Marriage Wins? Erica Jong Loses?

Megan McArdle writes that the broad public consensus on gay marriage and the evidence of the benefits of stable, 2-parent households represents the triumph of bourgeois values. 

That's right, I said it: this is a landmark victory for the forces of staid, bourgeois sexual morality.  Once gays can marry, they'll be expected to marry.  And to buy sensible, boring cars that are good for car seats.  I believe we're witnessing the high water mark for "People should be able to do whatever they want, and it's none of my business."  You thought the fifties were conformist?  Wait until all those fabulous "confirmed bachelors" and maiden schoolteachers are expected to ditch their cute little one-bedrooms and join the rest of America in whining about crab grass, HOA restrictions, and the outrageous fees that schools want to charge for overnight soccer trips.

Debate away, folks! 

13 thoughts on “Marriage Wins? Erica Jong Loses?

  1. Actually, marriage is in serious decline. I don’t know that gay marriage has anything to do with the decline (how would you measure that?), but it’s a little silly to suggest that we are returning to the 1950s. How many of Ralph’s and Alice’s friends had out-of-wedlock children?
    However, I am confident that (i) significant numbers of upper middle class yuppies get married about the time they hit thirty, (ii) most of Megan McArdle’s friends are in that demographic, because birds of a feather flock together, and (iii) like most people, Megan McArdle evaluates the whole world based on a very small reference group of people like her

  2. I personally think that mutual funds are to blame for “marriage in serious decline.” I can’t be sure that mutual funds have anything to do with the decline (how would you measure that?).
    I think you’re right on about the small reference group among writers of articles. I find the recent reports on children before marriage quite surprising (yes, not my reference group) and worrisome for its economic and future impact. And, I think, relevant to the sex talk discussion in Laura’s other posts. I guess there, we’re talking about our own reference group. But, society does indeed have an interest there.

  3. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Canada since 2005; the number of legally married couples has continued to decline. Other countries have predicted this pretty easily for McArdle.
    Despite a growing population overall, the number of married couples declined outright by 132,715 over the past decade.

    The number of common-law couples surged almost 14 per cent between 2006 and 2011, Statistics Canada says.
    Same-sex couples were also on a steep incline, up 42.4 per cent from 2006. About half of these couples were married, while the rest were common-law. Still, same-sex couples only made up 0.8 per cent of all couples in 2011.
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2012/09/19/census-data-families-households.html

  4. It does seem like the bigger change is that bourgeois sexual morality has come to include pairing without marriage until children or property considerations kick in.

  5. How many of Ralph’s and Alice’s friends had out-of-wedlock children?
    I don’t know. Before my time. There were girls who “went away to visit an aunt.” It was before Big Data.
    I can think of one couple in our circle of family, friends and acquaintances in this country who conceived before marriage. I believe they married just before their first child was born, which pleased the grandparents. Otherwise, I can think of several divorces & remarried/stepfamilies, but no, no children born out of wedlock.
    Also, so far, among my high school students’ friends and teens in town, I can think of one (1) rumored pregnancy. The sample size may be a thousand teens? So, behavior varies, depending. It could be the teens are kept too busy with extracurriculars to fool around with each other. (Not seriously, MH! )

  6. I just find it baffling that she imagines that “gays who marry” are or will be some monolith of similar values. Sexual orientation isn’t a shorthand for conservative or liberal values.

  7. Cranberry, I was about the best looking six month pregnancy you ever saw. No need for an incubator, all my fingernails, some hair… and this was 1949. Just saying…

  8. I think Florence King once said that only in America could gays and lesbians wind up as members of the same minority, despite having pretty much nothing in common. Haven’t lesbians pretty much always been hyper-monogamous and often non-urban? Florence King also tut tuts a bit about how in the good old days, there were no trashy lesbians, that being a modern innovation. (FK has a very funny memoir of coming of age as a bisexual bluestocking in Mississippi in the 1950s (the title is “Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady”).)
    I think MM is misled by her urban location. If she lived in Vermont, she might have written a different piece.

  9. Yeah, Megan doesn’t really understand that lesbian couples at least have already had the kids, bought the minivan, and joined the bougeoisie. Okay, I’m working with a sample size of three lesbian couples, so your (minivan) mileage may vary.

  10. dave.s, our state has one of the lowest teen pregnancy rates in the country, with one of the highest rates of abortion. Add to that the distribution of pregnancy by income and class, and the effect of the Great Sort.
    I know local teens have house parties. However, there are more kids rumored to have serious drug habits than there are teens rumored to have gotten pregnant. Heck, more kids have come out of the closet as gay or bisexual than have conceived. Suicide, mental breakdown, depression, anorexia, drug addiction–those have happened.
    The local teens are very busy. They are committed to extracurriculars. Many have access to cars, but if they have younger siblings, they’re often driving the sibs to karate or cub scouts or whatnot. In middle school, my eldest could recite birth control methods.

  11. Low rates of teen pregnancy are not at all the same thing as the strength of marriage as an institution. Obviously, teens from upper middle class families who live in upper middle class neighborhoods (i.e., the commenters here) have low pregnancy rates. They also have low marriage rates, because, in both cases, they are focused on maximizing their future prospects.
    But for Megan McArdle’s statements to have any empirical content, you would have to believe that in 2053, people will be shocked to learn that the governor of New York in 2013 lived in the governor’s mansion with his girlfriend without being married. You would have to believe that in 2023, the percentage of cohabitants who are married will be higher than it is today. You would have to believe that the percentage of children born out of wedlock will be lower in 2023 than it is today. And all this will be fostered by legalizing gay marriage. Does anyone seriously believe any of those things?

  12. I’m with MH: the news here is that bourgeous sexual values no longer hold for most people, gay or straight. Until they have kids.
    But once you DO have kids – oh my, then hold on to your hats. Because yes, absolutely, expectations will change. How many women here stuck with their maiden name until it became an issue at the kids’ school? No wonder so many people just skip on the kid thing completely these days. It’s practically professionalized, the expectations are so high.

  13. “How many women here stuck with their maiden name until it became an issue at the kids’ school?”
    I still cannot understand how this can even become an issue.

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