Does the legalization of gay marriage mean the sexual revolution is over?
A reply to Megan McArdle’s article insisting that abolition of California’s Prop 8 means that we’ve lost the sexual revolution. The insinuation of McArdle’s article is that, once Prop 8 is overturned, gay people will be expected to get married and be responsible and boring. To quote McArdle,
“I believe we’re witnessing the high water mark for “People should be able to do whatever they want, and it’s none of my business.” You thought the fifties were conformist? Wait until all those fabulous “confirmed bachelors” and maiden schoolteachers are expected to ditch their cute little one-bedrooms and join the rest of America in whining about crab grass, HOA restrictions, and the outrageous fees that schools want to charge for overnight soccer trips.”
The article goes on into greater detail, discussing unwed childbearing, which supposedly leads to a disadvantage for children, and how this practice will go out of vogue. Marriage will become the norm for everyone, and they’ll all bear or adopt children, and everyone will be monogamous and the sexual revolution will be lost.
McArdle is missing a few important points on the matter. First and foremost, she is confusing sex with sexuality. Does she envision gay people as this wild pack of libertines, currently clubbing near you? She seems quite unaware that there are currently plenty of gay couples who live the sort of boring lifestyle she describes. Being able to marry won’t mean that they feel they have to marry any more than anyone else. They’re going to continue to be the same people with the same values.
And that’s true of everyone. When I heard the news this morning, and the defense of Prop 8 was that marriage should only happen between people who can bear children, I thought, as many people did, of those people unable to have children. But then I thought of another group of people entirely. I thought of all the people I know who have no interest in having children.
It is increasingly acceptable for people to choose to be single parents, for people to choose to have open marriages, and for people to choose not to have children at all. McArdle would have you believe that once Prop 8 is lifted, the country is going to turn into a sea of fretting aunts asking “Soooo, when are you going to settle down? Maybe have a baby?”
Furthermore, she’s assuming that the pressure of those expectations will suddenly be met with people who would otherwise not be inclined to settle down or have babies would just be too much, and suddenly we’d all be getting married and starting families.
The sexual revolution will likely always be fought, in some way or another, because we will always find new things we want to be accepted for. But this isn’t a step backwards for such acceptance of sex. The two issues have nothing to do with each other. Marriage will remain what it is in this country- (no matter who is able to get married) okay if you want it. Okay if you don’t. Only now, it won’t be off limits to a group of people who’ve battled for their basic rights so long that it’s ridiculous.