Why Do People get Married Anyway?

When I first heard of the American movement to legalize homosexual marriages, my first thought was that Americans are completely mad. My second thought was “What’s the point of marrying anyway?”

The Companionate View of Marriage

This is one I grew up hearing. It goes like  this: Alex and Jill meet. Alex and Jill feel very much affection for each other. Depending on the context, Alex and Jill might feel sexually attracted to each other. Alex and Jill feel like they can’t live without each other. Alex and Jill decide to get married so they can have sexual relations and care for each other and make each other happy for the rest of their lives. (Or at least till they change their minds).

What problem do I have with that  theory? Well, really nothing. I just think it’s a little weird. Consider this spinoff:

A Sikh couple getting married. Anand Karaj cer...
A Sikh couple getting married. Anand Karaj ceremony. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jill meets Renee at a dance party. Jill and Renee feel very much affection for each other. They like to dance with each other very much. They feel that they can’t live without each other. So, they decide to get married and dance together and take care of each other for the rest of their lives.

Now, if Alex and Jill and Jill and Renee just had a private ceremony to which they invited all their friends, made promises to each other, ate lots of food and danced a lot, I would pay no attention to them. But if they had to go to the government to fill a form, be officially registered as married, get tax breaks for it and other special results, I would go “What the hell?” So you want to be with each other. Fine. Be with each other. But why are we subsidizing your relationship? Why should we even care about it? How is it any of my business if you want to rub each other’s tummy for the rest of your lives and why should you get special privileges for it?

My point: If the government is going to officially recognize two people who care for each other, I have a couple of friends I would like to get married to. Then they can visit me when I’m sick, inherit my stuff, share my property and we can get tax deductions for it. But that’s all unnecessary. Two people who want to be together can be together but it’s kind of ridiculous to assign some special status to it. My verdict is that the companionate reason for marriage is pointless and ridiculous.

So, in what context does marriage make sense?

The Conjugal View of Marriage

Beautiful Chinese Bride in White Wedding Dress
Beautiful Chinese Bride in White Wedding Dress (Photo credit: epSos.de)

Everyone knows that sex between two members of the same species has the biological purpose of producing children and it often does. Children are vulnerable. They need care, stability and guidance. Consequently, they do best when they are able to be raised by both of their biological parents. Sadly, this is sometimes impossible but it is nevertheless, an ideal to strive for.

That’s where marriage comes in. Marriage can be a mechanism by which we bind two members of opposite sexes together so that when they bear children, we can ensure (to the best of our ability) that those children have both parents available. Marriage would be different from cohabiting in that both partners have an obligation to be there for each other and their children and cannot just leave at a moment’s notice. Such an environment would be very good for children. In this context, the idea of marriage does make sense. It serves some purpose. The privileges given to married people make sense and they are well worth it. The only problem with it is that not everybody who wants to marry can simply marry. There has to be a good reason they should marry. Because of such rules, I can’t marry my brother. But no one has ever complained about that. There are people who shouldn’t marry.

Nature or Nurture?

Nurture versus Nature
Nurture versus Nature (Photo credit: Dave77459)

We’re going to play a game. So, if you don’t usually comment, I would appreciate it if you participate. I’ll call it Nature or Nurture. It goes like this:

I give you a characteristic found in human beings and you respond by telling me if it is as a result nature, nurture or both. Now, I might not be using these words in the way you are used to, so you want to pay attention to the definitions.

  • Choose Nature if the characteristic is a fundamental part of the person’s genetic code and therefore set at birth and which cannot be permanently changed without modifying the person’s biological functions in a way. e.g. hair color.
  • Choose Both Nature and Nurture is the characteristic is affected by the person’s genes, but also modified by the person’s environment – parental upbringing, nutrition, physical environment, etc. For instance, height has a genetic component but is affected by the type of nutrition a person get during their growth periods. That’s why identical twins can have different heights.
  • Choose Nurture if the characteristic has no correlation with genetics or if it has very little correlation and is mainly affected by a person’s environment
  • You can also say Neither and I Don’t Know

Here’s an example:

Skin color: Nature or Nurture

Identical twins are born with the same genes controlling skin color, but if one of them spends more time sun than the other. She’ll probably be darker (or sunburnt). Since identical twins would have the same skin color barring outside influences, but different skin colors if raised in different environments, the answer is BOTH.

Accent: Nature or Nurture

Identical twins often have the same accent. But this does not mean that it is nature because it does not rule out environmental causes. Think. What if two identical twins were placed in different families: one in Britain and one in the United States. Would they have the same accent when speaking English? Of course not. Accent is something that does not exist apart from environmental influence. The answer is NURTURE.

Preferred career: Nature or Nurture?

Identical twins often have similar likes and dislikes. Often, but not always. Cultural pressures can have a huge influence. A twin taught that you should do whatever makes you happy and a twin thought that you should do  whatever has the best chance of giving you a good life will choose differently in certain circumstances. However, since identical twins are often raised together, this difference should not be very pronounced. Also, the fact that they have similar, but not the same likes and dislikes points to something beyond genetics. I’m thinking the answer to this one is BOTH.

Ready? Here are a few guidelines.

  • Do identical twins always have it the same or very similar? Then it is strongly genetic.
  • If identical twins were separated, what is the probability that they would differ sharply The higher the probability, the stronger the impact of the environment
  • The fact that something can differ between identical twins does not mean that there is an environmental component. For some strange reason, identical genes can act differently. So, this isn’t an exact science. Be prepared to speak in probabilities.
  • You might come across something that does not seem to be biologically influenced which also doesn’t seem to be significantly environmentally affected. I can’t help you there.
  • Things influenced by nature tend to be physical traits: skin, hair, eyes, IQ. Things influenced by nurture tend to be behavioral: manner of acting, reasoning, response to stimuli (e.g. emotional reactions) and things influenced by our beliefs. Think: being vs doing. This is probably because, as far as we can change ourselves, we tend to become more like those around us.
  • Things influenced by both are sometimes emotional: likes, dislikes, wants, needs, etc.

Okay, here we go. Nature or Nurture?

  1. Preferred foods
  2. Idea of beauty
  3. Traits preferred in romantic relationships
  4. Eye color
  5. Personality
  6. Values
  7. Pet peeves
  8. Susceptibility to cancer (hint: read the linked article)
  9. Sexual preferences
  10. Body weight

On Gender Identity

English: Diagram of a cross-section of the hum...
English: Diagram of a cross-section of the human male reproductive system. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Where I grew up, there were two genders. You were either a boy or a girl depending on which reproductive organs you had. You could be a girl who liked to play soccer, lift weights and hang out with boys, but you were still a girl and vice versa. It’s not the same way in the US. I have heard it said that Gender is different from sex. While sex is fixed at birth, Gender is what you identify yourself as. That’s poppycock. Allow me to explain.

If all goes well in a woman’s pregnancy, she is going to give birth to a child with one of two types of reproductive system. Let’s call them type A and type B. Type A includes ovaries, mammary glands, a uterus and several other organs. Type B includes a Penis, Scrotum and Testicles. Let’s call individuals of type A ‘women’ and individuals of type B ‘men’. (Just for simplicity)

Women and Men often have distinct physical, emotional and behavioral characteristics. As a result, society comes to expect them to behave in certain ways and want and do certain things. Every once in a while, however, there comes an individual who wants to buck the trend – a woman who wants to study engineering instead of medicine and a man who wants to be a nurse instead of an engineer, for instance. Despite their uncharacteristic behavior, they still share the same type of reproductive system as their more traditional peers. As a result, society still classifies them as ‘men’ or ‘women’ based on their reproductive system.English: Schematic drawing of female reproduct...

There are certain things that could go wrong in this system. Let’s look at case studies.

Sandy: Sandy has reproductive system A and so is cultural classified as a woman. However, she wants to be a man. Since the age of 2 she has dressed in the clothes of her male counterparts and asked to be referred to as ‘he’. She acts in accordance with the culturally accepted characteristics of men. i.e. she dresses, walks, talks and acts the way men do on average.

Ginny: Ginny also has reproductive system A but she believes herself to be a man. She acts very much like Sandy.

Carl: Carl has reproductive system type B. He does not want to be a woman, but he does want to act like one. He wants to wear skirts, be a ballerina, wear makeup, etc. But he doesn’t mind having the reproductive system that he has.

Of the three, Carl is the one with no real problem. Sure, he’s weird, but so are girls who study engineering and don’t like teddy bears (in my opinion). One might argue that there is something about him that goes deeper than desiring the unconventional, that while it is normal for girls to pursue engineering, it is disturbing for one to wish to behave like a man. That’s an issue for another day. As far as I’m concerned, he may dress as he wishes. He may pour ketchup on his head and dress solely in banana leaves for all I care.

Sandy is different. She has a female reproductive system. She does not want it. She wants a male one. She wants to be something that she is not. Now, if she were a dancer and she wanted to be an architect, I would tell her to go to college and get a degree. But, no. This is akin to a black girl wanting to be white. She might want it really, really, badly. She might bleach her skin and dye her hair and wear colored contacts, but she’ll only look different. There’s this really cheesy saying about ‘you being the best person to be’ that I would want Sandy to know about.

Ginny’s case is even more serious. She believes herself to be something she is not. Every time I see my psychiatrist, she asks questions to make sure I’m not deluded. Of course, I give the same answers every time, but she has to check because believing something that is obviously not true is a serious illness.

Those who say that gender is what you self identify as want to make it so that people like Ginny and Sandy, instead of getting counseling to find out why they are so dissatisfied with who they are are affirmed, praised and ‘accepted’. So that they can get whatever hormones and surgery will give them the illusion of being what they wish. What cruelty!

In my world, there is what you are and there is what you wish to be. So people like Sandy are not ‘biologically female but male in gender’. They are biological females who want to be males. The cruelty is that rather than trying to help them, some people try to aid them in deluding themselves by coming up with such ridiculous classifications. You can wear an estrogen patch and have your genitals removed (and God knows I wish you no harm) but before you permanently disfigure yourself, I recommend that you try other options.

Let me make it clear: I believe you can go about getting surgery to change your sex if you like. You can also bleach your skin and have all your hair removed. But there is no difference between sex and gender. If you invent one, don’t demand that we share it.

On the Origin of Gender Differences

Harald Eia på boksignering i Bergen.
Harald Eia på boksignering i Bergen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was in high school, we were told that we could do whatever we wanted to do and we girls mostly wanted to be doctors. In fact, I know the current filed of study of only three of my female classmates. Two are studying medicine and the third is studying pharmacy. Apparently, Norway has a similar problem. Despite being billed as the most equal country in the world, women still concentrated themselves in traditionally female professions (e.g nursing) and men still concentrated themselves in engineering profession.

The same seems to be true in the US as well. In my intro to computer science class, we explored the problem – women are scarce in computer science. It seems that they are scarce in engineering as a whole, but especially in computer science. I don’t remember the numbers, but the dominant problem seemed to be that women are uninterested in it. They find it boring and prefer medicine, teaching, etc.

For most people, it must seem like a no-brainer that men and women are typically interested in different things. The following really informative video attempts to explain why. The verdict is different depending on who you ask. According to the researchers at the Nordic Gender Institute, the causes are purely social. Despite great efforts to the contrary, boys are girls are still treated differently and different things are expected of them. Consequently, children grow up to choose professions in line with those expectations.

Researchers in the UK and US disagreed, arguing that that claim was wrong for several reasons

1. Male and female children express differences in preferences as early as a day after birth, before they have been influenced by society.

2. Research has shown that the preferences of children (which often last into adulthood) depend on the amount of testosterone they are exposed to while in the womb. More testosterone leads to a greater interest in machines and less leads to a greater interest in social activities, hence the predisposition of girls towards professions that involve working with people (medicine and teaching) and of boys towards technical professions (e.g. engineering).

3. Since women are the ones who give birth to children, it makes sense that evolution would provide them with skills and interests necessary to ensure that they survive till childbearing age and are able to care for those children hence the non-confrontational, social and careful nature of women.

4. If the difference in preferences between men and women were purely due to society, they would vary across cultures. However, the difference in preferences remains remarkably the same from Norway, to Saudi Arabia to the US.

Their conclusion: That men and women have innate differences in personality. These differences can be affected a little by cultural perceptions of the sexes, but only a little. In more ‘gender equal’ countries, where both sexes are free to choose their profession as they like, these differences are accentuated as people choose the professions that interest them. In other countries, choice of profession is constrained by other factors like need and societal expectation.

On the other hand, the researchers at the NIKK offered surprisingly little support for their assertions. Instead they suggested that the studies were flawed and the researchers biased. The NIKK was closed down after this video and its sequels were aired whether as a direst result, I do not know.

Brainwash 1:7 – The Gender Equality Paradox from Harald Eia on Vimeo.

I am perfectly willing to accept the talk about the sexes being equal as long as equal does not mean ‘the same’. To me, the difference between men and women is very obvious. I see it in my family, friends and classes. I can count on one hand the number of my male acquaintances that want to be teachers, but that’s what a lot of my girlfriends want. The ratio of guys to girls in my classes is huge. I believe that men and women are equal in the sense that they are both made in God’s image, but I find it difficult to think of any other way in which they are equal.

Further reading:

Nordic Countries Defund Gender Institute

Men and Women’s Differences Extend to Personality