A fellow blogger and fellow contrarian wrote a brilliant post on polygamy…well also on the number four and fucking and…well, you’ll just need to go read it. Anyway, I think he’s brilliant. And I love debating with him. As I started to respond via a comment, I realized my comment would take up a whole lotta space, so I decided to blog about it.
He asks the question why? Why are we so bent on polygamy, so bent on the Victorian attitudes of the Mormon church? Why, instead, don’t we examine the way in which it “plays out in our lives” today? An excellent question, I think. I can’t understand why some people get so upset about what Joseph Smith did (or who he did) and they don’t seem to integrate how the whole history of polygamy has framed and created who we are at this moment. Well, I can’t tell you, as a post Mo, how polygamy plays out in “our” lives; I can’t because I can’t speak for all ex-Mormon women, or my friends, or my sister or my other Mormon family members or anyone else. But I can speak for myself.
I have a unique perspective from men in that I have never been anything but a woman (stay with me here) Men can speak from their experience and can talk about polygamy from their point of view, but they have never been a woman and will never know the impact and implications that are inherent in regards to this practice historically and spiritually.
First, let me macro-out a bit. Women and men have different needs emotionally in regards to sex and relationships; my mother (the brilliant sage that she was) used to say “Men give love to get sex and women give sex to get love.” I don’t know if that’s as inaccurate as some of her other weirdo axioms to which she prescribed. I do know that biologically men are more geared toward planting seeds into many, and women are more geared toward getting planted and kept by one man. Social conditioning enters into the picture, along with oxytocin, and men and women settle down, have three kids, get an itch, divorce, whatever; that’s how it goes. We, as a society, still view marriage as a permanent institution–which I find amusing since over half of them disintegrate. (notice I did not say “fail” here?) Sorry, I digress.
Women need to feel like they are special in a relationship. We need to know you want us, and only us. Ridiculous? Hmm, let’s look at that. You may say that that is an unreal expectation; men obviously like seeing what’s on the menu. True. But say you are out shopping with your sig. other and a hot young blond walks by. What would the rest of the day look like if you turned and obviously ogled her and said “Damn, I wanna have me somma that!” Yeah, guys, that would go over like prime rib and Chanel 5 at a vegan potluck.
Men spend most of the courtship doing things to make the object of their affection feel special. She, in turn, calls you when her car needs oil or she has a couch she needs moved. Men want to feel needed and useful as well as respected.
So here we are, with this biological and social conditioning, and we enter into the Land of Zion.
Now here I am, as a Mormon woman and I am being courted by a Mormon man. We get married, have babies and then someone gives me the red pill. I start learning about polygamy. As I am learning, my man is being useful in his callings, and had been useful as a missionary, bringing the Gospel to the multitudes. He is needed because he has the keys of the Kingdom via the Prieshood and he will pull me through the veil; he is respected why? Because of the mere fact that he has a PENIS. His gender (and let’s not mitigate his conformity to the rules and commandments) gives him the ‘honor’ of the Priesthood and all of the innate respect that accompanies it. All you have to have is a cock in Zion; that makes you eligible to have respect via the Priesthood “authority”. It is no accident that in the Book of Mormon, men are the major players. Today and as always, men run the Church. It doesn’t take a real genius to figure out who literally ‘wears the pants’ in this religion. It is a message that is neither subtle nor restrained. Men rule. Penises rule.
Now, still as this young Mormon wife, I find out that there will be polygamy in heaven–oh, wait, NOT FOR EVERYONE. Riiight. Since we have SO much say in the Land of Zion now, I’m sure well have lots of say in the Celestial Kingdom with a Male God and his obsequious Mother in Heaven that is never talked about ‘out of respect’. Well don’t I feel special? I get to spend eternity with a man that I love and married here on Earth and if I die early, he’ll bring with him wife number two, and there may be more waiting up there for him. But I am supposed to be okay with that because I get to have BABIES!!!
Let’s back up to when polygamy was practiced here on Earth. As a man, you get all of your needs met in terms of feeling useful, respected and needed. As a woman, you get to have babies, take care of the house, navigate being in close quarters with other women–who have sex with your husband by the way–some younger than you, some older. You get to help take care of their children and your own, and as the topping on this cake, you don’t ever get a real partner to yourself because he’s always working to keep food on the table or with wife #8 who is the new and ‘special’ one since he just married her a month ago and she’s expecting her first child.
This may be a totally millennial question, but I am going to ask it anyway:
WHAT IN THE HELL IS IN IT FOR ME???
Eternal salvation? Why? What’s the point? If I wanted to have eternal salvation with a group of women, I’d do it with my coffee clatch, not with a bunch of women my dolt-head husband chose.
So back to the original question: how does polygamy play out in our lives today?
It plays out in our lives today by UNDERSCORING the fact that women are not important for who they are, but for what their bodies can do (have babies). This mind-set coincides, interestingly enough, with our current society’s view of women as objects, although objectification occurs sexually as opposed to prolifically; the Church would never have such a banal attitude as that. Having babies is glorified and an honor, so we should feel proud that we are born women. Right? But it is still our bodies, not who we are, that is the focal point. We are not special, we are one of many.
That is why women focus on polygamy in the Church more than men. Because there is nothing in it for us. Human beings are simple creatures, really; we seek pleasure and seek to avoid pain. Have you ever HAD a baby? And pleasure for me is having that one and only special someone that makes my day simply by calling to say he’s thinking about me. Someone who tells me he loves me, someone who wants to have a partnership with me and only me, who brings me flowers on occasion just because he appreciates me.
Sorry, to me, that’s heaven.