Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Meaning of Marriage: Protecting the Womenfolk Edition

[Trigger Warning: Sexual assault references]

Now that a federal judge has found a ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional having rejected the Responsible Procreation "marriage defense" argument, let's watch anti-equality advocates scramble to come up with other after-the-fact reasons for opposing same-sex marriage. Like, say, the argument that same-sex marriage should be banned, not because heterosexual couples are better than same-sex couples, but because they're worse.

What makes heterosexual unions worse than same-sex ones, you may ask?

Because, well, straight men suck.


Without citing a single study, a single shred of evidence other than his own apparently fauxbjective take on the situation, Sam Schulman opines that "marriage is about defending women" from the Wild Savage that is man:

"Marriage is a necessary defense of a woman’s sexuality and her human liberty from determined assault by men who would turn her into a slave, a concubine – something less than fully human. Human communities need to give women some additional degree of protection – through law, custom, religious decree, or sacrament – generally some combination of all three, neatly summarized by the plaintiffs, who demanded the sacred and the eternal from the state of California."

Schulman doesn't delve into detail as to how all of this slavage and concubinage would happen if marriage didn't exist, but Andrea Dworkin would likely consider it a finalist for Ironic Statement of the Year that someone has suggested that heterosexual marriage has historically "defended" women from sexual slavery.

But, alas, let's see where Shulman's going with this. He continues:

"Walker asserts that Prop 8 is motivated partly by 'a belief that same-sex couples are simply not as good as opposite-sex couples,' and concludes that the law’s intention is to enact 'a moral view that there is something ‘wrong’ with same-sex couples.'

The fact is very nearly the opposite. Heterosexual relationships need marriage because of inferiority: the physical inferiority [WTF?] of sexual defenders to sexual attackers and the moral inferiority of male sexual attackers....When a woman’s sexuality is involved, human communities must deal with a malign force that an individual woman and her family cannot control or protect....

What protects women, ultimately, is that marriage laws and customs confer upon her independence something extra – dignity, protection, sacredness – that others must respect. And if this quality can be bestowed upon anyone, even those not in intersexual relationships – it reduces, even dissolves its force."

What the who now?

Oh. Right. It is a "marriage defender" speaking. No need to back up deep pontifications about the meaning of marriage with evidence. It's common sense, folks! Everyone just knows these things!

But seriously, first, in what alternate reality have I stepped into where writers in major Christian publications are now arguing that same-sex relationships are superior to heterosexual ones? Now that courts strike down laws that are based on the assumption that heterosexuality is superior to homosexuality, do they have a new messaging strategy?Same-sex couples can't have equal rights because they're better than everybody else! Good luck getting Focus on the Family, et al, to sign on to that one.

Secondly, on that note, I am reminded of those condescending anti-woman Christian arguments- those "records of contradictions"- that place women on false pedestals of superiority as a "substitute for recognition of full personhood and equal rights." Gratuitously peppering his article with I'm-Not-A-Bigot pronouncements, Schulman really really wants to support same-sex marriage (really!) but his Deep Concern for women just won't let him. In this way, he peddles a pedestal that lends the appearance of equal rights, indeed of homosexual superiority, without him actually having to support equal rights for gay people.

Third, Schulman suggests that men do not sexually assault heterosexually-married women, as though a force field emanates from a wife's wedding ring and surrounds her body, repelling all who would seek non-consensual entrance. Instead of say, advocating for measures that would place the onus for rape prevention on men, the logical solution to sexual assault is apparently to encourage more women to get heterosexually married so their Big Strong Husbands can protect them from other men. Men, the argument goes, are inherently wired to assault women; therefore it's everybody's responsibility to work around that reality.

Of course, the obvious question is raised: If men are such sexual brutes, why on earth would it ever be a good idea for women to marry them? Obviously, the real solution is for women to marry other women.

Likewise, Schulman suggests that same-sex marriage will "dissolve" the force that marriage has to protect women. Instead of say, creating a cultural expectation where men respect the dignity of women- even those who are not married to other men- Schulman now places the onus for protecting women onto same-sex couples. If male-on-female assaults increase, folks, it's because of the gays!

Then, just as the Responsible Procreation argument against same-sex marriage makes marriage all about men and their sexual desires, this "marriage is about defending women [from male sexual attackers]" argument once again makes the institution entirely about the uncontrollable, sexual wildebeast that is man. Marriage is not a relationship between two equals, but a relationship between Beauty and the Sexual Beast.

If this is indeed the truth about marriage, LGBT people cannot have equal rights, basically, because men suck. Women cannot expect have genuine, human-to-human, equal relationships with men, basically, because men suck. Men, well, who knows what men think. It's not like they're actually in control of their thoughts, right?

One almost doesn't know on whose behalf to be most offended by this article. Men, for the immoral Wild Savage Rapist portrayal, once again confirming the fact that it is not, actually, feminists who hate and defame men but, rather, social conservatives. Women, for the condescending idea that what will save our dainty, "physically inferior" selves from men is to...marry men? Or, same-sex couples, for being told that the legal recognition of our relationships is dangerous to women.

This entirely un-supported, making-it-up-from-the-gut argumentation is precisely what Judge Walker struck down in his opinion as uncredible and not based in fact. Although perhaps convincing to some, it would never pass muster in a courtroom both because (a) Schulman cites no study to support this, er, interesting take on marriage and (b) he is a writer, a former English professor, with no stated expertise in sociology, psychology, anthropology, history, or marriage, all extremely relevant subjects in this area about which he is writing.

While manipulative arguments about sexual assault on women's safety might be compelling to those already disposed to oppose LGBT equality, a judge in a court of law would call Schulman's opinion "inadmissable testimony which should essentially be given no weight."

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