This essay began as an examination of modern marriage, in part because while I am married, I’m not a fan of heterosexual marriage as we know it. I adore my partner – and I insist he calls me a “partner” because “wife” seems to be a psychological trigger for all sorts of shenanigans I don’t care to live with. In the process of writing, I got to a possible truth: same sex marriage really DOES threaten heterosexual marriage. This is a thought process piece on how.
Marriage is a social contract. We may elevate it as a monogamous thing in Western society, but ultimately it’s not. In the most down-home conservative of Christian relationships, any marriage involves not two people – it involves in most cases at minimum six : the bride, the groom, the bride’s parents, and the groom’s parents. (We are assuming in most cases two or more, discounting for death and illness.) Gender and sexuality has nothing to do with it. It’s all about society, and about romanticizing something that only became romantic in the late 1800s, in part so we can ignore some fairly uncomfortable truths about how we see women in society. The history of the wife runs so deep, slave-based, and offensive through the entire concept of that “traditional” marriage that I bridle whenever someone calls me someone’s wife. My partner calls me his “partner.” I only allow him to refer to me as a “wife” around the elderly and otherwise easily breakable.
What do I mean that a marriage between a man and a woman involves at minimum six people?
Marriage used to involve conjoining property – on a princess in the tower level – and on the feudal level where most people got sold along with the land that they lived on, it was about finding a maid you could have sex with. Those involved contracts, and sometimes thousands of human beings wound up involved in your marriage.
Now, especially because the wedding industry is an evil and vampiric thing seeding its nightmarish white froth starting at Barbie or even before, it involves at the very least the bride, the groom, and their respective parents.
That right there alone is six people. If you’re a princess being traded in a real estate deal, your husband got you, plus a tract of land, plus a few thousand people. You got him, and a few thousand people if he died. If you were Marie Antoinette, you also wound up married to the most intensely overcrowded family possible, plus drama if you didn’t wear exactly that kerchief or that shoe.
Monogamy is assumed to equal two. But mothers with entitlement issues and no sense that their daughters are not supposed to live repetitions of their own experiences like to carry on with “opinions” about those relationships, and like to “order” grandchildren as if their daughters are babymaking factories born to gratify their grandmotherly egos. Fathers of course want to feel like something about the whole thing empowers them or highlights their sperm motility or something. I don’t know – there’s a lot of “look at me crap” from the fathers when their daughters get married. A monogamous marriage is still a property arrangement, and I would argue also something of a farming arrangement. “How many foals can that filly pop out?”
Marriage isn’t to your partner, to the parent of your future children. It’s to a stream of social expectations. When you get married, you marry the millions and they get to project their cultural expectations on you, especially if you’re a woman.
We’re a society built on affirming men’s egos, even though ego affirmation tends to produce rotten human beings. Ultimately, a thinking bride should recognize that the “happiest day of her life” is essentially her own funeral – her identity dissolves after that, because the whole of society insists she change her name, but not her husband, and that she assume a load of social roles and duties in addition to whatever the hell it is she already does to earn income. If she put in the ring and then laid down in a coffin while yelling “Get that baby in me, the gestation machine is open until the first soccer practice!” the traditional ceremony would be a lot more truthful.
Men may actually enact some sort of funeral/dead man walking tradition before their weddings. It’s actually the point of a bachelor party – it’s a wake for the man’s “single life.” The irony is that men not only have the fewest expectations dumped on them as the result of marriage, they are often rewarded and empowered for it. Entrapping a women into lifelong servitude gives them life. Married men live longer, are the second happiest (after unmarried women) and receive all kinds of socio-economic benefits. The only expectation laid on them is that they quit having sex with other people – and often enough, men aren’t even really held to that standard. Yes, men and women both cheat, but men are forgiven for it more easily despite the reality that their less-complex hormones make them just as capable as women of controlling their sexual impulses. Men still don’t face the shaming to the degree that women do for infidelity.
A man and a woman don’t marry each other, not really. They form a union and assume a specific role in society. The romantic concept of marriage with a healthy couple happens long before the marriage. Marriage itself is a unifying of assets, a woman becoming an asset (and an undervalued one at that) and is then presenting the couple to family and friends as representatives of greater society as a union meant to empower the man while dissolving the woman – and women are brainwashed into not seeing that they’re usually being lured to their psychological deaths.
Society is a crappy marriage partner, one of the most abusive out there. It needs to change. It needs something that burns the white dress and asks dad to drive the kids to soccer practice. It needs to be slapped around a lot. As it is, I’m going through a socially approved marriage and all I’ve gotten is this lousy health insurance. I love my partner. My relationship to Society? Not so good.
Marriage between people of the same gender makes good ol’ Society turn a bit red and start blustering Bible quotes. The representatives of society that does this don’t actually give a damn that the Bible says it’s wrong – the same passage also bans pork chops, and yet that moralizing doesn’t reach the dinner table. Yet eating pork affects far more people than what goes on behind the closed door of a bedroom. The more conservative the person, the more that person is about rules that makes his/her life convenient and supports his/her sense of entitlement – and the less it is about actual morality. Homophobia/anti-gay sentiment has nothing to do with someone’s “morals.” Real morals are about who is actually harmed, and about understanding that there are some things that are more bad, and some things that are less bad. Let’s face it – for reading Christians, the Bible itself considers homosexuality no worse than eating your bacon at breakfast. There are risks with both. But there are risks with heterosexual sex and undercooking a steak, too.
I operate from the current stereotype that gay couples overtake neighborhoods and raise property values, that they give children homes that would otherwise not get them because most straight couples are quite vain and selfish about their genetic material, that gay men are often unconscious of how misogynistic they are (being gay does not mean you’re not capable of hate, but being gay in my generation is giving a lot of human beings a free pass on other damaging-to-the-world stuff that needs correction, something I hope the next generation confronts when being gay isn’t an excuse for a straight person’s monstrosity) and that thanks to same-sex couples, that 1955 Emily Post bullshit is being overturned as the ill-mannered self-congratulation and invasive gender role assignment that it actually is. Gay couples are eager, contributing citizens. Gay people are people, and as a group they’re highly motivated to make the world a better place. Gay isn’t catching, and gay is really, really not a choice – it’s one of the reasons I’m leaving it to the next generation or two to call out the thread of misogynistic bullshit, and ask people of all orientations to knock off the bullshit with the sassy gay friend stereotype. A gay woman shouldn’t be forced between either plaid/or lipstic, and a gay man should only wave his hand around a lot if he wants to.
Gay couples of either gender (or all genders, perhaps queer couples would be the right term since the meanings change?) are one way to upend Society’s abusive marriage contract. Why? Because Society won’t know who to dump the role of “wife” on, and suddenly marriage does become a partnership of equals striving to be healthy together.
The reality of marriage is that it is a business contract. Love is not required to get married. Nobody screens that, and I’m willing to guess far more women are pressured by parents and through societal programming into loveless marriages than they care to admit. Dying alone isn’t bad, but we’ve convinced ourselves that it is the worst thing possible. It’s not. Besides, you’ll be dead, so you won’t be embarrassed about the alone part. The rider on the contract places massive pressure on a woman to become a wife – but very little pressure on a man to become a “husband.” Husband itself is offensive, as it is otherwise used as a term for managing farm animals.
Gay people have been involved in business partnerships throughout history. Clearly being homosexual has no effect whatsoever on a person’s ability to handle a business arrangement. It certainly has no impact on how that person may or may not handle a marriage.
And ultimately, same sex marriages do threaten traditional marriage – by giving women a clear example of how a marriage done free of gender role assignment might NOT have to suck. Most of western society is built on conning women into working for free or for very little. Churches, schools, and hospitals would crumble without that essential con-job. Cookies at PTA meetings would all but disappear. This is why the conservative men are scared. If women see an example where the white dress does not have to equal a soul-death, they’ll get some uppity ideas about being treated like people.
Then the men will have to take turns baking cookies and driving the kids to soccer practice.
Those poor, poor over-privileged straight dudes, especially those suppressing their higher-end Kinsey scores. They might have to contribute to this Society thing that they take all the credit for.
Of course I’m going to vote No on the Minnesota marriage amendment act. It’s the best thing I could possibly do for fellow married straight women, AND for my gay neighbors.
- Hawaii Court upholds man plus woman equals marriage?! (exministries.wordpress.com)
- For and against: Same-sex marriage (stuff.co.nz)
- Germany considering marriage rights for same-sex unions (jurist.org)
- Same-sex marriage part of ongoing revolution (syracuse.com)
- France Almost Certain To Adopt Marriage Equality (towleroad.com)