Every once in a while an opinion piece comes along that sends the “Is This Satire?” needle so far into the red that the whole darn Irony Detector needs to be cleaned, oiled, and completely recalibrated. Such is the case with one Sam Schulman, who, writing in The Weekly Standard, tasks himself with crafting an argument against gay marriage that is not based on either homophobia or religious bigotry (not that there’s anything wrong with either of those, per Mr. Schulman). Unfortunately, what he comes up with is so absurd that he makes one pine for the good old days of homophobia and religious bigotry.
Sadly, No!, Balloon Juice and The New Republic have already had their way with Mr. Schulman’s piece, but I couldn’t let such a slow-moving rhetorical freight train pass through my station without hopping on-board for a hobo-style joyride.
His argument, if placed in a heavy-bottom sauce pan, brought to a boil and then cooked over medium heat until reduced to a syrupy sauce that adheres to the back of a spoon, seems to be that marriage, properly administered, is an anachronistic, onerous burden, which is as it should be, and that gays, with their crazy ideas of marrying for ‘love’ rather than as a form of restrictive social compact, threaten to undo all that. But take it from the man himself: “The whole set of fundamental, irrational assumptions that make marriage such a burden and such a civilizing force can easily be undone.”
And that’s a bad thing.
Just so you won’t think I’m being overly simplistic, here’s more Schulman: “The entity known as “gay marriage” only aspires to replicate a very limited, very modern, and very culture-bound version of marriage. Gay advocates have chosen wisely in this. They are replicating what we might call the “romantic marriage,” a kind of marriage that is chosen, determined, and defined by the couple that enters into it. Romantic marriage is now dominant in the West and is becoming slightly more frequent in other parts of the world. But it is a luxury and even here has only existed (except among a few elites) for a couple of centuries–and in only a few countries. The fact is that marriage is part of a much larger institution, which defines the particular shape and character of marriage: the kinship system.”
You know, the kinship system. All of us who are married are intimately familiar with the kinship system. Nope, the kinship system sure doesn’t need any introduction round about these parts, nosiree.
Actually, um, to be quite honest, I’ve been married 18 years and I have no friggin’ idea what the guy is going on about.
No problem, though, because Mr. Schulman helpfully lays out everything you need to know about Ye Olde Kinship System in four easy-to-read points. Point one: It’s all about the booty. That’s right, marriage is about controlling (he says protecting, but he really means controlling) female sexuality. And Society’s job is to keep the female a virgin until marriage because otherwise the girls will all become child prostitutes. Got that? Okay, let’s move on to point number two. The second function of Ye Olde Kinship System is to define whom one can and, more importantly, cannot marry, because otherwise sons would be marrying their mothers and fathers would be marrying their daughters.
It’s not just that Mr. Schulman seems never to have heard of the sexual revolution, it’s as though he’s never heard of the industrial revolution. Indeed, he seems to reside in some sort of theme park for the landed aristocracy. How else to explain this bit: “Even in modern romantic marriages, a groom becomes the hunting or business partner of his father-in-law and a member of his clubs; a bride becomes an ally of her mother-in-law in controlling her husband.”
It’s as though this piece was scribbled on napkins during a fox hunt.
But things really heat up when Mr. Schulman finally gets around to the good stuff. That’s right, my lovelies, let Mr. Schulman tell you about all the hot hot Married Sex you’ll be having when you enter into this sacred binding covenant: “Third, marriage changes the nature of sexual relations between a man and a woman. Sexual intercourse between a married couple is licit; sexual intercourse before marriage, or adulterous sex during marriage, is not. Illicit sex is not necessarily a crime, but licit sexual intercourse enjoys a sanction in the moral universe, however we understand it, from which premarital and extramarital copulation is excluded. More important, the illicit or licit nature of heterosexual copulation is transmitted to the child, who is deemed legitimate or illegitimate based on the metaphysical category of its parents’ coition.”
Jeez, is it gettin’ warm in here, or what?!
But even Mr. Schulman admits that married sex is not always as smokin’ as he’s just described. “Now to live in such a system, in which sexual intercourse can be illicit, is a great nuisance. Many of us feel that licit sexuality loses, moreover, a bit of its oomph.”
This may explain why Mr. Schulman himself has been married THREE FRIGGIN’ TIMES.
But seriously, Mr. Schulman, part of the problem may be your language. Next time you’re in the conjugal chamber and you’re ready to ‘get down’ with the third Mrs. Schulman try not calling it ‘licit sexuality.’ Instead, try saying that you would now like to execute your sanction of heterosexual coition. That should spice things right up.
You just know after a passage that steamy that number four is going to be, um, anticlimactic, and sure enough it’s all about how traditional marriage is an initiation ritual and that’s just not going to work with gay people because they tend to get married when they’re older. So what can you initiate them into? Middle Age? I don’t think so.
So there you have it. It’s all pretty cut and dried, and I don’t think any reasonable person could object when he lays it out like that, just one, two, three, four. Because if you don’t agree then basically you’re arguing in favor of child prostitution, rape, incest, and, worst of all, marriages based on mutual love, respect, and a desire on the part of two people to spend the rest of their lives together.
And for heaven’s sakes, we can’t have that.