Irradiated by LabRat
Y’all understand that, broadly speaking, I am a fan of marriage. I am so much a fan I think it should be available to anyone who wants to sign up for the long-haul hard work, since if I were to speak of “benefiting the institution of marriage” (something I have already argued is nonsensical anyway), the best way I could think of would be to extend it to as many people who really value it as possible. They can’t possibly fuck up any worse than the rest of us.
This is not, however, a post about gay marriage (or for that matter polyamorous marriage). It’s a post about a certain strain of comment I see when reading posts about marriage in general and its little corner of the culture-war minefield, the person who thinks that not only has the sexual revolution eroded marriage as an institution, but that we should be actively socially engineering to make sure that divorce, single parenthood, and other non-marriage options are as difficult and painful as possible so more people stay married. The idea that it’s actively bad that we don’t ostracize people who divorce or are otherwise noncompliant.
Fucking really?? I get the general idea that kids, for example, are better off broadly speaking with two parents*, but that doesn’t mean that every single kid would be better off with the two people who contributed each half of his chromosome set under the same roof, or necessarily even one of them. Boys in particular are better off with a father: okay, I get that too- but an individual At Risk Boy isn’t necessarily going to be any better off if he has his dad living with him. If the behavior his father is modeling for him is not well-adjusted manhood but abuse, contempt for others, and criminality, that would make his situation and his likelihood of eventually following the same socially destructive path worse, not better. Likewise, yes, some people get feckless divorces because they’ve reached some age where they imagined they’d automatically be awesome and the reality doesn’t match and they don’t want to put in effort- but lots of people get divorces because they made a catastrophically poor choice while young, because they do nothing but fight all the damn time and everyone is depressed and miserable and angry, because their spouse turned out to be a sociopath or a parasite, or because their spouse is actually dangerous and they need to flee before someone dies or is crippled.
If we do everything we can to coerce people to stay together, someone, somewhere might theoretically react to it by becoming a better person, putting serious work into their relationship and saving their family as a happy, healthy unit, but the odds are pretty fucking dismal on that compared to the likelihood that they’ll be spiteful, passive-aggressive, resentful, and unfaithful. Have any of these people ever seen- or worse yet, been a child within- a marriage where the two spouses are hell bent for leather not to give in and divorce- but are emotionally abusive, miserable and making everyone else around them miserable, and generally spending out all that time inflicting as much pain on each other as humanly possible? Is this really the preferable alternative to divorce just because “it’s a family and the family is the building block of society”? Family may be the building block of society, but it can also be another word for “hell”, as well as a place where children learn all the wrong things about how adults treat loved ones.
The other thing I don’t understand is why such people generally speak of marriage as though it were invented in 1950 and the Donna Reed show were an accurate mirror of the Institution of Marriage, as it has always been across the planet until the sexual revolution came along. Marriage has taken multiple different forms across the planet, with the only common feature being that it’s where reproduction mostly takes place- but not even exclusively, it’s just where children who are legally acknowledged to be the parents’ legal heir happen. By far the most *common* model of marriage in history and across the world is an economic and civil arrangement that guarantees the smooth transfer of resources, property, and family status across the generations; the people involved in the marriage are not required to even like each other, let alone love each other. That’s one of Rousseau’s wacky inventions, it just happened to be the one that actually caught on in Western countries. In such a model of marriage, depending on the culture, either both spouses or just the men are flat out *expected* to be getting emotional and sexual satisfaction elsewhere.
If we were to use legal and social pressure to force people to get and stay married as was once done, what we’re likely to get is more likely to resemble that- the true “traditional” marriage- than it is a nation of happily married people in loving and responsible relationships. We’re also likely to get the other thing such societies had- a steady and outcast supply of bastards. I suppose it’s much easier to count a society in which “everyone is in a building block” as a greater success if the people who aren’t- the bastards and their mothers, as both the bastards’ fathers and the cuckolds raising children not their own are invisible- aren’t counted at all.
I honestly can’t tell if the people advocating for such think this is worth the price in order to have more cosmetically acceptable families, think that social pressure will succeed in this case where it has failed in basically all other forms of sexual correctness as well as substance abuse and a host of other vices, or just really want a spouse who can’t leave them without enormous cost to themselves.
*I actually suspect a more truthful version of this statement is “children are best off raised by two well-adjusted people who thought marriage and parenthood through and have good relationship skills in general”.