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Make The Bed, Take Out The Garbage, Get Married

It's amazing to me how the defenders of the "marriage is for procreation" line disparage marriage. Take this quote, from Shelby Steele (cited in Andrew Sullivan's rebuttal of Steele's argument):

Across time and cultures, marriage has been a heterosexual institution grounded in the procreative function and the responsibilities of parenthood--this more than in either love or adult fulfillment. Marriage is simply the arrangement by which humans perpetuate the species, whether or not they find fulfillment in it.

By Steele's account, marriage is a joyless chore that fertile heterosexuals undertake in order to perpetuate the species. If that's so, no wonder people are less and less inclined to get married.

Then again, there is something very traditional in this account of marriage. For centuries marriages were economic and political institutions, arranged on the basis of securing a livelihood and the aid of a set of in-laws. Procreation is past ages' Social Security. These factors didn't leave a lot of room for chosing based on who you would enjoy spending your life with.


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