All of the content warnings, people. Have your emergency kitten on standby. In the final pages of this chapter of Escape, we get a first-hand look at what a forced polygamous marriage looks like.
Two days ago, the Prophet announced Carolyn could go to college – but she has to marry virtual stranger and terrible human Merril Jessop first. Now, Carolyn, her dad, and her two moms arrive in Salt Lake City for her wedding to a man 32 years her senior. She hasn’t spoken with him. She doesn’t even want him to touch her. But when her father only gets two hotel rooms, she realizes she’s going to be forced to sleep with Merril. As her mothers get her dressed and coiffed for the ceremony, she feels like she’s “being prepared for a ritual sacrifice.”
This is not consent. It’s coercion.
Her father gives her a little lecture, like Polonius to Laertes only extremely fucked up, when they arrive at the Prophet’s home:
“Carolyn, Merril is a good man, and I want you to know that if you want him to love you and love your children, you should always put his feelings first and find yourself in perfect obedience to him.”
Convenient for the men, innit? They have no duty to love their wives or, indeed, their own children. The wife has to earn crumbs of affection by being the perfect submissive sex slave. He doesn’t have to earn her esteem. She’s ordered to obey him, cater to him, treat him as a god regardless of his behavior.
But what hits Carolyn in the gut is the mention of children. She hasn’t even come to terms with the marriage and sex part, and everyone’s already expecting her to have children.
She’s taken to Merril, who holds her hand as the Prophet seals them for eternity. The instant the wedding’s done, Merril gives her a perfunctory kiss and promptly walks off without further acknowledging her. There’s no love, no affection, not even the slightest attempt to treat her as a human being. She’s just a prop, a means to an end, and as we learned the last time, she isn’t even the one he wanted.
Carolyn’s left standing at the altar with no idea what to do.
She follows her parents to another room where there’s a birthday party on, although she knows she doesn’t “belong to my family anymore.” Merril eventually orders one of his other wives to scram and lets Carolyn sit with his family for the rest of the party. She goes back to the hotel with her father after everyone has eaten. Merril comes to collect her things, speaking to her father rather than her, until he goes to leave and she doesn’t automatically follow. Only then does he bother to address her, asking if she’s coming, and complaining about the weight of her luggage. This, she tells us, is the most he’s ever said to her.
Merril is a shitty person.
They go back to his room, where Carolyn huddles silently at a table in the corner while her new husband watches teevee. When he leaves to check on the rest of his family, she goes to bed, exhausted from the stress and lack of sleep. He gets back and tells her they should talk a bit, but she tells him she just wants to sleep.
Remember, she’s only had two days to come to grips with the idea that she’s being forced to wed and bed a man she doesn’t like, and she wasn’t allowed any private time at all, not to mention, she’s barely had any sleep. A decent man would back off and give her the space she needs. Merril is not a decent man. Having made his one effort to be sort of a gentleman, he climbs into bed, stares at her, and then starts groping her without another word. He undresses her, gets on top of her, and paws at her, all while she’s inwardly horrified and not responding to him at all. But there’s no choice for a woman in the FLDS, no concept of consent and certainly no acknowledgement that marital rape can even be a thing. Carolyn wonders if she should fight him off. She finally manages to wriggle away when he can’t get an erection. She’s shaking too hard to get dressed, and sits on the floor at the foot of the bed while he babbles some nonsense about how he “felt it was important to be respectful of a lady’s feelings” as a cover story for his impotence.
That’s her wedding night.
Merril gets up and leaves in the morning without a word to Carolyn. Later, he collects her in order to show her off to his men friends as his shiny new wife. They celebrate his nuptials by joking about how a new wife’s like a dog, and Merril says dogs are even better than wives. He says marriage is like a bath: “Once you get into it, it’s not so hot.” Carolyn sits, a silent, degraded object, as the men laugh at her expense.
Afterward, Merril dismisses the rest of his family and takes Carolyn with him on a business trip to Oregon. As the miles pass, she thinks about how she’s missing her finals. Her life is wrecked.
All for the glory of God, eh?
I just want to know how anyone can be cheered by the thought of eternal life when their religion makes this one so damned bleak.