Being born and raised LDS in Utah, I’ve found this bit of trivia about myself lends fuel to the fantasy of “Good Girl Gone Bad” that I’ve played with in my dungeon. I’ve had a blast playing “Strict Mormon Mommy” and “Missionary Abductor”. Outside of the dungeon, my upbringing feels like being chained to my great-great-great-great- grandmother’s handcart piled high with Utah Mormon Stereotypes™ that I feel pressure to unpack every time I am asked about my “accent” or where and how I grew up and it leads to many of the same questions and associations when I meet someone new.
With online dating as one of my main sources for finding potential kinky and poly partners, it becomes a special kind of torture as I inevitably have to wade through the assumptions and questions about whether Mormon polygamy influenced my decision to pursue polyamorous relationships( Nope), if I am still a practicing member(No), whether I want to have twelve children(Oh for fuck’s sake!) or consider women and femmes in my poly family my sister-wives(Sorry, I’ve just received the Devine Revelation that I don’t want to talk to you anymore). Socially, when polyamory is brought up in mostly monogamous company, I get a lot of jokes about Polygamy Sects that trivialize the varied lived experiences of people who were raised in it and practice it. I have heard more than my fair share of mansplanations of church history based largely off of South Park episodes and a Broadway musical, and cartoonish assumptions of Mormon culture by people who’ve never stepped foot in a predominantly Mormon Utah suburb.
Trying to pigeonhole me with the “Good Girl Gone Bad” trope doesn’t go over well with me in everyday life and dating. My sexuality, my self-image and gender identity, how I choose and desire to modify my body, my work and my lifestyle feel like they come from fundamental parts of myself that I did not always have the freedom or enough knowledge to express, a freedom I have frankly revelled in since I decided to stop going through the motions to avoid conflict or abuse from my community and leaving my hometown in Utah in early 2009. When my practice of polyamory and BDSM gets thrown back at me as “Oh you’re one of those Mormon girls.” like I’m on a rather long Rumspringa and will “settle down” in my thirties as a vanilla-ish soccer mom, I’m inclined to ghost a date.
My family, on the other hand, comes at it from a standpoint that I was raised better than to fall for some modern free-love spin on polygamy but I have God given free will and hopefully will accept the Lord’s truth in the end. My mother once asked me if I was “allowed to date other people too.” and other probing questions about my relationship dynamics to compare and contrast polyamory with polygamy and comfort herself that I wasn’t falling victim to some new age cult or something. My siblings, thankfully are more accepting and open minded about my lifestyle.
The LDS church prefers to distance themselves from polygamous sects, often shunning former members that seek conversion and a community with familiar values and sense of self. I remember bits and pieces of news segments about the Apostolic United Brethren, Warren Jeffs, and the child “bride” trafficking cases in the 90’s and early 2000’s, but I do distinctly remember family and community disgust that the world would associate Good LDS People™ with “Apostates” that “perverted the true Doctrine” and preyed on their members. I remember being taught at a young age to be outraged at being compared to polygamists, along with the head shaking about “those poor misguided souls”. I still feel that knee-jerk offense when a new date jokes “You’re from Utah? Are you Mormon? How many moms do you have?” though it isn’t accompanied by the zealous defense of the church of my birth but a resignation that the bubble of polished White Americana Mormonism I was born and raised in isn’t as transparent to the outside world as I had thought years ago.