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56 Responses

  1. EG
    EG July 2, 2013 at 10:26 am |

    We don’t have another means of “legitimizing” a romantic relationship.

    We don’t have any means of legitimating or gaining recognition for non-romantic relationships, I’d point out. Part of what a hegemony of marriage presupposes is that romantic/sexual relationships should be the central relationships in everybody’s lives, that “life partner” = “person with whom you have a romantic/sexual relationship,” and that works for everybody.

    1. AMM
      AMM July 2, 2013 at 11:27 am |

      Part of what a hegemony of marriage presupposes is that romantic/sexual relationships should be the central relationships in everybody’s lives, that “life partner” = “person with whom you have a romantic/sexual relationship,” and that works for everybody.

      Unless your “person with whom you have a romantic/sexual relationship” is the same gender as you (or you have more than one such person.) Or that person is a different race or religion…..

      1. EG
        EG July 2, 2013 at 5:21 pm |

        I disagree. One of the reasons same-sex marriage has made such progress is because it fits so well into a narrative around romantic/sexual love–same with interfaith and interracial marriage. Poly arrangements were obviously excluded from my statement by the use of the singular “person.”

  2. Anon21
    Anon21 July 2, 2013 at 11:19 am |

    It seems to me that marriage is an attempt to outwit the reality of impermanence, of ambiguity, by establishing a boundary, choosing someone who will agree to represent permanence and consistency.

    Yes, this. Because whatever you say, you can’t actually promise that this relationship will work out. You can promise to make it a hassle to end things if they don’t work out, or you can promise to miserably endure something that isn’t working. The popular conception of marriage (and I realize that marriage means different things to different people) perpetuates this false idea that willpower alone can make a relationship last.

    1. Odin
      Odin July 2, 2013 at 9:41 pm |

      (Full disclosure: straight cis monogamous legally- married white person with a religiously liberal family background speaking.)

      I’m going to have to disagree.

      (1) Legal marriage does not assume all relationships last. In fact, marriage as a _legal_ relationship is supposed to provide protection for both members of a two-person relationship if that relationship fails. One rarely-discussed benefit to legalizing same-sex marriage is that same-sex married couples can have access to legally recognized divorces and divorce proceedings.

      (2) A lot of the advice I received shortly after I married was “marriages take work.” Not willpower, but work — planning, listening, learning, practicing, putting in the time. I see this echoed in a lot of progressive social spheres, frequently not even limited to marriage but just “relationships [in general] take work.” I suspect this is something that varies with various cultural factors (a lot of Quiverfull walk-aways talk about how they were expected to make their abusive marriages last through their own willpower because God Says So), but my point is that there are significant portions of society that recognize that relationships don’t stay together just because of willpower or True Love but require work to cultivate and keep healthy.

      1. Asia
        Asia July 2, 2013 at 11:29 pm |

        I agree with Odin. Marriage provides a safety net for everyone involved in it, financially, socially and ideally emotionally. I admit that If you lose your job or get sick you have the security of knowing there is still going to be some money coming. Their are two incomes to support any expenses or children. You have in-law’s to ask for assistance and the socially their duty bound give it. I have seen myself that asking your mother-in-law for babysitting is a lot different than asking your baby daddy’s mother. You can even ask a in-law to co-sign a house. Emotionally is a crapshoot. Its very possible to fall out love. However, if you do you will receive some payback of everything you invested in.

      2. Anon21
        Anon21 July 3, 2013 at 12:03 am |

        Your first point is well-taken. But I think it operates in tension with the social meaning of marriage, the ideology of “till death do us part,” and the construction of divorce as a personal failing and the high divorce rate as a social ill. I think there is no doubt that our society valorizes “forever” marriages, while also endorsing a fairly practical set of institutional and legal mechanisms for dealing with the inevitably large number of divorces.

  3. Janeen
    Janeen July 2, 2013 at 11:22 am |

    I recently got married after years of saying I didn’t want to. And I’ve gotta say I feel almost guilty about taking what is basically “the easy way out.” The problem is that it was becoming more and more clear to me that my relationship would never be considered on par with other relationships when it came to things like insurance, house buying, and access to my partner’s money in an emergency.

    After months of research and phone calls to insurance companies and anger I just gave up. I’m not especially proud of that, but it’s the truth.

    1. Kasabian
      Kasabian July 2, 2013 at 12:23 pm |

      Working within the confines of a broken and frustrating system is hardly a moral failing. You can still dislike the idea of marriage while still conceding to the cold, hard reality of it’s personal social benefits.

    2. speedbudget
      speedbudget July 2, 2013 at 3:13 pm |

      I feel the same way. I ended up married because I needed decent health insurance. I never planned to get married at all, yet here I am. Thanks, megatheocorporatocracy!

    3. BabyRaptor
      BabyRaptor July 2, 2013 at 10:38 pm |

      This is what I’m looking at. I have a bad track record with marriages already (Two divorces; one from a guy I never wanted to marry but was guilted into doing so because I was pregnant, and one from a guy who turned hardcore abusive after developing an alcohol problem) and I really don’t want to marry again. The idea terrifies me.

      But marriage is how things like insurance, powers in medical crises, equal access to money, ETC work in this country. So if I do end up staying in the relationship I’m in, I’m likely facing making it legal.

      1. TomSims
        TomSims July 3, 2013 at 11:17 am |

        @BabyRaptor

        “But marriage is how things like insurance, powers in medical crises, equal access to money, ETC work in this country. So if I do end up staying in the relationship I’m in, I’m likely facing making it legal.”

        You brought up the same things I’ve read same sex couples talking about when they campaigned for legal same sex marriage. It is what it is, a very long deep seeded culture.

    4. Dana
      Dana July 3, 2013 at 9:05 pm |

      Yes, I know a few pairs of hardcore anarchists who got married for those reasons. Making a practical choice is nothing to feel guilty of, and doesn’t necessarily represent a shift how you feel about the institution or political hypocrisy.

  4. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie July 2, 2013 at 11:23 am |

    “Everyone I know is getting married
    next summer
    Living together
    is no longer enough, I guess
    Blushing 30-year-old brides
    register their china patterns
    and go shopping for that long white dress … ”

    - from the song, “Summer Weddings” by Christine Lavin

    1. Andie
      Andie July 3, 2013 at 9:46 pm |

      Christine Lavin is great. I almost sent my ex a copy of her song Happy Divorce Day when we got finalized, because it rang so true at the time.

  5. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune July 2, 2013 at 12:02 pm |

    Monogamy reeks of a certain aescetisicm that we’ve come to associate with morality-make this relationship work, no matter what, with this person, forever.

    Wurgh no shit. I’m actually someone who could be monogamous (thanks ace-spectrum self) pretty easily, but it seems so damn…limiting and performative. And the cult of monogamy is so thoroughly off-putting.

    However, I’m confused where you’re getting marriage=monogamy from. In fact, I’m also wondering why you think marriage is a function of limiting romantic/sexual relationships at all. I’ve known as many nonmonogamous married as unmarried couples, and hell, I know some couples who were monogamous until marriage. Also, poly married triads, foursomes etc exist.

    And I don’t much care for this:

    A married woman’s sexuality is now allegedly private property. She’s not flinging it around anymore, and if she is, well, there is recourse.

    Even monogamous married women (who are voluntarily in that relationship, and not being coerced etc) don’t actually convert their sexuality into private property, any more than having one child makes your uterus their private property, ffs. There is a difference between ownership and consensually granted and negotiated right to temporary enjoyment (unless you live somewhere divorce is illegal?). Also what I said about nonmonogamy, etc.

    All women’s sexuality is already private property – theirs.

    Word to everything else you said, though.

    1. The Last Selina
      The Last Selina July 2, 2013 at 3:02 pm |

      However, I’m confused where you’re getting marriage=monogamy from. In fact, I’m also wondering why you think marriage is a function of limiting romantic/sexual relationships at all. I’ve known as many nonmonogamous married as unmarried couples, and hell, I know some couples who were monogamous until marriage.

      It also works the other way, there are plenty of non-married couples who NEVER get married and are monogomous their whole lives. And not just gay couples who could not get legally married if they wanted to, heterosexual couples as well.

      1. The Last Selina
        The Last Selina July 2, 2013 at 3:03 pm |

        *monogamous

  6. Kasabian
    Kasabian July 2, 2013 at 12:28 pm |

    Men can talk all they want about not wanting to get married / not wanting to be ‘tied down’, but as soon as a woman starts talking the same way everyone looks at her like she’s crazy. Just another example of women being treated as not-people, I guess.

  7. Lolagirl
    Lolagirl July 2, 2013 at 1:50 pm |

    I’m having a difficult time articulating my thoughts on this article well. But I do get a strong whiff of hetero white woman privilege from it, and it really sets me on edge. I know too many LGBTQ people here in flyover country who want nothing more in this life to be able to take part in the the institution of marriage, and to have the state, their families, friends and even strangers all recognize their unions with their partners the way het folks do every day.

    Which isn’t to say I don’t agree with so many of the objections this author has to marriage, and I definitely agree that the societal pressure to get married and settle down that gets put on women sucks. But to take it for granted the way that she does? That sucks too.

    1. Donna L
      Donna L July 2, 2013 at 2:02 pm |

      Thanks for saying this, Lolagirl. I had been planning to keep my mouth shut (because what do I know about marriage? — obviously very little, given how mine turned out!), but I got an extremely strong feeling of heterocentrism from this piece. As if every time the author said “women,” what she really meant was straight women.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune July 2, 2013 at 2:37 pm |

        Yeah. I didn’t want to be the Angry Takedowner, particularly since I had to mention the whole marriage=/= monogamy thing (particular bugbear of mine, ugh).

        1. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl July 2, 2013 at 3:17 pm |

          I am more than happy to take on the role of wet blanket tosser here, and I understand the reluctance of others to do so.

          I would really love to see a further examination of the tensions at play between the traditional institution of marriage v. the realities of non-marriage equality facing LGBTQ people. That clearly isn’t happening in the mind of this author. It’s one thing to say, well I want to concentrate on how traditional hetero marriage affects women detrimentally, as opposed to the baby with the bath water approach at play here.

          I honestly do not get the impression that marriage equality is even a concern of the author, because she so laser focused on rejecting marriage period. To do so in this myopic manner, that doesn’t realize how that approach can negatively impact the argument FOR marriage equality, I can’t no object to that.

        2. Donna L
          Donna L July 2, 2013 at 3:28 pm |

          To give the writer credit where it’s due, a look at her blog confirmat that she she is absolutely queer- and LGBT-friendly, if not so-identified herself, so perhaps her project is more inclusive than the impression I got from reading this piece.

        3. Donna L
          Donna L July 2, 2013 at 3:30 pm |

          “confirms,” not “confirmat.” I wasn’t trying to write in Latin.

        4. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl July 2, 2013 at 6:50 pm |

          I went and checked out her blog too, Donna. She does seem somewhat LGBTQ friendly, but then again she also apparently has some radfem leanings as well. So, I don’t know what to make of that.

          But I also think she has some of that Brooklyn bubble thing going on. Where it never occurs to her that simply being out, not to mention out and openly partnered, and thus not willing to continue sitting on the back of the marriage bus is still often a huge effing deal as act of defiance in much of these United States. So it’s easy for her to say screw marriage, who needs it anyway! All the while being utterly oblivious as to how this is undermining LGBTQ causes and voices.

      2. Past my expiration date
        Past my expiration date July 2, 2013 at 6:24 pm |

        Thanks from me also.

      3. snorkellingfish
        snorkellingfish July 3, 2013 at 5:35 am |

        I’m also grateful to you for bringing it up.

        And maybe I’m especially raw because of the timing, less than a week after the US Supreme Court threw out DOMA and passed on broader issues of marriage equality, though I know that the author wasn’t necessarily in control of when this was posted and could easily have submitted this article before those decisions came out. It does sting, though, when people downplay the meaning of marriage in front of people who can’t marry, without acknowledging that marriage will inevitably have a different meaning to people who have a very different history with the institution.

        That goes especially when it would be so easy to link the experiences of LGBTQ people in with some of the themes of the article. I mean, the article discusses the pressure women face to marry, and how that’s harmful to women who, for whatever reason, would prefer not to. It’s not that hard to imagine that the pressure to marry would also be painful if you’re a woman who’d love to marry but legally can’t–especially since every question of “do you want to marry” or “when you get married” forces you to choose between coming out and swallowing the pain.

        It’s hard to bring all that up, because I do think that it’s wrong to place pressure on women to marry and because I do think that important rights like healthcare should be available to people without entering into a marriage. I just wish that there could be more nuance in the discussion is all, and that LGBTQ people didn’t get forgotten in the shuffle (or, worse, judged for daring to want the right to marry, which I’ve also seen happen, sadly).

    2. dc
      dc July 2, 2013 at 7:48 pm |

      I know too many LGBTQ people here in flyover country who want nothing more in this life to be able to take part in the the institution of marriage,

      (wow yep.i have to agree)

    3. DouglasG
      DouglasG July 4, 2013 at 7:34 pm |

      It might have helped if the only sexuality-specific reference in the article (after mentioning “people (dudes)” in the first paragraph) hadn’t been a heavy lean on presumed opposite-sexuality. Maybe it’s just I, but anytime I see a reference to “a wedding” that does not specify that it was an opposite-sex couple and, in this case, only confirms that indirectly by a reference to the father of the bride, my mind flashes back to how recently it was that the only ceremony called a wedding in the New York Times and mainstream society in general united an opposite-sex couple. Especially as it seems that so many people refer to same-sex weddings so explicitly, I appreciate the acknowledgement, when an opposite-sex wedding is called that specifically, that such isn’t the only sort of wedding.

  8. Chataya
    Chataya July 2, 2013 at 6:05 pm |

    That’s lovely and all, but my partner hasn’t been to a doctor in 3 years and makes just barely too much to qualify for Medicaid. Marriage is the cheap way to solve that problem.

  9. Alexandra
    Alexandra July 2, 2013 at 6:21 pm |

    Okay, I hear a lot of what you’re saying. I have very murky feelings toward “marriage”, because despite the fact that I am about as domestically inclined as people come – despite the fact that I hope for a lifelong lover, children, a bunch of dogs, and a yard out back – this notion of “trapping” myself by binding myself legally and financially to another person gives me the willies.

    And yet. I don’t think it’s wrong for people to want to make ceremonious, “official”, the level of their commitment to another person. Or, at least, I’m not willing to dismiss this out of hand. Marriage serves a lot of roles in society; some of them have historically been oppressive (the transfer of a woman from father to husband, the erasure of her as an independent person in civil society), but some of them I think are very fine and valuable things. It is hard to make relationships work for decades; part of the way human beings manage to stick to difficult long term commitments generally is by publicly committing, and by creating penalties for themselves should they fail to live up to the obligations they set before themselves… this is not unique to marriage, after all.

    And then the other thing is that for a whole lot of people, “getting married” isn’t something they could take for granted — because these people’s relationships weren’t viewed as important, as something society wished to encourage and sanctify. Even though marriage can be a trap for hetero white women in America, for people of color or for people in same-sex/queer relationships, the ability to stand up in front of all of your friends and family and have people celebrate the love you’ve found and won for yourself is a civil rights battle. I think we forget sometimes just how entrenched rape culture and white men’s entitlement to African-American women’s bodies has been in the U.S. I don’t know enough to talk about Native American women. I’ve been reading lately about epidemic sexual assault of migrant worker women in American agriculture.

    Because marriage carries along with it the patriarchal notion that a married woman “belongs” to a man, and thus is off limits sexually to other men, having marriage be recognized by all of society can serve as a protection to women for sexual predation… when enslaved people in the US got married, that marriage offered no legal protections or guarantees because slaves, and women in particular, had no autonomy over their lives, relationships or bodies…

    IDK, just thinking out loud here.

    1. Asia
      Asia July 2, 2013 at 11:48 pm |

      “or people of color or for people in same-sex/queer relationships, the ability to stand up in front of all of your friends and family and have people celebrate the love you’ve found and won for yourself is a civil rights battle.”

      This so much. I’m a lesbian. If I ever become someone’s wife it will be personal and political. I will be saying fuck you to everyone who think I and my relationship isn’t worthy.

  10. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers July 2, 2013 at 9:32 pm |

    I think maybe there is a lot of confusion between the legal meaning of marriage, and the social meaning of marriage, and maybe also a bit of confusion about the point the OP is trying to make.

    I don’t believe the OP is arguing that marriage is necessarily about monogamy, but that marriage, as an institution, is constructed to be about monogamy, and privileges monogamy. Nor do I believe the OP is arguing that people who get married for the health insurance are bad somehow; but I believe the OP is saying that the primacy of marriage in our society *forces* people to try to conform, whether that would actually be their preference or not.

    I got married for the health insurance. I considered myself married already; I got the piece of paper for legal protection. Why did I need to do that? Because society privileges marriage as an institution over all other forms of non-genetic relationship. You can get married more easily than you can adopt. You can give rights to your spouse more easily than you can to your friend, your roommate or your domestic partner. One of the *reasons* gay people want and need so desperately to participate in the institution of marriage is that legally, marriage is the gold standard, the one legal relationship that quickly and easily grants two people an unimpeachable legal tie such that the status of one is shared by the other. Nothing else adults can do does that. You can’t make your business partner a citizen of your nation, but marrying someone gives them a means of getting that citizenship. Adopting a child gives you all kinds of legal rights over that child, but there are circumstances where you can be severed from that child, legally, against *both* of your wills. Can’t be done to a married couple. There is no legal construct to force divorce on two people if neither one wants it.

    So is it privileged to say “marriage is an institution that is too highly privileged in our society” because at least you *can* get married? I don’t think so. I don’t think that the existence of people who desperately want to get married because they need the legal and social validation of *the* most important voluntary contract in society to protect their status vis-a-vis each other, or their rights to their children, or the privilege of social respectability, refutes the idea that marriage *shouldn’t* be the most important voluntary contract in society.

    I’ve heard from many WoC, especially black women, that marriage serves an important protective function, because black women and other WoCs are assumed to *not* be married, and marriage provides respectability and social status that would otherwise be denied them. And I don’t dispute it, and it’s a good idea to get married if you’re in that situation, but it’s wrong that that situation exists. It’s wrong that you *need* to get married because otherwise as a WoC you are seen as less than other women, less valuable, somehow a dirty and immoral person (as if morality has anything to do with who you sleep with anyway.) I *know* gay people desperately need this right because all kinds of bigots will erase their relationship with the person they love unless society legally validates it. But it shouldn’t have to be that way. It *is* that way, and I don’t think anyone is saying it isn’t, but it should not have to be.

    It’s only the people who aren’t granted basic survival privileges by marriage who have both the freedom to say “I don’t want to marry” and the standing to be taken seriously when they say “Marriage is bullshit”, because if you’re in a social position where you have no rights to the person you love unless you marry, you ought to get married, and if you’re not allowed to get married, complaining that marriage as an institution sucks and it shouldn’t be privileged the way it is sounds like sour grapes. It’s not that it’s heterocentric to say “Marriage is crap”; gay people have in fact been saying that for decades. But marriage is crap that society has decided validates your existence, so you basically have no choice if you don’t have enough privileges in your own identity that you can ignore that need. It’s not that it’s overlooking that WoCs need to get married because people treat them even more like shit when they’re not, or that gay people need to get married to preserve the right to see each other in the hospital when they’re dying, to say that marriage should not be held supreme the way it is; it’s saying that *needing* to get married because you need the social validation is proof that marriage is over privileged as an institution!

    Black women have to put toxic chemicals on their hair to straighten it to conform to white beauty ideals, but they shouldn’t have to, and the reason they have to is white privilege. Trans men and women have at many points in history and probably even now at times been forced to behave in extreme gender-performative ways to “prove” their gender identity, when cis people don’t, but they should never have to do that, and the reason they do have to is cis privilege. Saying “you should not have to do that thing that limits your freedom” does not in any way imply that you’re a bad person for doing it or that you shouldn’t have done it; it says we live in a fucked up kyriarchy and you have to do things you shouldn’t have to do to live in it. Marriage privilege exists, and people lacking other privileges *need* it more than people who have those privileges, but wouldn’t it be great if a, they didn’t lack privileges that others have, so they didn’t need the extras granted by marriage, and b, marriage didn’t grant special privileges that you can’t get any other way?

    (As for monogamy… we all know that there are non-monogamous married couples, but they are closeted. The moment it comes out to the general, non-feminist, non-progressive public that they are non-monogamous, they tend to get treated in much the same way kinksters are treated or gay people are treated, like their private sexual decisions are immoral and wrong, they should not be allowed near children, and they are bad bad people. Monogamy *is* seen as part and parcel of the institution of marriage… as is dominance of the husband over the wife. We all know a couple (or are part of a couple) where that isn’t true, but why is “pussy-whipped” or “henpecked” an insult and there is no such insulting term for a woman dominated by her husband? Individuals can make of marriage what they want to make of it, but there is a social perception of it, and there are consequences for openly transgressing that social perception, consequences that may actually negate some of the advantages marriage gives.)

    I am all for gay marriage even though I am against marriage. I gotta live in the world that’s here, not the world I wish was here, and I am very, very happy that gay people, and bi people who unlike me fell in love with a person of the same sex, are now allowed the same privileges I am, a bi woman who fell in love with an opposite sex person. And I took on those privileges myself, although I could have foregone them, because I thought it was expensive and dangerous to do without them. But I shouldn’t have had to. And you shouldn’t have to. Marriage should be 100% a choice and it should not be the only choice that comes with a package of legal and social goodies.

    1. roro80
      roro80 July 3, 2013 at 12:26 pm |

      Alara, this is an amazing comment. I agree with all your points here 100%, and it is all absolutely fundamental to the topic. I just don’t think it is the same either implicitly or explicitly to what the OP wrote; your comment stands on its own, but not necessarily as a defense of the post.

      I think the (imo valid) concerns about the original post are in statements like this: “I see a life anchored to another person by law as being limiting, and yes, I see that as unattractive.” This automatically implies that being in a marriage and being monogomous are limiting to possibilities, where it’s quite obvious that the opposite is true for many people, for many of the reasons you list.

      Maybe there should be another way to get loved ones greencards or share insurance or legally become a partner’s family besides marriage; I don’t know. I’d certainly prefer that our immigration system and healthcare were more fair for everyone regardless of marriage status, but that has less to do with privileging marriage than with crap social systems in this country overall. Marriage just acts as a loophole — sometimes the only one available — in a crap system. Maybe there should be some sort of “best friend marriage” where you can be legal family to someone that is not a romantic partner, with all the same rights and responsibilities and joint assets, but I don’t know why we wouldn’t just lump that in with the word “marriage”. And I do think there should be a legal process in place to make someone go from buddies or sex partners or roommates to legal closest family because I can’t think of any other way to do it; that may be a lack of creativity on my part.

      Anyway, great analysis of the issues involved.

    2. A4
      A4 July 3, 2013 at 2:09 pm |

      Right! Thank you!

    3. TomSims
      TomSims July 6, 2013 at 1:06 pm |

      @Alara Rogers;

      Another great post and I like when you said ” I gotta live in the world that’s here, not the world I wish was here, “. I think many if not most people would agree with that. It’s good to be pragmatic.

  11. EG
    EG July 3, 2013 at 2:05 pm |

    Maybe there should be some sort of “best friend marriage” where you can be legal family to someone that is not a romantic partner, with all the same rights and responsibilities and joint assets, but I don’t know why we wouldn’t just lump that in with the word “marriage”.

    Because marriage has a very specific resonance and history that is romantic/sexual that would make me very uncomfortable marrying my best friend. Because what if the two people wanting to make that bond are siblings? Or cousins?

    1. roro80
      roro80 July 3, 2013 at 5:49 pm |

      Yes, I do understand EG. But that’s the same reason that a lot of folks give for why LGBT people shouldn’t be allowed to use that word. If we’re looking for something that comes with all the same roles and responsibilities as the legal construct we call marriage, even if it doesn’t fit [xyz person]‘s personal historical understanding of that word, there are obvious problems with creating a parallel institution, the obvious example being constructs like Domestic Partnerships. I know I’ve spent a lot years telling religious people that the word “marraige” doesn’t belong to their church or to straight people. Maybe it doesn’t have to belong to romanticly involved couples either.

    2. roro80
      roro80 July 3, 2013 at 5:54 pm |

      Anyway, it’s just a thought. It would make me uncomfortable too, but that’s mostly due to the fact that I don’t want my best friend making legal decisions for me, I don’t want her to share my assets and bank accounts, and I don’t want her to be the one person allowed to stay in my hospital room — I want that to be my romantic married partner, and it is. So maybe I’d feel differently about it if I did.

      1. EG
        EG July 3, 2013 at 9:12 pm |

        Except the argument against settling for “civil unions” is that if it looks like a marriage and quacks like a marriage, it’s a marriage–why use two different terms unless you’re a bigot? But the relationship between best friends is different from the relationship between a romantic sexual partner (and I wouldn’t trust anybody I’ve slept with to make any decisions for me whatsoever–but three out of the four best friends I’ve had since age 12? Definitely.). So I don’t want the same word.

        1. roro80
          roro80 July 8, 2013 at 1:52 pm |

          I guess my point was that a lot of people don’t think a marriage between two people of the same gender “looks and quacks” like a marriage. I strongly disagree with that, of course. Anyway, I can see your point as well. Maybe an adjunct category that could be called something else but abides by the current marriage laws could work.

        2. EG
          EG July 8, 2013 at 2:40 pm |

          I see what you’re saying, too. I think for me it’s partially an issue of visibility. I’ve known for a very large chunk of my life that romantic/sexual relationships were not my strength, and also weren’t at the center of my relational world–my best friendships have always been much stronger and more central. But there isn’t a culturally recognized pattern or way to build your life around non-romantic/sexual relationships; certainly for a very long time I thought the only alternative was “die alone” (depression may have had something do with this as well!). And given the centrality of the romantic/sexual-relationship narrative, subsuming a non-romantic/sexual partnership under the umbrella of marriage would, I think tend to make it invisible, instead of helping to make visible the diversity of life options that should be available.

  12. lesbian_spinster
    lesbian_spinster July 4, 2013 at 3:33 pm |

    Late to the party here, but can those of you bringing up LGBTQ people stop assuming that everybody who doesn’t want to be married are hetero? I’m a lesbian and I don’t want to be married, and I find myself excluded from both straight *and* queer society for saying so. Since the proper way to be a lesbian is to want to be married and follow the life script much in the same way you’re expected to in small, religious communities (except exchange ‘marry a man’ for ‘marry a woman’.) I’m also annoyed, as a happily-single queer, that we’re not allowed to have discussions about singledom and its effects on women without coupled-queers butting in. Like it or not, single life is relevant to some queer people too, and making the issue about marriage equality erases single (or poly) queer folk.

    And to those of you questioning some of her statements about marriage being unattractive, do you ever question statements that are pro-marriage? It might be worth examining why any criticism of marriage ruffles so many feathers; I’d warrant a guess it’s because most people believe in marriage-oriented society. But just because something is engrained in society doesn’t mean it can’t/shouldn’t be criticized.

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune July 4, 2013 at 9:31 pm |

      Late to the party here, but can those of you bringing up LGBTQ people stop assuming that everybody who doesn’t want to be married are hetero?

      Believe me, this bi genderqueer’s heard enough LGBTQ people sneering at marriage to never make that mistake. Guess some people are privileged enough they don’t have to grab whatever protection they can.

      making the issue about marriage equality erases single (or poly) queer folk

      Please don’t contrast “married” and “poly” as if there’s no overlap. Thanks.

      1. lesbian_spinster
        lesbian_spinster July 5, 2013 at 10:00 am |

        You’re right; I shouldn’t have equated poly with not wanting to be/not being married. I should have used a qualifier. It came to mind mostly because I’ve known poly people who really weren’t thrilled about having to choose a partner above another. For instance, somebody who had health insurance and two partners who didn’t have any gets to choose which partner they let suffer. I really don’t think that’s privilege at work, and implying anyone with an objection to marriage does so because of privilege is kind of insulting to a lot of people. It’s a complicated situation, and having your life/relationship fit a norm is a kind of privilege. Maybe not on the scale of a monogamous heterosexual relationship, but in my view more people approve of/understand a woman wanting to marry another woman than a woman not wanting to be married at all. (Those who disapprove of the former also tend to disapprove of the latter).

        All queer conversations are about couples, how to get into one, how to stay into one, etc. Within the LGBTQ community, couples are a very catered to group. Wherever you know these ‘sneering’ queers, send them my way, because all I’ve gotten is platitudes about ‘meeting the right woman someday’, and ‘don’t give up’ and about being a bad woman and a bad lesbian for not wanting a wife. And I can’t talk about it, because it hurts couples’ feelings to talk about marriage pressure. So where are queer women who feel pressured into relationships supposed to talk about it? Or are we not, and we’re supposed to keep quiet to make normal queers’ experiences front and center? That’s what I object to: You can’t TALK about it without people jumping down your throat saying they like marriage. It’s like when you talk about being gay and everybody has to tell you how awesome men/heterosexuality are. Neither is fun.

    2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help July 8, 2013 at 11:44 pm |

      And to those of you questioning some of her statements about marriage being unattractive, do you ever question statements that are pro-marriage?

      Very late to the party but yes, I do.

  13. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
    The Kittehs' Unpaid Help July 4, 2013 at 8:44 pm |

    We need many relationships, with many people, in order to be able to access our potential, our fullness. Monogamy reeks of a certain aescetisicm that we’ve come to associate with morality-make this relationship work, no matter what, with this person, forever.

    WTF? All relationships =/= romantic or sexual relationships. Am I reading this wrong? If “many relationships” means friends, family, colleagues, whatever, then fine; but I’m getting a “you should be out there having TEH SECKS and romantic relationships with lots of people, or you’re just not developing your potential!” message here.

    Some of us are asexual. Some of us are interested in nobody but our partner. Some of us find the idea of romantic/intimate partner relationship with anyone else irrelevant, and sex with anyone else repellent. It’s got nothing to do with ascetism or being restricted or some sort of failure or whatever. It’s love and it doesn’t even need commitment, it just is.

    I’m all for legitimising and recognising non-marital, non-monogamous forms of love and commitment. I’m not into the delegitimising of monogamy as a choice, as the thing that works for someone. For some of us, it’s like breathing.

    1. Lolagirl
      Lolagirl July 5, 2013 at 11:32 am |

      Interesting take, Kitteh, I totally agree with you.

      And you know, the only reason I brought up the what about the LGBTQ folks question was to point out that the OP’s take on this subject read as being very unwilling to accept experiences that were not her own. That sort of blinders on approach does not serve anyone well when it comes to examining and deconstructing cultural institutions like marriage. Ditto with monogamy. Because that still will come down to a me v them mindset as opposed to an actual dialogue.

      I don’t care about and have zero judgment of those who eschew marriage or committed monogamy, because variety and varied opinions are a good thing! But I’m not going to stop myself from pointing out the holes in the logic borne from a discussion that refuses to acknlowledge that not everyone thinks the same things nor must they all think the same things to be right. Because right for anyone, by definition, is dependent on that individual’s own feelings and experiences.

      1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help July 8, 2013 at 11:42 pm |

        Hear, hear, Lolagirl!

      2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help July 8, 2013 at 11:49 pm |

        Forgot to add, the “many relationships” thing read to me like the sort of Sex At Dawn “poly is the only true way” stuff that makes me want to hurl. Not that I think the author’s espousing that, but the whole prescrptive feel of it … urrgh.

  14. Funty
    Funty July 5, 2013 at 10:07 am |

    The attitude developed to marriage by my family has been all “don’t think of it as losing a daughter, think of it as securing a larger family trade network” and “Do it so you’ll not be homeless in winter, if he hits you, it’s probably your fault for being a crap wife. Are you not satisfied with keeping the roof over your head?!”.

    It’s really not that romantic.

    Looking at history didn’t really help either, got the impression a lot of marriage was just a way of winning or temporarily ending a blood feud so everyone could stop burning things and get back to work.
    And that’s why they decided it’s great for stability.
    We watch you, like the mob watches a debtor, until you finally have a child we’re all related to and therefore a future we can all now strive for, kapish?

    And that’s the background radiation of marriage, we’re all seeped in it no matter who it is we technically fancy. And yes, we can all talk about it, or the the shape of the space it’s absence leaves.

    So for me, marriage has sweet fuck all to do with love, which becomes blazingly apparent in so many little ways that all the ceremonial stuff just looks like an activity for the hard of feeling.

    Which isn’t a personal criticism, some of us are tall, some are short, some of us think in systematic, partitioned chunks, as others go for a bigger, blurrily interconnected whole.
    Problem is, this society is set up by and for the systematic thinkers and it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.

  15. anon
    anon July 5, 2013 at 8:47 pm |

    In September of 2011, it became very clear that most of my friends were going to get married … It was starting to make me a little crazy.

    I’m a bit confused by this point. First, I’m not so happy with the language (“crazy”) chosen to describe how you were feeling.

    But more important than that, why did you feel this way? If you’re doing what makes you happy, and they’re doing what makes them happy, and all the folks involved accept and respect each other’s choices, then why is there any problem?

    I agree that there’s a problem when society has these huge assumptions about what is right, what “should” be done, etc. That’s a problem. It makes sense to criticize problems with the institution of marriage, or talk about the fact that some have that privilege while others do not, or the difference between the romanticized view of marriage vs. the legal/practical issues (deeply embedded in immigration laws, tax code, social security), and so on.

    But I can’t understand why just the fact of being in the minority (not being married, not having children, or whatever, unlike “everyone else”) would make someone feel unhappy or uncomfortable. Just speaking for myself, I fit quite a few categories where I’m the only one in my circle of family or friends. But that’s fine. It’s the actions or attitudes of friends and family that matters to me, not the fact that we have vastly different situations.

    By the way, aren’t unmarried households (either single or living together) now in the majority? (maybe just barely) Didn’t I read that statistic somewhere? My memory is bad so I could be completely wrong on this. :-)

  16. Lyndsay
    Lyndsay July 6, 2013 at 9:02 pm |

    Yes, there are married people who are not monogamous (like me) but I’ve been surprised how quickly we’ve settled into what feels like a traditional marriage. I don’t mean as far as gender roles or complete monogamy but things that are harder to describe/define like how much time we spend together, how we share money, find privacy less important than before, etc. Our lives really have become joined and you can be like this and not married and you can be married in a less traditional way (e.g. see each other only on weekends, not sleep in the same bed). So for me it’s more useful to talk about a traditional marriage-like relationship and the expectations that entails.
    I do feel like it’s harder to talk about poly now with people who aren’t, for example. Having a husband *or* a boyfriend is “normal” but even dating two people feels more “normal” than having a husband *and* a boyfriend. The love for another person when you’re married is really not something that is accepted or expected when you’re married. Being married is the thing that feels safe and secure and I never really felt like marriage was an expectation for me until I actually married and started to feel like I did exactly what people expect will happen eventually. This is despite the fact that I know many people who have never married and that is fine. You can talk about marriage at work more easily than other relationship.
    Just some thoughts…

  17. Amii
    Amii July 20, 2013 at 2:01 am |

    I love being married. Before I was with my husband I loved being single with no desire to be married. Sometimes I miss being single, but wouldn’t change it. It was the relationship with my partner that led me to want to get married, not wanting to be married that led to a relationship. :) The world is so big that it’s a shame to say that everybody should do (or strive) one particular thing.

  18. the rage | diverge
    the rage | diverge August 26, 2013 at 1:19 am |

    [...] can’t sleep because I’m so annoyed. It is, obviously, wedding season, but this is not about my feelings about marriage. Not really. Here’s what [...]

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