This is another post I’ve been wanting to write for a while.
Marriage. Sure, we accept it can cause problems, especially that the definition of marriage is problematic. We accept that domestic violence and rape occurs in marriage more than it does in relationships where the partners aren’t living together. But marriage is priveleged.
I’m going to start off with the example of rape, then move on to emotional and mental health, and finally childrearing. For this post, I’m only going to be talking about heterosexual women because it seems like most of the discourse and marriage-privelege is centered around this group. This post will assume some knowledge/sympathetic views (will not have references, statistics or attempt to prove points).
When a woman experiences sexual assault outside her marriage – especially if she is a young single woman – she may be blamed for it. She was out late, she was walking alone, her clothes were a certain length, cut, or showed a certain amount of skin, she wasn’t sober, she shouldn’t have trusted that man, she shouldn’t have hung around with those guys, she was flirting, she should have realised she was in danger earlier, she shouldn’t have led him on…
So, the social norms of socialising, drinking, flirting, dating, and even shopping (a shop sold her the clothes, why not criticise the designer or the retailer if you think the outfit is too short/tight?) are out of bounds for raped women. It’s okay to go out for a drink with your friends, but if you get attacked coming out of the bar, you shouldn’t have been out so late. If you don’t go on dates you’re a loser, snob, frigid or ugly, but if you go on a date and things go wrong in the car or at his place, you have only yourself to blame for being stupidly naive or a flirt who led him on. It’s always okay to do those things – until you get attacked. Then it’s your fault for being a normal person with a social life, errands to run, a life outside your kitchen, and clothes that aren’t hand-me-downs from Granny.
So, a woman’s lifestyle or even career (in the case of sex workers) is blamed for ‘causing’ the rape. You got raped because you were flirting/drinking/socialising/outside your home after dark, or because you are a sex worker. Your behaviour or your job is the culprit.
Yet, when a woman experiences sexual assault in her marriage, the institution of marriage is never blamed. (Note: I’m not saying victims of domestic violence are not blamed; sometimes, people and courts might not take them seriously compared to a woman who is assaulted by a knife-wielding stranger, because domestic abuse sometimes doesn’t seem ‘rape-y’ enough.) What I am saying is: women aren’t usually* blamed for marrying. People don’t say ‘it was her fault she was raped, she was living in the same house as the guy so it was really easy to rape her’ or ‘She should’ve realised he was a rapist before she married him’ or ‘What was she wearing?’ or even ‘She was alone with him in the bedroom at night, what did she think was going to happen?’.
Even though the fact that you’re living with a man makes it very easy for you to be sexually assaulted – close proximity, less chance you’ll call the police, etc.
But marriage is never seen as the culprit. Nobody ever says, ‘You were raped because you are a wife’ or ‘See, marriage causes rape,’ ‘Marriage is dangerous and degrading to wives’. But it’s not that uncommon to hear or see victims blamed: ‘She was raped because she is a sex worker’ or ‘See, sex work causes rape’, ‘Sex work is dangerous and degrading to sex workers’. Nobody tells wives to “Stop dressing like sluts” in front of their husbands (the comment that inadvertently launched the SlutWalks) or that they must restrict their freedom of movement and be on their guard against rape.
Some of this is because of practicality – it’s hard to be on your guard in your own home. But being on your guard in your own home is no more ridiculous than being told to be on your guard in your own neighbourhood,. And there’s no reason why bigots couldn’t tell wives to watch how they dress.
Marriage is still thought of as a stress reliever, especially in the case of parenting. We all know marriage can be stressful, but if a woman has emotional problems, it tends not to be attributed to her marriage unless she tells us so. We tend to think of work or family issues as the culprit. Whereas a single woman having a breakdown is often asked about boyfriends or sex partners, and we more readily assume that her sex life is causing the distress, before we think about her family or career as possible causes.
Sometimes it is still assumed that a single woman is looking for that special someone to eventually marry, and only then will she find true happiness. Some people still assume that a string of casual boyfriends is not true happiness, or is just the prelude to a long-awaited union with Mr Right. Marriage is still, in some circles, seen as the key to a woman’s happiness. Womens’ dating and sex lives are reduced to a lengthy search for Mr Right.
When kids misbehave, get into trouble with the police or don’t do well at school, parents and not teachers are usually blamed. That’s a subject outwith the scope of this blog, which only deals with issues surrounding my Diary (a young single polyamorous woman selling virginity to a rich open-married polyamorous guy for fun and thrills). What is within the scope of this blog is the fact that, although all parents of criticised children and adolescents are blamed, marriage is never seen as the cause of the child’s failures. Divorce, single motherhood, polyamory, parental dating and problem marriages where the parents argue continually are all blamed. But a marriage where the parents don’t argue is never seen as a cause for the child’s problems. Why not, if single motherhood is sometimes blamed – especially in the media – for juvenile delinquency? If a one-parent or separated/nonmarried/divorced background can be a cause, why not a two-parent/married background? Studies show that single parents’ children do as well as coupled parents’ children (when poverty and educational status are controlled for, which wasn’t done in earlier studies – see my post ‘Lone mothers: the Government, the media and the law hate you. Get married!’ for references and statistics.)
*Usually, in media representations and other forms of public discourse. I’m not saying family members don’t do it, ‘Oh you should never have married him, I told you he had shifty eyes! Isn’t that right, Doreen? [nudge] Eh?’