Saturday, June 10, 2006

Saleet's Question

Three years ago Saleet asked me a great question: Why don't you marry Oren?

There are two obvious wrong answers to that question: 1. Because I/we are straight 2. Because Oren is married (which was not the case at the time).

I became further confused today, as I was arguing that their is no essential difference between the two sexes. If that is the case, why can't two men marry, raise a family and have children with a close female friend? Why does the mother of the child necessarily need to be part of the "nuclear" family? If men and women really are the same, is the reason for marriage purely utilitarian, i.e. it is just more practical to have the mother of the child serve as the second parent? Religious doctrine aside, why must sex (v) be confined to/part of marriage?

My only answer now (that I have proved to my self, through contradiction) is that there is generally does exist a distinction between the sexes, which is not a conclusion I am all-together happy with.

8 comments:

Yehuda said...

Zev, Are you completely off your rocker?

NoFreeLunch said...

The difference between men and women could be very very small, and still result in big differences in specialization. Gary Becker discussed this on his blog during the women-in-science kerfuffle. Women could be just a little bit better than men at everything, for instance, but if women are a little bit + epsilon better at housework, that is what they will mostly do.

Zev said...

Yehuda, yes, I am off my rocker in many different senses. Do you care to specify which sense you mean?

NFL, you may be driving at something very deep, following a trajectory of an argument that women and men are very similar, except for very small differences, that are all together irrelevant, save for the realm of marriage. But I don't exactly see how that argument would play out.

If, however, you are making an argument of Smithian Specialization, I am a bit lost. My point was that even if women are slightly better than men at housecleaning, it is irrelevant in upper-middle class America. When resources are scarce, it makes perfect sense to have the bearer of children the same one who raises them (and helps around the house, etc). But in a world where it is just as easy to higher a nanny (or an Au Pair, as has been done for centuries in England), why is it necessary to marry a woman for those tasks? But certainly you cannot believe that epsilon provides and essential reason for marriage between a man and a women?

(Purely for sport now, in a country like England where the rich never reserved sex for marriage, and highered servants to do all the cleaning, cooking and raising of the children, it is a wonder that conventional marriage lasted as long as it has.)

Zev said...

To clarify, I am not arguing against gay marriage. I am trying to find a rationale for conventional marriage and family structure.

NoFreeLunch said...

Who said the differences were altogether irrelevant, except in the realm of marriage? (I see way more female ballet dancers than male ones...) What I meant is, the differences could be so small that you might not observe them. It might look like men and women are exactly alike, except you notice an effect of the differences - that men and women marry each other.
I don't think that this is an a priori reason for male-female marriage. I'm just trying to explain how you could not notice a difference in ordinary observation, but the difference could still have far-reaching effects.
The housework example was in reference to Becker's essay. I agree that specialization in housework is not a main reason for marriage. I think it's an effect of marriage. A man and a woman marry, and it then makes sense for one of them to specialize in housework. If it tends to be the women who usually choose housework, that could be caused by some innate difference that didn't matter for marriage at all.

miriam said...

zev, my first reaction is somewhere with yehuda. i have no idea what you're trying to say.

but one thing:

for most normal "middle class" people it is NOT simple (or within reach) to hire someone to do the bulk of the "household" work (cooking, cleaning, childrearing). the world in which one option is really "just as easy" as the other is very small.

as for the body of your question, i don't even know where to begin.
call me for a rant...

...


ok, fine, al regel ahat:
there is a qualitative difference in a relationship when one's romantic partner is also one's practical-living and family-making partner. why should people want to separate the two?

Now, the better question for you is: does the mere fact that many people seem to have differential sexual (and romantic) preferences for members of one gender (their own or not) over the other imply "that there is generally does exist (sic) a distinction between the sexes?"

actually, before/after you answer that, clarfiy what sort of "distinction" you mean. i mean, there are some very obvious material differences (organs and chromosomes present/absent, for example...*) but you still think it's meaningful on some level to say that men and women are the "same." so what sort of same-ness are you talking about, and does differrential sexual attraction destroy it?

*not to get into the topic of "intersexuality" for the moment...


oh, and im yirtzeh Hashem by you ;)

Jose said...

Zev, is there an inverse of trolling? I feel like it would be rude of me not to comment onthis, but alas the work bell just rang so I am going home. Perhaps when I reach my apartment I will have something to say. Unlike the rest of the lazy folks here, I do think I followed your questions...

Anonymous said...

Why does it bother you to say that there are differences between the sexes?