The Blunt, Obvious Truths About the Redefinition of Marriage

Today’s post is inspired by Tynk’s comment, over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

As I see it:

Modern hetero marriage: Legitimate because it is between informed, consenting adults.

Same sex marriage: Legitimate because it is between informed, consenting adults.

“Traditional” chattel-based hetero marriage: Illegitimate because it treats women like commodities to be traded or livestock to be tamed, rather than respecting their autonomy of will. It considers their informed consent to be optional, rather than mandatory, and often denies them the right to withdraw consent and leave the relationship. It often overlaps with communities where women have their range of choices in life artificially limited by lack of education (to reduce their ability to be informed) and other cultural barriers to opportunity. It seeks to create weaknesses to provide the husband the power to exploit them for his selfish gain. It gives birth to rape culture and weakens the character of both men and women by lowering society’s standards of maturity. In the civilized world, an adult is supposed to treat his or her spouse as an equal partner, not as property.

Rape: Illegitimate because it is an act performed with blatant disregard for the victim’s consent.

The long defunct NAMBLA: Illegitimate because one member of the relationship is a child, who is considered not competent to consent by default and vulnerable to exploitation. On the related sex angle, this is also the reason it’s called statutory rape.

Child marriages in general: Illegitimate because one member of the relationship is a child, who is considered not competent to consent by default and vulnerable to exploitation. On the related sex angle, this is also the reason it’s called statutory rape.

Arranged marriages: Illegitimate because they’re not based on the consent of the members involved, but the imposition of those who wield power over them. Made worse when it’s between children.

Bestiality: Illegitimate because non-sapient animals aren’t competent to give consent. They lack the intellectual capacity to understand marriage.

Eugenics-based marriage: Illegitimate because it puts the state in control of the most private parts of people’s lives without regard to their informed consent. It’s also stupid because it’s typically reliant on pseudoscientific ideas about “purity” or “perfection” when all the evidence of biological evolution pretty much tells us there is no such thing.

Marriage by divine dictation: Illegitimate because it arbitrarily puts an unevidenced being’s alleged will above that of the involved members, typically through duress like other arranged marriages.

7 responses to “The Blunt, Obvious Truths About the Redefinition of Marriage

  1. I can agree with this. I will say, though, that I am of the opinion that the age of consent should be lowered, or competency to give consent should be determined by a better heuristic than age.

    On a closely related note, I’m kind of curious as to how the morality of /sex/ would change in a different setting; informed consent is good regardless, but sex has different implications in different civilizations. What you need to be informed of therefore changes; does the competency level you need to consent to sex change as a result?

  2. If you can come up with a better heuristic than age, then we could solve all sorts of inherently “arbitrary” age limits, like the driving or drinking ages.

    As it stands, while we all do understand that the age limits are, at some level, arbitrary, we DO need SOME sort of established limit, and the age of adulthood seems to provide the best protection to young people.

    I really can’t imagine lowering the age of consent having any net positive effect. As it stands, two minors are still able to have a sexual relationship without fear of prosecution. However, should the age of consent be lowered, then we have young people who are less able to defend themselves after being coerced by a more mentally developed but manipulative adult. They lack the obvious protection of being a minor, but ALSO lack the freedoms inherent in being an adult. Now, you may suggest lowering the age of adulthood. There may be some argument for that, but by and large we’re talking about young people still getting an education, still mentally undeveloped. I’m not sure that is a wise idea either, without some serious consideration and study of other nations with lower age limits in these regards.

    There’s also a less rational and more emotional reaction I have, which is simply that there are too many really sleazy adults asking for the age of consent to be lowered. Their motivations come into question.

    On your second note, I doubt it’s all so complicated as that. It’s pretty simple, you get permission to touch someone’s body. You respect someone’s request for personal space apart from you. I don’t see that social differences would affect that too heavily. I don’t see that it matters if sex is celebrated or sullied by the culture involved, the same respect of personal autonomy is required.

    • I’m generally more concerned with porn access, actually. I do think that within-certain-age-range laws are a decent way of handling sex between 16-year-olds and whatnot, but they’re also going to be looking at porn, and the inconsistent application of laws there bugs me. Admittedly, I don’t know exactly what punishments could be given for it, but nobody’s going to charge a teen with illegal porn watching unless they have a reason to want to cause them trouble.

      For the second part: consent is important, but you forgot the “informed” part. The information required is what would be changing.

  3. “Marriage by divine dictation: Illegitimate because it arbitrarily puts an unevidenced being’s alleged will above that of the involved members, typically through duress like other arranged marriages.”

    I love that, Bronze Dog!

    I support same-sex marriage, definitely, but even more than that, I support leaving religious ideals out of legislation!

  4. @KoF: Yeah, there’s ambiguity about age and informed consent. I was mostly focused on subverting the fundie narrative that basing marriage on consent between informed people will magically lead to unwilling 6 year olds getting married to child molesters or whatever, so I kind of glossed it over, rather than risk getting bogged down in nuance. “By default” is largely precautionary, and I’ve got no inherent problem if a teenager wants to legally argue he or she merits an exception about an issue. As DJ talks about, there’s a lot of skeevy characters out there, so there is a reason to remain cautious.

    @Mariah: I’m also on the side of completely secularizing marriage. It’s got legal benefits, so it’s a legal reality, and it should not be tainted by theocratic agendas. If someone wants to do the religious rituals alongside it, that’s their private business. It’s their religion, not ours, so they don’t need to be in other people’s business. If they argue that marriage is a strictly religious institution, why should the government show favoritism to their particular religion’s idea of it?

  5. So you are referring to making sure someone is fully aware of the cultural implications to be sure they are truly informed? I can understand that.

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