She theorizes that marrying brothers "deepened their intimacy, extending it in new directions, further complicating the intricate balance of emotional and material ties, and perhaps offering a symbolic consummation of their passion" for each other. Interestingly, Mormon women had the unique ability to take this even one step further - by marrying the same man, and thus becoming sister-wives.The unique arrangements of Mormon polygamous households provided a potential medium for Lesbian expression among women who could easily (albeit covertly) eroticize each other's bodies through the gaze of their shared husband.This separatism, which the sexual deviance of polygamy created, was a highly effective means for the Mormons to gain social and political power amongst their own members.
In doing so, it became apparent to me that Mormon women found that the intensity of female homosociality available in Mormon structures created a vital space in which they could explore passionate, romantic relationships with each other.
At the same time I have uncovered some of the problematics of male homosociality - its power to arbitrarily defend or exile men accused of entering into erotic relationships with other men.
This was possible only because her sister-wives cared for her three children in Utah while she was studying back east, pooling their resources to pay her tuition.
Her sister-wives also wrote her encouraging letters, while she described those of her husband as "harsh", "bitter and sharp". Shipp returned to Salt Lake City, she set up a thriving medical practice and made enough money to send her other sister-wives through medical college or midwifery training.
Despite the fact that Joseph Smith deified, eternalized, and pluralized heterosexuality through polygamy and temple ritual, early Mormon women found that their bodies, sensuality, and desires were neither tamed nor contained by obedience to the institution of polygamy.