Commentary: Why people are tying themselves in knots over tying the knot

News & Politics

Seasonal Clickfarm Worker just posted an insightful addition to the seemingly endless, boiling conflict between men and women on the X app:

These debates about which gender gets messed up the most in divorce miss the most important point which is that the kind of lifetime partnership necessary to raise a family automatically entails a radical reciprocal vulnerability. It is good and right that your spouse will have the ability to f*** you up. The point should be for you to conduct yourselves such that this doesn’t happen.

This is a great example of resetting the frame of a bad-faith argument — something conservatives have historically struggled to do. But that’s another story.

Safetyism and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. In “The Coddling of the American Mind,” Jonathan Haidt defines safetyism as a culture or belief system in which safety (including “emotional safety”) has become a sacred value, meaning people become unwilling to make trade-offs demanded by other practical and moral concerns.

College snowflakes and COVID scaremongers are clear and obvious examples of safteyism, but they are not alone.

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Feminists and meninists can go toe-to-toe all day long about why the opposite sex benefits from marriage, to the utter exclusion of their own. They can, and they do, and they denigrate the institution of marriage in the process. “It’s a raw deal!” they scream in unison.

I understand the impulse to legislate around this most intimate institution. In the industrial era, women abandoned by their husbands were left completely destitute with no hope or promise of restitution. Female reformers such as Frances Willard “urged greater sympathy for female victims of male immorality and greater legal protection of women from unrestrained male sexual desire.”

“They did so not by arguing that women ought to enjoy the same degree of sexual autonomy afforded men,” Caleb Morrell writes, “but that men ought to be held to the same high standards of sexual morality expected of women.”

Over time, this vision was perverted by liberal feminists who sought indeed to lower the bar for women and men, arguing that women should begin to work and philander like the worst of men.

Today, men’s rights activists claim that men are being fleeced by women in the no-fault divorce environment, urging greater sympathy for men who are emotionally abandoned and financially drained by their liberated ex-wives. Leaving aside the particular reality or unreality of this claim, in a world polluted by that liberal feminist elevation of sexual and economic selfishness, it is believable that earnest men have been made particularly vulnerable to evil women. Modern men, however clumsily, hope for “femininity,” a softness lost on a generation of women hardened by the culture.

As it happened before, the hope of a purer social environment dissipates in the race to the bottom. Many of the men who now extol the virtue of female virginity simultaneously glorify male unchastity, undermining the prospect of virtue with their hypocrisy and venom.

There are very bad men, and there are very bad women, and those people will always find ways to hurt their spouses no matter what the state says about their mutual obligations. I’m not saying legislation doesn’t have a place, just that that place is limited. The average person absolutely should deduce from the necessity of existing legislation that people should ensconce themselves in bubble wrap, figuratively speaking.

No risk; no reward. Prudence is a given, but if men and women wish for intimacy, they must reject the notion that they can keep themselves safe from harm. The happiness of a harmonious marriage is possible for just about anyone except those determined to tie themselves in knots over their fear of tying the knot.

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