My parents, like my grandparents have remained faithfully devoted to one person their entire lives. This was not always easy, people grow and change, there were failures and financial hardships along the way, and those initial feelings of love faded long away ago. And yet, through these trials of life and tribulations, there has been a stronger bond of love that emerged that is far more profound.
My own life experience has been different from that of my father and grandfather, both whom married in their early twenties and never looked back. They remained fully one woman men. And it doesn’t even seem as if the serious possibility of another woman has ever crossed their minds. That is what I had wanted. Unfortunately, life had different plans for me, I have both imagined myself with many women and have had none. I’m a virgin, having never been married, but have also had my thoughts of liberation from this system that has disadvantaged me.
Call it egalitarian or call it egotistical, but there has also been this alternative of being intimate with multiple women does have some appeal. For me, outside looking in, it could feel a bit unfair that some men could hoard for themselves what some of us could not have at all. So wouldn’t it be better to erase this patriarchal structure entirely and make manifest that heavenly ideal of Matthew 22:30, when we “will neither marry nor be given in marriage” and all are one?
It is no big surprise that sexual liberation is a feature of many ‘Christian’ reformation attempts, including a more radical faction of the early Anabaptist movement in Münster, where they indeed shared more things in common than mere material possessions in their rejection of stuffy tradition. And such things, polygamy and sexual sexual orgies, have been a regular feature of various contemporary cults as well. For whatever reason it does feel right, in theory, but in reality is a self-serving disaster.
From ‘Free Love’ To Hook-up Culture
The 1960s and 70s were supposed to introduce this wonderful new age, free from the bonds of organized religion and stifling tradition. The communal living, the flower children, Woodstock, it all seemed so wonderful in that generation. But, besides music, it has left very little in terms of true positive legacy and ended up an ideal as naïve as the 1950s culture it was supposed to replace. The old hippies are a sort of comical absurdity anymore.
The only actually lasting legacy of that era is the American cultural institution of marriage becoming a mockery of the relationship that my parents and grandparents maintained throughout their decades. Fewer young people are even bothering to say vows as they’ve basically become meaningless in this age governed by immediate feelings and shunning of any type of binding commitment. Many today have never experienced the stability that I have had with two parents who didn’t quit on each other when times got tough.
Worse many in the current generation have gone a step further and pretty much entirely given up on love. They go to Tinder looking for a hook-up, or the whole “Netflix and chill” short-term sexual liaison, which makes very little attempt to treat physical intimacy as something special. It is crass, it is completely centered on the body and cares nothing about the soul. The young and beautiful can trade partners as casually as deciding what fast-food to order in.
Most young people today, even if they do not hook-up per se, think nothing about serial monogamy or living with multiple sex partners over their lifetimes. I’ll hear things like, “how can anyone really know what they want in their early twenties?” It is simply an expectation now that relationships are transitory and not meant to last. Although, for some reason, most do seem to cling to exclusive rights or at least so far as they themselves can’t find anything better.
The Harsh Realities of the Sexual Economy
In the religious subculture that formed me there was always this idea of “meant to be” that accompanied romantic relationship that ended in marriage. Divorce was not an option. The relationship of a man and woman was spiritual. We would barely talk about sexual attraction as a factor in this decision making process. We were told that our being pure and being the right one would bring about success.
This denial of the sexual motivation is what would later lead to my disillusionment when I discovered things truly weren’t as they were being framed. The reason I had been overlooked did not have to do with my character, the impossibly (before I had expressed any interest in her) had told me I would make a “great husband” and wasn’t the first to say so either, but for some reason they weren’t lining up for the opportunity to experience my greatness first-hand.
The reality is that marriage is not only about the completely virtuous pre-destined love of two people as advertised. It is also about climbing the social ladder, gaining access to the resources that another person has, and basically being able to routinely do the nasty with the hottest piece of Mennonite asset available. Yes, it is sexual. Yes, there’s a reason why my Mennonite marriageability rating blog struck a chord with so many in my former religious culture.
Marriage is a type of economic transaction, there is a sexual economy, and some simply bring more to the table in terms of excitement than others. There areas where some of us got the short end of the stick and could not compete. This was not spoken about honestly, for many years it felt like a judgment of my character rather than what it was and would have been much better if it had been acknowledged. At least hook-up culture is honest and doesn’t pretend to be about more than it is.
Why Hook-up Culture Does Not Work
On the surface being able to sleep with anyone seems like freedom. I know it would not take much convincing for me to have sexual relations with multiple women. I mean, there are many different women that I appreciate, with unique personalities, black, white or Asian, all beautiful. Why not take turns, spread the love and share a little, right?
Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. First, there’s this thing of STDs, multiple partners means a wildly increased chance of an incurable and painful disease. Second, hook-up culture is not free love. No, it is actually more exclusive than traditional monogamy in that only the most superficially desirable specimens have a chance of success. Fall under the height requirement, have a few too many extra pounds, and you’re out of luck with no chance at all.
Yeah, sexual promiscuity may have been good to Wilt Chamberlain, who claimed to have had twenty thousand female sexual partners, but it doesn’t work out the same for the average guy who ends up going home with nothing. This is, in fact, the biggest issue with polygamy, some men get more of what they want, even the women may be satisfied with the arrangement, and yet there are also many disgruntled men without a chance. Marriage increases equity by helping with the fairer distribution of a limited resource.
And, considering how many young women get chewed up and spit out by a world full of guys willing to say anything to “get in her pants” only to change their tune later, the traditional arrangement doesn’t seem so bad after all. It is simply mind-blowing how many women, otherwise intelligent, believe that giving a guy what he wants upfront, without anything in writing to prove he is not simply playing around, will help their chances of securing his continued interest in them.
Marriage is About Equity and Protection
Multiple partners and sexual liberation only benefits some. The current paradigm favors attractive men, who are able to select from a large group of willing women, they get what they want and then are on their way again to the next hot body as soon as things become a little difficult. Meanwhile the guys who fall a bit short of female aspirations get nothing at all, permanently friend-zoned, with no chance of sex.
With traditional marriage there’s also some equity there, or at least in theory, in that the hottest players don’t get everything for themselves.
More importantly, saving sex for real commitment means that a woman is not stuck raising a child alone. It also helps to establish consent. Marriage is truly a safeguard against the exploitation of women. Women literally bear a larger burden from sexual relations, emotionally or otherwise, and are often better off with the less flashy faithful men than those more likely to sweep them off their feet.
Lastly, it is also an arrangement that considers the long-term good. And not only of the children who are provided security from a stable established relationship, but also of an aging woman who no longer has that youthfully attractive body and would be left with nothing. Sure, traditional marriage never guarantees success, nevertheless it is better than the alternative of loveless sex and no commitment.
The nail in the coffin of sexual liberation is that sex is more fulfilling in the context of a committed relationship. This is what makes me most sad about the current pursuit of carnal appetite over a selfless and more satisfying (over time) alternative. My parents and grandparents had it right, that’s what I want more than anything else.