Marriage is steadily on the decline. While many articles have lamented the breakdown of this ancient establishment, there are a lot of practical factors behind the fall in marriages in the Western world. These days, cohabitation is the norm, couples marry later and women have been liberated from the need to marry for financial security. But some are worrying about the effects these statistics will have on future generations.
As winter turned to spring, women everywhere looked at each other in exasperation when a man wrote an anonymous letter to The Guardian. It was entitled ‘My girlfriend masturbates after we have sex. Why?’ Women know why she does. Men, if you don’t, do yourself a favour and do a little research.
The decline in marriage rates is kind of the same situation. I feel like the people who don’t understand why marriage rates are declining probably don’t understand marriage in the first place. Historically, marriage has been used to oppress women in the deepest, most life affecting sense. Women were property, and marriage formalised this transference of ownership from a woman’s father to her husband. Combine forced prostitution and slavery and marriage is what you get. Marital rape wasn’t criminalised in England until 1991. Up until then, you couldn’t technically, in the eyes of the law, rape your wife, because she was your property and it was your right as a husband to treat her however you wanted. In marriage vows, women say that they are going to ‘obey’ their husbands. The issues with marriage in other areas of the world, like child marriage and domestic violence, illustrate how this inherently misogynistic construct is still a reality for hundreds of thousands of women.
I realise that there are plenty of happy, functional marriages out there, and I think it’s worth stating that I don’t believe that it is anti-feminist to get married. Not everything a feminist does has to be a feminist act, and feminism is about choice; if you want to get married, you go for it.
That being said, I can count the marriages I admire on one hand. Most of the married people I know are miserable, maybe not just because they’re married, but it seems to be a bit of trend. I’m not sure that I believe that you end up marrying the love of your life, at least not judging from the evidence I’m faced with.
I’m only 22, and I’m already so tired of the ways in which toxic masculinity and patriarchal expectation destroy relationships. Men aren’t taught how to emote, and women are literally trained to be emotionally open. Men are taught to put themselves first and women are taught to be as accommodating as possible. I can’t be the only person who sees that that is a recipe for disaster. Do women just get exhausted and disappointed and marry the next non-sociopathic person who comes along?
Marriage as a construct is based on misogyny, and as women have more choice about what they do with their lives, they are expecting more than security. As Cher once said ‘I don’t need to marry a rich man. I am a rich man.’
I would rather be by myself for the rest of my life than end up with someone who has the emotional capacity of a walnut. Women are indoctrinated with the idea that the success of our romantic lives is synonymous with the success of our lives as a whole. Until men are taught how to emote, and taught that women are in fact actual human beings with complex inner lives, I’m not going to sign my life away in the name of social convention.