Tuesday, January 7, 2014

With This Shotgun...

[James] Taranto [of the Wall Street Journal] then builds on their [George Akerlof and Janet Yellen's] assumption that men are marriage-reluctant by arguing that women are also marriage-reluctant. Indeed, he paints a picture of men and women as natural enemies who can only be brought together under duress, specifically women's duress, which makes women desperate enough to manipulate men into unhappy marriages through sex and guilt trips.
Amanda Marcotte "WSJ Writer Blames the Rise of 'Fatherless' Children on Women"
I remember having discussions about this topic back in my twenties, and was always surprised by the argument that marriages were often miserable was no reason to remain single, given that it made perfectly good sense to me. To a degree, I think that it was something that grew up at the intersection of the ideas that marriage was as once permanent and a duty. If, once you married someone, you were stuck with that person for life, it paid to be very careful about going into it - and if that caution meant that someone never married, so be it. But rather than argue that the stereotype of the unhappy couple trapped in a marriage that neither one wanted was different from most people's actual experience with marriage, the common response to this was that circumstances should be altered so that the need to marry simply overwhelmed any impulse to be cautious.

There has always been a certain low-level hysteria surrounding the rate at which people married. By the time I was in my mid-twenties, the fact that no-one in my social circle had tied the knot was a constant source of consternation to some of the older people that we knew, who were certain that we were the vanguard of a new wave of unwed libertines who would gleefully sleep around instead of treating our sexuality as the exclusive property of some future spouse. And if walking down the aisle meant being an unhappy spouse rather than a happy single, that was simply the price to be paid to avoid a Post-Marriage World. Which, of course, never arrived. The rate of eventual marriage still hums along at about 9 out of 10 people, and single are still regarded as somewhat odd.

Of course, the squeaky wheels are the ones that get the grease, and to the degree that marriage boosters see single people everywhere they turn, each new generation of them is going to be just as convinced as the last that Something's Terribly Wrong. And this will push them to see to stem the tide, even when the tide is simply minding its own business.

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