A review of GOD’S BROTHEL and other musings on polygamy
If polygamy is so wrong, why are the women so happy? This is a refrain you hear over and over again from proponents of this peculiar lifestyle. Before he was put in prison for bigamy, every time Tom Green paraded his gaggle of wives on television, they were always smiling, laughing, joking—happy.
Surely something that makes so many women happy can’t be so bad?
Or maybe they aren’t as happy as they seem. In her book, God’s Brothel: The Extortion of Sex for Salvation in Contemporary Mormon and Christian Fundamentalist Polygamy and the Stories of 18, Andrea Moore-Emmett addresses that very issue.
The book tells, as the title says, the stories of 18 women and their experiences in polygamy. Now opponents of this book will probably note that most of these women have since left their polygamous relationships behind, and thus it is not an accurate picture. I disagree, for in this book, they are not just telling their own stories. They are telling the stories of the women left behind, the ones who can’t or won’t leave, because they fear for their lives, the loss of their children, or even their eternal damnation.
Throughout the book there is no “tone” or “agenda,” as some critics have accused. It is all told matter-of-factly, often with what feels like a lack of concern or a lot of detachment. To me, it makes sense, as the author has noted, that these women do indeed learn to detach. They have to, for their very own emotional survival.
For me, the most poignant story was the last one, that of a woman who found herself victimized over and over again, not just by the polygamists, but by the legal system in Utah AFTER she left polygamy. Wisely, Moore-Emmett uses Sarah’s story to end her book. When Sarah testified in private against Tom Green, Utah’s most well-known and flamboyant polygamist, her name, address and phone number were given to his attorney: And since Green was serving as his attorney’s paralegal, he had access to them. Her information was sent to EVERYONE in the polygamous communities, including her parents. She will never be able to stop looking over her shoulder. Ever.
There is no democratic voice for women in polygamy. They are chattel. The property of their “master.” Children are victimized repeatedly, because they, too, have no voice.
It’s time for this to stop. Utah’s legal leaders need to take a hard line with the polygamists—not just those like Green, who flaunt their “beliefs” and make themselves a target, but also those who carry on their ways behind the closed doors of secret societies. There should be no doubt, however, that there is a very real danger for those who dare to confront these polygamists, who justify all in the name of God.
Judge Andrew Valdez, who has been involved in the case of John Daniel Kingston, a member of the infamous Kingston Clan, discovered that someone was attempting to monitor his comings and goings from the courthouse. That someone was a member of the Kingston clan. Despite this, he has refused to recuse himself from the case of a man who has 106 children with 14 wives, and when asked to name those with Heidi Mattingly Foster (who were removed from the home under Valdez’s order), he could not do so.
As Valdez has stated, the man is running a puppy mill. Can it get any more disgusting.
Andrew Valdez is a hero.