Commitment as a "purely heterosexual construct" - a spin-off from the "Would you Marry Your Man?" thread

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 21, 2007 4:06 PM GMT
    Hi Guys,

    This one is admittedly more intellectual, but it's an interesting conversation that Firecat and I began, but never got finished. He and I both were curoious about what other people had to say. Here's the thread leading up to our discussion:

    FirecatWhether in a civil or some other form of commitment ceremony" would you marry or enter into some formalized legal life-sharing contract with your partner and why? Is such commitment a purely heterosexual construct and irrelevant to the gay experience?


    sahem62896You're other question is very interesting, Firecat. I never thought of marriage - with or without a ceremony - as a purely heterosexual construct. It's definitely a societal one, and is indeed one that was created by a society in which straight people are the majority, but I don't think that it's as easy a leap from that idea to an idea that this whole notion of "getting married" was indeed an imposed set of norms for straight people that doesn't/shouldn't apply to us as gay men. You see... while it could be argued that the only reason that gay men want to get married is because they mistakenly think that they have to play by the rules of the prosaic straight couple, it could just as easily be argued that some straight people who have never entertained the idea or experience of a same-sex relationship also get married because they mistakenly think that that's what society expects of them. In the same vein, I don't think it's as easily argued that gay men only think they have to get into a relationship because a straight society has perceived them as promiscuous and emotionally superficial... the same can easily be said about a lot of straight men and women too - that they chose to appear wholesome and do the right thing because one of an unwanted pregnancy after a meaningless roll in the hay. So it's not so cut and dried to me... though I would be willing to hear a counter-argument.


    FirecatI meant the stereotype of changing partners faster than they change their designer underwear. In the traditional "straight" marriage there was a greater expectation of longterm commitment (whowever arguably counter to human nature)...

    As to the second part of the question, Sahem, I was thinking of its aspect of transfer of chattel and the notion of marriage being a matter arranged by families (usually with the intent to advance in status). I don't know how many goats I'm worth and I don't know that my family would pony up the livestock.


    sahem62896So what you're saying is that in this soceity, gay men are expected not to commit whereas straight people are? I don't know that that's true.... isn't there an equally powerful stereotype about gay men talking some very colorful trash about their ex-boyfriends? In other words, isn't there another perception that gay men are constantly bitter at the lack of commitment... meaning that commitment was the expectation? And for whatever it's worth, that too is not unique to gay men... Just watch any TV drama if you think it is. I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm just not sure I agree. Help anyone?

    And as for dowrys and advancement.... does that still hold true in this day and age? I seriously don't think so, but I could be wrong.


    FirecatYes, I do believe gay men are perceived as not being capable of long-term commitment. The equally strong stereotype you yourself cite in fact is part and parcel with the first [if they were committed they wouldn't be exes]

    Caslon observed elsewhere that we [gays] as a group were often late developing dating skills in our adolescence if we had much chance at all, and were thus quite ill-equipped to deal with making lasting romantic relatioships later. In that vein, it can can be argued that heterosexuals are better prepared [trained] for the long-term relationship, leading to that perception of pervsasive bitterness.


    So that's where we left off... and I still don't agree wholeheartedly.
    Part of it is because I don't think it's just gay men that are perceived as being incapable of long-term commitment. Straight men seem to share that with us, don't they? Don't there seem to be a ton of women who claim that their boyfriends/partners are "afraid of commitment?" I've not yet heard a case where the woman was afraid to commit.... though I'm sure they exist.

    Anyway... jump in with your thoughts guys. All opinions welcome.
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    Nov 21, 2007 5:20 PM GMT
    the question I originally posed which did not ask if "commitment" was a heterosexual construct but if "MARRIAGE" had any relevance to gays.

    I disagree with the premise that it is just gay men that are perceived so as much as men in general but in the public conciousness there is certainly the impression that gay men in particular are not the long-term types. A straight relationship lasting 20 years is remarkable but not overly while a gay relationship of 20 years duration is so rare as to be wholly exceptional.

    Even "The Kids in The Hall" actor Scott Thompson (in his Buddy Cole persona) would describe a 2 year relationship in his act as being equivalent "in heterosexual terms to three incarnations with the same mate." The existence of the joke itself suggests audiences believe there is truth to the stereotype.
  • EricLA

    Posts: 3461

    Nov 21, 2007 5:35 PM GMT
    I really have problems with those who say monogamy is a completely heterosexual construct. I just don't buy into a lot of the rationale behind it. Yes, as males our biology is geared for "spreading our seed far and wide," but we are still human -- capable of rational thought and reasoning and rising above our biological programming.

    That said, while I would like to believe in the romantic notion of "till death do us part," I know it isn't realistic. I think we're just to amorphous, that we change in our interests a great deal over our life. I think sustaining a partnership for a long, long time faces a great many challenges. They are surmountable, but it takes such commitment of both parties. Hats off to those who make it last. I think you should be thankful for any amount of time a relationship lasts, but to expect it to last forever seems to me a fairy tale. It's nice to aim for it, but I don't think I could ever expect to enter into a relationship for life. Maybe I just haven't met the right person to bring that out of me.

    So, I'm right there in between.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 21, 2007 5:35 PM GMT
    No one said monogamy was a heterosexual construct. The title of the thread utterly misrepresents the original discussion and includes misleading selective quotes from me.

    The original question was "is marriage a purely heterosexual construct?" That is a far cry from the insulting and ridiculous question "is commitment..."



  • Laurence

    Posts: 942

    Nov 21, 2007 5:51 PM GMT
    Well a friend of mine (a woman) finished with her partner (a beautiful, intelligent man) because she was afraid to commit, so there's your example sahem of a woman not committing.

    Personally I have no views on this subject. Who really cares about analysing marriage and commitment?

    I am getting married (civil commitment) to my partner in 9 days time. We have been together for 5 years and they have been the happiest of my life. We are getting married because we want to show the world how much we love each other and to have a big party.

    Though I really don't care what this says about us or society, I'm just glad that we are now able to do this.

    Lozx
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 21, 2007 6:00 PM GMT
    All right, I just got castigated here by Firecat, both in and outside of the thread... I was not trying to misrepresent you, but I really resent that you're goig to take me to task. I thought you said off the thread that you were interested in hearing what others had to say and were cool with re-posting this discussion!

    Anyway, as he stated earlier, Firecat wants me to let you know that he meant marriage as a heterosexual construct. However, please note that you said something about how gay men were perceived as being incapable of commitment... which implies that they're also perceived as incapable of committing in a formal ceremony such as a marriage! I simply raised argued that it's not just gay men who are subject to that stereotype. THAT'S ALL!

    Boy, talk about misreading and misrepresenting!

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 21, 2007 6:07 PM GMT
    Congratulations! I think it is a great thing to claim for ourselves the right to publicly join with a partner in a legal union with all the rights and responsibilities that entails - and that demonstrates my society has given equal credence and value to my relationship as it does to heterosexual ones.
  • jarhead5536

    Posts: 1348

    Nov 21, 2007 6:13 PM GMT
    I prefer to see monagamous coupling (with or without the ceremony) to be a highly evolved state of affairs. Our biology demands that we (men) spread our genes to every available partner. This instinctive imperative applies to gay men, even though our genes are not actually spread with gay sex.

    We, as sentient, rational beings, have over the millenia risen above such animal behavior and give social sanction to committed relationships. Every society under the sun has marriage in some form, if only for the protection of women from all sorts of abuse, although it doesn't always work that way.

    Committed relationships also are best for the mental/social health of children in all cases.

    In the case of same-sex relationships, it may feel good to hop in the sack with everything in pants, but with regards to long-term self-esteem and security, we are far better off connecting with someone that will be there for us, in every way, for the rest of our lives...
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    Nov 21, 2007 6:18 PM GMT
    Perfectly stated, Jarhead - very concise and, to my thinking, unassailable.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 21, 2007 6:20 PM GMT
    Firecat
    Whether in a civil or some other form of commitment ceremony" would you marry or enter into some formalized legal life-sharing contract with your partner and why? Is such commitment a purely heterosexual construct and irrelevant to the gay experience?



    READ your question again... it clearly says "IS SUCH COMMITMENT A PURELY A HETEROSEXUAL..."
  • NickoftheNort...

    Posts: 1416

    Nov 21, 2007 6:21 PM GMT
    Marriage is a patriarchal social construct developed as a powerful social arrangement between families, wherein women (to some extent, men as well...essentially "children") were commodities that bound families.

    As to whether it is a heterosexual construct, I would say that it technically isn't; after all, it was intended as a bond between families. Heterosexual couples are able to bind the families through blood-children (presuming that one party is not barren) though, which is supposed to reinforce the bond; homosexual couples require outside involvement.

    ***
    Commitment is not a "purely heterosexual construct," but it is a part of social relationships that has taken on lots of wrongly-applied meanings.

    Commitment does not mean monogamy.

    Commitment does not mean marriage.

    Commitment means dedication on some level between two or more parties. The details of that commitment depends on the parties involved. Commitment is not necessarily a good thing, particularly if the commitment brings about misery or low quality of life for the involved parties.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 21, 2007 6:25 PM GMT
    I've not only read the question, Sahem, I wrote it and I respond again only because MY writing is at stake here. You've made an error parsing the sentence.

    "...Is such commitment a purely heterosexual construct and irrelevant to the gay experience?"

    "SUCH commitment" The subject was marriage. You arbitrarily underscored the word commitment to utterly change the meaning of the sentence, imposing an emphasis that I did not write and trying to pass it off as my own. That is not only disingenuous it is dishonest. I counter with the grammatical emphasis above.
  • jarhead5536

    Posts: 1348

    Nov 21, 2007 6:36 PM GMT
    Firecat,

    I don't know Nick, but I am going to hazard a guess at his position.

    He clearly opposes marriage on its merits, and here's why I think so. The institution of marriage, especially in the Abrahamic tradition, provides women with physical security (absent spousal abuse), financial security, social acceptance of their children and a clearly defined position in the broader society. It does not and never has by definition provided happiness, emotional security or equality with men. These things generally do occur, but are not part of the idea of the marriage contract.

    Marriage is a patriarchal construct that can (usually did in the past) put women in a subservient, passive role and keep them there. This is the objection to the institution that most radical feminists (men and women) have, that it is inherently unequal and therefore an unacceptable arrangement...
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    Nov 21, 2007 6:40 PM GMT
    You nailed the whole source of my question there - in marriage's roots in a patriarchal society. That is why I wonder if it can be truly relevant or if we are modifying a foreign concept to fulfill some need (real or imagined). Unless I am mistaken I think that is what Nick says too. I certainly agree with the content of his post.

  • DiverScience

    Posts: 1426

    Nov 21, 2007 6:44 PM GMT
    Jarhead says, "...with regards to long-term self-esteem and security, we are far better off connecting with someone that will be there for us, in every way, for the rest of our lives..."

    Says who? You?

    Now I may plan to find one man, marry him, and spend the rest of my life with him raising children. But I fail to see why that is inherently more healthy for my self esteem than my good friend who is happily single at 46, or my other good friend who's been part of a healthy non-monogomous relationship for 14 years, or any other number of alternate relationships.

    I can see the argument relating to children, but what evidence do you have ot say that it is healthier for ALL adults to be in long term committed monogomous relationships?
  • jarhead5536

    Posts: 1348

    Nov 21, 2007 6:45 PM GMT
    The need for emotional intimacy and security are not irrelevant here. Men, even gay men, need the closeness of that special someone that we can count on, just as much as women do. We are no different than straight men in this regard, we just have not had the official sanction of marriage that would recognize publicly that we have found the person that fulfills that need...
  • jarhead5536

    Posts: 1348

    Nov 21, 2007 6:53 PM GMT
    Diver,

    At bottom, no one, even you, wants to grow old and die alone. Mind you, that is no reason to enter into a relationship with the wrong man, but I would imagine that human nature dictates that we would want a permanent, intimate relationship with another person. We are social animals, and instinctively crave companionship.
  • DiverScience

    Posts: 1426

    Nov 21, 2007 6:53 PM GMT
    Again, says you.

    There's no reason that you can't find those things outside of a monogomous relationship.

    It is presumptuous at best to presume that what you think is best for you is inherently best for everyone else too. If that were the case we should all become straight right now because a lot of people are convinced what's best for them is best for us too.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 21, 2007 6:54 PM GMT
    Is marriage a purely heterosexual construct?

    Anthropologically and historically speaking, NO. I wrote a history of LGBT people from the perspective of connecting the development of LGBT identity to events in world history. It was in three parts, starting with the ancient world, proceeding into the modern world, and culminating in the present day. I found, while researching part one, examples on every continent of ceremonies or rituals binding same-sex partners. There were even ceremonies in Medieval Europe (yes, during the height of the Church's power) that allowed two men to join their property together because of a "passionate mutual love and respect." This was only disallowed eventually because of the tax nightmares upon death when the wives/families would have to duke it out with the surviving partner.

    In Africa there were examples of same-sex marriages. In parts of China and Japan these relationships weren't just allowed, but encouraged. The ancient Greeks didn't have same-sex marriage per se, but they did have bonding rituals and an organized custom of pederastic pedagogy (whereby a suitor had to approach a boy's father and gain permission to train the youth as a citizen and lover). In the Amercias almost every tribe and nation recorded had two-spirit people who had long term relationships with spouses and lovers while also serving as the highest spiritual authorities in their clans/cities. A similar situation existed in Oceania, and still exists to this day in parts of the deep Indonesian/Micronesian jungle tribes.

    No. Marriage is not purely heterosexual. I, however, reserve the right to not get married. Just because the day is coming when I can doesn't mean I want to be bothered with that cesspool of drama. I have yet to meet someone I'd be able to tolerate "til death do us part," unless of course I could have a say in it happening sooner, rather than later. My past lovers are lucky I didn't poison or choke them to death. You'd agree with me if you met them.

  • DiverScience

    Posts: 1426

    Nov 21, 2007 6:57 PM GMT
    Clearly you didn't read the part where I said I plan to marry, settle down and raise children. I'm jsut not arrogant enough to think just because it's right for me that it must be right for everyone else too


    But fine, if you think you're right to dictate to the rest of the world how they should live their lives and clearly my friends are simply too stupid to realize they're actually miserable... whatever. I'm pretty sure, however, that they're not miserable, they're quite happy, and have been for quite some time.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 21, 2007 7:07 PM GMT
    Firecat, I'm defending this point because:

    1. Marriage - even if it is a heterosexual construct - is a formal commitment, and to query that it could be irrelevant to the gay experience (whatever the hell that is) is asking if formal commitment is irrelevant to the gay experience.

    2. My point, which you have clearly overlooked AND distorted in an effort to defend your precious position, was that it's not as clean a leap from saying "marriage is a straight construct" to saying "it doesn't have to apply to us because it's a straight construct" and that's all it was to begin with.

    3. It was YOU who brought the issue of commitment to the table when you said that in the traditional "straight" marriage there was a greater expectation of longterm commitment whereas gay men seem to be expected (as per the stereotype) to go bed-hopping. Which is, in other words, saying, "Well, it seems to me that formally committing via a marriage shouldn't apply to us as gay men because we're not even expected to commit like straight people are expected to." My argument in response to that was to say the the stereotype of being reluctant to commit is not just the problem of the gay man AND THAT'S ALL IT WAS!

    4. What you said in response that was you believed that straight people are trained to stay committed in their youth whereas gay men develop that skill to late. My response AGAIN was "That's not unique to this so-called 'gay experience.'" It could easily apply to straight men and maybe to women too.

    All that said... do you even have a clue about what I am getting at here, or are yo so busy being an intellectual egomaniac that you just can't let that happen?
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 21, 2007 7:13 PM GMT
    Sahem said: "1. Marriage - even if it is a heterosexual construct - is a formal commitment, and to query that it could be irrelevant to the gay experience (whatever the hell that is) is asking if formal commitment is irrelevant to the gay experience.

    Yes, that was indeed the question. The question is valid and in your version of the question you have used the word "formal" to modify "commitment." Now can we let the discussion continue? We've got some great answers above from people who obviously understood the question. Fight all you like over your fabricated issue, But you'll be fighting alone. I do understand your question but I have made it clear you've got it wrong. rather than graciously edit your post you are arguing on and on.



  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 21, 2007 7:19 PM GMT
    I'm not sure any of our personal opinions matter in this question.

    The question was simply, "Is marriage a heterosexual construct?" The answer is no.

    There really isn't anything else to say about this question. If you want to debate anything about the implications of the expecations of marriage and how it relates to gay men in particular, that is a whole other thread.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 21, 2007 7:23 PM GMT
    Okay but WHY do you feel it isn't? That's the whole point of the thread. It is hardly sufficient to make your declaration without justification.
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    Nov 21, 2007 7:26 PM GMT
    I don't think marriage is an institution that straights hold any patent rights to. My understanding of marriage as opposed to merely cohabiting is to invite society into the relationship, to give the community at large a stake in its success. Some large portion of gay relationships fail, I think, because the pressures to keep the two men together long enough to repair the cracks in their relationship simply aren't there. When straight couples reveal that they may be splitting up, often whole armies of friends, mothers, aunts, siblings, even clergy offer support and help.
    Historically, in the gay community, who is there to help?

    --crickets--

    I certainly wish someone had stepped in to bitch slap me and my first lover. I think we'd still be together.