Taking Sex Differences Seriously
I'm just throwing this out there.
The Case Against Androgynous Marriage
by Steven Rhoads, The American Enterprise,
Candice Bergen has now admitted what her TV character, Murphy Brown, never did: Fathers matter. Social scientists have never been more sure, because fathers help boys become responsible men and teach girls good men will love them even if they don’t “put out.”
And when men—even men who have been good fathers—divorce their wives, they usually end up divorcing their children as well. Two leading family experts, Frank Furstenberg and Andrew Cherlin, find that “over time, the vast majority of children [of divorce] will have little or no contact with their fathers.” So if we care about the future of our kids, we should care about finding the secrets to marriages that last through “sickness and health,” through “better and worse.”
These traditional phrases from church weddings might remind one of the traditional Christian understanding of marriage–one where wives “submit” to the “servant” leadership of their husbands. Last summer the Southern Baptists reminded the faithful of this Biblical teaching, and feminists denounced it as “domestic feudalism.”
Most of the rest of America shrugged it off. After all, androgyny is everywhere. Women fly jets and make up 43 percent of all law school graduates. Men go to hair stylists and wear earrings. To most of us, male headship seems like something from another planet.
But social science research on intact marriages finds that in real marriages, male headship is simply a fact. Most men and women seek things in a mate that render something like male headship inevitable. If we care about marriages that work, the Baptists just may have something to teach us.
Feminists can hardly look at married men without a certain measure of disgust. Men won’t do their share of housework and child care. In the typical two-earner family they contribute about half as much housework as their employed wives and less than half as much solo child care.
Most feminists believe men’s power in the home comes from their power in the marketplace. In Ms. one family therapist sets forth her golden rule of marriage, “Whoever has the gold makes the rules.” But the overworked wives cited above are already bringing home gold. Perhaps they’re not bringing home enough? To answer, we need to know whether women’s power soars when they are the big earners in marriage.
When husbands make more than wives, both say the husband’s job is the more important, but when wives earn more, neither spouse says the wife’s job is more important. Indeed, such wives are more likely than other married women to leave the labor force or move to a lower position. At home these high-achieving wives attempt to be especially attractive and sexual for their husbands, and they report indulging husbands’ whims and salving egos. When husbands are more dependent on their wives’ incomes, the husbands do very little additional housework.
Questions of income aside, there are, of course, marriages where women have more power. Do such marriages make women happy? One survey of over 20 studies on marital power found that wife-dominant couples were the least happy, and the wives in wife-dominated unions were less happy than their husbands.
Liz Gallese’s study of women graduates from the 1975 class of the Harvard Business School finds that the women have a tendency to “pull back” on their way to the top. One woman who did not do so was Tess. When her career shot past her husband’s, he took on most of the child care. On the surface Tess’s marriage made role reversal look workable. Tess seemed proud of her job, her son, and her husband. Gallese did not glimpse the truth until she spent time alone with Tess’s husband, who admitted he and his wife had almost no sex life, though he would try to “do things to rekindle her interest.”
Soon Tess began to seduce other businessmen. Eventually she came clean with Gallese, admitting that she would love to have another child someday but not with her husband. She stayed with him because he was “a wife.” “I absolutely refuse to sleep with that man. I’ll never have sex with him again.”
Feminists will no doubt say they want neither an old-fashioned marriage nor Tess’s but rather one in which promotions and relocations come in tandem or sequentially. But marriages in which spouses devote equal time to work, home, and children are very rare, and rarer still are marriages in which the spouses are equally successful in all realms. Pepper Schwartz searched hard to find couples where there was at least a 60/40 split of duties on the home front. Her study found that such “peer” couples feel they have a strong marital relationship with intimacy, mutual respect, and mutual interest. But they also face serious problems. Many husbands are unhappy when their careers suffer. There are constant negotiations and compromises, and serious conflicts over child rearing.
Last but not least, a number of the androgynes share some of the Tess-and-Kevin problem. Schwartz notes that their intimacy and familiarity make them feel more like siblings than lovers. They were more likely than other couples to “forget to include sex in their daily lives.” “Women had fantasies of being taken or mildly dominated,” and one complained of a husband who began treating her “too darn respectfully.” Many of the peer couples, though, thought they had terrific sex lives, often because they adopted different personas in the bedroom. Schwartz suggested therapy for those who could not “transcend their identities in everyday life” by separating their days from their nights.....