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Bennion Writes to Decriminalize Polygamy

By Danielle Drown
On January 26, 2012


After a semester filled with traveling to France, writing publications in Montana, and becoming a worldwide renowned scholar on Mormon fundamentalism, social science professor Janet Bennion has returned from sabbatical.

Bennion spent the fall semester at her home in Montana working on her book "Polygamy in Primetime", a novel, and an article. The article is about the abuses in a polygamist relationship and has been published in the World Journal of Psychiatry. Her novel, "Strange Love," is a fictional account of a polygamist marriage in which a man's two wives fall in love with each other.

Coming from a Mormon, polygamist background herself, Bennion has been working on "Polygamy in Primetime" since the idea for the book was suggested to her at a conference she spoke at last year, where she spoke about her 20 years of research on polygamy.

 "At the conference I was approached by Brandeis, which is an affiliate of the university press of New England that incorporates Dartmouth and the fancy Ivy Leagues. So it's a wonderful press and they really have produced a good series. My book is the first book in the series," Bennion said. "This is a very good opportunity for me."

Bennion has been considered a leading expert on the topic of polygamy, having been called as an expert witness in a Canadian trial. It was when the review for her book came out that Bennion learned she has now been labeled as the worldwide scholar on Mormon fundamentalism.

"If there's an expert on this, everyone is now going to start thinking about me," Bennion stated about her new distinction.

In "Polygamy in Primetime," Bennion looks at and evaluates the culture and impact of the four major polygamist movements.

"I've written three other books and this fourth book is kind of my opus and it's been reviewed by a lot of colleagues as being the all-in-one book about Mormon polygamy. If you want an Anthropological foundation for understanding Mormon fundamentalism, then this is the book to read," Bennion said.

Along with her analysis of polygamist marriage, Bennion also looks at the impact of media and the emerging television shows portraying polygamy.

 "I'm showing four new chapters about how "Sister Wives," "Big Love," and blogging are playing into the scene of polygamy and how polygamists react to that; whether it's accurate and representative of everyone's experience," Bennion stated.

Bennion explained that her primary argument in this book is for the eventual legalization of polygamy as a form of marriage.

"I find that the appearance of polygamy in primetime is a good thing. It let's people know that this is a real marriage form and some of it is poor functioning and some of it is well functioning," said Bennion. "What this does, as far as the legal aspects, is brings us closer to what I think is the goal and that is decriminalization for the purpose of making these marriages as close as possible to legally recognized forms."

"You ask why? Why am I a feminist in favor of legalizing polygamy? It is to bring it into the light. Bring abuse into the light so that is can be monitored and regulated," said Bennion.

"Polygamy and Primetime" is set to be released in May 2012. 

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