Tag Archive | Misogyny

Utah Polygyny Often Intricately Linked with Child Brides

Growing up in Utah, my biases about polygamy and polyamory were deeply marked by the oppressive religious practice of control and child rape practiced by some splinter sects of the LDS faith. The obvious difference is consent, but I had to unlearn years of association of polyamory with coercion and abuse.

It’s easy to condemn those in other places that condone child rape through marriage. It’s safe and comfortable. But the painful fact is, I live in a state where child brides have been (and almost certainly continue to be) part of an ongoing system of abuse. I have a deep rage that the communities where it happens are calculatedly isolated, and they exert total control over the lives of growing children, who have even less capacity for autonomy & consent than most.

We are talking about the kind of subculture that has literally burned books intended for a local library to keep control and maintain ignorance. It’s been almost impossible to find and prosecute the child marriages rapes because the communities have their own police and shunning the outside world is a religious imperative.

What’s even worse, even men who have admitted their child rape may not even be eligible for prosecution because within the last decade Utah’s legal code allowed the rape of girls as young as 14 so long as their parents consent.

At the time, Utah’s marriage age was 14 with parental consent. In 2005, the Utah State Legislature changed it to 16. In 2003, the legislature made any polygamous marriage involving anyone under 18 a felony of child bigamy.

Shit like this shows just how uninterested our judicial system really is in prioritizing the protection of adolescents from predators using religious coercion. When as recently as 10 years ago, parents’ will could substitute for full legal consent to sexual activity, it’s clear that far from being the enlightened moral actors we make ourselves out to be, we are just beginning to question living in the dark ages.

A criticism (I believe fairly) lodged against more moderate religious voices is they give cover to, and downplay the abuse of more extreme versions because they find criticism of religiously backed abuses uncomfortable. There is no more clear example in our modern backyard than the fact that a man like Winston Blackmore may not even have committed a crime under our laws.

This is What’s Wrong With Our Society

Professor Myers has already more than adequately addressed two remarkable cases of strong individuals speaking against rape, but I can’t get over the injustice and horror involved in the account of Ms. Elizabeth Seccuro.

She is simultaneously one of the most courageous people I can imagine and typifies everything that is wrong with how our society and legal system approaches the unique and terrible crime of rape*.  She was always a strong, proud heroic woman with incredible integrity, who was denied even token justice immediately after the rape.  When her rapists arrogantly re-inserted himself into her life by making contact 20 years later, the “justice” she received just shows how far we are from where we need to be.

* Hint: stop treating it like a property crime, or a beating/assault of a non-sexual type.  It’s not.  It is the total violation, dehumanization and assault on another person’s self.  I view it pretty much on par with murder on the bad to evil continuum of behavior.

Word Choice Matters

I went to lunch today, and as I often do while driving, listened to NPR.  When I was almost back my office, I heard a statement that made me cringe.

For context: They were discussing the transfer of Saudis from Gitmo to the de-radicalization programs meant to prevent return to violent movements through education, job training, etc.  The guest was explaining the attempts to counter to bitter anger that would lead young men to jihadist movements, by giving them opportunities they had previously lacked, but what she said was this.

They gave them jobs, homes, wives.

Are you fucking kidding me?  They gave these young men other human beings?  Or do you mean that they arranged marriages, matches, etc. according to a local practice?  Because one is fucking slavery and the other, while not a Western norm, is not actually the barbaric evil I used to think*.

I really hope the commenter simply slipped, but it’s certainly indicative of something important when we can speak in this way.

* I had this assumption challenged in a sociology class.  I had always figured that arranged marriages would be uniformly terrible, because I value the freedom to marry for love (and I still do, but I recognize it’s not a norm everywhere).  What changed my view came from a story my professor told about a previous student whose marriage had been arranged.
She commented that she thought it was sad that American fathers didn’t love their daughters.  Her reasoning was that American fathers abandoned their daughters to the winds of chance at finding a good husband who is responsible, respectful, kind, etc. while fathers like hers took pains to ensure their children were taken care of.  She claimed that she didn’t understand men, but her father did, and so he would be able to choose one who was a good man.  Now, this is a depressing (and anti-feminist) view of the sexes as practically different species; but our culture isn’t far better, look at dating advice in magazines, books that couch interactions in terms of fucking alien races and such.  While I would love for all cultures to recognize that human beings are first and foremost people, and not their gender, I can accept that there could be some value in cultural traditions of arranged marriages when spouses are selected on criteria of who will be good to and for their children.  (I keep on caveat, though, if these traditions are not  used this way in practice, and young women are traded more politically or monetarily, then it truly is an evil.)