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The sword between the sexes

The decrease in marriage bodes ill for the country, and for its people


The sword between the sexes
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Who voted for which party in the recent midterm elections? Turns out 59 percent of married men and 56 percent of married women went with the Republicans, as well as 52 percent of unmarried men. But, for unmarried women: A whopping 68 percent of them went for the Democrats. It seems that, increasingly, men and married women are Republicans, but unmarried women are Democrats.

The wide gulf between sex and marital status is important. If there are enough differences between men and women as well as between married and unmarried people—habits, presuppositions, inclinations, outlooks, goals—now add to the mix the polarization of political opposition.

Let’s take a look at the group so concentrated on the left, the unmarried women. If marriage is what brings men and women together, politically and otherwise—more on that latter point below—what might marriage in the horizon for the currently single women look like? Already, marriage is a vanishing phenomenon these days—it’s increasingly happening only for a select portion of Americans: the affluent and the religious. For everyone else, not so much.

Some of the unmarried women have children, and some don’t. If they are mothers and thus by definition single mothers, the Democrats’ known proclivities to provide them with a bevy of state-funded services, programs, help, and outright cash seem unlikely to encourage marriage. Some of those taxpayer-supported programs seem to come with the aim of replacing husbands and fathers—together with marriage penalties should women want to marry.

If they are not mothers, the political cohort of unmarried women represents some of the most progressive among those on the left. They are among the most woke on campus and among the most woke in the workplace. With their rejection of patriarchy and oppressive normative institutions like marriage, these women are unlikely—to say the least—to marry.

On top of all that, for both types of unmarried women (those with children and those without) it is increasingly hard to find marriageable men. Women tend to want to marry up, and girls/women have now long outperformed boys/men in K–12 schools, higher education, and many sectors of employment. There are now fewer men of the sort that women want to marry who are available for marriage. With the dating and marriage market so skewed in numbers between the two sexes, marriageable women simply outnumber marriageable men, and by quite a margin. The result is more women than ever are just not getting married, and they are not likely to get married—ever.

The dance between the two sexes has always been fraught, but it seems especially perilous in our day, and especially fragile.

(To be fair to the men, women with children by other men (single mothers) and women who are in so many ways against men and marriage itself (woke single women) may not much make for attractive prospective wives either. All this just underlines yet another reason that marriage is unlikely to happen. For now, it’s a man’s market out there. It is a crass economic fact that men can often marry on their own terms.)

So, as things stand now, 35 percent of prime-age Americans are unmarried, something unheard of in the generations of our forebears. A quarter of young people may never marry. This is beyond sad.

But the more marriage becomes unlikely, the more the rift, the chasm, the polarization grows. Is this a monstrous feedback loop we’re seeing? The dance between the two sexes has always been fraught, but it seems especially perilous in our day, and especially fragile.

While observing his own grief when his wife died, C. S. Lewis remarks, “There is, hidden or flaunted, a sword between the sexes till an entire marriage reconciles them.” He continued, “Marriage heals this. Jointly the two become fully human. ‘In the image of God created He them.’ Thus, by a paradox, this carnival of sexuality leads us out beyond our sexes.”

If marriage is what heals the sword between the two sexes, this trend of political polarization between the sexes and the increasing unlikelihood of marriage bodes (more) ill for the country. Our current polarization is extreme enough. But on a deeper level, Christians understand marriage to be an institution for a man and a woman, united to each other for better or worse and for the procreation and the raising of children. Marriage is also a covenant that signifies the mystical union between Christ and His Church. When fewer of our neighbors and fellow citizens enter into marriage, fewer of them get to partake of the blessing of the intrinsic good that is marriage. Fewer can flourish. More lives are impoverished of meaning and satisfaction.

It is not good that man should be alone. But in our day, the sword between the sexes shows no signs of healing, only sharpening.

Adeline A. Allen

Adeline A. Allen is an associate professor of law at Trinity Law School.

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