By Rod Van Mechelen
"We are becoming the men we wanted to marry." - Gloria Steinem
1992 Bellevue, Wash. - If men use marriage to dominate women, then wedding vows would stipulate female fidelity, and leave men free to roam. In most cases, however, this is not the case. In western societies, men are expected to be faithful to women, and any man who strays is in big trouble. This suggests marriage is for women. That they use it to dominate and control male sexuality.
Pop feminists believe otherwise.
According to Shere Hite, marriage is the means by which men dominate women. It's the tool men use to own and control female sexuality. (Women and Love: A Cultural Revolution in Progress, St. Martin's Press mass market edition, 1989, Shere Hite, p 631) (This must be why women adore weddings.) Trying to have it both ways, however, Hite also asserts many men are "anti-monogamy." (Women and Love: A Cultural Revolution in Progress, St. Martin's Press mass market edition, 1989, Shere Hite, p 220)
Regardless, if men do use marriage and monogamy to control female sexuality, then we would expect to find the institution of marriage first emerged at about the same time humanity discovered the male role in reproduction. But this is not the case. According to Reay Tannahill, monogamy existed long before people were aware of the connection between sex and reproduction. (Sex in History, Reay Tannahill, p 13)
Historically, monogamy versus promiscuity had more to do with living conditions than anything else. Abundance promoted promiscuity, scarcity promoted monogamy or polygamy. (Sex in History, Reay Tannahill, p 22) But none of this is really relevant because pop-feminists are less opposed to marriage than to men's rights.
Rights for Women; Responsibilities for Men
Pop feminism is neither about equality nor equal rights, but about gaining power over men by promoting superior rights for women. Marriage interferes with this agenda by according both partners certain rights within the relationship. Men with rights cannot be dominated.
From their perspective, marriage undermines pop-feminism by constraining women's sexual power: "What is 'marriage' anyway? Another emotional world, or a patriarchal institution? A spiritual pledge, or legal domination of one by another?" (Women and Love: A Cultural Revolution in Progress, St. Martin's Press mass market edition, 1989, Shere Hite, p 328) Ironically, most evidence does not support their view, but indicates that, from the very beginning, monogamy and the nuclear family made women's lives easier. (Sex in History, Reay Tannahill, p 333)
Far from taking power away from women, marriage celebrates a tremendous triumph for women:
The very fact that marriage is, for humans, the norm throughout the world -- when, as we know, men are naturally disposed against the institution -- represents a remarkable triumph of the female brain, and will. It is a truly stunning victory for female power and control over the naturally promiscuous biology of the male. -- Brain Sex: The Real Difference Between Men and Women, Anne Moir & David Jessel, p 139
For generations, men have perceived marriage as the means by which women control them. This reflects men's experiences and men's truth. Pop feminists may scoff, but that does not invalidate what is true for men.
The Male Perspective
From men's perspective, therefore, we can say (with tongue planted firmly in cheek) that in less civilized parts of the planet, the practice of polygamy was, and remains, a means by which several women dominate one powerful man. This man's responsibility is to provide his wives with protection and prestige, sustenance and sons.
These women want sons. (Women Vs. Women: The Uncivil Business War, Tara Roth Madden, p 33 and 110) Sons give their men power, women are the source of that power, and this enhances their power over their husband. Conversely, daughters diminish their power by adding too many new competitors vying for the attention of powerful men, and by reducing the number of single men. When power is the means by which men attract women to their beds, a sexual "conquest" is not a man exercising his dominance over women, but over other men. Men without women, single men willing to fight, die, or work themselves to an early grave in an attempt to earn equality with women.
Fortunately, ours is a more civilized society. Only one woman may dominate a man through matrimony.
A More Realistic View
This makes as little sense as the pop feminist assertion that marriage is an institution by which men oppress women. True, some women, most of whom are long dead, were strictly controlled in marriage. (Note: When I wrote that, we knew far less about marriage in the Islamic countries than we know, today. Here, however, I am writing about western nations, not about cultures stuck in the 7th Century.) But should anyone today be held accountable for what happened 100 or 1,000 years ago? Should women today pay for how "they" have used marriage to dominate men for thousands of years?
In Sex in History, Reay Tannahill notes that "This overall pattern of relationships, established in the Near East well over 3,000 years ago, was to persist not only in Europe but in Asia, Africa and the Americas, with minor variations according to time and place, until the middle years of the nineteenth century." However, not only is this "oppression" not contemporary, but it wasn't even as oppressive as pop feminists would like us to believe.
Given the extent to which pop feminists say women are oppressed by marriage, and as it seems to offer men few benefits, we might wonder if promiscuity would be better for everyone. Women who celebrate marriage know the answer to that one already: fidelitous marriage is the bedrock of civilization.
As Michael Foucault noted, "sexuality is tied to recent devices of power; it has been expanding at an increasing rate since the seventeenth century...with its exploitation as an object of knowledge and an element in relations of power." (The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction, Michael Foucault, p 107)
Prior to the late seventeenth century, European sexuality was far more relaxed even than it is today, and neither women nor men were so constrained by marriage as they are now. Thus, the "exclusive promotion of adult marital sexuality," which the pop feminists would have us believe has oppressed women throughout most of our history, actually did not dominate in European culture until the late 1600s.
Before we had patriarchal marriage, as Daniel Amneus noted in The Garbage Generation, we had the matricentric stone age. Hence, the institution of marriage benefits all of us, and pop feminist opposition to it is nothing less than a call for a return to the stone age.
Just as patriarchy made possible the evolution of philosophy, science and technology, so advances in philosophy, science and technology have made the evolution of our social institutions both possible and necessary. But when pop feminists threw out the stabilizing patriarchal institutions, they failed to replace them with anything better.
2012 Olympia, Wash. - It should be obvious to unbiased readers that I was not denigrating the institution of marriage, and I have bolded a few words and passages to highlight this fact. A couple of passages are satirical, and it seemed to me that I more than adequately qualified them to ensure against any misunderstanding. But twenty years ago I was not taking into consideration that there would be psychopaths, sociopaths, and some with narcissistic personality disorder, others with borderline personality disorder--or feminazis--who would claim that here I was disparaging marriage.
Generally, I don't care what such people think or how they try to spin what I've written. But I'm involved in an organization that controls budgets. The feminazis in this organization, whom I call "the sisterhood and their male familiars," are attacking anybody who stands between them and control of this money.
Their goal is to set up programs they control that will benefit fewer than 10 percent of our constituents, mostly the people running the programs. And I'm one of the people standing in their way, so, among other things, they're parading this chapter around, taking it out of the context of everything I've written, to claim that I hate women.
The irony is that several of the women who are doing this, are women I very actvely helped to promote into their current positions. Were I the kind of person to hate women, I'd take that as reason to refuse to help any women in the future. But that would be irrational. Just as the sisterhood and their male familiars are irrational. Irrational, and motivated by money, power, attention and prestige to abuse their positions at the expense of our constituents.
Rod Van Mechelen
Rod Van Mechelen is the author of What Everyone Should Know about Feminist Issues: The Male-Positive Perspective (the page now includes several articles by other authors), and the publisher of The Backlash! @ Backlash.com. He is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and served for 9-1/2 years on the Cowlitz Indian Tribal Council.