Saturday, April 12, 2008

It was a busy week and lots of things are brewing but I can’t talk about them yet.


I can’t stop thinking about all those children taken from the fundamentalist LDS ranch in Texas. I haven’t even read or watched very much about it, I just keep thinking about those kids. They must be so scared. They are taught the outside world is evil, this is a terrible fear they are constantly hearing about and now it’s real and right “out there.” I wonder about the older kids and if it’s too late for them to have any sort of normal life. I think about how many compounds like this one were not found.

I am also thinking about our evolution as a species – an alpha male with several females is part of our genetic heritage. So, think about it. How many communities like this one have there been? Of course, those ones in the past didn’t necessarily have the religious zealotry that this community had… has. But still, it’s a lot to turn over in one’s head. And that’s what I’ve been doing a lot this week.

Also, I think about what I learned from Robert Wright’s “The Moral Animal.” As I told Robert Wright when I met him at the TED conference a few years ago, The Moral Animal fucked me up! It was very profound, and then became the gateway book for me to read all kinds of other socio-biological types of books.

Anyway, Wright argues that enforced monogamy protects men more than women. He asks the reader to imagine a graph where every man and woman are linked as mates. Then he writes (and I would quote him, but I can’t find the book – if you can believe it I still have not re-organized my books after last year’s May 5th filming of Letting Go of God! Argh!) that you should further consider what happens when one of the males links to another female who is exclusive to him too. One man gets two women. Well, there’s a man left out. And so on. So that when a group is comprised of one male who dominates the breeding of several females, then several males are left out. And then he goes on to talk about how detrimental this can be to a society – how less violent men are who are in relationships, etc. Then he goes on to show that women, if they could take a mate that is already mated – or engage in polygamy, she is better off and the children of the first mate are also better off because they are not shunned by the second mate. I don’t it’s theoretically true that women are better off after you are wife number #4, #5, and so on, but still -- it was an amazing theory that I could understand in general and went completely against everything I thought that I thought about this subject!

So, then Wright argues that laws favoring monogamy are really for the benefit of men, those men who would be left un-mated if polygamy were allowed. And monogamy laws are good for society in general, but maybe not so much for that extra female or two a powerful male could acquire if it was lawful. But then he goes on to show that this actually happens anyway, and that rich and powerful men often take a series of wives and have two families or sometimes even three.

In any case, it made me understand polygamy in a new way, and it made me a defender of monogamy in a stronger way too.

Last night Mulan was asking me if the police didn’t sleep and stayed up all night in case something bad happened. What if something happened in the middle of the night and they were asleep? So I was explaining what the “night shift” or the “graveyard shift” was. She was wide-eyed and amazed. And I could tell she was a little bit scared and wanted to know that if something terrible happened, the police would be awake and able to help her.

I think this was because she had just gone over to our neighbors who have a 4 month old baby and she had come home on her own (one house away) and the porch light was burned out. This was her first time to approach her own door in the dark like that. (I was actually watching TV in the living room, ten feet from her, so it wasn’t all that terrifying or unsafe – believe me…) In any case, talking with her about it, seeing this fear of night and not being protected, even the little glimmer of it, made my heart break for all those kids who were taken from that LDS ranch. I mean, of course I think they should have been taken, HAD to have been taken. But they must be terrified. Oh dear, oh dear.

My last thought for this April Saturday morning – and then I have to go wrangle Mulan out of bed – is that I no longer apologize for liking Bravo TV’s “The Real Housewives of New York City.” I am mesmerized. I am totally a Bravo TV supporter at this point. And I even like the new “Step It Up” – the dance reality show. Mulan said last night, after we watched “Step It Up,” “Bravo is like the best channel ever.” That might be true right now. I have no real cable loyalty, but these shows are really impossible not to watch and then actually get sucked into – to the point where I actually know what night it’s on and look forward to it! Curses! I never thought that would happen!


Jen said...

I just came upon your Blog and the first post I read was about the FLDS compound. It really is a disgusting story and I wish there was a way to really help those innocent children and young adults. I just wanted to point out that it is the FLDS church, and they are not Mormons, and not the "normal" LDS church. I know it probably is the same thing to most people. But I'm a Mormon, and part of the LDS church and I in no way want to be associated with the compound in Texas, or any part of polygamy. (Sorry, just wanted to put my 2 cents in...with inflation you would think that saying would have inflated as well)

Petra said...

Okay, I will reluctantly admit it too. My name is Petra and I watch The Real Desperate Housewives on Bravo. And it is ALL YOUR FAULT, Julia! LOL

No, seriously. I was in my "craft room" and flipping through the channels to find something to keep me company while I worked and came across that show. Normally, I would have skipped right past it, but with your glowing review *bg* I thought I would give it a try.

It is like an addiction. And the worst part is that I knew it would be when I watched it the first time. Thankfully, I have no idea when it is on and usually only watch TiVo (which is not in my craft room) so the likelihood of happening upon it again is slim.

Anyway, as my mother would say, thanks a bloody lot! LOL

: ) P

~ L said...

I *love* watching the talks on the TED site!

I've also been thinking about those poor kids. On 360 last night they were saying that the older women are watching the children and seem to be noting who is "open" to talking to the CPS workers. :(

It's also horrifying to see that they push out the young men who would be in competition for the young women. I just cannot wrap my brain around how those women could stand by as older men force their teenage boys off the compound for no good reason.

mleiv said...

Ex-Mormon. God, every time I see Jeffs smug, inbred face in the news it makes me want to claw his goddamn eyes out. For all that I was oppressed and brainwashed and manipulated into guilt and marrying young and then they made me miserable for not having 12 kids right away... dammit, these poor little girls have it so much worse. If they get through some legal loophole and send them back (like those two teenage girls who had to GO INTO HIDING in Utah in the late 90s because the courts wanted to send them home), then I am just going to be so sick. Seriously, just shaking this whole thing makes me so mad.

Have you read Under the Banner of Heaven? I think it's a particularly frightening (and accurate) insight into religious extremism and particularly the elements of Mormonism that lead to this mess. Not that I don't recognize that Christianity has a ton of the "Kill in God's Name" bullshit, but Mormonism - wow, they sure took that to a new level in the 1800s and now they want to pretend like it never happened and all these crazy people they spawned have no relation to their perfect little mainstream religion.

Sorry. ranting. just mad. mad mad mad...

Anonymous said...

Bill Maher had a great "New Rules" last night about the fundamentalist compound. Bill's a little edgy with his humor sometimes and goes a little too far, but he's always funny:

Same show he interviewed Richard Dawkins:

BlondeBlogger said...

LOVE The Real Housewives series. I was hooked on the OC version and now am watching the New York one.

How about that one chic flipping out over the husband showing up at "girls' night out?" Glad I wasn't in that room!

Although I will say it's pretty creepy that those two can't go anywhere without each other. At some point, it stops being cute and romantic. I think they've definitely crossed that point!

Mojourner said...

I converted to that sect years ago, and cannot begin to tell you the solace it brings.

But it's good to keep in mind that the biological part of evolution is not so tied to any form of -gamy. Amongst my chimp cousins, there are alpha males as well. Generally more theologically sophisticated than the typical fundamentalist, but you could argue that they are polygamists. So there's the Alpha, lording it over his society and glorying in his Hestonian exaltedness.
But look, down the trail and in the thicket...Why there's what the primatologists call a "sneaker male," passing on genes to one of the deperate house-chimps.

The Alpha wants everyone to think that the clan's history and genetic heritage stems from his godly member, but them pagan scofflaws always end up contributing somehow.

Lucidity said...

Julis, I really don't watch TV and have tuned out of most of the news for the last year or so because, mostly, of all the blood and gore in Iraq and the stupidity of Hollywood, so reading your blog is kind of a wake-up. Still, I think I'm happier in my little bubble not knowing what is going on in Texas. Still, I like your blog, your writing style, and attitude towards life. I teach college writing, and you have nice style. Good luck!

Eaton said...

"...I just keep thinking about those kids. They must be so scared. They are taught the outside world is evil, this is a terrible fear they are constantly hearing about ...” "

How is this different than what Americans are taught as adults? Not just Americans, of course, because those foreigners are all devils and undoubtedly doing the same damn thing. Bush is just Jeffs writ large- and as for polygamy- who hasn't he screwed?

A said...

I was reading the part about monogamy and yes its important for all male to be able to "mate" but what what about the poor women suffer when they are one of many wives. They dont get to feel special or get the attention they deserve.

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Jay McHue said...

My first thought regarding the news of the FLDS compound was, "Thank God Janet Reno isn't Attorney General anymore!"

Jenn said...

Boy oh boy, there is a lot to chew on in this post! I'm new to your blog, but have a fan of yours for a long time. And just between us, I can't help but get sucked in teh Housewives show!

Anonymous said...

Just wondering why you haven't commented on the Monique Davis anti-atheist rant? Personnally, I think this incident brings to the forefront how many Americans feel about atheists. And I don't think her apology to Mr. Sherman made an iota of difference in how she or others feel.

goprairie said...

Have you read Escape by Carolyn Jessop and Laura Palmer? Jessop had to trick her own kids into escaping with her because they never would have otherwise - and it would have been dangerous to them for her to 'convert' them before they left because if anyone slipped or the told on her, they oculd be taken away. they were thoroughly indoctrinated and so she had to essentially plan a way to kidnap her own kids and a way to get them all at once and after they left and figured out what she was doing, actually wanted to escape from her - some of the oldest ones ended up going back - the brainwashing is deep. And LDS has big lawyers that she had to fight. She had to let them go back to visit - how terrifying that would have been!

Bizgiant said...

Polygamy or monogamy?
that is an interesting topic.
anyway. the society is sick.

JackieMacD said...

Hi Julia,
I just found your blog when it flashed on a google or blogger page... wherever it was, I was happy to find it. My husband and I listened to Letting Go of God this past winter... actually, as we put up the Christmas tree (now there's some irony for you) and you definitely have created hours of discussion and sometimes debate in our house. It's an ongoing process, that's for sure.

Anyway, I wanted to say hi. I've been told in the past that I look like you! You can see for yourself, if you want. We're in the process of adopting a little girl from Taiwan and we're journaling the adventure as we go.

I'm also a writer for and recently pitched an adoption feature and you to be a part of it. Hopefully, that will happen!

Great blog. Thanks for opening eyes and minds.


Becky C said...

I have a friend who writes a wonderful, witty 'about Town' type newsletter every week in Dallas. She had the best intro to her newsletter this week:

Hi All,

As natural born smart alecks there are funny things we could all say about the West Texas Cult where more than 400 women and girls were living but I’ll refrain. I will say this – the next time we wearily rub the sides of our temples because our daughters are overly exercising their strong wills, drive and quick wit, thank the stars in heaven our apples didn’t fall far from the tree! The way we figure it, no cult will want them and with love and luck the feeling will be mutual. I will always wonder about the girl who despite being born into that situation had the courage and drive to make a phone call that got the ball rolling to set those women free. We can only imagine the anguish she is being subjected to by the other women right now and because of it, may never figure out she’s truly a hero.


Situations like this will exist as long as there are societies who use the name of God or whoever to create their own rules and perpetuate ignorance by withholding education. People should ALWAYS question authority (those in charge) in order to be able to act accordingly when such travesties are discovered.

chris said...

Counter Argument to "Monogamy protects men":

We are all in this together, and we are all affected by the net cost of our societal choices. Lets consider a polygamous system from this perspective.

After having been outcompeted for mates, do you think the "beta" males will sit around and just say "aw shucks, guess we lose out"? The sex drive is a powerful biological force, and when unsatisfied does not stand meekly by the wayside. If significant numbers of men are deprived of sex, they will either band together to kill off the alpha male, or will take by force what culture denies them (rape).

In the case of a slain alpha male, while the betas will be glad to avail themselves of the services of his prior wives, they will have no concern for his children. They may even kill them off too as pre-emptive defense against future vengence.

In the case of rape, the alpha will be obliged to defend his family, and will hunt down and attempt to kill the rapists.

When gender numbers are balanced, the result of a polygamous system is increased interpersonal violence. It is to the detriment of everybody to have a bunch of sex-starved men roving the streets, and everybody to some degree will suffer for it.

There are only a few conditions where polygamy is a viable social system:

- when women are significantly greater in number than men, usually because the men have been killed off. This was the situation that drove the Mormons to polygamy.

- when it isn't widespread. A few alphas with multiple women aren't as unbalancing as many of them. This is essentially the current situation in the US, where every wealthy person has a mistress (if the focus of the media is to be believed).

- when the alphas have such a huge advantage in power over the betas, violence is not an option. While religious sensibilies prevented it, I think of medieval Europe in this example. The only thing a starving peasant can do to a well fed armored knight is die upon their sword.

In summary, as a social structure, polygamy isn't the norm in human societies, because the conditions necessary to make it a stable system are uncommon. Monogamy is more stable in most situations, and people being the creatures they are, it is rarely followed in the absolute. In a monogamous system, people may have affairs on the side, but these are usually purely sexual engagements. They don't form lasting social bonds, and if they remain secret have little effect on the prevailing monogamous system.

Neon Nurse said...

How interesting to see other people thinking abot the same thing. I was talking to my husbad las night about the LDS compound in Texas. I couldn't believe the authorities let this go on so long. I find it incredulous we have to wait till somethig is totally out of control to act. Those poor girls. They haven't evn gotten to live life.

goprairie said...

polygamy - when the birthrate is generally 50/50 male/female, and science has shown a tendency for a shift to MORE males born when women are under stress, what happens to the 'extra' males? I the case of these LDS cults, they get kicked out. Imagine, raising the little boys to think the outside world and outsiders are evil, to raise them to have goofy ideas about male/female relationships and religion and childrearing and everything else and then . . . kicking them out to fend for themselves in that world. What a cruelty!

Nicey said...

Youve just gotta bring it to the attention of the powers that be eh

mleiv said...


I appreciate your points and largely agree, but Mormons began practicing polygamy before they moved to Utah, when the numbers were not really imbalanced (Joseph Smith just sent the first husbands off on "missions" and married their wives). After moving to Utah, the imbalance was actually the other way, as in most places in the early American West (more men). The extraneous men were just expelled, as is the case in modern polygamous cults. And they also took Native American wives, after killing their men. From the historical record it seems fairly obvious that this was nothing more than an Alpha Male power play (note that the first prophets "inherited" their predecessor's wives).

And an addendum to my previous comment: in the present Mormon church men can be "sealed" (married) multiple times to women in the temple (if their wives die or they undergo a civil divorce, of course), but women are only allowed the one. If women are civilly divorced, they must obtain a special release from the church to be remarried in the temple (and it is hard to get). If a woman isn't getting remarried, the church will not absolve her holy marriage for any circumstance. Even if her ex was an abusive S.O.B, she is married to him forever. So when they say they don't practice polygamy anymore, hmmm... not so much.

I hope this is all resolved soon; 11 years later and it can still get under my skin!

Sheldon said...

If you ever tear yourself away from those ridiculous "reality" competitions, start watching "Big Love" on HBO. It'll give you a new appreciation for those in polygamous relationships. I recently saw the "Making Of" special as well, and they interviewed numerous people who lived in (or are living in) such societies, and they're not all child molesting, religious nuts. Well, a lot of them are religious nuts, but their societies seem to operate just matter what bizarre theory Robert Wright cooks up tomorrow.

Abhishek Upadhyay said...

My view of America was that it is society of educated people who lead a way of life which is more scientific and logical.Seeing the news of this cult I was amazed to know that things like these happen in America also.

Anonymous said...

I just came upon your Blog and the first post I read was about the FLDS compound. It really is a disgusting story and I wish there was a way to really help those innocent children and young adults. I just wanted to point out that it is the FLDS church, and they are not Mormons, and not the "normal" LDS church. I know it probably is the same thing to most people. But I'm a Mormon, and part of the LDS church and I in no way want to be associated with the compound in Texas, or any part of polygamy.

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SavvyD said...

If polygamy were allowed then maybe men would be treating us ladies so badly in their eternal quest to find the ONE. I'm starting to be in favor of it because then at least I would know where my man is and I would know and be like sister wives with the women. We could all start a band or something. I would insist on auditioning my sister wives so that we could perform like the Osmonds or something. Only the cool, talented ones could be my sister wives!! My dating life sucks!

SavvyD said...

If polygamy were allowed then maybe men would be treating us ladies so badly in their eternal quest to find the ONE. I'm starting to be in favor of it because then at least I would know where my man is and I would know and be like sister wives with the women. We could all start a band or something. I would insist on auditioning my sister wives so that we could perform like the Osmonds or something. Only the cool, talented ones could be my sister wives!! My dating life sucks!

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NAHO News said...

The truth is that you find different mating/bonding arrangements in different socities. Humans are incredibly adaptive and inventive. Saying that there is one natural arrangement goes against the evidence of 10,000 years of variance in human socities around the globe.

Elida said...

The ranch in texas is so scary.. It's OK if you choose to live a life like that, but it's unfair to the children who are born into this sect, it will be hard for them to live a normal life in the community then.

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Ginnie said...

One of the saddest thing about the whole FDLS is the fact that the boy children are sort of thrown away and forced out of the community, so the old guys have access to and no competition for the younger girls. It is heartbreaking and pretty darn scary.

K.C. said...

Isn't it so tough on those baby girls having to figure out that they are scared for the first time of their own house. And how hard it is to let them know that they really don't have to be. K.C.

Unknown said...

What most of these social-bio theories fail to take into account is homosexual people or those who choose to pair exclusively with people of the same sex. It's only looked at from a male-female pairing perspective. Very heterosexist. Where do we fit into the puzzle of mating and monogamy and polyamory? Or maybe he covered that and I'm just assuming he did not because I haven't read the book. How does it benefit or cause detriment to us (the LGBT community)? It's only speaking from a reproductive standpoint and not taking other complex, sociological factors into account. But such is the way with most theories-LGBT people are not studied and left out of the equation. Perhaps he should look to the bonobos chimp communities for answers.

Gray Blogger said...

Hardcore blogger. Just checking it out.

and another thing said...

Don't let the FLDS affair be used to support atheism. The workings of the FLDS church, the LDS church or any other Christian or non Christian church or religion has little to do with the presence of God but are man made social systems devised to control mankind. Open up your minds to the thought that there is but one God and that God is within us all as we are within God. We are all part of the eternal spirit and as we sow eventually we shall reap.
Would your thoughts about the Texas ranch be any different if there was not a "Religous Community" involved, or if it was reported as being in Iran.
And as for "reality TV" well get real, is that what you want "reality" to be like?

goptgill said...

this whole texas thing gives all mormons a bad name. i think the whole thing is just absolute poo. i feel like the mothers were just as abused and the children. they were conditioned to think that it was ok for 14 yr old girls to be married and procreate...and thats mental abuse if ive ever heard of it. im not mormon, but that truly doesnt represent the mormon church in a realistic light.

jen, nowadays it would be like your 30 cents.

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Letera said...

Hi, I came across your blog and its interesting you write about this compound. I live in Flagstaff and there has been one in Colorado City on the border of Utah and Az. I work as a nurse in Flagstaff and have to take care of these women and children. Its aweful. It always pisses me off about what the men do. There are these children known as the lost children. The men kick the boys out at 16 because they dont want to many. The children are mentally and physically abused and handicapped due to inbreading. The girls are raped at such a young age. I am so glad they got Warren Jeffs, the big guy. I dont understand how they have gotten away with this for so long. Knew it wouldnt last long when they started in Texas.
On a happier note, love your blog.

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Lomagirl said...

I like the Real Housewives, too. I wrote a whole blog about the OC ones. (Sorry, I can't find it to link to here.) The basic rant is that they aren't really housewives, but it's compelling, none the less.
The FLDS kids? That's sad. I hope they are being super sensitive to all that- maybe the older kids are helping out. Heck, some of those older kids are the moms of the little kids.

Boutique Mix Fashion said...

I feel bad for the kids too and i'm torn between being happy for the "rescue" and feeling sad that they've been taken away from the only world they know - for better or worse.

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