A World in Which Marriage and Sex Are Not About Children

The ACLU-type argument for general liberty to engage in destructive behavior for the preservation of a liberal aesthetic is easy to predict, but there’s something new and disturbing in the following argument for the continued legalization of prostitution in the state of Rhode Island:

Critics, including Rose Perry, a Providence mother and member of the group Direct Action for Rights and Equality, said that even with the amendments the latest proposal ignores the harsh reality of what it takes for some families to survive in tough economic times.
“What about the woman who has children who is mainly prostituting to provide for them?” Perry asked. If she gets arrested “the children are going to go to [the Department of Children, Youth and Families] and that’s going to be more state expense and then more expense for the woman going to jail. It’s just ruining families. I feel what goes on behind closed doors should stay behind closed doors.”

One could point out, of course, that Ms. Perry’s point is extendable to a wide variety of behaviors, dealing and doing hard drugs notable among them. What’s more profound is a juxtaposition, facilitated by the Providence Journal’s physical layout, with Froma Harrop’s latest column:

“Formality in the law serves some important purposes,” Glesner-Fines responded. “It cautions people that what they are getting into is serious.”
Yes, that’s it. The seriousness of the legal bond between the parents — as well as from parent to child — helps foster a partnership in child-rearing, even if that bond later dissolves in divorce. Why so many women take on motherhood without such formality in place is a mystery. The sad result is a growing sisterhood of drudgery.

Whether she realizes it or not, that’s a substantial progression from a woman who recently wrote this:

It’s easy to understand why gay people would want to get in on the marriage gravy train. There’s just no logic for there being one. A stable marriage is the ideal institution for raising children, but we already have tax benefits focused on parents. Given the growing percentage of unmarried adult Americans, the whole obsession with same-sex marriage has become rather dated.
Keep marriage as a romantic and religious ideal for those who choose to partake. Public policy, on the other hand, should be marriage-neutral.

Perhaps it’s a “rather dated” notion, but I’d say there’s no “mystery” to continued childbirth without the “formality” of marriage: Men and women are strongly driven to copulate; they’re also driven (although with less immediacy) to procreate. Yet, society has long been telling them that sex outside of marriage is just fine and is increasingly declaring that marriage is not, in its essence, about joining parents together with the children whom they create.
When a state supreme court asserts as a footnote (PDF, p. 54) that a child’s needing a mother and father is a stereotype, when activists are arguing in the State House that prostitution is a legitimate fall-back during a difficult economy, when other judges are demanding that the morning-after-drug be available over the counter to minors, it isn’t surprising that three out of four non-virginal teenage girls report having had unprotected sex. It also isn’t surprising that some of them have or go on to have children outside of wedlock or that the fathers feel no obligation to be involved.
If sex is about pleasure (or financial gain), and marriage is about feelings (or benefits), committing to support a family even during the worst of times, even when there is no sex, the feelings seem to fade, and the children prove a challenge, is just one more burden on which a culture of narcissists will not insist.

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Robert Balliot
12 years ago

How could a change in the law affect the underlying morality? It seems that it would only create an opportunity cost.

If prostitution is criminalized, then it would become part of the criminal economy. So, profit off the top would go towards organized crime – for protection, bribes, and client arrangements.

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