Why are Influential Men Afraid of Marriage Equality? “Because Their Marriages Don’t Exist,” Says Genesis 2 (paraphrase)

Posted on May 22, 2012


Perhaps its because they have something to hide? Earlier this month, following North Carolina’s successful passing of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, a Raleigh pastor lauded his state for taking a stand in support of “a biblical model of marriage.” Of course, this language is not new to this debate and raises the question, “What is a biblical model of marriage?”  More to my point, “What is the man’s role in this marriage?” Let’s take a look at that text which many consider to be the “first marriage,” Genesis 2:18-25. Perhaps here we see that piece of their identity men like Charles Krauthammer are trying so desperately to defend.

The role of God’s character in this passage seems pretty clear cut. He simply wants to provide the man with a “partner,” because “it is not good that the man should be alone” (2:18). Indeed, the man is quite busy, as he had been giving names to all the animals (v. 20)! God, then, famously takes a rib out of the man as he sleeps, creates a woman presents her to him (v. 21-22). So it is that “a man leaves his father and this mother and clings to his wife,” thus becoming “one flesh” (v. 23).

On the one hand, this passage is deeply touching, because of the way in which man recognizes this other being as an embodied expression of himself. He sees himself in her and then moves to make the woman once again part of his body. After spending so much time with animals, naming them, the man “at last” finds someone like him.

On the other hand, however, proponents of so-called “traditional” marriage who argue that this passage is “about” a heterosexual union (“about” being a very strong word) will find this passage quite problematic. Yes, one could make the case that this “marriage”–the text makes no explicit mention of marriage here–is hetero, that is “other,” sexual. But the man appears to be a different sort of man, because this man’s body apparently contains the machinery needed to make another human being. That is, while it has often been assumed that sex is defined by sex organs, here the man in the Genesis account is given the anatomical ability generally associated with a female. Given the standards of “traditional heterosexual marriage” then, this particular (peculiar?) marriage is itself destabilizing. Specifically, it is destabilized by the man who either cannot or refuses to conform to Charles Krauthammer’s norms.

Interestingly, though, this biblical “marriage” seems just fine and gains the endorsement of the narrator: “And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed” (2:25).

What, then, is “traditional marriage” and why does it need defending? Moreover, why are so many influential men, like Charles Krauthammer, Rush Limbaugh, and Mitt Romney convinced marriage needs “defending?” The reason, thanks to this biblical “marriage,” seems to be that their marriage does not exist. Rather, “traditional” unions are apparitions that have constructed and influenced this society without actually existing in practice. And why would they? Men in heterosexual marriages across the world are about as close to the ideal man as “the man” in Genesis 2. Yet, the contradiction still exists within contemporary masculinities that the man is considered to be a man through and because of marriage.

What if marriage is actually that thing which deconstructs the man?

Apparitions. Also, men who are not part of traditional marriages.