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Correlation Is Not Causation: The Marriage Edition

Steven Crowder–that guy who wrote an article on Fox News’ website gloating about his “perfect wedding” and sanctimoniously censuring people who have sex before marriage or *clutches pearls* drink at the wedding–is back. (Actually, he’s probably been back; I just haven’t been following his pearl-clutching screeds.)

This time, Crowder, who presumably still has that newlywed glow, wants to tell you why you should get married. Yes, you!

Crowder runs through the typical list of established correlations about married people. They make more money. They have more money. They have more and better sex. It’s better for the children. They’re more productive at work (crucial in our capitalist society). They’re healthier.

Crowder is writing this article because he seems to be under the impression that there is a War on Marriage going on:

Sadly, marriage has become a punchline in today’s society. From referring to the wife as “the old ball and chain” to nearly every poorly written sitcom that we watch, the message we’re sending to today’s generation is clear… Marriage = no fun.

Men on TV constantly joke about how wives are incredibly expensive, demanding and overall vacuums of all things fun. By that same token, the women complain about their fat, lazy, insensitive husbands as they swoon over their trimmed, manicured and chest-waxed Hollywood counterparts.

[…]I know plenty of people my age that will never get married because they genuinely believe the false cultural meme that marriage has sadly become.

Although marriage is certainly portrayed as boring in pop culture, the reality is that, especially among Crowder’s ilk, marriage is still largely considered the only acceptable choice for straight people (gay people, on the other hand, need to either choose to be straight, live a life of celibacy, or have those adorable cute little gay relationships in which they live together and have cats but never actually do anything annoying like ask for the right to get married).

Aside from the fact that this article is completely unoriginal and pointless–there is no war on marriage, people–Crowder displays an incredible lack of intellectual curiosity. That is, he fails to ask where all of these wonderful benefits come from.

Where do they come from?

Are married people healthier, richer, and more productive than straight people because marriage is “naturally” the best state of adult humans to be in? Or might it be because of all the benefits our society has conferred to married couples, the privilege that we have afforded to the status of being married?

And what about that awkward moment when most of the correlations Crowder mentions are just that–correlations? Do married people get richer, or are rich people more likely to be able to afford marriage? Does marriage make people healthier, or are healthier people more likely to find and keep partners?

Actually, these are not rhetorical questions. I really am curious. But because the only studies Crowder linked to were correlative studies (and they were all found on websites like the FRC and FamilyFacts.org, but whatever), I don’t actually know the answers.

In his rush to prescribe marriage to every single person man in America, Crowder overlooks quite a few things. Some of the oversights are quite callous:

Okay so you may not want kids. You may despise them. I get it. Sticky hands. Let’s say you’re just another selfish, narcissistic bachelor (or bachelorette) who quite frankly, isn’t deserving of the unconditional love you may oh-so-luckily find. You just want the sex. Statistically, not only do married people have more sex, they have better, more satisfying sex. If the two of you should hold off on sex until marriage, those statistics become even more promising. Here’s a perfect example of where Hollywood gets it wrong. In the real world, while Alfie fruitlessly toiled away at picking up harlots from the bar, suffering a mean case of whiskey-wiener, Mr. Cleaver was getting busy on the regular. Them’s the real breaks.

It appears that Crowder is totally okay with the idea of a man pretending to be invested in marriage and family for the purpose of getting regular sex. (Also, “picking up harlots from the bar”? What century is this?)

The rest of the piece, too, is infested with sexism, from the implication that wives are supposed to keep husbands in line down to the pointless and tacky sandwich joke at the very end. For example:

Married men in particular, have higher employment rates, work longer hours and receive better wages. It’s time to stop wading through puddles of your own filth as you reach for the hotpockets and have a dame whip you into shape. You’re welcome.

Why the hell is that a woman’s job? I don’t want to get married if it means “whipping” some lazy slob into “shape.” This, by the way, is a perfect example of the fact that it’s conservatives, not feminists, who have the most sexist and unflattering opinions of men. I at least accept the remote possibility that a man might, you know, not be a lazy slob who needs to “stop wading through puddles of [his] own filth.”

Crowder also correctly notes that married people “qualify for more benefits/financial incentives than lonely, single folk,” but fails to explain how the fuck this is fair, and why exactly the government is in the business of encouraging procreation when we’ve got plenty of humans on the planet as is. Big Government is totally okay with this Republican when the purpose is to encourage procreation.

Before the icky sandwich joke, Crowder closes his screed with this:

Picture coming home every night to your best friend, your greatest fan, and your number one supporter. She (or he) makes each good day better, and each bad day good again. Every day, you get to live what is essentially a 24/7 sleepover party with the greatest friend you’ve ever had.

That does sound like a pretty awesome deal–for me, because I do happen to be a person who wants a stable, long-term relationship. Believe it or not, not everyone does!

But notice how nothing in that paragraph requires a certificate from the government saying that you are married. Nothing in it requires standing in front of all of your friends and family wearing fancy clothing and vowing to love and cherish each other till death do you part.

Edit: My friend Michael has also written a post about this that’s making me guffaw loudly. A snippet:

Regarding this whole “It’s even better if you wait!” thing, though, I’m a bit more skeptical.  The trouble with measuring sexual satisfaction is that it’s entirely subjective, and based on comparison within your own experience.  If you’ve only ever had sex with one person, then that’s the best sex you’ve ever had.  Add onto that the fact that people who wait until marriage to have sex are routinely told that theirs will be the best sex ever, and all those filthy fornicating whores out there will never truly be happy, of course they’re going to say that their sex lives are great (and hey, if it’s working for them, whatever).  If you only ever give someone an Oreo, and make sure that you talk up Oreos all their life and stress to them that all other cookies suck, then they’ll probably think Oreos are the best cookie, too.

Comments

  1. smrnda says

    I see absolutely no way of actually determining if never having sex before marriage leads to greater sexual satisfaction. Part of the problem is the commitment to not have sex until marriage is an ideological one and along with that commitment comes the need to disparage people who make other choices, and there’s also massive pressure among the Sanctimonious to talk about how thanks to all the rules they followed they are SO much happier. You can’t be a member of Sanctimonious Cult X and express marital dissatisfaction, since it makes the cult look bad. When I read something like ‘religious women express higher degrees of sexual satisfaction’ I have to wonder if it’s just because *not* expressing satisfaction is discouraged out of concern for the traditional man’s fragile little ego.

    I’d prefer to see some more interesting comparisons, like health outcomes on affluent, single people and poor, less educated married people.

    Also, the pop culture vision of the ‘ball in chain’ or whatever is pretty close to what, in their books on marriage, social conservatives seem to think it is, with the man being a lovable oaf or grown up boy with a submissive woman boosting his ego and having to tame his ‘wild side.’ Most of the secular, educated people I know did alright in marriage since they did it all on their own terms.

    • says

      Speaking as a cisgendered woman, my sex life was much more satisfying when I wasn’t worrying about pregnancy. So, to piggyback on ‘religious women expressing higher degrees of satisfaction’ – of course they are more satisfied – they aren’t worrying about having an child out of wedlock, another big no no for religious folks.

  2. jamessweet says

    Interesting thoughts on how the causality can swing the other way. I had always assumed that the root causal factor was that “married” was acting as a statistical proxy for “in a stable relationship with children”, which could directly explain some of those benefits (e.g. life expectancy: I for one am certainly more careful when I am up on a ladder now than when I was single and childless, for fairly obvious reasons), and could also act as a statistical proxy for other things such as “less likely to be in a long series of dysfunctional relationships”. But now that I think about it, there is absolutely no reason to assume that… the reversed-causality hypotheses that you put forward are at least as plausible.

  3. says

    From referring to the wife as “the old ball and chain” to nearly every poorly written sitcom that we watch, the message we’re sending to today’s generation is clear… Marriage = no fun.

    Men on TV constantly joke about how wives are incredibly expensive, demanding and overall vacuums of all things fun. By that same token, the women complain about their fat, lazy, insensitive husbands as they swoon over their trimmed, manicured and chest-waxed Hollywood counterparts.

    Does this dipshit really think that what he’s describing is new? “Ball and chain” meaning ‘wife’ has been in common use for at least 60 yrs. As for sitcoms showing husbands as fat, lazy and insensitve and wives as expensive, demanding and no fun, has Crowder ever heard of All in the Family? The Honeymooners? Seriously, I thought I was divorced from popular culture…

    • says

      Little did you know that the Liberal Anti-Marriage Conspiracy has been in place for the last 60 years.

      But seriously, this kind of discourse sounds much more like something you’d hear from people like Crowder than from people like, well, me.

      • says

        Exactly. The stuff he’s complaining about is the flip side of the same patriarchal BS he’s supporting; when marriage is arranged by the family, or done at the point of a shotgun because someone got pregnant, or even just compelled at a young age by immense social pressure, a lot of people will wind up married to spouses who don’t suit them very well, and will complain endlessly about the godawful spouse they’re saddled with.

        • says

          Yeah, it’s like…if someone doesn’t want to get married, why the hell would you try to make them do it? Don’t you feel bad for their poor future spouse who will get stuck with someone who doesn’t want to be married?

          And I mean, that’s basically what he recommends in the article for people who want easy access to frequent sex. Disgusting.

  4. fwtbc says

    My first encounter with Crowder was when he did a so-called expose on socialised medicine in Canada where he was his usual smug and easily hated self. The report primarily seemed to consist of them going to Canada, making minimal effort to get a blood test and then declaring everything shit when they encounter a clinic that is closed or that doesn’t do free blood tests for random walk-ins.

    At that point I dismissed him as a intellectually dishonest douche. He reminds me of Kirk Cameron quite a bit.

  5. rq says

    You say you’re a professional fun-ruiner, but I dunno. Something’s up. Everytime I come here to read, I keep having fun.
    And what Dalillama said above re: marriage and the ball-and-chain metaphor. I wonder how long until Crowder’s dame wife whips him into shape? :P

  6. AsqJames says

    In the real world, while Alfie fruitlessly toiled away at picking up harlots from the bar, suffering a mean case of whiskey-wiener, Mr. Cleaver was getting busy on the regular. Them’s the real breaks.

    Um, is he referencing what I think he’s referencing there? Because if he is, THAT’S NOT THE REAL WORLD!

  7. Kierra says

    the message we’re sending to today’s generation is clear… Marriage = no fun. Men on TV constantly joke about how wives are incredibly expensive, demanding and overall vacuums of all things fun. By that same token, the women complain about their fat, lazy, insensitive husbands

    It’s time to stop wading through puddles of your own filth as you reach for the hotpockets and have a dame whip you into shape.

    So pop culture has told us marriage is no fun because men are slobs and women are nags, but you’ll be much happier if you are married, guys, because your wife will nag at you until you stop being such a slob. WTF

  8. says

    This time, Crowder, who presumably still has that newlywed glow, wants to tell you why you should get married. Yes, you!

    This is going to require some negotiations with my wife…

  9. says

    My statistically relevant sample of one says I had more sex before I got married (coincidentially also before I had children). It also says that the sex became better once the little one was weaned and in her own bedroom.

  10. neuroturtle says

    He fails to note that these supposed benefits only occur for *men.* Married women either do not gain these benefits or they *suffer* from marriage, like making less money (everyone assumes the husband is the breadwinner, or she doesn’t want a promotion because kids, etc.) The lifespan benefit? Not for women. Better health? Only applies to men. On these measures, women are better off getting a pet than a husband. =P And who does he think is producing all of these television shows? Not women. Anecdotally, my post-marriage sex is way better than both my pre-marriage and during-marriage sex… because I am *older* and I know what I’m doing now.

  11. thascius says

    Have you ever read “Marriage, a HIstory” by Stephanie Coontz? It mainly traces how marriage has evolved and changed over the millenia, though one of the points she makes is that people who are better off financially before they get married are more likely to get married in the first place than people who are worse off. She cited research that found people from lower socioeconomic groups were more likely to say marriage was “very important” than people in higher socieconomic groups, but at the same time were less likely to be married.

  12. Larkness says

    @Giliell #10: Make that a sample of two! DH and I bumped uglies WAY more before we were married (or, maybe, like you, before child. I can’t remember). For us, though, the sex life continued to drop off. DD is now 5 and we are intimate maybe once a month. Mostly because I pass out from exhaustion each night shortly after the little one is finally asleep (you know, after that last potty break and last sip of water and last “I don’t believe in monsters but there still might be something under my bed/in my closet so could you please check pleeeeeeease” and last “Hey guys, watcha’ watchin’ out here?”), which is usually around 9:00 pm.

    From what I understand, my marriage isn’t so unusual. I want to know who all of these married people are who are having hot sex every night, because I sure don’t know any!

  13. says

    This has been so enlightening. I thought it was difficult to find somebody who would be my best friend, greatest fan and number one supporter, but it turns out all it takes is a wedding ring. Who knew?

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