Thursday, August 23, 2007

God's Brothel by Andrea Moore-Emmett

I am currently reading God's Brothel by Andrea Moore-Emmett. I actually ran across this book while I was at the library doing research for a gay parenting article -- this book was on the shelf right above where I was looking, and it happened to catch my eye. My preliminary thought was that it looked interesting, and so I checked it out along with the others.

I started reading God's Brothel last night after finishing Unassisted Childbirth, and I am very glad I checked it out. It is definitely very interesting, not to mention rather disturbing.

God's Brothel is about the polygamist culture of Mormon and Christian fundamentalists. The book starts out with a chapter on the problems of polygamy, from legal issues to the domestic abuse (both physical and sexual) this fundamentalist culture is breeding. After that, the book tells the stories of 18 women who experienced it firsthand -- and managed to escape.

Their stories are horrendous; it's hard to believe that these things go on in our country. I'm only slightly joking when I say that incest jokes should be about Mormon fundamentalists and not Southerners. This book is chalk-full of stories of girls who were beaten, molested, and raped by their male relatives -- and in these communites, practically everyone is a relative. Girls in their mid-teens are forced to marry older stepfathers, uncles, and cousins.

Girls in these fundamentalist Mormon groups are taken out of school by the time they hit puberty, if they ever even go to school at all. As part of their preparation for motherhood, which starts in early adolescence, they are told it is their duty to bear a child a year -- in fact, that their body is intended by God to be worn out through childbirth. It is their only purpose in life.

What is really horrifying is that many of the women attest to the fact that this is the rule, and not the exception. Furthermore, most of them ran into problems getting the legal system to do anything. Even though there are laws about polygamy, most of the time these cults are ignored and allowed to continue mistreating their women and children. It's horrifying.

On the bright side, God's Brothel has inspired me to research and write about the topic myself.

September 9, 2007 -- Update:

This evening I spotted a related article on the New York Times website, about the trial of a polygamist matchmaker named Warren S. Jeffs. Jeffs is on trial for forcing underage girls to enter into polygamist marriages with older men. Although the article goes nowhere near the depth of the issues Andrea Moore-Emmett discusses in her book, it is still an interesting current event, particularly if you have read (or are reading) God's Brothel.

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