Tatiana Talks

What is Marriage: A Review of the Book that Is Meant to Change My Mind About Gay Marriage

So, as some of you know, I agreed to read “What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense.” At first, I was going to write an answer to the whole book at once, when I was finished. But then I found myself yelling at the book. A lot. And so I started thinking about live tweeting my reading of the book, but that seemed like a lot of work. Plus, I like to drink when I read. And I learned (the hard way) drinking and tweeting should never mix. 

So I decided to live blog (sort of) the reading of What is Marriage: Man and Woman: A Defense. Since I’m not that far along, I would suggest you all buying the book and reading along with me. But that would mean giving these two guys more money. So, maybe next time. Oh, I know, we can all read the Millionaire Matchmaker’s book together. I don’t mind lining Patty’s pockets.

In the meantime, here we go:

Day One

The introduction. Where I learn that there are two definitions of marriage. The revisionist and comprehensive (also conjugal). The revisionist is what most of us are currently subscribing to even those (I gather) that are opposed to gay marriage. It is the belief that you marry someone you love more than anyone else. No, for real. Here’s the quote:
It sees marriage as a union of two people who commit to romantic partnership and domestic life; essentially an emotional union, merely enhanced by whatever sexual activity the partners find agreeable.
The comprehensive (or conjugal) union is something only a man and women can form. But I have no idea why. It is defined as:
A union of will (by consent) and body (by sexual union) inherently ordered to procreation and thus the broad sharing of family life; and calling for permanent and exclusive commitment, whatever the spouses’ preferences.
Beyond not really understanding (yet, I’ll give them that, it is only page 6) why this has to be between a man and a woman, it would seem to me that the only other difference is the permanence thing. Which makes me wonder -- why outlaw gay marriage and not divorce? 

Day Two. AKA I Can Do This. I Can Get Through This Book:

Seriously, is there anything I won’t do for you guys? I think I’d rather read Why He Didn’t Call You again, or maybe the Handbook for the Recently Deceased. Both seem an easy read in comparison. Fortunately it is short.

In defense of the book and the authors, under the comprehensive definition of marriage, it is hard to say where we will stop. No, I am not suggesting we will soon allow men to marry goats or women to marry their cats (though, didn’t some chick marry a cutout of Robert Pattison, so why not a cat?). But, if we say two consenting adults of the same sex can get married, why can’t three consenting adults get married? But really? Why can’t they? I will bring this up again later (if the author doesn’t address it) but for a very long time (like, really long time) polygamy was the norm. Why? Because the more wives a man had, the more kids he had. So, he had more help in the fields and hunting and spares to be heir to his mini kingdom. It is only after the industrial revolution (and child labor laws) that having tons of kids (and polygamy) went out of fashion. Not because people suddenly hated having so many kids around, but because kids are expensive when they aren’t pulling their own weight in the fields or factories. True Story. 

He expressly states that the conjugal view of marriage prohibits marriage between more than two people -- but that is crap. Read your bible, sirs. Jacob and all his wives were all married in your conjugal sense -- it was permanent and for the good of the family and society. In fact, it was this very definition that allowed him to marry so many women. After all, we get old. Our insides dry up and we can’t keep making babies, but Jacob still needed sons to work and support his expanding brood. So, he went out and found younger, fertile wives. The older wives accepted this because what choice did they have? Watch their husband get it on with a teenager or get kicked out of the family: essentially a death sentence. Yep. The conjugal definition of marriage sounds awesome. I can’t imagine why we ever moved away from this.

But, I digress. Back to reading what marriage isn’t (here’s a hint, roommates are not married).

Day Three: 

I’m also going to need someone to explain to me why the U.S. Supreme Court is undemocratic. And, as popular opinion turns (good for you, Minnesota, that makes 12 states), if the Supreme Court decides in favor of marriage equality, does that make it more democratic?  

Day Five -- Another Marathon Session: 

Here’s the thing: you can’t say “procreation is the good that fulfills and extends a marriage” and then go on and on about how sex that leads to making babies (even when it doesn’t lead to making babies but it could possibly lead to making babies) is what makes a marriage a marriage because it is a reinforcement and reminder that these two came together for the better good of making a family and then, three paragraphs later -- the same freakin’ page for crying out loud -- say, but of course this doesn’t mean infertile couples aren’t married.

How. How does that not mean that?

He says he will explain it in Chapter Five. I’m not sure I can make it to Chapter Five, but I suppose I must.

Oh, wait, now the dudes are just effin’ with me. Did they even read this book. On one page they write “That is why marriage alone is the loving union of mind and body fulfilled by the procreation -- and rearing -- of whole new human beings.” Then, on the next page, practically directly across from the text I just typed are the words, “On the other hand, procreation need not (even where it can) be the most important aspect of a marriage, nor should it be its sole point.


He’s trying to make it clearer using baseball, but I still don’t get it. I don’t get why as a woman who is attracted to men, I can get conjugally married, even though I don’t want children. But two men (or two women) who want lots of babies and want to raise them to be the best possible people ever, can’t be married. Not in the conjugal sense anyway. Because they can’t make the babies. But infertile couples who can’t make babies can be married, even if they have to make the babies using the exact same options available to gay couples. 

Chapter Five can not get here fast enough.

To the author’s credit -- they make wonderful arguments for why marriages must be exclusive and permanent. However, nothing they have said thus far makes it clear how a) this differs from the “revisionist” view and b) why this exclusivity and permanence can only exist between a man and a woman. If it is because only a man and a woman can “unite” to make a baby -- then it would seem to me that the government should also prevent any man and woman who a) can’t physically make babies or b) don’t want to make babies from getting married. Because they aren’t really married in the first place.

Also, at this point I am giving up on the “revisionist” definition of marriage. Primarily because I don’t think it exists outside this book. I don’t know anyone who gets married thinking “I’ll give this a go, but, hey, if I get bored with him in a couple of months, I can divorce him.” I think everyone gets married thinking I want to share my mind, body and soul with this person for the rest of my life. This person is not just my best friend, they are a part of me and my life and I need them for the rest of it. 

Of course, if this isn’t the case, and there really are people out there who believe marriage is just the sharing of space with someone you really like a lot right now, then I will concede this is complete crap, not what marriage is about, and possibly the reason we have such programs like Teen Mom

I will not concede, however, that in order to allow gay couples to get married we must change the definition to this. I can’t. And so far I have read nothing that proves as much.