Friday, June 07, 2013

How 'gay marriage' will change 'marriage' for all; and it'll be bad for women

Pro-'gay marriage' author and activist Dan Savage, who coined the term 'monogamish'

I ran across a very interesting article by Mark Regnerus at the National Review. I've been reading it, and I want to put it--and my reactions--out here for some further digestion of its points.

Here's the gist of it, if I understand it right:

Men tend to be more permissive toward non-monogamy, where women tend to be more uncomfortable with non-monogamy.

This explains the data that homosexual men, even in relationships, tend to have more partners, while they don't tend to have more sex overall. He doesn't claim this is because they are gay, but because they are men:

So gay men have more partners, but no more sex overall, than straight men. Why? In keeping with sexual economics expectations, it’s not that gay men necessarily wish to have more sexual partners than straight men. 

It’s that they are far more apt to be in relationships that permit them because their relationships are with men, who tend—on average—to be more sexually permissive than women. Men make poor gatekeepers when it comes to attractive others’ sexual advances. That is not news. 

Thus the tension around nonmonogamy is simply not as dynamic among many gay unions as it is among those with a man and a woman. NYU sociologist Judith Stacey, interviewed in the New York Times Magazine article on Savage, agrees:

“They are men,” she said, and she believes it is easier for them—right down to the physiology of orgasm—to separate physical and emotional intimacy. Lesbians and straight women tend to be far less comfortable with nonmonogamy than gay men.

I didn’t say it, but I believe it, and the data support it.

To buttress his argument, he cites data--admittedly very limited--that suggests lesbian relationships tend both to be more monogamous, but they also give sex a lower priority.

So here's the thing: notice how the complementarity of men and women forces a certain balance in a true (i.e., heterosexual) marriage.

And here's the upshot, as the author himself states it:

A key here lies, strangely enough, in the legitimacy that straight women already accord gay men’s unions. (Women support same-sex marriage at levels well eclipsing that of men.) Why does this matter? If gay marriage is perceived as legitimate by heterosexual women, it will eventually embolden boyfriends everywhere (and not a few husbands) to press for what men have always wanted but few were allowed: sexual novelty, in the form of permission to stray without jeopardizing their primary relationship.

See that?

In other words, if it's valid to say that in putative marriages between gay men a greater degree of non-monogamy is accepted--and then such marriages are treated as essentially the same as heterosexual marriages (or as a bumper sticker I saw recently said, "love is love"), then how long before men in heterosexual marriages say, why can't I have that?

Consider: several decades ago, our common approach to marriage was changed by laws introducing increasingly permissive notions of divorce. There's no getting around the fact that, as a result, even as the Catholic Church continued to teach the same thing about the indissolubility of marriage, more and more men and women coming for marriage brought with them the influence of the culture. And, as is well known, Catholics tend to seek civil divorce at approximately the same rates as non-Catholics.

So, did no-fault divorce change marriage as a social institution? Of course it did.

Now, someone may argue, the reason this won't happen is because the women in true marriages won't permit it. And many of them won't.

To which the Mr. Regnerus offers this point:

The terms of contemporary sexual relationships favor men and what they want in relationships, not just despite the fact that what they have to offer has diminished, but in part because of it. 

The supply of marriageable men (but not women) has shrunk—for lots of reasons left unexplored here—leaving the balance of those who are more marriageable (e.g., more educated, wealthier, more stable) with more power than ever before to realize their wishes in their relationships. 

Meanwhile, women no longer need marry to thrive, but most still wish to marry. As a result, women find themselves in a weaker position in the marriage market, competing with other women for desirable men. On the other hand, they have more power than ever—and often employ it—to leave relationships that have gone sour. Big difference. 

If women’s position in the wider mating market—and inside relationships—was more advantageous, they could not only generate fine and stable relationships but also eschew sex—if they felt like it—without relational consequences for intimacy or male unhappiness. But that, we know, is not the case.

Here's another interesting tidbit:

While seated next to an Army attorney recently on a flight to Washington, DC, I asked how his office would prosecute same-sex adultery cases in a military long known for defining the crime by penile-vaginal penetration. His response? “We’re awaiting orders on that.” My hunch? The decriminalization of adultery, as has long since occurred in civilian life.

His conclusion:

Many libertarians and conservatives, including Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, assert that marriage is a conservative institution—which is true—one that will therefore function as such for those who enter it, whether gay or straight. While certainly the case for some, that claim is an unlikely future for many, not because gay or lesbian couples are liberal but because those in the driver’s seat of the contemporary mating market—men—are permissive

This, I predict, will be same-sex marriage’s signature effect on the institution—the institutionalization of monogamish* as an acceptable marital trait. No, gay men can’t cause straight men to cheat. Instead, the legitimacy newly accorded their marital unions spells opportunity for men everywhere to bend the boundaries. Dan Savage will be proud.

* The article cited Dan Savage, a popular columnist who writes about all kinds of sex-related topics, who calls nine extramarital partners being "monogamish" rather than serial cheating.


Pat said...

"... it will eventually embolden boyfriends everywhere (and not a few husbands) to press for what men have always wanted but few were allowed: sexual novelty, in the form of permission to stray without jeopardizing their primary relationship."

At the risk of sounding radical, doesn't sound so terrible. To me, the words "permission" and "without jeopardizing" are words that indicate a successful contemporary marriage.

So, the article says that a result of gay marriage COULD BE that SOME straight couples will together agree to allow each other (more probably, the husbands) to have the occasional sexual encounter outside of the marriage, "without jeopardizing" the marriage.

If my neighbors Jim and Judy feel that works for them, I'm OK with that. It's not what I want in my marriage, but if it works for them and their family, God bless.

Maybe it will result in fewer straight divorces? Like in post-gay marriage Massachusetts.

Radical? Maybe. But I see the sense of it.

Fr Martin Fox said...

I think you're being disingenuous.

Pat said...


Fr Martin Fox said...


Because I think your comment kind of evades my point, while in a way actually confirming it: namely, that redefining marriage to include same-sex unions will change marriage for everyone.

Or maybe I'm misreading you, or imputing views to you unfairly.

But it seems to me, up till now, advocates of redefining marriage have insisted that, oh no, this won't change marriage per se, and won't affect the larger reality.

Now that there seems to be serious momentum for redefining marriage, it's seems safe to switch tactics, and say, oh sure it'll change things! Go for it!

But, to be fair, maybe it's unfair to put all that on you.

Let's just say I won't be surprised if your response ends up being what tends to come more broadly from the pro-redefinition camp. Other things I've seen suggest that may bear out.

Pat said...

My point, phrased as a question, is this: if the article is correct, and a consequence of gay marriage could be that some married straight people (my neighbors Jim and Judy) might feel more free to change their rules of their marriage so that Jim gets to have the occasional tryst with a waitress with Judy's "permission" and "without jeopardizing" their marriage, why would I, as their neighbor, oppose it?

Andrew T said...

Is adultery - between adults and without the use of force - still criminal anywhere?

Grounds for divorce, yes, but a criminal offence?

I hope not. The idea is preposterous.

Jackie said...


Why yes there is - the US Military (under UCMJ). And, it is not preposterous. Why?

Well the Military is an amazing group. For the most part, (until the last 15 or so years), the military must face reality.

An off topic example - the world has a hierarchy. There is a chain of command - regardless if the group is a family a business, a state or the military and regardless of whether they want to admit it or not. The military faces that with no apology. They don't claim there aren't ranks and levels - in fact they wear it on their uniforms, they physically acknowledge it (salutes, standing at attention, putting the ranking person to the right) and they expect more of their senior ranks than they do the junior ranks. It is very clear who is in charge in any military gathering.

The military expects its men and women, particularly its officer to tell the truth and behave with high standards. Because whatever you practice day to day is what you will do in battle. (Hence the phrase - train like you fight) So - if you have a habit of lying or cheating - then what do you think happens when its a really stressful situation?

Likewise, the military faces (or at least did face) the reality of sex and marriage. Sex creates a bond - more so for women - but still for men. (At least the men with a high enough character to command others in battle.) And marriage and family - well that is even higher bond.

The good discipline and fighting ability of a unit is poorly effected if it has one soldier (or worse an NCO or Officer) banging the wife or girlfriend of another soldier in the unit. Additionally, the ability of a solider to focus on the task/mission at hand is poorly effected when they have to wonder what their spouse is doing at home and with whom.

It is also a black-mailable offense which is why you lose your security clearance if caught up in it - as well as bouncing checks, being too deep in debt, etc.

These used to be the standards of all leaders - political, business, minister, leader of the Kiwanis. But then the canard of 'It doesn't matter what he does in his personal life....' came into play.

To be clear - there are sins - like adultery - (which is a sin regardless of who 'gives permission') that ought not be civil crimes. That doesn't mean that it doesn't poorly effect the communities that they work and live in.

But there are organizations like the military where it is NOT preposterous.

Sevesteen said...

In Savage's podcasts and columns, he makes a clear distinction between "cheating pieces of crap" (slightly sanitized version of a phrase he uses often) and monogamish--the big difference being honesty. In a good monogamish relationship, both partners have consented to outside activity (for at least one of them), with clear rules about what is and is not acceptable, and more important they follow those rules.

The definition of marriage has changed many times through history, and almost all of these changes were positive for women. They are no longer property, they can support themselves decently without a husband, their consent is required for sex even with their husband.

Current marriages are free to be sexually open, or as closed as ever--Allowing recognition of gay marriage doesn't change that.

Jennifer said...

Father, this is all very disturbing.

Mr. Savage is frightening. I'm truly sorry for the little boy he and his boyfriend are raising.

The life of a gay man is not all rainbows and parades. I grew up with a lot of gay men in my family. I wouldn't wish that on anyone. Many of their problems are within themselves, but they blame lack of acceptance from the rest of the world.

And they have a lot of sex with a lot of people...sometimes all in one day! (Sorry if this is TMI, but it's what you learn with a gay men in your household)

The sexual revolution has been very, very bad for women. When every girl will say "yes," there's little reason for a man to put a ring on your finger or treat you with respect.

We women have less bargaining power than ever before.

I am getting a divorce, and I won't remarry.

What convinced me was a wonderful book I found in the library by Fr. Benedict Groeschel called "The Courage to be Chaste." I've never been happier, and life has never seemed so right!

Since I am a Mormon, these ideas are all new for me. Every Mormon wants to get married--but I do not. I have found that I can trust in Christ much more easily than in another person.

This is not naive optimism, but a choice to trust in God and to just take care of my children rather than running off to search for the "perfect stranger."

I enjoy reading your blog and learning about the Catholic Church. :)

Don and Liz said...

I wonder how gay marriage will change when gay children are raised by accepting parents in an accepting society? Right now what role models do gay couples have? What influence does our faith have in the lives of gay people. With acceptance perhaps good traditional marriages will influence gay marriage!