Over the years, as I have watched my brothers and male friends get married, I have observed how that institution changes them. Men who once enjoyed frequenting bars and “cruising chicks” focused on developing strong relationships with their wives. In short, marriage transformed these men. It seemed that their wives’ feminine qualities helped tame their masculine impulses.
One of the objections I have raised to calling same-sex unions “marriage” is that I see a different dynamic in such unions as I do in opposite sex relationships. To be sure, I have witnessed numerous gay couples settle into the same patterns as their straight peers. While it seems more common for lesbians to adapt to the responsibilities of relationship, such unions have also had a transformative effect on many gay men as well — even without a woman’s presence.
If we’re to be serious about marriage, we must recognize its transformative power. By meeting the obligations of this ancient institution, including (and especially) fidelity to our partner, it serves to bring out qualities in us that had long lain dormant — as well as deepen, make more intimate, our connection to our spouse.
One of the reasons, I have referred to Andrew Sullivans’s 1989 essay, “Here Comes the Groom” as “one of the few serious pieces on gay marriage” is that in that short piece (short for the topic at hand), he outlines the responsibilities of that marriage “places . . . upon gays” and references the social benefits of marriage.
But, given some of Andrew’s comments in the past year on fidelity and circumcision, I have begun to wonder if he’s serious about marriage. In a post last May, he held that an “Momogamy (sic) is very hard for men, straight or gay, and if one partner falters occasionally (and I don’t mean regularly), sometimes discretion is perfectly acceptable.” (Via Ann Althouse via Instapundit.) Yes, monogamy is hard for men. As we enter into marriage, we must recognize that and, as I wrote when first commenting on Andrew’s remarks, “must strive, do everything in our power to live up to the monogamous ideal.” At the time, I wasn’t quite sure “what to make of Andrew’s remarks.”
Looking back on them, I wonder at Andrew’s failure to make clear that monogamy is an essential aspect of marriage. If he were really serious about marriage, I believe, he would stress that while monogamy is difficult, the very institution exists to discourage infidelity. And those who marry must bear that in mind not merely at the moment of their betrothal, but also for as long as the union lasts.
It’s not merely Andrew’s apparent tolerance for infidelity that has made me question his commitment to marriage. As The Malcontent‘s Matt noted last summer, Andrew became obsessed with circumcision which he called Male Genital Mutilation.” Andrew’s grievance is that circumcision “lessens sensitivity and therefore sexual pleasure.”
This focus on increasing the physical sensation of sexuality seems odd for one so keen to promote gay marriage. And this has not been the only time Andrew has written about his sex life. In marriage, sex more than anything becomes a pleasurable way of expressing intimacy. (At least that’s what some of my friends in monogamous relationships have told me.) The physicality of it becomes part of the emotional connection. And thus, the lessened sensitivity of an uncircumcised penis matters little. For the emotional connection alone intensifies the sexual act.
In his writings — and media appearances — Andrew Sullivan has made many compelling arguments in favor of gay marriage. Indeed, I believe that his 1989 essay has, in many ways, come to define the current debate on gay marriage — and in a good way. But, marriage is about more than a clever argument. And Andrew’s comments in the past year have caused me to question his commitment to his own expressed ideas on this his “pet” issue.
Marriage is an ancient institution with certain responsibilities, responsibilities which, I believe, benefit those who accept them. Those who support gay marriage need make clear that while it is not always easy to meet the institution’s obligations, they must strive, do all they can, to do so. And should note as well that in marriage, the pleasure of sexuality is enhanced not by certain physical stimuli, but by the emotional connection between the two individuals.
-B. Daniel Blatt (GayPatriotWest@aol.com)