Monday, September 04, 2006

"Marriage Lite" for Hets

This week I will be working through a new book, William Eskridge and Darren Spedale's Gay Marriage: For Better or Worse? They look at the Scandinavian experience with legalized marriage-like relationships for same-sex couples, starting with Denmark's new law in 1989. They also make sidelong glances at the experience of other countries and provinces that are experimenting with new marriage laws aimed primarily at gays and lesbians.

One of the northern European experiments in marriage alternatives has been the Dutch "registered partnership" law. Registered partners share many of the financial benefits of married life, but there is no legal expectation of sexual fidelity, and it is much easier to get out of than is a full marriage. This was created to allow a version of gay marriage without calling it that.

To everyone's surprise, though, most of the couples who have taken advantage of the registered partner law are heterosexuals. They are attracted to "marriage-lite" precisely because it is not as demanding or permanent as marriage. In fact, I think registered partnership is not so much "marriage-lite" as "cohabitation-heavy."

I know of no research on exactly what these mixed-sex registered partnerships are thinking. I have a guess, though. For many of them, I expect that she thinks it is a step on the way to real marriage, whereas he is content to have the benefits of marriage with few of the responsibilities. When they do the breakup studies of registered partnerships, I expect that all the partnerships involving men, gay and straight, will have a dissolution rate even higher than the high divorce rate.

10 comments:

Mark Smith said...

I think you may be falling into the trap of male stereotypes.

Take a look at this article from Time:
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1376235,00.html

It seems that perhaps boys have similar levels of commitment as girls. My experience talking to the few male peers who will talk about it is that this continues into adulthood. It's just that boys/men don't TALK about their emotions as much as girls/women.

The "man in the hunt for prey" may be mainly confined to sitcoms and movies. I wonder how big a percentage of society it actually covers.

Rocker said...

Mark,

I think not. Men struggle with permanent monogamy. This truth is highlighted by studying the promiscuity rates of male homosexuals. The promiscuity is "off the roof," so to speak. why is this? Because one man will not temper another man's tendency to "roam." They give permission to cheat on one another out of sheer convience. Of course there are always exceptions, but that is the norm.

as for men struggling with commitment in a heterosexual relationship, this type of regisitered partnership only hampers his commitment level. When the "milk" drys up, or gets "bland" why stick around?

Alan said...

"This truth is highlighted by studying the promiscuity rates of male homosexuals. The promiscuity is "off the roof," so to speak. why is this? Because one man will not temper another man's tendency to "roam.""

Or perhaps all the stabilizing influences of marriage (influences that are trumpeted as part of the importance of the institution in the first place) are not available to gay people. Indeed, when the "milk" dries up, why stick around? Thank you for making a great argument FOR gay marriage. :)

Depending on which statistics you believe, 22% of married men and 14% of married women admit to having had an affair, (other researchers say 60% of men and 40% of women will have an affair during their marriage.) Even though heterosexuals do a terrible job at staying monogamous, we still don't use that as an excuse to deny their right to get married.

Rocker said...

Sure, many hets have had affairs, but i am sure that the percentage of male homosexuals who have had affairs is a whole lot higher than 22%, and for those homosexuals who've had the affairs many have had numerous ones, many times several hundred.

Homosexuals now have the opportunity to get married in some places, and it will likely increase in the future. Time will tell if it will significantly improve promisicuity amongst homosexuals.

Perhaps, you would do well to take personal responisbilty for gay promisicuity, instead of blaming it on not being able to get married.

Do you dispute the idea that men struggle more with monogamy than women do?

Rocker said...

as for making a great argument for gay marriage by criticizing the effectivenss of registered partnerships amongst heterosexuals, there is only one problem with your assertion. You will still be married to a man, and a man is much more likely to allow his male lover to fool around than a female partner is in a heterosexual relationship. so wheter your in a civil union, or a "marriage" you are still married to someone exactly like yourself, and this is an inherent weakness in same sex relationships.

Alan said...

So your argument is that heterosexuals are promiscuous, but homosexuals are more promiscuous and therefore should not get married? Where would one draw the line? What about black people? Are they more or less promiscuous than white people? Latinos? Since men are more promiscuous than women, perhaps we shouldn't let them get married. You see why that argument is ridiculous.

The percentage of male homosexuals who have had an affair in Michigan is exactly 0%. Marriage between members of the same sex is not legal here or in many other states. If an affair is cheating on a spouse, then affairs aren't even possible if you can't legally have a spouse. How strange it is that you argue gay people must follow the rules of marriage, and at the same time you deny them the rights to marriage.

This is the part of the anti-marriage argument I cannot stomach. People trumpet the amazing and important societal benefits of marriage: social stability, child rearing, economic structure, etc. They marvel at the benefits of marriage to individuals: psychological stability, increased physical healthiness, happiness, etc. All those things are, of course, true. Then they decry promiscuity among LGBT people. Then they deny all those benefits to LGBT people -- benefits which could, in fact decrease promiscuity -- because they're promiscuous. That's either amazingly inconsistent or massively cruel or both.

I'm not sure why you're interested in getting personal here, rocker. I have not attacked you. Why should I take responsibility for the behavior of all gay men? That's patently ridiculous. Are gay men more promiscuous than their heterosexual counterparts? No question. Is that a reason to deny them marriage? Not at all. Especially when the tonic that might cure that promiscuity is marriage itself.

Equally ridiculous are your arguments against gay marriage based on male promiscuity. If you don't like the idea of gay marriage because men are inherently promiscuous and therefore more likely to cheat, then you should absolutely be FOR lesbian marriage. By your arguments, two women should be even LESS likely to cheat than a man and a woman.

Statistics from a study at UVM show that rates of monogamy are higher for gay men in marriages (the survey was conducted in MA) than for gay men who are not in marriages. Those rates are still lower than for men in heterosexual marriage, but Rome wasn't built in a day. As gay marriage becomes more accepted and is seen as equal to heterosexual marriage, I believe monogamy would likely become much more common. By the way, the same study shows that lesbians are as unwilling to cheat as heterosexual women (82%), again arguing that, based on your promiscuity argument, you should support lesbian marriage.

Gruntled said...

Going back to Mark's argument about the emotional commitment of boys, I don't think Giordano's study (cited in the linked article) really demonstrates that men and women are equally likely to be committed. Men are more likely to make a distinction between full-commitment and open relationships. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to see all relationships as approximations of marriage. When Giordano finds that boys who are in love with their girlfriends are very emotionally committed to them, that doesn't really get at whether boys also have another category of casual relationships. More importantly, it doesn't settle the question of whether men are likely to stay committed without marriage, or whether they regard marriage (alone) as the bright line of when fidelity is actually required.

Rocker said...

Alan,

I apolojize if I made it personal.

As for lesbians, they too struggle with long term commitments, but not because of promiscuity.

Two women together simply put too many demands on a relationship. When two lesbians are together they are typically monogamous, but they have a high degree of breakups because of the many demands that women tend to put on a relationship. Again, because men and women are different they temper one another's weaknesses, something two people of the same sex cant do.

A man doesnt ask as much from a relationship as woman, which is a good thing because if we did they wouldnt be able to take it. We, to some degree, and i speak humorously here on this point, are content to come home watch the news and eat dinner and be perfectly content (we wont turn down sex either!).

The woman wants more. she wants to communicate, she wants affection, and if she doesnt get it then "hell hath no fury like an angry woman." We try to give what the woman wants, though we fail a lot, but we dont demand the same things from her as as she does from us. If we did it would unduly strain the relationship.

Two lesbians place heavy demands on a relationship, therefore there is high degree of breakups between lesbians.

Do you believe that men and women are different?

Also, the fact that men struggle with monogamy is the very reason they need to get married to a woman, because the woman will temper his tendency to wander, and she will help him grow up out of his childish tendency to play the field. This is a good thing for us. Does this mean that some men wont cheat after marriage? of course not, but heterosoexual marriage does temper our philandering. I dont feel that two men provide the same advantage for one another. On this point im simply pointing out one of the weaknesses of male ssa, more than i am making an argument against gay marriage. though the two are connected.

in any case, im giving this diatribe a rest for now. Feel free to respond, but lets call it a truce after this, and lets remain cordial and respectful of one another's insights.

No kidding, i apolojize for making it personal.

Blessings

rocker

Alan said...

"Two lesbians place heavy demands on a relationship, therefore there is high degree of breakups between lesbians."

rocker, I could write tons of opinions about lesbians, gay men, and straight men and women. Your post smacks strongly of the "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venis" psychobabble. However, I always try to back up my claims with actual evidence and warrents. Do you have any evidence that, in places where marriage is legal, in the US, that the divorce rate of lesbians is any higher than that of straight couples? May I remind you that the heterosexual divorce rate is 50%?

I doubt you have any evidence to support your claims.

Your argument is basically that marriage tempers men's cheating nature. That's a fine argument (terribly utilitarian I think, but fine.) However, then you must provide actual evidence (not just opinion) that it wouldn't do the same for gay male couples. And, you must provide evidence that two women are more likely to break up than two straight people, otherwise you've argued your way right into arguing FOR lesbian marriage.

Frankly, your focus on cheating and sex makes me wonder about your defnition of marriage, particularly when you imply that men do not want affection communication. It is a lot more than that just sex and a hot meal, even for us barbaric men.

Do I believe that men and women are different? Of course, I do. If they weren't this whole argument would be pointless as I'd have no problem falling in love with and/or marrying a woman.

Rocker said...

Thanks for the reply. No further comment on this blog.