Among the many troubling things the non-monogamous “married” man Eric Erbelding said to the New York Times was his repetition of the refrain we hear all too often, particularly from gay men, that “Men are pigs.”
Granted, given our natural inclination to (for lack of better term) to “spread our seed,” we men do seem to find it more difficult to control our sexual inclination. But, control it we can. The pig of this metaphor cannot.
Yes, monogamy is a greater challenge for men than it is for women. There just seems to be something in the makeup of our gender which we see readily when comparing gay men to lesbians, the former more eager to hook up, the latter to nest. I guess one reason I relate well to lesbians is that I just don’t get those who want a sexual encounter to end with the orgasm. But, many men do.
The point is that we men do have this instinct, but we also have the ability to control it, to see the body with whom we seek pleasure as human being with whom we can relate on more than just a physical level.
Marriage has long existed as an institution which channels our sexual instinct into a fulfilling emotional relationships. The fact that so many married men have remained faithful to their wives proves that men, unlike that metaphorical pig, can indeed be tamed and can commit to a monogamous relationship.
Indeed, many men elect monogamy even without the benefit of matrimony.
The expression, “men are pigs,” becomes an excuse to prevent men from the challenging and often embarrassing work of intimacy. That intimacy, getting to know each other often, as Rabbi Meier observed, causes us to reveal our weaknesses and vulnerabilities to our partner. And some men want to use our gender to dodge these challenges and avoid this exposure. And as an excuse for our sexual exploits.
If that’s how some men want to exercise their natural instinct, that’s their choice. But, recall that marriage is an institution which, for as long as we have recorded knowledge of it, has served to tame that instinct.
If men are pigs, we are not worthy of marriage. But, I’m not one who subscribes to that narrow notion of our gender. To be sure, we do have piggish qualities, but we also have more noble ones. And marriage helps bring the latter out. At least it should.