email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
269 Amazing Sex GamesA History of MarriageA Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth CenturyActionAll the WayAmerica UnzippedAmerica UnzippedAmerica's Sexual TransformationAmerican EugenicsAmerican GirlsAmerican HookupAn Interpretation of DesireAnarchism & SexualityAnatomy of a BoyfriendAnatomy of LoveAnthony GoicoleaAnticlimaxArt and HomosexualityArt/PornAssuming a BodyAutoportraitBachelors and BunniesBecoming OrgasmicBehind the Red DoorBest Sex Writing 2005Better Sex Through YogaBetter Sex Through YogaBetter Than EverBetween Mom and JoBeyond Diversity DayBeyond SexualityBeyond ToleranceBig Porn IncBill HensonBodies in DoubtBody ImagesBonkBoys Don't CryBreasts - A DocumentaryBrothelBuying SexCase Studies in Communication about SexCase Studies in Sexual DevianceCaught in the WebCelibaciesChildren and SexualityChildren and the Politics of SexualityChildren with Sexual Behavior ProblemsChildren, Sexuality and SexualizationChristy ReportClay's WayClinical Manual of Women's Mental HealthClose toYouClumsyCold HitCollege SexComing of Age in AmericaConfessions of the Other MotherCybersexCyborgasmDare... to Make Love with 2, 3, 4... or MoreDare... to Try BisexualityDating: Philosophy for EveryoneDeadly ButterflyDebating Same-Sex MarriageDeep GossipDeparting from DevianceDesire, Love, and IdentityDigital DiariesDilemmas of DesireDirty MindsDirty StoriesDisorders Of DesireDisorders of Sex Development:Doing ItDoing ItDoing It Down UnderDown and Dirty Sex SecretsDude, You're a FagEarly Embraces IIIEmerald City BluesEmotionally InvolvedEnjoying Guilty PleasuresErotic CapitalErotic InnocenceErotic PassionsEthics, Sexual Orientation, and Choices about ChildrenEveryday PornographyEvolution and Human Sexual BehaviorExploring TranssexualismFade to BlackFagbugFaking ItFamilies Like MineFast GirlsFinal JeopardyFinding H. F.Fire on the Mountain DVDFor Lesbian ParentsFor The Bible Tells Me SoForbiddenFrictionFrom Disgust to HumanityFrom Shame to SinFuckologyGay, Straight, and the Reason WhyGender in the MirrorGender OutlawsGeography ClubGetting RealGetting the Love You WantGirls & SexGirls Gone MildGirls Gone SkankGLBTQGoddess WorshipGoing DownGood GirlsGood PornGood Sex IllustratedGreat Answers to Difficult Questions About SexGuide To Getting It OnHandbook New Sexuality StudiesHandbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual ClientsHard to GetHardcore from the HeartHear Us Out!HeterosyncraciesHit & MissHomosexualitiesHookedHooking UpHow Sex Became a Civil LibertyHow Sex ChangedHow Sex WorksHow To Be GayHow to Do Things with Pornography How to Give Her Absolute PleasureHow to Have Magnificent SexHow to Make Great Love to a ManHow to Make Great Love to a WomanHow to Make Love Like a Porn StarHow to Think More About SexHypnography for MenHypnography for WomenHysterical MenI'd Rather Eat ChocolateI'll Be Your MirrorIf Men Could TalkImpotenceIn a Queer VoiceIn Praise of the WhipIn the Mood, AgainInsatiable WivesIntense Games DVDInvestigating Young People's Sexual CulturesIt's Perfectly NormalIt's Perfectly NormalItís Your HourJane Sexes It UpJock SturgesJust Between UsKama-Sutra--The Secrets to the Art of LoveKids Gone WildLegalizing ProstitutionLegalizing ProstitutionLet's Get This StraightLets Talk about SexLetters to Penthouse Vol. 50Likely to DieLittle ChicagoLoose GirlLosing Matt ShepardLoveLove and DesireLove and SexLove JunkieLove Lust DesireLove SickLustMad for FoucaultMagical ThinkingMaking American BoysMaking Babies the Hard WayMaking Chastity SexyMaking Peace with PornMaking ScenesMale SexualityMalefemaleMaster BreastsMating in CaptivityMedicalized MasculinitiesMelancholia and MoralismMenMental Health Issues in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Communities MiddlesexMoney ShotMoral Panics, Sex PanicsMy Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me UpMy HeartbeatMy Horizontal LifeName All the AnimalsNatural BeautyNerveNerveNew Sex Now DVDNightswimmingNone of the AboveNormalNormalNot GayNot The Marrying KindNot Under My RoofNothing PinkOedipus WreckedOn Being RapedOne Hot SecondOne Hour in ParisOpenOrgasmOrgasm Inc.OrgasmologyOrgasmsOver 100 Truly Astonishing Sex TipsOverexposedPeekPeriod PiecesPervPhilosophizing About Sex Philosophy of Love, Sex, and MarriagePin-up GrrrlsPINSPlease Don't Kill the FreshmanPolicing SexualityPolyamory in the 21st CenturyPornPorn NationPorn StudiesPorn UniversityPornifiedPornlandPornographyPornographyPornography, Sex, and FeminismPosition Of The Day PlaybookPray the Gay AwayPredatorsPremarital Sex in AmericaPrinciples and Practice of Sex TherapyPrivate Dicks - Men ExposedPrivate Practices DVDProblem GirlsPrudePsychopathia SexualisQueer PhilosophyRapeRape Is RapeRated X - A Journey Through PornRazmatazRecruiting Young LoveRedefining GirlyRedefining RapeRegulating SexRethinking Gender and Sexuality in ChildhoodRethinking RapeRunning with ScissorsSatan's Sex BookScreening SexSelling Sex ShortSexSex & Single GirlsSex (Ed)Sex and SpiritSex and the American TeenagerSex and the SoulSex and the Soul, Updated EditionSex and WarSex at DawnSex by NumbersSex DetoxSex Fiends, Perverts, and PedophilesSex in CrisisSex ObjectSex OffendersSex on the BrainSex PositionsSex Q & ASex, Family, and the Culture WarsSex, or the UnbearableSex, Therapy, and KidsSex, Time and PowerSextasySexting and Young PeopleSexual ArtSexual Boundary ViolationsSexual DevianceSexual DisordersSexual EcstasySexual EthicsSexual FluiditySexual IntelligenceSexual Orientation and Psychodynamic PsychotherapySexual Orientation and School PolicySexual PleasureSexual PredatorsSexual Teens, Sexual MediaSexuality in AdolescenceSexuationSexyBookShameShamelessShy GirlSlutWalkSmall FavorsSmutSocial Control of Sex OffendersSome Assembly RequiredSplit ScreenStir-FryStraight to JesusStrange BedfellowsStripped BareSurviving Sexual ViolenceSymptoms of Being HumanTalkTalk to Me FirstTechniques of PleasureTestosterone RexThe Anthropology of SexThe BabiesThe Better Sex Guide to the Kama SutraThe Big Book of PornThe Birth of the PillThe Blue Moon Erotic Reader IIIThe BodyThe Breast BookThe Breath of Tantric LoveThe Busy Couple's Guide to Great SexThe Case of the Female OrgasmThe Chemistry Between UsThe Clitoral TruthThe Education of SophieThe Emergence of SexualityThe End Of AliceThe End of SexThe Erotic EdgeThe Erotic Lives of WomenThe Essential KamasutraThe Fate of GenderThe First Man-Made ManThe First TimeThe Gay Baby BoomThe Good Vibrations Guide to SexThe Happy Hook-UpThe Hite ReportThe Humble Little CondomThe Illustrated Guide to Extended Massive OrgasmThe Illustrated Story of OThe Love CureThe Madness of WomenThe Men They Will BecomeThe Mirror of LoveThe Miseducation of Cameron PostThe Moral Panics of SexualityThe Naked Truth About SexThe Nature of Sexual DesireThe New Erotic PhotographyThe New Gay TeenagerThe Notebook GirlsThe Only Girl in the CarThe Order of the Poison OakThe Origins of SexThe Other HollywoodThe Other PlaceThe Other Side of DesireThe Perils of MasculinityThe Perversion of YouthThe Philosophy of PornographyThe Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary ReadingsThe Pleasure's All MineThe Politics Of LustThe Porn TrapThe Pornographer's GriefThe Pornography IndustryThe Praeger Handbook of TranssexualityThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Purity MythThe Real Truth About Teens and SexThe Right to Be ParentsThe Secret Lives of GirlsThe Sex Addiction WorkbookThe Sex Lives of TeenagersThe Sex MythThe Shared HeartThe Sleep of ReasonThe Smart Girl's Guide to PornThe State of AffairsThe Story of SexThe SurrenderThe Ten Minute Sexual SolutionThe Tenth CircleThe Transformations of GwenThe Transformations of GwenThe Trauma MythThe Ultimate Guide to Sex and DisabilityThe Vagina MonologuesThe ValleyThe Violence of CareThe Virgin BlueThe Virginity ClubThings Tom LikesThinking KinkThinking XXXToo Hot to HandleTransTransTransgender Children and YouthUltimate JudgementUltimate SexUndoing GenderUnlikelyUntangling the WebVirginVirgin NationVirgin Sex for GirlsVirgin Sex for GuysVirginity LostWhat Women WantWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for BoysWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for GirlsWhat's Happening to Tom?What's Wrong with Homosexuality?When Jeff Comes HomeWhen Sex Goes to SchoolWhen the Piano StopsWhere Do We Fall When We Fall in Love?Who Has What?Who's Been Sleeping in Your HeadWilhelm ReichWired for IntimacyWomen and Child Sexual AbuseWomen and MadnessWritten in the FleshZen Sex
Feminist issues often correlate with same-sex issues, especially pertaining to relationship status and marriage. Nicola Barker's book, Not the Marrying Kind: A Feminist Critique of Same-Sex Marriage offers a critique of same-sex marriage through the lens of second-wave feminism combined with queer theory.
Barker analyzes the institution of marriage by arguing that a certain model of marriage (dubbed "the marriage model") has been the litmus test on whether the relationship is legitimate for relationship recognition. Because same-sex marriage is part of the marriage model, this still leaves out certain types of relationships as "not authentic": queer relationships, for example. Therefore, Barker argues for a new model, "one that rejects the marriage model and takes seriously the critiques of marriage from both feminism and queer theory" (2). The critique of marriage from second-wave feminism--which has associated marriage with patriarchy--needs to be revised to address same-sex marriage. I will briefly go through each chapter.
In chapter one, Barker analyzes the marriage model by showing how the law has codified marriage to have essential qualities by stating what is marriage, what are the legal consequences of marriage, and what are the parameters of marriage. However, the claims behind the legalities of marriage were not trying to define marriage; rather, they were defending marriage, specifically one full of ideological undertones. This stems from the Hyde case in the UK since this is the origin of what marriage purports to be. Barker makes a good point that relationships follow into a model that is marriage-like, meaning that the relationship must be "monogamous, sexual, domestic, economically interdependent, and long-term" (39).
In chapter two, Barker looks at various kinds of same-sex relationships. Since the main feature of marriage is set up by the state, separate provisions are seen as legitimate only if they go through the requirements. However, Barker still argues that marriage has always been the model, and any separate provisions of marriage have been within the parameters of the marriage model. It is as if marriage is the foundational standard in which other (legal) relationships must emulate to gain benefits from the state.
Chapter three investigates the litigation of same-sex marriage. There are many broad themes for the legal arguments for same-sex marriage such as equality, access to legal benefits, symbolic importance, and how same-sex marriage would support the marriage institution. Barker mainly focuses on the litigation noting how it was done through the court system or through the state legislative body. The upshot was that same-sex couples could still fit within the marriage model instead of challenging it. Thus, the marriage tent expanded, but the formal institution remained the same.
Chapter four starts the theoretical ground by investigating the arguments for same-sex marriage. Barker analyzes the arguments, but argues that they fail to adequately respond to the feminist critique. I cannot adequately cover all the arguments, so I will cover the ones which may interest the reader, and which Barker focuses the most amount of time on.
The first argument states that same-sex marriage could give political reform to the institution of marriage as a way to change it as a whole. By increasing visibility of same-sex relationships, this would undermine the patriarchal system of marriage, thus endorsing an egalitarian relationship. By allowing same-sex marriage, lesbians and gays can work within the system and thereby transform the institution of marriage by making it less oppressive and more democratic. However, Barker worries that this still allows for the institution of marriage to stand. Moreover, this position does not really alter the institution of marriage by simply allowing same-sex marriage. Barker argues against this first argument in more detail in chapter five.
The second main argument suggests that allowing same-sex marriage would disrupt heterosexuality by making same-sex relationships visible. Because weddings are public and non-violent, this political move ensures that same-sex relationships will not be quiet nor invisible.
Barker's problem is that this still makes lesbian and gay families as part of the heteronormative criteria of what is considered a "normal" family. The second main argument concludes that same-sex marriage could change the marriage institution as a whole. Barker, however, argues that the marriage model could change the relationships, and she shows how in chapter six.
Chapter five is Barker's focus on second-wave radical and socialist feminists to critique same-sex marriage. Women both work and take on the primary responsibilities of the household and children. This reinforces household work as unpaid and privatized, and it has increased with the rise of neoliberalism.
Sexual division was part of class division of labor and relations of production. To free women, she should enter the workforce, thereby ending the sexual division of labor. Otherwise, women staying at home will reinforce capitalism since she is excluded from paid work. Yet she is working at the home which produces "surplus value". Marriage supports this "capitalist patriarchy" because "the employment contract presupposes the marriage contract" (139) by assuming that the (male) worker has a wife to provide caretaking and housework.
Besides the theoretical work from socialist feminists, Barker also uses empirical sociological evidence to support that the division of labor within the family has not changed: women are still expected to work outside the home on the same terms as men and take primary responsibilities for housework and childcare. By having a woman at home, this increases the man's power since she does the "gritty work" while he can go out to have paid work and even leisure time, at the expense of the wife's time. This increased earning power gives men more control of the household income and more power within the marriage. "This strong influence of occupation suggests that there remains a link between both gender and capitalism and household division of labor" (199).
Using the work of Christopher Carrington and Nancy Polikoff, Barker argues that same-sex marriages often supported gender hierarchy in that traditional gender roles were acted out through one partner adopting the role of the other gender. One partner is seen as the "male/masculine role" whereas the other partner was deemed as the "female/feminine role." In other words, same-sex marriage would endorse and reinforce heteronormativity and male patriarchy. The discourse surrounding same-sex marriage suggests that the relationship becomes more and more heteronormatized and less radicalized. Instead of same-sex marriage transforming the model of marriage, it seems that the model of marriage is transforming same-sex marriage.
Chapter six discusses the different types of relationships that do not fit the marriage model. These are the "outlaw" relationships. Barker responds to the the claim that same-sex marriage could transgress the marriage model by challenging the heteronormative boundaries by arguing that same-sex marriage is assimilationist in that it is following the marriage-model. Transgressing the model is limited by the boundaries provided by the legal structure of the marriage model. Yet marriage is the only way for same-sex couples to gain recognition. Barker argues that for recognition to be transformative, it must be accompanied by a politics of redistribution that is also transformative, rather than affirmative. Affirmative remedies (traditional arguments for same-sex marriage have been using these) means seeking access to already existing structures without challenging the underlying framework itself. Transgressive remedies, however, mean correcting the inequalities by restructuring the underlying framework, which is unlikely in the context of marriage. Specifically, because marriage deals with the law, laws cannot process anything that does not fit the norm of that institution. Laws cannot process or recognize same-sex relationships or non-traditional relationships at all unless they were analogous to marriage. "This means that alternative discourses about ways of being intimate, or having relationships, or being single, have no place in the legal arena and are effectively silenced in legal and policy debates" (169). Law reform may result in assimilation and they create boundaries of what can be included or excluded.
The push behind Barker's argument is that outlaw relationships would shift the boundaries of good/bad sex(ualities). Barker argues that a backlash has happened where the boundaries have moved to a responsible/irresponsible dichotomy concerning sexual practices, which crosses hetero/homo sex boundaries. The latter is stigmatized. In other words, by including a group of people into the marriage tent, the laws still exclude other types of relationships from legitimate recognition. Taking her cue from Rubin's article "Thinking Sex," Barker suggests that the discourse revolving around good/responsible sex "becomes the stable, monogamous private perhaps even (inter)dependent relationship between two adults, whereas the bad is the unstable, the fleeting sexual encounter, the non-monogamous or polyamorous, the public" (174). The "normal gay" is integrated as a good, responsible citizen. Sexual outsiders start to stand in for the homosexual as the bad or irresponsible sexual citizen. "Responsible" sexual behaviors become known as stable relationships, which the law can recognize. The bad are the single, promiscuous, and the queer who are deemed irresponsible or immature.
Barker uses two examples to illustrate this: non-monogamy or polyamory, and families we choose. The laws enforce compulsory monogamy by privileging a primary, sexual relationship and institutionalizing coupledom, the presumed "ownership" of another individual. And same-sex marriage reinforces the primacy of marriage in family definitions where there is the primacy of "the family" over other forms of kinship and intimacy, such as friendship. As long as relationship recognition is based on the legal parameters of marriage, regardless if the people involved are hetersexual or homosexual, the laws will continue to be problematic for these "outlaw" relationships.
What is the way out? Barker argues that a politics of recognition must exist alongside one of redistribution. "[T]he law uses recognition and non-recognition to control access to economic justice" (193). The law rewards the adult couples through economics (tax breaks) and cultural status (by being recognized as a family), as long as the family is within certain restrictions (privatized caretaking within the family) by regulating behavior through setting the parameters of respectability and normality. This system is set up where "access to marriage is an inherently affirmative remedy in terms of economic redistribution" (195) rather than a transgressive one.
As an example of a process that is closer to Barker's argument of relationship recognition, she illustrates the Law Commission of Canada with its report, Beyond Conjugality. The focus would be on the functional characteristics of the relationship rather than its legal status, but it also pays attention to the equality within relationships (203). This rejects a "one size fits all" framework that the marriage model provided, by having the relationship based on caretaking instead of sex. This move would not only move beyond marriage, but also the marriage model. As long as there is marriage, it seems that is the only game in town for relationship recognition. Briefly, my only qualm is this positive reform. Unfortunately, it is a brief one page example of what Canada is doing, and it is quite vague in terms of what it is proposing and in terms of what actions could be done to have this reform.
Barker's book is a great contribution to the same-sex marriage debate. She investigates the complexities behind the laws of marriage with a keen insight on how feminism can be used in the debate about same-sex marriage. Those who are interested in same-sex relationships and same-sex marriages would find this book really insightful for her original application of critiquing same-sex marriage through a feminist lens. With the cultural climate leaning toward supporting same-sex marriage for the purposes of equality and status recognition, Barker gives us a challenging look as to whether supporting same-sex marriage really would be beneficial, especially for those who are still excluded from marriage, and whether marriage gives certain recognition that is desired.
© 2013 Shaun Miller
Shaun Miller is a Ph. D. student in philosophy at Marquette University. He has a BA in philosophy from Utah State University and an MA in philosophy from Texas A&M University.