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An Analysis of Joe O’s “Marriage” Part I

July 16, 2010

The other day, some one of you clicked the link on my sidebar going to the blog “Thinking in a Marrow Bone,” according to my statistics. I hope you liked what you had found, because I think that TMB has some thoughtful writers (even if sometimes I disagree with their positions or don’t even comprehend their positions).

I was going over a fivepart series on marriage written by the poster Joe O over there…and I found this a reasonable and thoughtful discussion of marriage. I vaguely remember reading some parts of this series before (or maybe a related post), and making a fool of myself in the comments there, because I had gotten a totally different message than what seems to be here. Maybe I’m making this entire discussion up, since when I (briefly) checked, I didn’t find any comments from myself on those article.

Anyway, today, I’d like to analyze Joe’s points, and the surprising conclusion I found from them during this second read-through.

Starting with the first part “Why Difference Matters,” Joe begins to describe difference as a foundational part of the creation story. He notes difference as the thing that provides meaning to the idea of “cleaving together as one flesh.” To cleave together requires first a division.

However, the idea is that Adam and Eve are meant to be one flesh. They were one, and then divided.

Joe continues the analogy of difference to form a whole with reference to Paul’s body of the Christ. Without difference, the body could not be. And yet, a body is whole…being one is about being one through difference, not in spite of differences.

Joe’s main conclusion, present even from this first article, about marriage is that marriage is about loving someone different than us. Not just tolerating, but valuing and loving. And that is where God-like love is learned.

The surprising point about this first article is that there is nothing about it that explicitly excludes gay couple from gaining these benefits. Joe’s introductory goal is to try to show “why the gay community should favor marriage between a man and a woman,” and indeed later on, there are some comments that try to broker out why any other kind of marriage is eternally damaging, but Joe’s actual words and arguments do not alone establish this favoring system. Rather, Joe’s second introductory goal, to show “why Latter-day Saints are not positioned well to defend against gay marriage” comes out more strongly.

I can buy the complementarian argument here. I’m not quite as sold as whether gender complementarianism is so fundamentally different to other sorts of complementarianism though, so when I see Joe’s point on difference being crucial to unity, what I think about is how all people are different. And all people have the capacity to unite via understanding and valuation of others’ difference. This alone does not validate one kind of difference over another.

Perhaps someone would accuse me of reducing men and women for perfectly exchangeable counterparts for one another (and perhaps that’s where my hangup with gender complementarianism is?), but it seems to me that if we’re talking about difference, the differences in personalities, in the very individualities and authenticities of other human beings, and so forth persist at the level of every man and every woman. To divide things into “man” vs. “woman,” I think, ignores the difference from one man to another, one woman to another.

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  1. Well, bridging the gap between the male and female sexes is arguably one of the most important tasks given to the human race.

    It would make sense that we have some formalized social mechanism for doing this.

  2. yes, but this in no way lessens the value of bridging the gap between (insert any other different group), so it doesn’t necessarily justify the exclusivity of the formalized social mechanism.

  3. I read Joe’s posts and a few of the comments (which were clearer than the posts themselves). Joe gives a sloppy argument that fails to recognize the broad range of masculine and feminine traits that are found in both men and women. Who fits together and who doesn’t is something that couples can easily figure out for themselves, with no help from the Church or the government needed!

    I’m a man, and the ‘gender’ of my boyfriend is very different from mine. Note to Joe: complementarity is alive and well among gay couples. Just because the inextinguishable spark of difference wouldn’t exist for you in a same-sex relationship doesn’t mean that it’s missing for gay couples. Get some gay friends already. Sheesh.

  4. MHH,

    As far as the comments go, I actually agree (that’s where I think that some of the other writers at TMB try to make a stronger case against gay marriage and gay relationships…but I don’t think it really bears up.)

  5. That was some pretty weak sauce if it’s supposed to be an argument against same-sex marriage. (I’m not sure it was though. I’m not sure what the point was supposed to be, actually.) To me it just seemed like a bunch of vague generalizations about “differences,” and differences are good.

    But I did get quite a chuckle out the part in Part 5 where he argues that trying to help women have orgasms every time they have sex is denying a fundamental difference between men and women. If he doesn’t believe that women should have orgasms every time they have sex, all I can say is “Joe, ur doin it wrong.”

  6. To be fair, I don’t think Joe’s series explicitly is supposed to be an argument against same-sex marriage (in fact, in his introduction, he states that this formulation of marriage is “why Latter-day Saints are not positioned well to defend against gay marriage.”) This is more of a Mormon theory of the purpose and goal of marriage.

    Stop jumpin the gun! We’ll get to part 5 when we get there, haha

  7. Actually, believe it or not, women don’t always want to be worked up to an orgasm every time they have sex.

    Usually, yes. But not always. For guys, sex is kind of an all-or-nothing thing. If you don’t hit orgasm, the whole thing kind of sucks. But with women it’s more a matter of degree. Even orgasms themselves vary in intensity. So there’s no bright “I made it” line here. Some women just enjoy a bit of a session of intimacy and don’t really need to climax to enjoy it.

    That said, they usually enjoy climaxing. But not required every time – especially when both partners are pretty secure in the relationship. Sometimes they are fine taking things for what they are without agonizing about whether it could have been more or better.

  8. Seth,
    I really don’t know what to say. I’ve never associated giving my partner an orgasm with words like “work up to” or “agonizing.” It’s just a natural part of the process. I can’t really imagine making love to a woman and not making her climax. That would seem really weird to me.

  9. Kuri, most women don’t orgasm every time they have sex.

    In fact, a statistically significant amount of them don’t orgasm most of the time when they have sex. And it is well known that a lot of them fake the orgasm just to keep their guy happy.

    And it is also a known thing about female biology that you don’t have to orgasm for a session of sex to be enjoyable.

    Don’t view this from your own biological needs. Women are different.

    Again, that doesn’t mean that most of them don’t want to orgasm most of the time when they have sex. But don’t think it’s the be-all end-all of the the whole package deal.

    Heck, there have even been times when I didn’t care if I climaxed or not. Not many, but…

    And believe me, if you haven’t bothered with build up before the orgasm with a woman, I guarantee you – you haven’t given her as many of them as you think you have. I’m pretty certain you’ve done a bit more than just “hi honey, how are ya” and then straight to penetration. Just guesswork on my part, but…

    And just so you know, I’m totally fine if you don’t want to pursue this line of thought any further. Completely understandable.

  10. Seth,

    After the first 10 or so times I made love, while I was still gaining practical knowledge to go with my theoretical knowledge, I have never made love without making my partner climax. I just wouldn’t do it any other way. I find the idea very confusing, actually. I wouldn’t know how to do it any other way.

    And believe me, if you haven’t bothered with build up before the orgasm with a woman, I guarantee you – you haven’t given her as many of them as you think you have. I’m pretty certain you’ve done a bit more than just “hi honey, how are ya” and then straight to penetration.

    I always “bother.” That’s the point. I can’t imagine not “bothering.” It seems such a strange idea to me…

  11. Only 10 times and you had it down?

    That’s… impressive.

  12. I’m mildly Aspergian, and one of my obsessive interests at the time was sex. I had a very extensive theoretical grasp of love-making before I gained any practical experience. So it wasn’t a matter so much of learning what to do (I pretty much knew that) as learning what it felt like to do it (both for me and for my partner).

    And with that knowledge and the goal of both of us having orgasms (I still have trouble getting my head around the idea that everyone doesn’t do that), yeah, it only took a few tries to get it more or less right.

    That’s not to say that I was smooth or anything after around 10 times or so — I definitely wasn’t — but once I got some basic practical experience I’ve been able to make sure that we both finish every time, one way or another.

  13. I want to comment on this discussion.

    But, I’m afraid that anything that I say on the topic will be taken as a commentary on my own sex life, and I only discuss my sex life with my husband, Katie L., and KatyJane (and I guess, by extension, Kullervo).

    So, instead, I’ll just link to this hilariously TMI fMh thread with plenty of commentary on this subject from actual LDS women who are (for the most part) not posting anonymously, and let that be that:

    Vaginas Are Not For Orgasms

  14. Wow, I can’t believe I didn’t notice kuri’s first line there. uhh, wow.


    I will take your linking to fMh as a sign that everything that every commenter wrote in that thread is a commentary on your sex life. That fMh is actually a product of your dream peopled by your subconscious.

  15. “Wow, I can’t believe I didn’t notice kuri’s first line there. uhh, wow.”

    That’s what she said.

    Also, for anyone who’s interested, I wrote a kind of follow-up post.

  16. Heh. I just took a look at part 5 of that series. Maybe I should save this for when you post on part 5, Andrew, but I’m commenting anyways:

    Ostensibly, it appears that Brotherson is helping couples embrace differences that exist between men and women: it is generally far more difficult for a woman (biologically speaking) to have orgasms, so let’s figure out ways to make it happen. But what she may or may not know is that she is following in a long tradition of feminists who have been pining for a feminine sexuality that mirrors as close as possible male sexuality – orgasm every time.

    Yes, that’s right, men and women are different. Women actually get multiple orgasms and an average of seven more years on God’s green earth to enjoy ’em. I say that if a couple wants to embrace gender complementarity, one female orgasm per session is setting the bar rather low.

    (Okay, so men can have multiple orgasms, too. But it’s much, much more difficult to learn and the dry orgasms aren’t as strong as the ejaculatory finish.)

    Oddly enough, I do think that he’s correct that some feminists have fallen into the error of trying to make female sexuality the mirror image of male sexuality instead of embracing it on his own terms, but he fumbles with a terrible example.

    I guess I did comment on this subject after all. If you want to infer something about my own sex life from what I just said, infer away. 🙂

    • *”embracing it on his own terms” should read “embracing it on its own terms”

  17. haha,

    at this rate, I think I’ll just cover part 4 and just not ever get to part 5. That’s rather anticlimactic, yes, but uh, deal with it.

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