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The War on Joy, Pt. II

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, April 7, 2011 13:44 EDT
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Ruh-roh, the douchebag wingnut community is very unhappy with the suggestion that their attempts to strip people of their personal freedoms might be an act of sadism. John Hawkins at Right Wing News, responding to Matt and my mockery of Kay Hymowitz for wanting everyone to get married right after they graduate high school, kicks his legs and says, “Nuh-uh!” Sadly, his claim to be motivated by something other than sadism is undercut by his actual post.

This is intriguing on more than one level because studies consistently show that married people are happier than single people, religious people are happier than non-religious people, and conservatives are happier than liberals.

I’m sure much of the research he’s referencing is deeply flawed (having grown up in Bible-thumping land, I can assure you that many people who are stone cold miserable would tell a pollster they’re full of joy, because otherwise, everything they’ve lived for is a lie), but let’s take the marriage argument on its own, since that’s what he’s kicking his feet about. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that married people are happier. That’s because they got to choose who they’re married to, and because they married later in life than people used to do. Here’s some interesting research:

Not surprisingly, researchers in the ’50s found that less than one in three married couples reported being happy or very happy with their relationship. Compare that to today, when 61 percent of married Americans report themselves to be “very happy” in their marriage. Part of the sour spouse problem of the ’50s was that many couples didn’t really want to be married to each other. Often, they were trapped into marriage by unintended pregnancy. With no sex-ed, no birth control, no legal abortion — the exact legislative agenda of today’s pro-life movement! — teen birth rates soared, reaching highs that have not been equaled since: there were twice as many teen mothers in the ’50s than today.

So, John looks at research that shows that married people are happy. And so he wishes to “fix” this situation by dramatically lowering the happiness rates of married people by shoving all the single people into dysfunctional relationships as soon as possible. I forget why we’re supposed to think this is an argument against the hypothesis that conservatives are sadistic.

By the way, if you’re trying to sound like someone who isn’t jealous of other people because they don’t fearfully deprive themselves of freedom like you do, don’t say things like this:

Additionally, Marcotte’s tired jabs about conservatives hating sex aren’t surprising coming from someone whose philosophy could be fairly summed up as screw everything that moves, follow that with an abortion, and accuse anyone who raises an eyebrow about it of “slut shaming.”

It’s really difficult to buy the argument that you’re not anti-sex when the first reaction you have to a woman who doesn’t hate herself for being sexual is to call her a slut. In fact, that’s kind of definitional. Which is, of course, what’s going on, since he’s conflating “monogamy with a boyfriend of 5 years that’s conducted without shame or self-hatred” with “screwing everything that moves”. Once you have an orgasm without crying, you’ve crossed the line into Irredeemable Slut territory, I suppose.* Tell me again how this attitude is so conducive to human happiness!

All this does raise an interesting question: Why do the Judgey McJudgersons, to quote one of their own, hate us for our freedom? As I said in my earlier post, it seems that if you took even a fraction of the effort spent on hating and resenting others for being free, and applied it to improving your own life, you’d be too busy having fun to give a fuck what other people do. Get a hobby, though I will say that I would recommend against “collecting stamps that only feature white people and non-endangered animals” as a hobby, since that actually seems to make things worse for a person.

Well, I think it’s illuminating to read this essay at Family Scholars from a young woman of the wingnut variety, complaining about dating. In sum, the problem with freedom is that it’s confusing! When you aren’t given a strict set of instructions, you have to figure stuff out and that makes the brain cells all hurty.

We puzzled over it for awhile, crinkling eyebrows, cringing, wondering how one is supposed to meet a mate. It’s not there aren’t ways to do so—it’s that there are so many ways to do so, and no etiquette or script for any of them. If you choose the friend route, chances are you’ll end up in a world of ambiguity: just friends, something more, friends with benefits but no love, brotherly love but no attraction? Every interaction becomes an opportunity to drive yourself crazy with overanalysis.

And if you go the dating route—booking your calendar with as many nights out on the town as possible—the varying expectations and interpretations of what it means to go on a date make things messy. Juan might never ask you to be his girlfriend, even though he takes you out regularly, but Johannes might think that you’re a couple after two mediocre dates and get offended when you tell him you don’t know how you feel yet. Richard might get jealous that you’re seeing other people, Rob might book two dates for the same night.

We didn’t come up with an answer to my friend’s question, other than the easy pass “It probably depends on the person and on the situation” which practically amounts to “Figure it out for yourself.”

Oh noes! You might have to treat individual men like they’re individuals! So brain-hurty! Why can’t you just be assigned a husband, and get straight to the period of growing resentment and a fading sex life as you wonder what might have been? I think it’s important to realize that the patriarchy’s big selling point to its proponents is this hope that a strict hierarchical system means no surprises and no having to deal with individuals as individuals. Who wants to be married to Harry, whose idiosyncratic opinions on film and stand-up comedy drew you in, and who may not love mowing the lawn but can cook up a mean set of pancakes? What you want is A Husband, who follows a strict set of husband rules, and never pulls out any surprises, right?

Okay, I’ve had my fun picking on people, but I’m a soft-hearted liberal, and their pain speaks to me. Who am I to judge anyone for preferring not to have to get to know people as individuals or find their own way, but prefer a life that comes pre-mapped out for them? My main concern is that this shouldn’t be foisted on people whose spirits long for freedom. But to each their own. I’m going to disagree with apocryphal Ben Franklin quote, “He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.” Why should we be so cruel? People who sacrifice freedom at least deserve the illusion of security.

So, I propose an all-volunteer marriage lottery system for people who think dating is stupid because why can’t they just be married and get it over already. If you think being married at 20 to the first person you fuck is a great plan, this is an even better plan, because it takes the stress out of having to secure that first sex partner you’ll be stuck with for the rest of your life, or until you can’t take it anymore and get divorced (the likelier outcome, but shush). Just put your name in, and you’ll be matched with someone of the opposite sex and married off. eHarmony is trying to create a system like it, but it’s still crippled by having some investment in the tedious freedom model of dating, such assuming you’re going to date someone before making the full blown commitment. But their system could easily be tweaked, and for an extra fee, they could also have the dress and the minister on hand for your first date. If people really are feeling oppressed by the liberal system of everyone just trying to figure out what works for them on an individual basis, why not give them the option of opting out?

*That said, many bona fide Irredeemable Sluts I’ve known are some of the most fun, happy people I’ve ever met. I’m just not oriented that way.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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