Yup, it’s all your fault.
So said that Washington Post headline that grabbed eyeballs and imploded brains nationwide when it stated that women would be a whole hell of a lot safer if they’d stop being hussies and settle down.
I’ll tell you what: You’re safer single.
Why? Because you’re more likely to be assaulted, raped, or flat-out murdered by your spouse.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics in a 2009 report called, “Female Victims of Violence,”
–in 64% of female homicide cases in 2007, women were killed by a family member or intimate partner. 24% of those homicide victims were killed by a spouse or ex-spouse.
–Only 10% of female murder victims were killed by a stranger.
—In 2008, 57% of rape and sexual assaults on women were committed by someone they knew, with 1 in 5 committed by an intimate partner.
Aw, Remember Old Timey Marriage?
With all the fuss and expense of modern-day marriage, saying yes to the dress and all that, it’s easy to forget that for most of recorded history, marriage was little more than institutionalized rape.
The whole point of it, in fact, was to trade assets for power, property, or security. You being the asset. Or the favor. Depending on the sitch. So, no. It wasn’t anywhere near what it looks like now: the joining of two upper-crusty, college-educated 30-year-olds throwing a $50,000 party on the Cape.
In other words, you didn’t have a choice then; you got married because it was in the best interests of everyone else involved. Your duty was to be his wife and bear his children and give him (ideally) sons to carry on his name and fortune. Oh, and yes—you have to have sex with this man, whenever he wants, like it or not, even when you really, really don’t want to.
So pardon me if I laugh my head off at the idea of marriage as a rape cure. Please. If rape means being pressured and coerced into having sex with someone you don’t want to, then married women get raped all the time.
You might not be sold to your husband for a shilling and forced to bear kids annually, but if you have to have sex against your will, then it is what it is.
Sure lots of people love their spouses and anticipate long, candle-lit evenings of mutually pleasurable lovemaking. But not all. Plenty are pretty much over having sex with their spouses. I was talking to a (fairly conservative) friend the other day about the joys of sleeping naked (something I happen to love). My friend was scandalized. “I could never sleep naked! Jim would be all over me. No, no, I like to wear lots of layers.” Subtext: I don’t want him touching me.
A letter to the Dear Prudence column on Salon came from a woman who didn’t know how to tell her husband she just didn’t want to sleep with him anymore, that she hated and loathed it.
And what was Prudie’s advice, and the advice of every magazine and relationship expert out there? Do it anyway. Get help if you must. Have sex even if you don’t feel like it. It’s important to him. It won’t take long. Promise.
This is the message you get as a married woman: That you owe it to your husband, your family, your marriage. So don’t tell me wives are safe from unwanted sex.
The authors of that WaPo piece (one of whom is founder of the National Marriage Foundation, in case you were wondering) talk about marriage as if it’s some kind of grass-roots rehabilitation program:
They argue that “…marriage also seems to cause men to behave better. That’s because men tend to settle down after they marry, to be more attentive to the expectations of friends and kin, to be more faithful, and to be more committed to their partners—factors that minimize the risk of violence.”
You know. Because marriage is always the answer and fixes everything. Please. Marriage as an institution practically spearheaded the women-as-chattel movement.
There’s more: “…women who are married are more likely to live in safer neighborhoods, to have a partner who is watching out for their physical safety, and—for obvious reasons—to spend less time in settings that increase their risk of rape, robbery, and assaults.”
The fact that this whole misconstrued idea is being touted by people whose job it is to promote marriage should come as no surprise. Marriage rates have been dropping, both here and abroad. The huge industry of marriage (weddings, all of it) is doing all it can to stay relevant, but pretending that women need it is a new low.
(Check out: How the WaPo authors got it wrong.)
Because women are recognizing that unless they really, really want it, they don’t, in fact, need it.
And as Erin Gloria Ryan points out in Jezebel’s predictably furious and snarky response to the WaPo piece, it’s wealth, not marriage, that gives women the opportunity to be stronger. You want to end violence? Educate and empower women to take care of themselves and others. Shift the blame from the victims of violence and assault to the perpetrators, and create real consequences for those who commit those crimes.
Rather than tell women they better marry or else, give women the resources to confidently pursue what’s right for them, be it careers or travel or parenthood, if they so choose. Let us decide what kinds of relationships we have, whether it’s a string of fulfilling and happy lovers to long-term commitment–but above all, to choose men because we want them, not because we are dependent on them.
And stop looking to outdated institutions to save us, especially the ones that can’t save themselves.