So, Steven Crowder is back, with more relationship commentary that is so saturated with smug condescension that I have an urge to vomit just thinking about it. For those of you who don’t recognize the name, this is the fellow who wrote an equally smarmy piece a while back about he and his wife had waited until they were married to have sex, and how awesome that makes them. Well, now he’s considerate enough to tell us all why we should go out and get married pronto.
From the onset, Crowder makes sure that the reader can’t stand him. After a brief opening paragraph in which he reminds us “Hey! You know that super-smug article about abstinence until marriage? I wrote that! I’m that guy!” Crowder moves on to state that he makes “no apologies” for his stance on sex and marriage. Well, okay. Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. People weren’t bothered so much by Crowder’s personal choice to put off sex until marriage, people were bothered by his personal choice to write an eight hundred and fifty word self-congratulatory article about it. The people who liked the article already agreed with him, so they wouldn’t want an apology, and the people who were annoyed with the article don’t give a shit about anyone’s ability to go without sex.
Then, he asserts that “As a matter of fact, most of you should be apologizing to me.” Why, you might ask, do we owe some douchebag an apology? Well, apparently, the benefits of marriage haven’t been proclaimed sufficiently enough for his nibs. He goes on to spend a few paragraphs lamenting how marriage is portrayed as a killjoy. While yeah, various media outlets get a lot of mileage out of the “wah, my spouse is frustrating!” trope (and have been getting mileage out of it as long as there have been media outlets and marriage), that happens with lots of things. We don’t blame unemployment on TV and movies that show people who hate their jobs. College is regularly portrayed as a place where the homework monster will eat every waking hour of your life, but we’ve got record enrollment. Why is it that marriage (which isn’t exactly disappearing) needs this special defense? Well, Crowder has taken it upon himself to give us some hard data on why it is that we should all get married.
First off, Crowder promises us that being married will make us wealthier! Hey, I like wealth! How does he support this claim? Why, with a research brief from the Heritage Foundation, whose stated mission is “to formulate and promote conservative public policies.” I was tempted to summarily dismiss him and move on, but I stopped to take a look through what the Heritage Foundation had to say, and know what I found? A whole lot of correlation left out in the hopes of being mistaken for causation.
Yes, married couples tend to be better off than their unmarried counterparts. That said, weddings in America cost an average of about $26K, so it’s less likely that marriage makes you wealthy, and more likely that having a decent amount of wealth allows couples to drop $26K on getting married. Young people (i.e. folks in their twenties) who are cohabitating often can’t afford to spend that kind of money, and when you’re not sure where the winds of fate and grad school might take you, it can be prudent to hold off on getting married until you know where you’re settling down, and you know that your partner’s goals are compatible with yours.
The second “point” Crowder makes is that children perform better when their parents are married. After making this claim, he backs it up with (drumroll, please) still more correlation being passed off as causation by the Heritage Foundation and our old friends over at the Family Research Council. Frankly, this isn’t all that surprising. Children perform best when they are living in the most socially acceptable environment, enjoy a stable home life, and have caregivers who can rely on one another and work together. Who could have seen that coming? What this says to me isn’t “go and get married! DO IT NOW!” Rather, this information leads me to the conclusion “only have children that you have planned for and are well prepared to take care of.”
Moving on, Crowder excitedly proclaims that married people have more frequent and pleasurable sex than non-married people (which he backs up with some info from Maggie Gallagher over at the National Organization for Marriage), and then he goes on to say that it’s even better for those who wait until marriage to have sex. I’ll buy the frequency of sex thing. Of course you can have more sex when your romantic partner lives with you than when they live elsewhere, or don’t even exist. As for the quality of the sex, that’s not so much of a stretch, either. Who do we usually have great sex with? People we really like. Who do we usually marry? People we really like.
Regarding this whole “It’s even better if you wait!” thing, though, I’m a bit more skeptical. The trouble with measuring sexual satisfaction is that it’s entirely subjective, and based on comparison within your own experience. If you’ve only ever had sex with one person, then that’s the best sex you’ve ever had. Add onto that the fact that people who wait until marriage to have sex are routinely told that theirs will be the best sex ever, and all those filthy fornicating whores out there will never truly be happy, of course they’re going to say that their sex lives are great (and hey, if it’s working for them, whatever). If you only ever give someone an Oreo, and make sure that you talk up Oreos all their life and stress to them that all other cookies suck, then they’ll probably think Oreos are the best cookie, too.
Fourth on Crowder’s list is a statement that if you are married, ”you won’t be such a pathetic sloth.” Why does he say that? Well, according to Crowder (he doesn’t bother to add any references to social conservative think tanks this time), married people are more likely to be employed, and tend to make more money. This is more, say it with me, correlation being passed off as causation. When responding to his first point, I pointed out that it’s not that marriage magically makes you wealthier, but that being financially secure makes people more likely to marry. Another factor is probably that lots of people are putting off marriage until later in life, when they’re far more likely to have a good job.
Now we come to the fifth and final of Crowder’s marvelous revelations, that being that being married makes you live longer and healthier. Correlation being passed off as causation! Take a drink! Seriously, though, I can see how this might be the case. Having someone watching your back will probably help your health, and having a companion makes exercise more fun, I often find. That said, it is not simply the state of being married that does this, but routinely seeing and sharing time with someone you really like.
The name of Crowder’s article is “A man’s top 5 reasons to grow up and get married.” He asserts (in a manner that offends both men and women, I think) that being married will suddenly make men productive and clean, because they will “have a dame whip them into shape.” At the end of the piece, Crowder likens marriage to “a 24/7 sleepover party with the greatest friend you’ve ever had.” Throughout the article, Crowder makes lots of arguments as to why men should go and get married. Here’s the thing, though: Marriage isn’t just something you up and decide to do. Being married isn’t a state of being you find yourself in after a trip down to the post office to fill out a form. It isn’t something you do on a whim.
Carrying on from that, your spouse does not magically appear once you fill out this nonexistent marriage opt-in form to clean up after you, feed you, hang out with you, support you, etc. Marriage is a part of a larger relationship, a relationship with a real person with their own thoughts, dreams, and feelings. Yes, divorce rates are high. Yes, there are lots of people who are in abusive or unsatisfying marriages. That’s why it’s important that people these days are thinking long and hard about who they want to become legally attached to, and taking their time in getting to know every aspect of them.
In closing, consider where all this advice about marriage and how great and successful it makes you is coming from: An occasional Fox News commentator and YouTuber who has been married all of six months, who backs his statements up with misleading reports from right-wing think tanks and hate groups, who seems to think that what matters is not who you marry, but that you marry, and who is convinced that the only way his or anyone else’s partner will be happy is if they have nothing to compare the sex with. Yes, marriage has lots of good things to it, but Steven Crowder is not the one to champion them.
See also: Brute Reason’s coverage of the same.