The charming (and lovely, I’m sure) Susanna Cornett, proprietor of the charming and lovely Cut on the Bias, writes:
Now, what I want you to blog about…What it is about women that you don’t understand, do understand and appreciate, and do understand and don’t appreciate. This is not limited at all to romantic involvements, although you can go there if you wish. Also, how a society run by women would look and act. You can’t crap out in two graphs, either.
Fortunately Susanna forgot to ban doggerel.
Men are polygamous.
Women are monogamous.
George Bernard Shaw argued in Man and Superman — Shaw argued a lot in his plays — that because women derive all the benefit from marriage they ought to chase men instead of the other way round.
Shaw has a point. Marriage offers women companionship, economic support, sexual fidelity and child-rearing assistance, including sperm donation. Marriage offers men companionship and a steady sex partner. Of course these benefits are theoretical; your mileage may vary. And while it’s true that economic support isn’t what it used to be, it’s also true that steady sex partners are a lot easier to find out of wedlock these days. (Women used to be able to encourage men to marry by withholding sex. But that was before the sexual revolution. Of all the stupid things the feminists did to damage women, encouraging premarital sex in the name of “liberation” may have been the stupidest.) Marriage was a bad deal for men in Shaw’s day and it may be a worse deal now. So you have to wonder, why do men marry at all?
Three reasons (you need three, that’s a rule, right?): inertia, companionship, and the fiction of romantic love. Inertia, or tradition, is an underrated force in human affairs. It is difficult not to do something you see your parents, neighbors and friends all doing. You think there must be something in it. Even Descartes, the most rigorous of all skeptics, recommended deferring to tradition unless you could think of an excellent reason not to. Descartes never married, however.
Clever men marry for companionship. No one wants to grow old alone, and marriage is insurance against that. Few things are pleasanter than to have a woman who understands your jokes to talk to at dinner, especially if you can induce her to cook it too. But this requires only cohabitation, to which little stigma attaches these days, not marriage. (Full disclosure: I’ve lived with the same woman for fifteen years and we have no plans to marry.)
Now romantic love, as I, or more precisely Stendhal on my behalf, argued earlier this week, is lust in favorable circumstances. It is a very foolish reason to marry, far more foolish than, say, money, which as an index to character is pretty loose but beats a smoldering glance. Most women are too sensible to believe in love; it’s men who are the suckers for it. Watch a couple prepare for their wedding sometime if you don’t believe me. The bride is obsessed with the details — the reception, the cake, the guests, the church — all the trappings that disguise what’s really going on. The groom can’t be bothered. As far as he’s concerned they’re getting married, memorializing their love, and that’s all that matters. When men discuss marriage among themselves they actually talk about love. Women — so I am told by several unusually frank representatives — don’t.
Hello again Susanna. Was this what you had in mind?