’–they had to spin something we naturally do as a ‘blessing’ so that it would bring about equanimity and equality in regards to men having the gift of the Priesthood. It is the worst example of after-thought; like a man coming home from work on his anniversary to a home-made dinner and wife in lingerie, and him giving her lotion from the hotel he stayed at on a business trip. It is an insult. And I am shocked at how many women buy it, hook, line and sinker. And to top it all off, they don’t even get their husband, to whom they ‘gave’ sons and daughters, to themselves in the afterlife.

Add injury.

Chowder.

Published by

JulieAnn

My name is JulieAnn Henneman. I am an author living in Draper, Utah. My first novel, Always Listen to the Ravings of a Mad Woman: a Story of Sex, Porn and Postum in the Land of Zion, is a fictional story about a suburban Mormon housewife who discovers that her husband of 17 years is a sex and pornography addict. I am also a poet and enjoy writing short stories with an erotic bent. You can find my poetry online, and probably some erotic shorts. I will be performing my poetry in the Utah Arts Festival this year, among other venues. I was born and raised in the LDS faith and left several times throughout my life; however, I left for good in 1995. Currently, I am a full-time writer and parent. Beginning next month, I will reprise my role as a creative writing workshop facilitator for Art Access of Utah. Through Art Access, I teach creative writing workshops to adults and teens with disabilities and addiction issues. Oh, and I really, really love coffee.

5 thoughts on “Polygamy's Latter Day Toll–a dialogue

  1. This is an excellent post, JulieAnn! Bravo!
    There are so many thoughts racing through my mind after reading this… This may be long, SORRY!
    First, I have said this over and over myself so I will post a section from one of my recent blogging posts. I was explaining the differences between how I parent my children vs. how my LDS parents raised us. One of my points was about shaming children over their bodies, negative feelings about sexual pleasure and sex; I wrote:
    “My children will never feel shame over their bodies. They know that their bodies are beautiful and special. They should not feel shame in taking pleasure from what their bodies can do and how they feel. They know that their bodies are their own and they can choose to share their bodies with a partner when they are older. I have no problems with my children experiencing sex when they reach their teens. They know they can come to me and talk about it so I can help them prepare and take the necessary precautions.”
    I went on to talk about my best friend and her 16 yr old daughter, who recently told her she was ready to have sex with her boyfriend:
    “Mary then made an appointment for Beth and her boyfriend to talk with a gynecologist. After the talk with the doctor, the young couple actually decided to postpone making love because they had been properly informed and they did not feel they were ’emotionally ready’. How many other teenagers can you say that about?! My friend did put Beth on the pill, so when the time is right, they know they have taken the necessary precautions. Beth has ALWAYS discussed everything with her mother, so why would sex be any different? It’s too bad that more families aren’t this open.”

    I also wanted to recommend a book called, “The Sixth of Seven Wives- Escape from Modern Day Polygamy”. This book is very good; but as a warning, it is poorly edited. However, one of the things the author, Mary Mackert talked about was making love with her husband (who was much older) and when she orgasmed for the first time, he shamed her! Can you imagine?!! As if she were a small child doing something sinful!
    Even though this refers to modern polygamy, I would think this mentality was common with early polygamists and obviously passed down over time.

    Anyway, sorry for the long comment. Excellent points, very interesting topic!
    Hugs,
    Caryn :)

  2. Caryn,

    Thanks for the comment. I think it’s so important for that kind of open dialogue to exist between parent and child. Sex, shame and religion are a breeding ground for dysfunction and addiction, and we are seeing the fruits of this in our society and culture at large.

  3. I agree with you, JulieAnn. It is impossible to keep the lid on polygamy. Right now, it is part and parcel of Mormon doctrinal salvation and every piece of LDS culture is affected in one way or another by polygamy.

    That is the case because polygamy is an essential element of the Mormon salvation myth, it defines the nature of sex and women. It is impossible to push that theme into the back.

    I wonder what my mother would have told the missionaries if she had known that her daughters were supposed to become plural wives in eternity.

    Logic is a funny thing. No matter how hard one tries to sweep unpleasant assumptions under the carpet, they continue to shape our mindset.

  4. Sounds like T. Wanker caught someone else hook-line-and-sinker when he got JulieAnn to respond to his pervy questions.

  5. I Feel Dirty~
    His “pervy” questions? Perhaps your idea of “pervy” is another person’s honest and unashamed exploration of the impact polygamy has on female sexuality.
    To assume that I was ‘caught’ and didn’t respond of my own volition is both insulting and obtuse.
    I suggest if you feel so dirty, you might want to refrain from posts such as these and go back to reading something less provocative.

Comments are closed.