In the ongoing, but soon to be over in America anyways, debate about the morality and legality of gay marriage, there is no term more misunderstood than “traditional marriage.” Now the clever gay marriage advocate’s first line of retaliation to this term is simple snarkiness. They can respond to that term by trotting out any particular society’s version of marriage which they think is weird and attempt to reduction ad absurdum the argument to pieces. This won’t really work though since the advocates of “traditional marriage” will simply respond with a “That’s not what we mean, and you know it.” Well of course they know it, and so does everyone. Everyone knows what traditional marriage is…except we kind of don’t.
On the political side of things the term “traditional marriage” serves as a defensive tactic. It cements a particular notion of marriage as “the way it’s always been”. The argument goes like this: We have had traditional marriage since the foundation of our society, and if we change it this will cause unknowable damage to the way that society operates. We just don’t want to change such an important and essential feature of our society as traditional marriage. Obviously the smart versions of this argument will tell you exactly how they expect society to change for the worse. Usually by explaining that if traditional marriage is undermined or threatened that this will have direct, or indirect, repercussions on the family, children, and other similar kinds of social contracts.
But it all comes back to exactly what we mean by the term TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE. So I have decided to define this term so that there will be no confusion going forward. So without further ado here we go.
Traditional Marriage: a monogamous, lifelong, legal and social contract which is created between one man and one woman, who are not related to each other, with the express intent to procreate and raise children, under the authority of the state, and accompanied by a divine or religious sanction, where the man takes on the gender based role of provider and breadwinner and the woman takes on the gender based role of homemaker and primary caretaker for the children.
Since that is a little complicated, let me break it down step by step, starting with monogamy. Also from this point on I will refer to traditional marriage as tm, for short.
First and foremost it is important that tm be exclusively between two partners, no more and no less. Also it bears saying that tm has to be between two human partners who are of the same species, this is not a license for interspecies sexuality. So this is a no to polygamy, polyandry, polygyny, and any other multiple partner kinds of marriages. For those keeping score that moves tm away from anywhere in the world that tolerates or allows multiple partner marriages.
Tm is supposed to be a commitment for life. It is supposed to be as permanent a state as one can enter into. Depending on one’s particular religion it might also be an eternal state, but this is not an essential feature. What is essential is that tm is for life and you should never, at least never in a real tm, get a divorce. People can and do get divorced, but divorce is contrary to the nature of tm. So this is a no to divorce, and possibly a no to remarriage, but only if marriage extends into the afterlife.
Legal and Social Contract
In order for tm to actually have any weight, and in order for the government to be able to pass laws that can effect it, tm must be a legal contract. Basically this means that there are official documents that must be signed and that there are legal obligations placed on those who enter into a tm. This is also a social contract too, so your entire society is holding you accountable to be a good partner in your tm. That is why people, who are not your family or your partner, are interested in your sexual habits. What you do in private reflects on their social involvement in approving or disapproving of your tm. This is also why you need witnesses and why you are supposed to invite friends and family to a wedding. Further this is why parental consent must be sought and got, even if it is no longer a legal requirement. The couple in a tm are taking each other away from the respective ownership of each other’s parents and this cannot be done without the parent’s say so. Well legally it can, but don’t expect your society to approve of your marriage if you don’t get your parent’s permission. The social part of marriage is also why it matters if your society does not approve of your choice of partner. If they are the wrong race, the wrong religion, the wrong class, the wrong ethnicity, the wrong political party, or basically anything that anybody does not like then you have got to negotiate that. Remember when you tm someone you are also tm-ing their society, and your society too, so make sure your society approves, otherwise you don’t have a tm, you just kind of have a marriage.
One man and one woman
Ok so this is the heterosexual clause of the definition. Tm is supposed to be between a biologically proven male who cisgender identifies as a man, and a biologically proven female who cisgender identifies as a female. If you are concerned about how your biology will be determined, don’t be, that’s what the medical establishment is for. An obstetrician, nurse, midwife, pediatrician, or concerned health care professional will determine what your biological sex is, usually at birth. They then inform your parents so you need never worry about what it is. Of course your gender is another matter, as that will have to be carefully layered onto your psyche through years of careful social conditioning. The result of all this is the same though, at least as far as tm is concerned. Tm is for cisgendered straight men who want to tm cisgendered straight women. So this is a no to transgendered, homosexual, intersexual, asexual, or any other kind of sexual besides heterosexual.
No this topic isn’t irrelevant, this is the no-incest clause. Tm is definitely supposed to be between people who are not related to each other, and by related we mean at all. Tm is definitely not for siblings, not for parents and children, not for first cousins, and from there it gets tricky. Is tm for step-siblings? NO! What about second cousins? NO! What if your spouse dies, and you want to marry his brother is that ok? MAYBE, but relation by marriage might be too close for comfort. Of course history is filled with people who flaunt this little clause, but tm is the rule which defines all those people as exceptions.
Intent to Procreate and Raise Children
In a tm you get tm-ed for one main reason, to legally and socially acceptably, create a family. This means that yes you are allowed to enjoy the pleasure of sexuality, but this pleasure exists solely for the purpose of bringing more humans into the world through biological procreation. Yet it is not enough to get pregnant and give birth, you are also obligated in a tm to raise your own children. Now you may receive some limited assistance from your families, but the primary childcare responsibilities belong to the people who are responsible for the existence of said children. So this is a no to couples who want to get married past their reproductive years. We aren’t trying to be mean to them, tm is just not what they are doing. This is also a no to impotent couples, they certainly do not have a tm. This is also a big no to couples who want to get married but not have children. That last group is completely unacceptable, since if two people are married and can reproduce then they are under a social and moral obligation, in a tm anyways, to start having children. This clause is also why contraception, of any kind, is completely against tm regulations, and that is a definite no to abortion. In fact this is such a serious not to abortion that it is a no to abortion in those cases when that abortion could save the health and even the life of the mother. After all if two people are married and one of them can’t have kids then they are not in the ideal tm.
Under the State’s authority
We kind of covered this already but it needs to be made more explicit. Tm is a legal institution that has been given in trust to the state. The state is under a contractual obligation with its society to maintain and preserve tm and to protect it from all threats. Thus the state can and should pass laws which affect tm, and also just plain old marriage. The state should attach social privileges to entering into a tm, and it should also invoke punishments for those who break their tm. The state should make it very difficult to divorce, and it should make it very easy to get tm-ed, but only for those eligible for a real tm. However if the state does not properly defend tm, then the people may have a justifiable reason to start a rebellion and take back their tm from the government.
In the sight of God
Tm is religious, and unequivocally so. Now that doesn’t mean that you have to be Jewish, or Christian, or Muslim to really have a tm. It does mean that in order to have a real tm you need to have a religious ceremony where the couple get tm-ed according to the authority of some kind of church, and ultimately with the sanction of the divine. You can get married at a courthouse, but you get tm-ed in a church. Atheists can get married, but tm is not for them. For that matter this is why on every tv show and movie out there the big wedding always happens at a church. It’s not really a tm unless it happens in a place that the gods have blessed for just such an occasion.
Last, but certainly not least, within the confines of the tm the man and woman must adhere to the gender roles which society has laid out for them. This usually means that the father (who as we already covered has to be a biologically male cisgendered man) is tasked with being the provider and breadwinner. It is his job to provide an income, a home, and in general to negotiate with the outside world on behalf of the family. He talks to people on the phone, he gets the car fixed, he puts the checks in the mail etc. On the other hand the mother (who as we already covered has to be a biologically female cisgendered woman) is tasked with being the homemaker and primary caretaker of the children. Father may know best but Mother has to actually tend to the sick kids and deal with schoolboards. In all things related to the children the mother always has the primary say, even though the father still exercises his right, as the negotiator with the outside world, of having the final say. The mother must also see to it that everything within the home meets certain requirements, as all domestic duties lay on her sagging shoulders. In a strange twist the father and mother must retain a kind of guarded disinterest in each other in the presence of the children. They are first and foremost the productive parents and there are always tasks for them to do. Only once they have dispensed with their parental duties are they allowed any time for mutual enjoyment. Additionally it will be expected that the mother should keep herself sexually interesting and available to the father, and that the father will merely keep himself faithful and interested. Since sex only exists for procreation, then this shouldn’t be a problem.
Well there you have it, traditional marriage has been defined! Now for my next trick let’s just see how many of these points gay marriage still scores.