Some Socially Conservative thoughts from a Liberaltarian

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Murali

Murali did his undergraduate degree in molecular biology with a minor in biophysics from the National University of Singapore (NUS). He then changed direction and did his Masters in Philosophy also at NUS. Now, he is currently pursuing a PhD in Philosophy at the University of Warwick.

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84 Responses

  1. Avatar Shay O'Reilly says:

    Were you intending to argue that the demise of marriage is bad?

    As one of those freewheeling radical social liberals, I don’t see the crumbling of the institution of marriage as a bad thing, particularly since — and it’s curious of you to ignore this — “traditional marriage” has also been a “traditional” way of controlling women and denying them agency. When you discuss the purpose of marriage as “transferring property to offspring,” it ought to be “transferring property to male offspring.”

    You mention that dissolution of marriage was unheard of, excepting reasons of infertility or cuckolding; this notably does not include dissolution of marriage due to violent abuse. Until the mid 1800s or so, wife beating was considered a reasonable exercise of authority by a husband.

    And, of course, there’s that nice little aside that goes unexplored — women were not to have sexual relations outside of marriage. I think it’s worth at least pointing to the double standard: Men were not included in this, because marriage wasn’t about control of human sexuality but about control of female sexuality. Similarly, until very recently, men had complete control over the sexuality of their wives; getting married denied women the ability to say “no” to sexual encounters.

    Marriage, historically, was an institution that controlled women’s sexuality, their access to property rights, and their agency. The reason that feminists were opposed to marriage until very recent decades — after the long “romanticization” had removed its original purpose — was because of the constraints it placed upon a woman’s freedom.

    I’ll say “good riddance” to any institution of domination and control.

    (Additionally, it’s pretty impressive that a whole post about women’s issues ignores any feminist thought from the last thousand years.)Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Shay O'Reilly says:

      I second everything in this comment.  What romantic love destroyed about marriage wasn’t worth keeping in the first place.

       Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        The irony is this. Prior to romantic love, marriage was a strong, but (often enough) horrific institution. After it dominated marriage, it became a a much more worthy institution, but its strength is a joke.

        Also, the high passion of romantic love is over-rated. The kind of friendship and affection that make a long lasting marriage do not necessarily have anything to do with romance.Report

        • Avatar Shay in reply to Murali says:

          How are we defining “strength”? Duration? Is a miserable 40-year marriage that makes both participants depressed, saps them of vitality, and damages their ability to pursue their goals more successful than a happy, 10-year marriage that ends when both participants amiably agree to go their separate ways? I’m skeptical of assigning unquestioning value to the permanence of institutions.

          If your assertion that marriage is now “weak” is correct, is that grounds for returning to  a monstrosity? Arguing that an institution’s strength matters more than its purpose (which you are insinuating here, although there seems to be some assumption of ‘marriage’ as a fundamental good) is ludicrous.

          I’m not particularly interested in debating whether the passion of romantic love is overrated; that’s irrelevant to my argument that traditional marriage is not an institution worthy of survival.Report

        • Avatar Jib in reply to Murali says:

          You are wrong on this. Many times in history marriage has been weak. Men abandon their families and have always done so but there are times that it has occurred with much more frequency than other times. Expand your time horizon, read more social history. Remember that in pre-modern times, women died in child birth at much higher rates than they do today so men remarried without having divorce. Also men did not divorce their wives unless they had property and wanted to keep their social standing. They simply left town. Finally lots of people did not officially marry, they often lived together and referred to themselves as husband and wife, just like today. No surprise there, most people did not have birth certificates, Everything was much less formal before the modern state and modern communications made info so readily available. When you add this into the mix, it is not at all clear that marriage is weaker today than it has been in the past.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Murali says:

          The irony is this. Prior to romantic love, marriage was a strong, but (often enough) horrific institution. After it dominated marriage, it became a a much more worthy institution, but its strength is a joke.

          And so your argument is what, then?  That we should want our institutions to be strong and horrific?  Are you sure you’re a liberaltarian?

          Also, the high passion of romantic love is over-rated. The kind of friendship and affection that make a long lasting marriage do not necessarily have anything to do with romance.

          Yes, but there are other things that make for a good marriage in the modern way of thinking — such as a profound, lifelong friendship. Or a shared commitment to a particular way of life or set of values.

          The reality is that none of these good things has anything to do with the coercive and misogynist elements of traditional marriage.Report

          • Yes, but there are other things that make for a good marriage in the modern way of thinking — such as a profound, lifelong friendship. Or a shared commitment to a particular way of life or set of values.

            I was going to say this- people whose marriages hinge on maintaining romantic love are pretty likely to divorce, yes, but most married people worth their salt are aware that long term marriages are like deep friendships with occasional (and thrilling) recurring bouts of romantic love. I’m not sure why that’s supposed to be a strike against people coming together via romantic love though.Report

            • Avatar Murali in reply to Rufus F. says:

              I’m not sure why that’s supposed to be a strike against people coming together via romantic love though.

              Its a strike because people who come together via romantic love may not necessarily have what it takes to have all the good kinds of friendship and stuff. That’s why they end up separating after the romance fades. If on the other hand, a couple got married because they rationally assessed that they were compatible and then romance bloomed that would be fine.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Murali says:

                Well, if my neighbors separate after their romance fades, it neither breaks my arm nor picks my pocket. Besides, I thought we were talking about arranged marriages being stronger than romance matches because they last longer (and this is not, presumably, because people who are susceptible enough to parental pressure to marry someone their parents picked for them would also stay together for the same reason?) instead of talking about replacing romance marriages with something else entirely. What you’re talking about- rationally assessing a relationship before marrying- is really a lot more common than you seem to think.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Rufus F. says:

                in Japan, which does both, it’s more likely to be “is desperate/having trouble finding someone” rather than susceptible to parents.Report

          • Avatar Murali in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            The reality is that none of these good things has anything to do with the coercive and misogynist elements of traditional marriage.

            Yes, so we can jettison the coercive and misogynist elements of traditional marriage. Include the friendship stuff and still reject romantic love as the proper basis of marriage.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Murali says:

              If this is what you want, then it isn’t socially conservative.

              Also, the word “basis” is overworked here.  In the West, many — probably even most — respectable marriages begin with romantic love.  Is that their “basis”?  If so, do we condemn them?

              Or do we only condemn them when they don’t move on to something deeper?Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        But you favor government protection of the institution of marriage, don’t you?Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Shay O'Reilly says:

      I just want to +1 Shay’s comment above. The ‘institution’ of marriage is very bound up in oppression and maintaining, or imposing, privileged and otherwise unjustified power structures on women. A libertarian critique of marriage that doesn’t include the feminist perspective on this isn’t really a libertarianism worth taking intellectually seriously.

      Shay’s comment also points to a subtle type of revisionism I see frequently wrt the issue of marriage – that the fundamentally oppressive and privileged roots of that institution should somehow be excluded from the ‘debate’.Report

  2. Avatar Jib says:

    In a society where woman have the same rights and opportunities as men, how would you choose your mates other than romantic love? Traditional marriage took the form it did precisely because women did not have the rights of men. Without the opportunity to fend for themselves, women needed a marriage to live. When women were not married, they lived with male relatives.

    If your argument is that frivolous notions of romantic love undermine marriage then fine. Fools will be fools but that is a straw man and I think you know it.

    The valorisation of romance of course resulted in the sexual revolution and the de-stigmatisation of divorce.

    This is ridiculous. You clearly dont understand the history of romantic love if you think the de-stigmatisation of divorce had any thing to do with romantic love. Romantic love has been a force in western society for a good 500 years. De-stigmatization of divorce is relatively new, the last 50 years or so. And guess what, it is going back the other way. The trend is that long marriages are more admired, leaving your wife is seen more as a character weakness. This is part of the ebb and flow of morals. You can find many times in our history when libertine’s ruled followed by a conservative backlash. It is the rhythm of society and you have just taken on turn of the cycle and made a sweeping generalization based on it.

    Oh I get it now, you ARE a conservative. That whole ‘libertarian with some social conservative views’ is kind of like being bi-curious. Come out of the closet, dont be ashamed, admit your conservatism!Report

    • Avatar Murali in reply to Jib says:

      In a society where woman have the same rights and opportunities as men, how would you choose your mates other than romantic love?

      Voluntary arranged marriages. (or strong parental vetoes)Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Murali says:

        Voluntary arranged marriages.

        You want voluntary arranged marriages, and you don’t want strong state involvement?

        You’ve just destroyed the factors that made the strong institutions you liked–it isn’t voluntary love per se that undermined the permanence of marriage, but the admission of voluntariness in entrance and the reduction/elimination of state control over marriage that enabled voluntariness in exit.

        If I read you correctly, you’re trying to have it both ways–voluntary but permanent–but it just won’t work.Report

        • Avatar Murali in reply to James Hanley says:

          If I read you correctly, you’re trying to have it both ways–voluntary but permanent–but it just won’t work.

           I dont think so. This is also backed up by personal anecdotal evidence. All the people I know who had arranged marriages are happily married.Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Murali says:

            Mr. Murali speaks from another culture halfway around the world.  I’ll stick around in case I might learn something.  Me, I like our assumptions being challenged on How Man Works.  We seek the universals about man and one’s own culture is more a prism than a decent pair of bifocals.

             Report

            • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              Then maybe he should refrain from sounding like he’s the expert giving a prescription to fix what’s wrong with other people’s society. We’re not going around telling him arranged marriage is evil; it might work in his culture, but he should not act as if that is the perfect prescription to fix what he thinks is wrong in other culture.Report

            • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              Plus it’s amazing that the same  people who are always screaming about the evils of multiculturalism seem so excited about following Mr Murali’s prescription from another culture. But I guess since Mr Murali also subscribes to the most important ideology of all – authoritarian – his brand of multiculturalism is A-ok to you guys.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to sonmi451 says:

                To Tom, perhaps. But I’m seeing a lot more dissent than support on the thread.Report

              • Jason, don’t mistake my willingness to entertain Mr. Murali’s thoughts for accepting them.

                I don’t think arranged marriage has much of a future in the United States.  However, from what I gathered, in Mr. Murali’s culture, marriages are arranged with the consent of the parties.

                It’s worth entertaining the shocking thought that it’s with forming a family in mind rather than formalizing a sexual relationship.  I’m not yet firmly decided that romantic love is the only sensible mechanism. I’m willing to hear more.Report

              • Avatar Fnord in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                I’ll point out that, in a society with with reliable contraception (and, though this may be cynical, reliable paternity testing), it’s not impossible to have a marriage based on a mutual desire to raise children combined with profound friendship and trust, while making room for romantic love on the side. At least technically; I don’t know if PEOPLE could deal with it, at least universally, of course.

                On a different note, given the increasing importance of intangible inheritances to children (education, etc) versus tangible inheritances (land, etc), I’m not sure a successful marriage needs to be truly permanent.  Once the children are, say, 30, I don’t know that an amicable separation is going to do them or society any harm, especially if it’s something that’s at least potentially anticipated as a normal part of marriage.

                Moving marriage away from a model of romantic love would be a radical change from contemporary Western culture. But I’m not sure it has to be radically reactionary.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to sonmi451 says:

                also subscribes to the most important ideology of all – authoritarian

                How is anything I’ve said about marriage here authoritarian? Look, I will fully admit to being authoritarian on other threads where I’ve spoken out against democracy (but democracy is fundamentally illiberal and boneheaded), but what does that have to do with my position on romantic love? Now, given the comments here that I have received it may be that it is a bit too simplistic to point to romance as the one thing that made marriage weak. The case can still be made (but it will have to be more nuanced and better argued). The question is, how the hell is what I’ve proposed authoritarian?Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Murali says:

                “but democracy is fundamentally illiberal and boneheaded”

                So, why do you choose to live in Singapore and not North Korea then, if democracy is so boneheaded and illiberal?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to sonmi451 says:

                Probably because Singapore is about the most liberal non-democracy around.  If he’s looking for a liberal place, who could seriously suggest North Korea?Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to Murali says:

            Murali,

            Okay, so let me give you a different thought experiment: “a woman and her brother are the parents of her offspring”. Romantic love is allowed, and sexual partners are serial monogamous.

            (actual culture in India. they do a “marriage” with a man from a higher caste, as well, but he’s not terribly important to day to day life.)Report

      • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Murali says:

        How voluntary would it be for women as opposed to men? But I guess that’s not an issue that matters to you, since you’re the guy who thinks marriage is soooo much better in the old days (I bet the ladies don’t think so).Report

        • Avatar Murali in reply to sonmi451 says:

          How voluntary would it be for women as opposed to men?

          I’m talking about present day society in modern industrialised nations. it is as voluntary for women as it is for men.

          since you’re the guy who thinks marriage is soooo much better in the old days

          I just said it was stronger. Gender equality has come a long way and I’m not about rolling that back. And the reason it was stronger has more to do with the role romance played (or not) as its corner stone than with issues of gender (in)equality.

          As Katherine mentions below, non-romantic types of love  and friendship are important to marriage and strengthen it. (i.e. think of marriage as a formalisation of friends-with-benefits rather than as a celebration of a romantic connection)

          Also, in traditional south Indian Hindu weddings, the vows are not about obeying and honouring so much as committing to a mutual friendship.

          Its romantic love which is problematic to the strength of marriages, not other kinds of love and not gender equaliy.

          And just because I criticise 1 semi recent development in the institution of marriage and point to it as the root cause of its present weaknesses it doesnt mean that I think all modern features of marriage are bad, nor does it mean I think marriage in the past was just fine and dandy. Get over yourself.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Jib says:

      Romantic love has been a force in western society for a good 500 years. 

      You just made Abelard and Heloise cry you know.Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    My fundamental problem isn’t the goal, it’s the logistics.

    You touch on this with regards to marriage. You can’t imagine a particular policy. I imagine that part of this for you is the pragmatic issue of being able to think of one that would work. I’ll ask you to try this thought on:

    What can you imagine you, yourself, having the right to do to prevent divorces? It seems like such a silly question when asked that way, right?

    Now let’s get to the darker part of your post: What can you imagine you, yourself, having the right to do to prevent abortion?

    Keep in mind, this is what you’ll be asking The State to do on your behalf.Report

    • Avatar Murali in reply to Jaybird says:

      You touch on this with regards to marriage. You can’t imagine a particular policy. I imagine that part of this for you is the pragmatic issue of being able to think of one that would work. I’ll ask you to try this thought on

      Its not that I cant imagine policy. Its that  whether or not the institution of marriage is a good thing, what happens to it isnot the business of the state.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Murali says:

        Fair enough.

        To what extent is pregnancy the business of the state? When it comes to issues of abortion, what would preventing abortion actively entail? What institutions would need to be in place to effectively limit abortions?

        Would you, Murali, be comfortable doing *ANY* of the things that you’re asking the state to do on your behalf?Report

        • Avatar Murali in reply to Jaybird says:

          When it comes to issues of abortion, what would preventing abortion actively entail? What institutions would need to be in place to effectively limit abortions?

          We would need carrots and sticks. Many women are driven to abortion out of desperate circumstances. First the carrot. A large part of reducing abortions will involve improving the prospects of the worst off so that a pregnant woman will not find herself in desperate situations. This involves policies aimed at pursuing economic growth as well as highly efficient means tested social safety nets.

          The second part would be the stick. How do we track illegal abortions? the same way we track other forms of illegal killing. If someone finds a dead foetus in the dump, a DNA test will reveal who the mother is. Applying the age-appropiate punishment is a matter of the courts and existing policy. At the same time, collaborate with healthcare professionals to institute guidelines for when licensed/certified medical practitioners may perform abortions. (i.e. viability point, health risks etc)

          The third plank of abortion reform is about providing a third option to pregnant women wanting to end their pregnancy. The third option is to induce labour and extract the viable foetus. The neonate will likely survive and can be put up for adoption when its condition is stabilised and it is ready to leave the icu.

          Would you, Murali, be comfortable doing *ANY* of the things that you’re asking the state to do on your behalf?

          I dont know that I will be willing to do the operation myself, but the others? probably.Report

          • Avatar mark boggs in reply to Murali says:

            This is interesting.  So would all citizens need to have their blood types and DNA catalogued by the state?  How would know by the fetus’s DNA who the mother was without it?

            Not only this, many of the carrots you have sound like state funded types of things.  I know you pay attention to American politics and governance and am curious how you think this type of social spending doesn’t get viewed through the same lens as current social spending does, i.e. we have too much and can’t afford more and actually need to cut it?

            Needless to say, this all sounds very much more conservative than libertarian.

             Report

  4. Avatar Freddie says:

    There is no “economic consensus.” There is a particular set of economic policies, favored by moneyed and powerful actors, that is constantly represented as the consensus in order to demonize and exclude a robust set of differing opinions, without bothering to argue. That the economic “consensus” is that which best suits plutocrats and corporations is not a coincidence.

    I know Kuznicki constantly tries to assume away different opinion but there’s no need to adopt that tactic.Report

  5. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    To be honest, my own opinions on the institution of marriage come from what most people would consider “left field” (well, excluding French people). This is why I tend not to share those opinions in bloggy form, and why I’m not going to pile on here, but I do want to understand better what you mean by “the valorisation of Romance”. It seems to me that romance has always been valorised, at least in poetry, literature, and philosophy, which would seem to suggest it was held in high regard culturally. This was not, as you point out, necessarily the case in the law and perhaps that was what “weakened”. As for cuckoldry, it was an old saw in comedy, so definitely not unheard of, especially since young girls were frequently married off to much older men. It always seemed like a fairly lousy system for men in that regard because it assigns so much power to women- he can be a great military leader or even a King, but if his wife boinks someone else, he’s suddenly ridiculous in the eyes of humanity. But there are, nevertheless, tons of Medieval stories about knights and ladies in love chastely with one another and kept apart by the institution of marriage. It seems like what became weaker was the Church and state really, which were, of course, one and the same until the Modern era. Finally, let’s remember that a big part of Medieval marriage laws is that Jesus spoke very harshly against divorce. (An interesting aside: Martin Scorsese, as a Catholic, has said that he expects to go to hell for having divorced). The norm, incidentally, in a marriage gone sour was to deposit the missus in a convent.

    So, we’re talking about the Church/State having less power than culture in the modern era. But, of course, culture is not static, so assuming that marriage will continue “weakening” into the future seems unnecessarily gloomy. When I was reading your post I kept saying to myself, “And yet… they marry”.Report

  6. Avatar Roger says:

    Murali,

    When I take Rawls seriously and ask what type of society I would create behind the veil, my answer has been that I would choose a libertarianish society with strict prohibitions against abortion. It always seems to me bizarre that pro-choice liberals are attracted to Rawls, as this anti-abortion stance seems to be the most obvious implication.

    When I think of the veil, I picture Woody Allen in a sperm costume and before he gets shot out the gate some social bureaucrat with a clipboard asks him what type of world he wants to enter.

    Bureaucrat: “OK. Mr Allen, assuming you don’t get aborted, what system of justice are you choosing?”

    Woody: “What do you mean aborted? I want to enter a system where I don’t worry about being aborted!”

    Bureaucrat: “Ummm… that option isn’t on the checklist.”

    Woody: “Well we better write it in.”

     Report

  7. Avatar Katherine says:

    On the first question: if you are saying that a shallow view of romance has led to a devaluing of marriage and fidelity, and that this is a bad thing, I agree.  But if marriage does not exist for the purpose of love – a deeper, stronger kind of love than romance, which can overcome things like differences of opinion or temporary quarrels or wrongs – then I would posit that there is little reason for it to exist.

    Also, isn’t there an argument that the changes in the institution of marriage are the result of greater rights of women?  Once men and women could hold property jointly and couldn’t be told whom to marry by their parents, the use of marriage for managing property and forging alliances, or to satisfy parents, was pretty much defunct.  The only reason left of the ones you list was then “rearing children” – and more and more young couples are choosing not to have children now.  So rather than destroying marriage, love could be seen as the only reason why the institution of marriage continues to exist at all; it’s certainly the reason why same-sex couples have fought so hard for the right to be included in it.

    On abortion, I agree with you.Report

  8. Avatar Alan Scott says:

    Not quite on topic, but I strongly disagree with your interpretation of Romeo and Juliet as glorifying romance.

    We’re not meant to idolize R&J, or glorify their love.  We’re supposed to pity them and recognize their love as foolish.  Juliet is a silly thirteen-year-old whose feelings for Romeo are as deep and profound as a modern teen’s love of Justin Beiber.  Romeo spends the first act-and-a-half deeply in love with Juliet’s cousin.

    Love and hate are shown as two sides of the same coin–both appealing to the young and foolish, and both with immense destructive power.  Lord Capulet and Lord Montague are ready to make peace–it is their silly children that must war or love, and thus doom all.Report

  9. Avatar sonmi451 says:

    Please, you don’t get to call yourself a liberaltarian. just because you want to. You are an authoritarian, and your socially-conservative views in these subjects are just extension of your authoritarian beliefs.Report

  10. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Things That Never Goes Over So Well With Me, Example #187: People arguing that my successful marriage should be changed to reflect what they want their marriage to be, and arguing that the existence of mine is destroying the institution of marriage and society itself.  Bonus points given to those that are either single or divorced when making said arguments.

    (please see also: related opinions on child-rearing)Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      I’m not familiar with those arguments, RTod.  I am familiar with those straw men, though.  ;-PReport

      • I’m sorry, did I misread the OP?Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          I thought it was stated as a conditional:

          If you think the longevity of the union is important…Report

          • Really?  The very first argument:

            Romantic Love destroyed the institution of marriage

            seemed a bit unconditional to me.  As did this:

            “The whole point of a marriage is/was to tell everyone else in the village that this person is going to become my wife and that my property by default is going to go to the offspring of this union when I die etc etc. “

            This not only seems unconditionally spoke, but will come as a huge shock to my wife:

            “It therefore became a virtue to break the covenant of marriage if said marriage had become stale and a new dashing prince charming came along. “

            And my children will be most sorry to hear this:

            “Romantic love also destroyed the family.”

            But bristling at such words is really me just making up straw men, I suppose.Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tod Kelly says:

              Well, Tod, you’re just saying he’s wrong.

              People arguing that my successful marriage should be changed to reflect what they want their marriage to be

              I don’t think he demands you & yr lovely missus fall out of love.

              and arguing that the existence of mine is destroying the institution of marriage and society itself. 

              Well, mebbe sort of, if you stretch it sophistically.  But the phenomenon he’s describing occurred centuries before your own marriage, I don’t think a charitable reading would put him as recommending you put your own marriage out of existence to save the institution.

              I was detecting echoes and analogies to another sort of marriage controversy here in the 21st century in yr remarks, but I suppose that was just my imagination.

               

              It’s just that the language and formulation seemed so familiar…

               Report

              • No Tom,  now you’re trying to read things into what I’m saying that you want to be there.

                You don’t hear me saying: “Murali, you’re totally wrong about marriage; if you are married, or if this is the way your family did it, then you are doing it wrong and you are destroying the family and (as I believe he put it) western civ.”

                Lot’s of people have different kinds of marriage than I have chosen, and have led happy lives.  My parents, who chose a slightly different traditional Man Is Head of Household/Woman Does All Domestics model come to mind.  I don’t know of anyone in my generation, but I know a few couples that are parents of friends who were the product of arraigned marriages – and they seem both happy and in love, and have certainly raised successful families.  I even know people who are quite old and celebrating decades old anniversaries – on their second marriage.

                It’s one thing to say “This is the kind of relationship I want, and the kind of family I want to raise,” and then do so with commitment and kindness.  It is quite another to say, “That’s not the kind of marriage I would choose, so it is wrong and harmful.”

                And for the record, no…  My reacting to people speaking like this about my marriage and my family is not some knee-jerk stepping up to protect Jason and Russell….  That’s just silliness – going out of your way to find an excuse to cry PC.

                 Report

              • the product of arraigned marriages

                I always thought marriage was a crime.Report

              • Oh, auto-correct – you make everything I type better!Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                RTod, I understand Murali to be speaking in the theoretical, not about existing marriages like yours.

                And if you attest that I heard PC echoes where there were none, I shall of course take you at your word.  But the consonances sure were spooky.Report

              • What, it’s spooky that me telling someone to stop cracking on my marriage is similar to Jason telling someone the exact same thing about his?  How is that spooky?Report

              • In fact, so we avoid even the appearance of PC rhetoric, let my simply rephrase my entire comment:

                Lord, spare me from people who have never been married explaining to me what a good marriage is really all about.  (And, as also mentioned in my original comment, also from those without kids telling me about how my child should really be raised.)

                Better?Report

  11. Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

    Sure, Tod, but I’m willing to listen.  I find his thoughts interesting.

    And they’re directed at the dysfunctional marriages and non-marriages.  For every rule there are exceptions, perhaps even a great many of them.  “The sex was always good” is a line used so much in the movies and TV by dysfuctional, split-up couples that perhaps the cliche holds some truth, that being hot for each other isn’t enough.

    As for how you’re raising your kids, I’d have to get a gander at the little monsters before I venture an opinion.Report

    • OK, this was awesome:  “As for how you’re raising your kids, I’d have to get a gander at the little monsters before I venture an opinion.”

      As to your other point, of course there are dysfunctional marriages today.  But there were back in the day, as well – at least be any metric we might measure such a thing. Thinking dysfunctional/horrible/failed marriages are a thing of the modern age is as much of a myth as marriages were never happy or successful until the modern age.

      You are correct, of course, that being “hot” isn’t enough to keep a marriage together.  But the other unspoken half of that argument is that back in the day people didn’t get married for shallow reasons (not true) and now everyone does (also not true).Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        RTod, I’m not endorsing Mr. Murali’s musings, but the developments of the past century—contraception and economic changes, that women can now survive on their own [as opposed to being limited by their lesser physical strength, or by misogynistic social laws and conventions]—may have put “being hot for each other” at the top of the list instead of a few notches down where it might belong.

        IOW, that his musings might hold much truth, not that they are THE truth.Report

        • Fair enough, and I think that’s worth discussing.  But to say that romantic love has destroyed the family is knee jerk hyperbole.  (Sorry to be harsh, Murali, but it is.)

          He is correct that marriages lasted longer hundreds and thousands of years ago.  But that is mostly because of all the reasons others have already pointed out better than I could.  You have to take the good with the bad.  You don’t want to make women the property of men, and instead give them freedom to make their own choices?  Fine, then you have to live with all of those consequences – including that they may not choose to stay married to you, or even consent to marry you in the first place.  You want to have a society where there is class mobility?  Great, but you might find that arranged marriages are no longer as universally desirable as they once were.  Thems just the breaks.

          But do any of these things mean that the institution of marriage is now tarnished, or that western civ is on the skids – us having given women rights as equal humans and encouraged class mobilitity?  Quite the opposite, say I.  I understand that others, especially conservatives, might feel differently – and I understand that they might feel different for reasons other than I list here.  And as far as I’m concerned, they should be allowed and encouraged to pursue their life-partnerships as they wish, so long as they do so with both commitment and kindness toward those they commit to.  L’chaim, I say!  But I’ll still choose the marriage that I have, and choose to honor the marriage of my parents and grandparents, and siblings as well – romantic loves and deep friendships, each and every one.

          And come tomorrow, the sun will still rise, and civilization will still stand.  True, we’ll probably have another season of Jersey Shore, but we’ll muddle through somehow.Report

          • Avatar Murali in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            But to say that romantic love has destroyed the family is knee jerk hyperbole.

            Tod, I’ll cop to this. I was in a bit of a mood and was looking for a heading which would grab attention. (Though it seems to have generated more heat than I initially expected)

            My apologies. I didnt mean to cast aspersions on your mariage or suggest you dissolve it or anything. (Removing foot from mouth)Report

            • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Murali says:

              Murali – No worries!  It appears that I, too, was in a bit of a mood today.  I was obviously cranky.

              Come to Vegas (a long flight, I know!) in May and I’ll offset part of your flights with many, many rounds of drinks.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          I’m not as sanguine, Tod: I do believe the “conservative” trope that our culture isn’t just mutating, it’s dissolving.  Marriage is also a social institution, not just a contract between two individuals, which is the current trope if not fast becoming the dominant view.

          I did some poking through the history of marriage over the weekend, and it wasn’t just the abusive-exploitative institutionalization of misogyny that our  “theory”-influenced drones paint it as.

          We must remember that when Hobbes wrote that life was nasty, brutish and short in the 1600s, he wasn’t kidding.  Marriage, for all its flaws and non-21st century lack of enlightenment, was still a means of protection for a woman and her children.

          And this is still true, if you poke through the metrics in 2012.  Single motherhood is still highly correlated with poverty, and it shouldn’t be hard to correlate it strongly with, yes, “wealth inequality” and the rest of that list of the unfairnesses of the current era.

          Marriage worked for Hillary Clinton, who could bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan.  The wretches of Jersey Shore, I don’t know what awaits them.

           Report

          • I agree with almost everything you say here, Tom… I might quibble at the notion that premarital sex and sex out of wedlock is a modern day phenomena, and that we are on a downward slope.  But we are mostly on the same page.Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tod Kelly says:

              Tod, those “History of Sex” things, I dunno, I’m no expert.  It’s what you do about what happens after, if anything, on trial here.

              Mr. Murali’s world doesn’t let people kiss on the movie screen, let alone fake doing the nasty.  On the other hand, they came up with the Kama Sutra.

              We only have porn.  Some pretty nasty doing of the nasty.  On the other other hand, they seem to be having a good enough time, so perhaps romantic love is overrated afterall.

              😉

               Report

            • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

              I might quibble at the notion that premarital sex and sex out of wedlock is a modern day phenomena, and that we are on a downward slope.

              It depends on what we’re talking about. Of course premarital sex and sex out of wedlock have always been with us. That doesn’t mean, though, that there isn’t a substantive difference between it happening and it becoming an accepted cultural norm.

              In the first case, you have a couple of kids periodically fumbling in the back of a Chevy. In the latter case, you have a much greater sense of expectation. And with that expectation is likely to come greater frequency, more partners, and much greater pressure among people who otherwise would put it off or tread more carefully.

              Too much of the sexual discussion is treated in the binary. Social conservatives with the black-and-white approach where the world ends if you have premarital sex or more than one partner ever. Social liberals seeming to… well… this.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to Will Truman says:

                In the latter case, you have a much greater sense of expectation. And with that expectation is likely to come greater frequency, more partners, and much greater pressure among people who otherwise would put it off or tread more carefully

                This sounds right.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Will Truman says:

                it becoming an established cultural norm is a GOOD thing, if you care about not having unwanted pregnancies. the more girls on the pill, the less they have to “take responsibility” for a boy quietly raping them.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Will Truman says:

                You want to know what premarital sex was like in the old days?  So glad you asked!  It’s a question for a historian, and I’m happy to answer.

                In the old days, young, unmarried men had whatever women they liked, until one of them got pregnant.  Then they got married.  Smart young men with money visited prostitutes instead, because that way they would never be expected to marry.  Until the mid-nineteenth century, prostitutes were cheaper than pornography and often less frowned upon than masturbation.

                It’s estimated that as many as a third of marriages even in puritan New England took place when the bride was already pregnant.

                So…  before you knock romantic love, do consider what system it was replacing.  In all its sordid details.Report

              • That reminds me of Charlie Sheen’s response when a judge, busting him for soliciting, asked why such a good looking, rich, successful, young guy would have to “pay” for sex with beautiful women.  He noted, (I’m paraphrasing) “I’m not paying for the sex; I’m paying them to leave.”Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

            … I’d be tempted to put somethign here in l33t speak, just as a rejoinder. But I read better than I write, it appears.

            Society fragmenting is not society dissolving.

            And whenever I suggest ways to prevent our society from “dissolving” into haves and have-nots (the people allowed to crash planes into buildings, and the TSA-wading-through shmoos), you seem to get upset.

             Report

  12. Avatar David Cheatham says:

    Even if Romeo and Juliet had boinked a bit on the sly, then this was just an expression of romantic love for each other. The whole bloody aim of the story is to get us to root for the couple. That is why it is tragic when they both die. We are kept in suspense till the very end wondering how they will overcome their families’ objections. Romantic love also destroyed the family. Romeo and Juliet disobeyed their parents and failed to accord them due respect.

    Oh. my. God. No. Just…no.

    This is why, when suggesting we do some Shakespeare at the theatre I volunteer at, I always say ‘Except not Romeo and Juliet’. Because everyone else seems to be watching entirely the wrong play.

    Please watch the climax of Romeo and Juliet and tell me with a straight face that Shakespeare isn’t mocking the characters, who both decide that life is so horrible without someone they knew for three days that they should commit suicide. (Although not without Romeo killing a perfectly innocent bystander who rightfully tried to apprehend him, a wanted felon.)

    I know everyone laughs when teenagers aspire to be ‘like Romeo and Juliet’, but I always suspect I’m laughing for entirely different reasons. ‘Oh, so you want to be absurdly overly dramatic, think your five minute crush is some deep epic love, rush into a relationship, and then think that any problem is the entire of the world? Good luck with that, but try stopping short of the suicide, okay? Also, kill less people along the way.’Report

    • Avatar Plinko in reply to David Cheatham says:

      I don’t with to hijack Murali’s post into Shakespeare discussion, but there is zero textual evidence for the idea that Shakespeare takes R&J anything but extremely seriously, it also doesn’t at all fit in with any of his other work at all.Report

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