Five Things Destroying Traditional Marriage (Besides the Gays)
The news that same-sex marriage is now a mainstream value has got me thinking that maybe we will soon see a day where same-sex weddings are not blamed for the decline in American marriage rates. The whole way we talk about the decline in marriage rates is bad, I think: Media describes the institution of marriage as “broken” because people are getting married later or not at all these days. Just because more people were getting married in the ’50s and ’60s doesn’t mean the institution wasn’t “broken” then—signing up for a lifetime with a dude because you got pregnant and abortion is illegal seems pretty broken to me.
Over the past 10 years, the marriage rate has dropped 1.4 percent, but the rate of divorce is at its lowest point since 1970. I read that as marriage not being “broken,” but changing—into something people increasingly only commit to when they actually want to, not out of a sense of obligation or necessity. I think mainstream acceptance of queerness is definitely linked to this decline, both because queer people (hopefully) no longer get straight-married to cover for their sexuality and because LGBT peoples’ redefining of what a family looks like is making more straight people question tradition, too. But there are plenty of other factors that are “destroying traditional marriage” by facilitating Americans’ increasing habit of not getting married.
1. BIRTH CONTROL. Here’s a great thing: American women had more sex in the nineties than in the eighties, but had fewer unintended pregnancies. Clearly, “More sex, fewer babies” is a human ideal worth striving for. What with 82 percent of women having taken the pill at some point in their lives, the shotgun wedding is a rarer event these days.
2. HEALTHCARE REFORM. Our healthcare system is so screwed up that sometimes insurance trumps true love: About seven percent of Americans report getting married for healthcare policies. The Affordable Healthcare Act makes it easier for people to get insurance with pre-existing conditions, so maybe we’ll see a resulting decline in marriage.
3. WOMEN EARNING MONEY. In the space of just a generation, women went from being only 36 percent of college graduates to a majority. The old Emma Goldman quote about marriage being a form of prostitution is becoming less accurate as ladies achieve financial independence.
4. SLUTS. And by sluts, I mean people who have sex with someone to whom they are not married which, these days, is most of us. Premarital sex and cohabitation rates are at an all-time high. As the Puritan stigma fades against living together, it seems like people are opting for sharing a house rather than a wedding ring.
5. INCOME INEQUALITY. For a variety of reasons, poor Americans value marriage just as much as wealthy Americans, but get married at a lower rate. If conservatives really cared about strengthening traditional marriage, they should start with building a country where everyone can afford to own a home and raise kids if they want to.
Cross-posted to Blogtown!
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