Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

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Men Who Stop Rape

7 November 2013

Women have made considerable gains worldwide in calling attention to rape, whether it be the victims of American party-culture to Indian gang-rape atrocities to the pre-teen molestation culture in Papua New Guinea. In 2011-12 the United Nations conducted the largest worldwide study of rape, covering six nations. When taking into account non-consensual sex in marriage, or an inability of a partner to refuse sex, about one in four men surveyed reported committing some kind of rape. The issue is on the table.

But are the solutions being set forth clearly? One that must be put forward in any discussion, in my opinion, is the importance of raising up male anti-rape advocates. Because sexual force stems so much from a sense of entitlement to gratification, and because entitlement derives from cultural norms, men must be vocal in stating that rape is not normative or acceptable. More specifically, important men, “normative” men, must step up to the microphone and air this message.

A friend here in Sioux Falls was commissioned with the leadership of a domestic violence rehab group. He was surprised to find how resistant men were to admitting that they were in control of a situation involving physical or sexual violence. “I couldn’t help myself” or “She was asking for it” became common mantras to avoid personal responsibility. The leader had to walk the men through the decisions they had actually made: “Did you attack her?” “Did you choose to hit her with your fist or kick her?” “Which clothing did you try to take off her?” And so forth. Ultimately, these men hoped that male sympathy for “natural” passions would override personal responsibility. A group like this undid the hope. And it started with a strong male leader. Once multiple men took responsibility for their crime, others followed.

The same sort of thing has been happening in Nairobi, Kenya. After some rapists were released after receiving a sentence of mowing the lawn, the Men to Men program of FEMNET showed up to protest. Kennedy Otina was one of those in attendance, publicly demonstrating. “When there is a case in court,” Otina said, rapists “tend to think or assume that we [men] will be the ones to defend them, to support them in court, but you know when they get to us, we help them understand that violence against women is not acceptable.”

The crimes occurring in bedrooms start with the attitudes born in public forums. Fortunately, key men around the world are taking a stand.

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Can Women Propose to Men on Leap Day?

29 February 2012

Of course, women can propose to men on any day they please, provided they are willing risk rejection and/or strange looks from general society.  But according to a  tradition dating to the 18th century and popularized during the Victorian period, women are especially permitted to propose to their man on February 29.  Leap Day proposals are discussed as possibilities in the USA, UK and Scandavian lands (though, from what I gather, rarely practiced).  Urban legends sometimes claim that she-proposing harkens back to Sts. Patrick and Bridget, but Patricia L. Richard claims it was only in 1864, with the advent of mass advertising, that any noteworthy number of people actually defended the right of a woman to pop the question on the rarified February day.

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Vietnamese Men Have to Get Their “Second Visa”

10 November 2011

A Newsweek survey earlier this year found that a mere 8% of men had cheated on their significant other on a business trip.  That debunked a long-standing myth about men on the road.  But when it comes to international travel, particularly travel to Vietnam, wives aren’t resting assured.  Vietnamese men traveling back to their economically-depressed country of origen find a highly flirtatious group of women looking for romantic, wealthy boyfriends.  The reputation is bad enough that Vietnamese businessmen speak of having to get a “second visa” – this one from their wives – in order to travel back to Vietnam.  A California newspaper reports.

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Getting Intimate with Karl Barth

16 August 2011

It is impossible to force Karl Barth, the eminent Reformed theologian of the 20th century, into any box, doctrinal or psychological. But I found this comment from Hans Frei the most perceptive I’ve read when it comes to psychoanalyzing the man.

[H]is relations with others, including many long and loyal friendships with other theologians and pastors, seem to have been forged through a sense of common vocation and common moral tasks, rather than through the art of mutual personal cultivation or direct in-depth “encounter.” His intimate relation with his long-time assistant, Charlotte von Kirschbaum, was in its way perhaps the most striking instance of the first type of relationship in his life; his sad misrelation to his wife was his paradigmatic failure in the other kind. . . . To what extent did a sense of shared vocation govern even his intimately personal, sexual life? [Hans W. Frei, Review Article: Eberhard Busch’s Biography of Karl Barth, Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church 51:1 (Mar 1982): 111].

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Al and Tipper Gore: A Public Marriage, a Private Divorce

1 June 2010

Gore Wedding, 1970

After forty years of marriage, Al and Tipper Gore let a circle of friends know that they were “separating,” seemingly calling quits to matrimony.  The email was leaked to the Associated Press, and while it has been confirmed by the Gores PR representative, the Gores themselves have already indicated that no more details will be forthcoming.

Al Gore has been a significant political figure in determining what should be deemed public  or private.  Atmospheric changes?  Public.  Presidential escapades with White House interns?  Private.  Electoral recounts?  Public.  The lives of politicians’ children?  Private.  Romance with one’s wife?  Public (according to the famous smooch at the 2000 Democratic Convention).  Divorce from one’s wife?  Very, very private.

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Husbands Need Wives…

28 October 2009

This month in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, a number of billboards went up in town, featuring homely looking men and reading simply, “Husbands Need Wives.”  It got the whole town buzzing. 

husbands_need_wivesA pro-family message?  An anti-divorce message?  Something to do with peace among the sexes?  A traditionalist message?  Or something progressive?  Everyone was stirred up by them.  Within a couple of weeks even the gay rights activists had contacted the newspaper, anticipating some manner of discrimination afoot. 

The punchline came out later this month.  “Husbands Need Wives… to Get an Annual Mammogram.”  It is breast cancer awareness month, after all.  The billboards were funded by Avera McKennan Hospital, and their spokesman assured everyone that there were no subliminal messages intended in the billboards (there was, he reminded everyone, a billboard reading, “Boys Need Mothers.”  Men simply need to get invested in the health of their wives, especially when it comes to breast cancer.

Kudos to Avera McKennan on this one.  Aside from staging the most successful publicity ad campaign in Sioux Falls years, they also managed to get men invested in women’s health.  More specifically, they opened up the door for men to talk with women about breast health.  Admittedly, it’s difficult for us men to dialogue about this.  Mentioning this intimate body part seems to be socially inappropriate.  Talking about breasts this was also seems to demystify them; men can admire them or even giggle about them, but discussing metastasis of cancer cells in them seems unholy in every way.

But the truth is that breast cancer is an unholy reality.  My aunt’s early death is just one example of this most unwelcomed fact.  Men need their these women in their lives.  And women need their men to be committed and aware.

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Permanent Bachelorhood Loses One of Its Leaders

9 October 2009

swingersvaughnVince Vaughn, one of America’s most outstanding bachelors, announced this month that is tying the knot with Canadian real estate agent Kyla Webber.  It seems that Vaughn’s movie, Couples Retreat, may have been therapeutic.  What happened to the lovable party animal from Swingers?  What will become of the Frat Pack? 

Interestingly, he told Oprah.com that he decided to get married not in order to find greater fulfillment, but to have kids.  He is actually sprinting towards responsibility.  He isn’t letting out many details about his relationship, but seems excited mostly excited about the new possibilities of a responsible life. 

On the other side, he has expressed ambivalence about whether the relationship is going to change him.  Good luck on that. 

The anthropological observation of importance here is that many men in America today are experiencing a mid-life crisis.  In contradistinction from a generation ago, however, these men are making moves towards resposibility, not irresponsibility.  Men today get married and have a child, where the boomer escapees were running from their wives and kids.  The midlife crisis today is not a new adolescence.  It is the late departure from it.

The political right – as in Kay S. Hymowitz’s recent article – continues the drumbeat for earlier marriages.  Certainly a wife and child and mortgage will force men to grow up.  Maybe.  But in a world where marriages are dissolvable as aspirin tablets, will this really do this trick?  Besides, men like Vaughn are going into marriage these days with the caveat that they don’t have to change their immature ways.  The a-woman-will-whip-me-into-shape days are over.  Which is why bearing children has become the real test of maturity.  Offspring are so, well, concrete.

In the end, maybe the only weapon the cause of maturity can wield is the promise of a better life.  Being a man is better than being a boy.  Attending a city council meeting is better than watching Southpark.  Wooing a woman is far superior to beating off to Maxim magazine.  Raising a child is more satisfying than being one.  If Vince Vaughn can come to that realization, why not others?