Sunday, July 22, 2007

Debate Topic: Marriage is Immoral

I am a person suspicious by nature. When a person or group makes an especially big deal out of ceremonializing and “sanctifying” a life event, or legal contract, I ask myself, “What are they trying to hide by blowing all this smoke?”

Definition of terms: If you’re a moral absolutist, immoral is defined as an unfair or inequitable advantage taken or perpetrated by one party or group upon another. In other words, somebody gets screwed over. If you’re a moral relativist, then use this working definition from Webster’s: conforming to a standard of right behavior. Implies conformity to established sanctioned codes or accepted notions of right and wrong .

I will argue that marriage is immoral under either of these definitions. Please feel free to jump in with any arguments or observations supporting or contradicting this position. I am looking forward to hearing your opinions and arguments.

Marriage is a legally binding contract between two people. The contract, as written, entered into and agreed to, has no escape clause excepting the death of one of the participants. The contract represents an entrance into a state of mutual indenture of the two participants. No other contract of its kind is considered legal or binding in the free world. I cannot sell myself in an open-ended, unconditional contract to another person. A sibling cannot enter into any similar contract of indenture with its parents, in exchange for college tuition, for example. Such a contract is tantamount to slavery and would be considered immoral and immediately voidable. The reciprocal nature of the marriage contract does not negate these characteristics. For this reason, the contract has been legally modified to include an escape clause; divorce. Religious organizations might argue about the propriety or moral rectitude of divorce, but it is an absolutely necessary component of the marriage contract in order to maintain its legality in a modern society. There is then, a disparity between the legally recognized marriage contract and the ceremonial agreement entered into by most of the participants. Since there is no mention of, or agreement to, the escape clause (divorce), the contract is a material misrepresentation of the facts and is immediately void on those grounds. If said misrepresentation can be shown to be deliberate, the marriage contract is also immoral.

Why is this omission allowed to continue? The wedding vows can easily be modified. One could remove language like, “for as long as you both shall live?” One could modify “till death do you part” into “till death or mutual dissolution do you part”. For the most part, the parties entering into marriage know that divorce is an option. They know that people change, and people have emotional flaws that might make them dangerously incompatible with one another in the long run. They have seen other couples divorce to preserve life or sanity and know this option is available to them should they need it. In short, most couples taking the wedding vows know that what they are actually agreeing to is not the same as what they say that they are agreeing to in the ceremony. You might chalk this up to optimism or blind emotion. I contend that socio-religious/political authority has led may young couples into a situation where they knowingly swear a false oath, and this is immoral.

Marriage is ostensibly a system by which a safe, financially secure and stable environment is created in which to raise children. Marriage fails to achieve that goal at least as often as it succeeds. There are good parents, abusive parents, dangerously insane and homicidal parents, successful single parents, unsuccessful single parents, successful/unsuccessful same-sex couples raising children, parents that die, parents that go broke, etc. The only real achievement that the institution of marriage can claim for itself is that it succeeds in maintaining and perpetuating the status-quo. It creates victims, and those with the perception of victimhood within its ranks. These damaged citizens are useful to society in many ways. As a group, they can be counted on to consume alcohol, enlist in the armed services to escape abusive parents, create job opportunities in Law Enforcement, and generate large legal fees as participants finally seek divorce. Their children can be counted on to perpetuate the same behaviors in the next generation.

Who profits from this system and how do they do it? Marriage creates a system whereby those outside the contract are given the expectation of financial gain. Everyone from De Beers to the divorce lawyer will squire couples through the process, taking their cut along the way. Those that don’t follow all of the spending rituals for weddings are made to feel that they have missed out on something, or that they are inferior in some way. This most definitely includes those that do not marry at all. “Spinster”, “Old Maid”, “Odd Fellow”, “Odd Man Out”, and “Confirmed Bachelor” are the derogatory and prejudicial labels that come immediately to mind. Why should a person be described by their marital status, and what does that actually tell you about their character? Those who pair bond without the proper forms and rituals are “living in sin”, and are, in many cases, pressured to join the ranks of the married. Those who define their sexuality outside the marriage/family unit paradigm, those who take multiple partners, either concurrently or consecutively are also discriminated against. We have been carefully taught to use labels like “slut” or “horn dog”, or “pig” to describe those that do not conform to the ideal of marriage that has been constructed and sold to us.

The ideal of marriage, like the contract itself, is materially different from the reality. Anyone with reasonable powers of observation will have noticed that results vary, but still we are fed the ideal as if that was the only reality. Statistics also vary, but one prediction says that, in one out of two marriages, at least one spouse will seek sexual or emotional gratification outside the marriage. Oddly, this is only labeled as “cheating” if sex is involved. All manner of excuses are made for why a married relationship might fall short of filling emotional needs. In many authoritarian social groups, a partner is told that it’s their duty to stay with abusive, alcoholic, or emotionally disturbed spouses. The industry of Marriage Counseling exists solely to provide work-around solutions to basic human incompatibility. I have been unable to find exact figures for this branch of psychotherapy, but coupled with legal fees from divorce, it is safe to say that the recourses to a bad marriage represent a multi-billion dollar redistribution of wealth annually.

Marriage is a product that is misrepresented and sold to the general population. There is so much social pressure to conform to the marriage standard, that same-sex couples are seeking this status. The legal system and the Insurance industry have created incentives for people to marry. This is coercive, self-serving, and discriminatory. The institution of marriage contains archaic notions of ownership of one human being by another. The ideal of marriage is dogmatic, and as socially pervasive as any religious belief. Furthermore it is defended by use of emotional appeals and conformist arguments. As often as not, it puts one human being at an emotional, social, or financial disadvantage in respect to the other spouse. While marriage itself falls into the category of accepted norms and what is defined as right, normally occurring activities within the marriage do not measure up to the socially acceptable standard. For all of these reasons, the Institution of Marriage is unethical and immoral.


At 10:52 AM, Blogger Mookie said...

I'm married, but only because it afforded me and my "life partner" extra financial aid. We would have happily gone on without a piece of paper explaining our relationship. Our feelings for one another were no different after we got married than before. We avoided as much of the culturally-defined mumbo-jumbo as possible, and not just for financial reasons. The term "life partner" is used because "husband" and "wife" have too much cultural baggage. Our more conservative relatives sent cards addressed to "Mr & Mrs. *my last name*", which suggests that after marriage, the female loses her identity and becomes some sort of tumor of the male.

Marriage is based on property rights. Back in the day women were treated as such. Having the father walk his daughter down the isle is to symbolize the giving of her as an object to her new owner, the husband. Yuck. To attack the institution of marriage is to question the nature of property.

At 7:05 PM, Blogger breakerslion said...

"To attack the institution of marriage is to question the nature of property."

Ah yes, the old domino theory. First my wife, then my dog, and then my gun! If you question posession (ownership), where will it end?

At 7:37 PM, Blogger Kristine said...

I'm with you. Marriage is slavery. But today, it seems that it can be turned into slavery for men, too. Come home to the bitching wife - spouses not speaking to each other, or getting into fights over nothing - women at work, bitching about their husbands (I have no complaints about my man and if I did I'd tell him) - man, in all honesty, suburban domestic discontent makes me cringe. I resolved long ago never to let myself fall into that rut of bitching at or about my guy, and though we never got married I stayed true to that vow. Maybe the scene with Percy Bysse Shelley and Mary Wollenstonecraft meeting at her mother's grave to make love isn't shocking anymore, but it's still more erotic than the people around me with their snippy little arguments with the hubby/wife.

If I ever get married to my boyfriend, it would only be to cheat on my lover!

(I'm kidding, I don't have anyone on the side - I'm a closet monogamist.)

But a girl can dream, can't she?

At 10:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never will i get married again! Marriage takes away at least 1/2 of a persons individual power. Marriage almost killed me. MARRIAGE is kryptonite.

Fuck marriage.

At 7:50 AM, Blogger Mookie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 7:54 AM, Blogger Mookie said...

"Ah yes, the old domino theory. First my wife, then my dog, and then my gun! If you question posession (ownership), where will it end?"

I don't think that's what I intended to say. Please reread my comment or I'll just delete it rather than have it be misunderstood.

At 1:26 AM, Blogger BEAST FCD said...

Excellent post. I have long wanted to write about this myself, but since I am not married, and probably never will, perhaps I am not the right person to do the job.

I have never been fond of marriage. The only reason why I feel marriage should be allowed is probably when kids are involved, and even that reasoning seems ominously vacuous when you consider the fact that people can still opt out of marriage via divorce,hence rendering marriage as a child-protecting legality a very lame excuse for exerting domination by either spouse.

At 9:49 AM, Blogger breakerslion said...

kristine: I think you hit on something that needs to be explored. Some of those that promote marriage put forth the idea that marriage = monogamy, anything else = chaos. I don't think that analysis holds up.

l>t: Sorry for poking a fresh wound. I have to agree with you though. I'd like to see humankind move on to a more individualistic solution that would still protect the offspring. Most of us have been turned into wage slaves, where two incomes are required to support a family. The current two-adult household paradigm makes this pain point achievable for the corporate bureaucracy.


"To attack the institution of marriage is to question the nature of property."

I was not accusing you of employing the domino theory, rather those that would defend marriage on those grounds. I though that's what you were referring to. If I misunderstood, please elaborate.

beast: I think the trend is away from marriage, at least it's away from second marriages. There are always those that feel that they have to be married, and do so multiple times. Whenever I hear about someone on their 3, 4, 5, 6th marriage, I always think, "Wherever you go, there you are!"

At 1:15 PM, Blogger Mookie said...

Marriage is based on property rights.

We *should* question the nature of property rights, because they led to the institution of marriage.

Don't know if that makes it better or worse. What I was trying to say in regards to me being married was that we (my life partner and I) do not consider it a contract of ownership - we disagree whole-heartedly with and reject entirely the cultural baggage (and the reasons for them!) associated with the institution of marriage.

So, I agree with your assessment, for the reasons you listed and more, but am still married, but not for any aspects of the institution of marriage we mutually loathe.

At 4:01 PM, Blogger breakerslion said...


The "right to property" question is an interesting discussion for another day. Go back far enough in time, and one had the "right" to anything one could grab and hang on to. No prior claim, or belief in ownership, no dispute. Unless, that is, something bigger than you came along and tried to take it away. This system could still work if you removed the civil court system.

"An armed society is a polite society" - Robert Heinlein

Pair bonding can take many forms, so long as both parties agree up front. The social pressure/incentives and the ownership/entitlement elements of traditional marriage are deeply rooted in almost every culture existing today. It's a social pattern that makes a nice building block to a classic hierarchy.

At 6:14 PM, Blogger Kristine said...

I would add that I never dreamed of my wedding day, either. Weddings are evil and a big friggin' waste of time. Bridezillas should be forced to wear cheap pants from Marshall's and work in university offices without any make-up on.

Proof of the evil of marriage: despite everything I've said I'd succumb like a wet dishrag if a certain someone asked me to marry him. :-O

Women can be stupid, too. ;-)

At 7:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holy crap, you took the words (all of them, and that is saying a LOT) right out of my mouth! It's like we share a brain or something!! ;-)

My marriage was based on a series of misconceptions and fallacies. I didn't even know who I was when I became pregnant and then a bride. marriage should be so very much harder to enter into, and divorce should be much easier. That would save a lot of heartache for the stupid asses amongst us who believe that marriage (and hell, just the wedding day) will make it all better.
I have found happiness with a wonderful person and I can't even be with him yet because I am so in turmoil over what divorce will do to my life and that of my children. I stand to be financially ruined. I am beginning to not give a damn anymore. Pretty sad when marriage is supposed to enrich us so. Right. What a sham. What a lie.

Thank you for this post. I want to be paired forever with my love, but not because of any legal contracts. I want to be with him because he is warm and wonderful and helps me feel good about myself. I hope I make him feel just as good inside.


At 8:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Christianity gave Eros poison to drink. He didn’t die, but became vice. — Nietzsche

Fuck the stupid Christian concept of love & their ethics & their false morals.

At 8:27 PM, Blogger Kristine said...

I think women should be able to have multiple husbands. Well, anyway, welcome to my boudoir.

At 2:37 PM, Blogger angelsdepart said...

My wife and I were never planning on getting married. After discovering that she could get on my excellent health benefits and we would get a huge tax break, we decided to go to the courthouse and pay the $11 filing fee. Then we went and got really drunk, and nothing has been different. Marriage can be great!

At 5:21 PM, Blogger breakerslion said...

kristine: I think the big production wedding is a nasty way to guilt someone into sticking it out. That and a way for the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, the florist, the church, the liquor store owner, the tacky musicians, etc., etc., to get a piece of the action. It's not exactly panhandling, because there is an exchange of goods and services, but the idea that this production is expected makes it a coerced event.

Anonymous: I have seldom seen a man that is fully mature until about age 30, if then. So many people get married younger than that. In my case, I still was not really ready to make that decision at 30-something. I had circumstances that were beyond my control because I steadfastly believed they were beyond my control. Long story short, my development was arrested, and I probably should have been arrested a few times. I think there are many like I was, that just get swept along with the tide, going with the peer group, following the path of least resistance. My only advice to those that follow is, be careful of the promises you make.

l>t: Nice quote! Guilt is their stock in trade! Look around. See all those behaviors? Anything changed since, oh, the beginning of civilization? Leave it to Mother Church to make us feel bad about being human. My cousin says that relationships have a shelf life of about 15 years. People change, and move past co-dependency. If the relationship can’t adjust, it’s over. There are a lot of people in this world that I love. I don’t want to own, or be owned by, any of them. I have never been a parent, so I don’t know what that would do to one’s perspective.

kristine: Human sexuality transcends pair bonding and the family unit every second of every day. I think people should be able to have multiple relationships, except that we are loaded with reasons not to (STDs, and feelings of dependency/entitlement/victimization to name a few). Sex is a highly-charged event in our society. It denotes a change in a relationship that is mainly defined inside two heads, and the definition varies as much as the people themselves.

angelsdepart: You said the magic words. Nothing changed for you two. Your relationship was well-defined, including boundaries, before you got married. I don’t blame you for succumbing to the Incentive Package. It’s quite the masterpiece of social engineering.

At 7:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I for one love you madly, BL, shortcomings and all (and by that, I mean both of ours). What say we run away together and live totally outrageous lives of corruption and sin and be deliriously happy being our own people? After the life I have had of being scolded for not acting "appropriately", being "an embarrassment" and a "disappointment", I am ready to sack it all for greener pastures with no judgment, lots of laughter and some hot sex.

Oh yes, and another thing, being a parent doesn't mean you get to own your kids. Indeed, they own a piece of your soul for the rest of your life if you do it right. I didn't understand until I had kids of my own, then I traded that look with my mom that said "Now I understand". Talk about a pure form of love. I wish I could share that feeling with you. Even when they treat you like an idiot and steal your fan you still love them and would run into the burning building after them.

Your crazy friend of so many years...

At 9:59 PM, Blogger Kristine said...

Breakerslion (and everyone else) have you ever seen the film Jules and Jim?

Watch it sometime. (It's in French (natch!), if you don't mind that.)

At 8:43 AM, Blogger Kristine said...

Oh, and BTW, Jesus (aka the Antichrist) is getting divorced.

At 10:16 AM, Blogger breakerslion said...

I don't mind Frenc, but I prefer Spanish. I can get a glimmering of what they are saying, and every once in a while hear something that is lost in translation. French is a complete mystery to me, and to lots of other people apparently.

I read the synopsis of Jules and Jim. I'll have to see it sometime. First impression: Henry and June meet the last scene in Buried Child. Not sure why, just an impression.

At 2:09 PM, Blogger BEAST FCD said...

Marriage is scary, but sex and cigars ain't.

If smoking cuts away ten years of my life, I reckon marriage is going to do much worst.

Fuck it, at least I enjoy the holy smokes! Not sure about the bickering after marriage thingy though......

At 8:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everything I have read here is what I have been thinking as well.
(other then the ownership topic, neither of us really consider that as a concern)

I have talked to people and searched...but I can not find an answer to my questions!

We have been together for 4 years, lived together for 3 years, have a perfect son that is 1 year old. Living the life. This is my question... What will change if we "get married"? WHY? What is the point? I am committed to her for life, partially for the sake of our child(ren), partially for the sake of US. I have rolled it over in my mind endlessly and cannot see a REAL difference in our lives before or after the $30,000 spent, the stress, the paperwork of "getting married", and the ritualistic ceramony, everyone does.

The ONLY differece I can see is that before the wedding day we are "living in sin" and the very next day, when we go back to our life together, we are accepted as normal in society's traditional model. I don't believe in doing things just because "everyone else does it." I do things because they make sence and because I want to, if it doesn't interfere negatively with others of course.

If anyone has any substantial answer to "What will change?" (other then the typical mind set answers society has) I would be very appreciative for your thoughts and time.

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At 9:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Wiccan Handfastings, which are essentially a marriage ceremony, the term used is "for as long as love shall last"

At 3:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being a service member and never married, I was witness to a lot of bias and preferential treatment to those of a married status. Married service members have the privilege or off-base living, basic housing allowance (more money per pay check), not subject to "field day", and many more benefits. I remember trying to extend my time out in a duty station only to be denied, fair enough, but equal ranking peer of mine was able to stay due to marrying a Japanese national. I'm not saying he should have been pulled away from his wife, but there is no reason why he should have stayed and not me. I was also witness to others getting off work early to deal with spouse issues, leaving anyone who was single to pick up their slack. Does every married service member do this? Of course not, I'm strictly speaking from experience. An unfortunate stereotype in the military is infidelity, as well as obese un-employed housewives. While I have no doubt in my mind that this is somewhat of an exaggeration, there is certainly an element of truth in this as well. I do not approve of this bias and discrimination. The only compromise would be to take away all government funded benefits in marriage, OR give every single service member the exact same benefits.

At 5:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was in the military for 4 years. Make no mistake it was some of the best times in my life. One thing I could not fathom was "Why is an organization that does it's best in regards to equality of everyone employed, so hellbent in giving extra rights and privileges to those who marry, knowing that neither spouse nor child really contribute to the mission?" A married marine will make almost twice the amount of money that a single marine will. Also they will have the right to live off base. Why don't single soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines get these privileges? (this sometimes caused a divide and lack of unit cohesion the same way preferential treatment would in any professional environment) Especially when most marriages in the military are statically doomed to failure? I once heard someone argue "Love" but we all know that despite being a powerful emotion comes and goes, like any other emotion. I fully agree with this entire blog, and I support the disestablishment of marriage being a legal issue. I say marriage should be nothing more than a over glorified committed relationship blessed by the authority of the couples choice. That's it, no extra pay, no extra privileges, and no shame nor social pariah status for divorcing.


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