Feminism and Marriage, Take Two
Once again, I feel obligated to point everyone in the direction of Feministing to take a look at a blog post about a website called No Marriage. Don't get your hopes up-- this isn't a website devoted to undermining the wedding industry or cultural expectations put on blushing princess brides-to-be. No, this is a website devoted to men warning other men about the dangers of marrying American women, who would "rather be independent" and who are "totally untrustworthy" and who will "spend as much of [a man's] money as absolutely possible." Worst of all, if you get married, eventually, "You will wind up closely tied to an old woman."
Well, I admit that would suck. I plan to stop aging later this year. Now that I think about it, it's awfully inconsiderate for Emily to have aged past 25.
My good friend Alex used to have an expression for when he was frustrated with other people's stupidity. That phrase captures my feelings on this issue perfectly:
"Motherfuckin' shit, bitch!"
I mean, what else can you say?
Here's a website that includes statistics on the details of post-partum depression (a very real medical condition that affects many, many women), along with their own explanation of what the symptoms of this disorder mean ("bitchy attitude", "becomes fat", "completely mentally insane"-- as opposed to those who are physically insane, I suppose), then concludes with, "The point here is that you don't want women's problems to become your problems." Classy.
And here's their list of the modern American woman's qualities: "Immaturity, undeveloped self-esteem, constant contradictions, emotional response and/or overreaction to the SIMPLEST misstatement or problem, an inability to handle adversity, constant self-absorbment, a total failure of inductive reasoning, deductive reasoning or simple pattern recognition, short attention span, superficiality, an extreme need for dependence while loudly declaring independence, etc..." I know you think it's funny that such a grammatically problematic list should include disparaging remarks about the intelligence of women, but please-- keep your jokes to yourself. These men are suffering.
You see, these sensitive, intelligent men have found themselves married to women who will not have sex with them. Can you imagine? It seems impossible that it should be so, but just read this testimonial:
"Here's why I'll be with my girlfriend tonight and not my wife.
"Two phone calls this afternoon:
"Me: Hey sweetie, my mom called and she wants the kids to stay over tonight. What do you say I pick up a bottle of wine and we open up the hottub.
"Wife: No, John, you know Tuesdays are difficult days. I had carpool this morning and I'm just too tired. . . .
"Me: Hey sugar, you want to get a drink tonight after work?
"Girlfriend: Why don't we just go to my place?"
Or this one:
"I can remember my last blowjob like it was yesterday. Actually it was six years ago the day before I got married. Sex then was four to five times a week. Now I have a four year old son who sleeps in my bed with my wife more nights a week than I do. Sex now maybe once a month."
Or this one:
"My wife was a frigid, shriveled bitch. Before we were married, we had plenty of sex, but as soon as we passed the six month mark after our wedding, she stopped being interested. My wife only fucks when she "feels sexy." Translation: when I give her jewellery. She is just a withered old bag at the age of 35."
Seriously-- I know it sounds shocking. Somehow, these women who are being called "frigid, shriveled bitches" and are being cheated on by their husbands don't want to suck their husbands' dicks. It's an outrage!
The genius/philanthropist who designed this website says that he wrote "most of it," but that much of the material was taken from various discussion boards devoted to issues of sex and relationships. So it could be that this actually the work of one extremely stupid man, and that I'm being irresponsible by giving him this free publicity.
Even if this is the work of one moron who knows a little bit about the basics of web design, I still think he probably expresses some attitudes that are common among American men. It seems like "we don't have sex anymore" is a common complaint among men who have been married for a few years. I can think of a few reasons for this.
1) You met your wife in college, when it was your job to fuck, experiment with drugs, and-- if you were ambitious-- attend class. And you say there's been a drop off since you've both actually taken jobs that require you to work 40-50 hours a week? Goodness gracious.
2) You've had kids. Seriously, could you not see this coming? You wanted to have a kid so badly, you must have known that it would be hard work, and the little scamp would be inclined to get up at all hours of the night. It's probably hard to get your groove on when you have to worry about a three-year-old bursting through the door because he's had a nightmare. And if the kid winds up sleeping with you... forget it. She's just not going to want to do it when Junior's on her other side in his Spider-Man jammies. And neither should you, you pervert-- or are you trying to traumatize the kid?
3) Maybe she's under more pressure than you think. I think, often, men regard ejaculation as the ultimate in stress relief, but some women might not feel the same way about the relationship between sex and stress-- in fact, if she's got a boss on her case about paperwork, kids who want her to spend time with them, and relatives who are expecting that she's going to write a pithy Christmas letter... well, maybe the fact that you haven't had sex in a couple of weeks is just one more thing for her to feel stressed out about, and it doesn't help that you keep "joking" (and by joking, I mean saying in complete seriousness, but with a smile that's supposed to be charming) about being backed-up.
4) Maybe she's afraid that you think she's a "frigid, shriveled bitch" or a "withered old hag," and that if she doesn't maintain an impossible standard of beauty as you both get older, you're going to grow to resent her.
Look, I'll be honest-- I'm not the perfect husband. I've got a passive agressive streak, and I'm too quick to resort to sarcasm in an argument-- which is about the most disrespectful thing someone who's not abusive can do. But at the same time, I always try to understand Emily's point of view when we're fighting, or if my first instinct is to assume she's being unreasonable. And let's face it-- sometimes she is unreasonable. Sometimes I am too. If we were always reasonable, there'd be very little to fight about. But we'd also be Mr. Spock, and that's not sexy. Unless you're a Vulcan fetishist.
At this point, Emily and I have been together for five years, and married for almost three, so it's probably not for me to give people relationship advice-- we still have 50 or 60 years together (or, if we both stop aging, infinity), and there are all sorts of pressures that can have an impact on our marriage as we continue towards middle age and beyond. Nevertheless, I think that Emily and I both know quite a bit about how and why our relationship works-- we've both had plenty of relationships with other people, and we're both pretty clear on why those relationships ended.
It seems to me that my marriage is pretty good, and perhaps happier than others, because my wife and I respect each other so much. That's not to say that our relationship is all about flattery-- "This new essay is brilliant!" "Yeah, well, no one else has ever written about The Shoemaker's Holiday as eloquently and persuasively as you!"-- but we respect each other enough to not lie to each other, to split the household chores relatively evenly, and to allow each other some leeway in terms of the occasional unreasonable behavior. I think that, in our culture, men just expect to get this kind of respect-- if we don't, then the woman is "psycho" or "a bitch." But I don't think we're always so used to giving that type of respect, because-- let's face it-- traditionally, we haven't really had to. Marriage in our culture has in its foundation an assumption of ownership-- a woman goes from being the property of her father to being the property of her husband (or did you never wonder why in so many places you go to the same municipal office to get your marriage license as you would a deed for land you were purchasing?). And it's not really for the owner to give respect to property he's paid for.
This has changed in recent years, of course, due to feminism and its influences. Now, even men and women who would never describe themselves as feminists would balk at the notion that "The wife is the property of the husband." We don't think like that anymore, but some of the assumptions inherent in that conception of relationships-- like the assumption that men get respect, and women stay constantly happy, horny, and willing to compromise-- remain with us in our subconscious.
Anyway. You can probably tell that my wife is still in Japan, and that I've been thinking about these things a lot for the past week and a half she's been gone. In fact, before we got married, I liked being single. And I don't mind having spent this time by myself, either. But it's better when she's around; I love every aspect of married life-- sharing housework, working out together, watching movies, discussing our creative and scholarly work, drinking wine on our porch, the sex... other stuff. I don't want to say too much about our sex life, because nobody reads this blog to feel nauseous, but it's a part of what makes the whole marriage thing so awesome, precisely because we enjoy each other's company even when we're not having sex.
And that brings me to my last observation-- men, if you don't like the women you're occasionally having sex with, why bother? No, no-- I understand that ejaculating's awesome. I get that. But why share a bed-- or couch or chair or even apartment or house-- with someone you despise, when masturbation is such a simple and superior alternative? Of course, I remember the line from Woody Allen's Love and Death, where Diane Keaton says, "Sex without love is an empty experience," and Allen replies, "Yes, but as empty experiences go, it's one of the best." But still... if women make you so miserable in every aspect of your life except that one, does it really make sense to keep exposing yourself to their horrible, emasculating influence? Wouldn't it be better to just put in a DVD or do a Google search for naked pictures of your favorite actresses, enjoy a short fantasy, and then go on with your very important work in the real world of rational men?
Also, that way, the rest of us don't have to worry about you breeding.
To summarize-- I just wrote a really long blog post about feminism and marriage wherein I reference Thomas Dekker, Woody Allen, an 18th century literature scholar (my foul-mouthed friend Alex), Star Trek, and blowjobs. Is it any wonder I'm so insufferably self-infatuated?