People Are Marrying Their Friends And The Federalist Will Not Stand For It
Glenn T. Stanton, Focus on the Family's director of Global Family Formation Studies (whatever that is) and columnist at The Federalist, is feeling silenced.
He's not being arrested for his beliefs, he's not being murdered for them, he's not having his vocal cords severed. He has published multiple books and has many platforms on which to share his beliefs. But, nonetheless, he feels silenced.
Why? Because according to a New York Times trend piece, people are entering into platonic marriages and did not even bother to check with him first to see if he was okay with that. Rude!
"Love is love" is the undying mantra designed to silence anyone who believes some family forms are more virtuous and valuable than others. It demands we exchange what we know to be true for the belief that any family form is right and good as long as it is freely and mutually chosen. No one has a right to a dim view of another's choice and everything must be equally affirmed, it asserts.
To be clear, it's not that "love is love" or any other slogan "silences" people who believe that or any other equally asinine thing so much as that it is not their business and no one cares what they think. In exchange, those people don't get a say in how Glenn T. Stanton manages his personal relationships either, insofar as he does not hurt anyone.
People absolutely have the right to a "dim view" of another's choice — what they don't get to have, in most cases, is a say in it. I, for one, have a very dim view of Stanton's decision to write this article. But I shall let him continue anyway, because I am gracious like that.
Yet it remains a silly phrase. Why? Because it doesn't say anything. It's a tautology, the equivalent of saying "A thing is a thing."
Interestingly enough, that fact represents most of the source of the phrase's slippery rhetorical power — you can't argue with it because it doesn't assert anything new. Still, the phrase has taken root in our collective conscience as an uncontested "truth" because so many have become sentimental thinkers rather than critical thinkers, increasingly "thinking" with our cultural conditioning rather than our minds.
Like assuming that one's religious and personal view of what marriage should be is the only plausible definition of what it is? That kind of cultural conditioning? What kind of critical thinking would lead one to assume that it is any of their business whom someone loves?
Now, in what is clearly intended to be a serious news article about a wholly legitimate form of an old institution, The New York Times freshly demonstrates where this failure has taken us: best-friend marriage. No, this is not about a man or woman marrying "their best friend." This is something else.
What the Times is celebrating is non-romantic, platonic friends sealing their friendship in marriage. They call it "platonic marriage" adding, "A platonic marriage is a deep bond and lifelong commitment to a nesting partner you build a shared life with."
Conservatives like Stanton love marriage. They love "small government" and claim that it is the Left who want to control the populace — probably by not getting involved in their personal, consensual relationships.
After criticizing the Times article for presenting the choices of several platonically married people without criticism or pearl clutching, Stanton then is angry that this hot new trend of people marrying people they like actually started with the end of people marrying people they didn't like, for the sake of raising children.
Penn State's Paul Amato, a leading sociologist of the family, explains that beginning in the late 1950s, "Marriage changed from a formal institution that meets the needs of [children and] the larger society to a companionate relationship that meets the needs of the couple and their children and then to a private pact that meets the psychological needs of individual spouses."
Expressive marriage naturally led to unquestioned no-fault divorce, entering intentionally childless marriages, same-sex marriage, polyamory, and now, "friend marriages."
And apparently this is a bad thing. Oddly enough, one of the first articles about "expressive marriage" I was able to find was also written by Glenn T. Stanton. His belief actually does appear to be that everything went downhill once it started mattering whether or not married couples actually liked each other. Also bad? Women having jobs and using birth control.
You can probably guess why that is, but I will tell you anyway. Financial independence and family planning allowed women to be more picky about the men they married — or not marry at all — and made it so they could get a divorce if their husband was terrible without having to worry about ending up on the street. Quelle horreur!
The working wife was less dependent on her husband's income and now felt more liberty to leave a bad marriage. And the single working woman did not feel the need to "get a man" as quickly because she could find better employment and independence, as portrayed in the 1970s Mary Tyler Moore Show. The new working woman certainly wanted a man, but she could be more selective in finding "Mr. Right" because she felt less pressure to settle for "Mr. Good-Enough" now.
Yes, Glenn T. Stanton, au courant stander athwart history yelling NOT GROOVY, is still mad at Mary Tyler Moore. He hates spunk!
This is not the first time I have heard this argument, of course. It comes up a lot over on the various incel boards, which are traditionally filled with men who are mad that women are permitted the choice to not be romantically involved with them.
Students of the family need to appreciate that each of these aren't increasingly concerning slides down a slippery slope, but individual natural manifestations of the bottom of a slope that, at its heart, was the slow emergence of self-defined "marriage" in the service of personal happiness.
We when we make marriage primarily about the rights of adults — their personal life-fulfillment and self-actualization — and forget its other essential social functions, anything becomes possible. And it has. Marriage between "besties" is simply the next step in this regression.
Just to recap: It's bad when people get married because they love each other romantically and want to be happy together. It is also bad when two best friends get married. The only truly and pure marriage is one where both parties feel basically kind of meh towards one another, but have a lot of children and then stay together no matter how miserable they make each other. Because getting married isn't a thing you are supposed to do for "personal life fulfillment," it is a soul-sucking job that you go to every day for your whole life and then you die and go to heaven and Jesus is like "Great job on doing life, Glenn!"
Then the rest of us go to hell because we refused to have a bunch of babies with someone we didn't like all that much or stay with an abuser and also because we silenced poor Glenn T. Stanton when all he wanted to do was tell us about how "some family forms are more virtuous and valuable than others."
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse