Sara Burrows, a polyamorist, has written at The Federalist that the government’s involvement in marriage—gay or straight—is discriminatory against single people and a growing number of couples who maintain multiple sexual and “romantic” relationships at once.
Welcome to our brave new world. Marriage is romanticized into insignificance. Sex is everything.
“The government has no business incentivizing any type of romantic or non-romantic behavior,” Burrows argues. “It has no business rewarding us or penalizing us based on our relationship status.”
While some, like Christopher Freiman at Bleeding Heart Libertarians, conclude from the Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage that polygamous marriages should be legalized too, Burrows rejects polygamy and says government should get out of marriage altogether because it’s unfair to people like her who are in a “committed relationship” but choose to have many partners.
“Instead of legislating sexual morality,” she writes, “the government should stick to what it was designed to do best: protecting individual liberties.”
Marriage Licenses Protect Children
Burrows is correct: If marriage is primarily about love and romance—as the Supreme Court has unilaterally decided—then the government should get out of marriage licensing. But, despite the Supreme Court’s decision, marriage is about more than just love. Love is part of it (or can be), but when it comes to the government’s interest in marriage (which is another way of saying society’s interest in marriage), it’s about children—and not just childrearing, which is all Justice Kennedy focused on in his opinion; it’s about childbearing.
Why? For the very reason Burrows gives for government getting out of marriage: protecting individual rights and liberties. Whose rights and liberties? Those of children. The reason local government gives marriage licenses is not to legislate sexual morality or to meddle in people’s romantic affairs. It’s to have on record that any children who might come from that biological union will be taken care of by their biological parents (and it’s not the job of the government to give a litmus test regarding who can and can’t—or choose not to—have children).
By recognizing the family unit, the government is protecting the rights and liberties of children to be raised by their actual mom and dad, not by anyone else. Parents are held responsible for their children. The state isn’t responsible. Their neighbor isn’t responsible. They—the biological parents— are responsible. By removing this protective shield around children, the state exposes children to being intentionally and completely deprived of a parent or to government itself taking the parents’ place.
Anyone who advocates for government getting out of marriage in the name of liberty is actually creating a situation in which greater liberty will be lost as government authority expands into the lives of our children. In other words, if parents aren’t responsible for children, the state will be.
Libertarians make a big deal about protecting individual rights and liberties for adults, but they don’t seem to have any interest in protecting the rights and liberties of children. That’s as true for Obergefell v. Hodges, in its denial of a child’s right to his mom and dad, as it was for Roe v. Wade, in its denial of a child’s right to life.
Why Polyamory Is Horse Manure
As for polyamory, Burrows and her baby daddy, Brad, can do whatever they want in the hedonistic hills of Appalachia, but if she’s going to take to the Internet to evangelize free love, she warrants a response.
Burrows describes her acceptance of the polyamory lifestyle as one of liberty: “I had freed myself from the grips of government, religion, and parents. The only chains left to throw off were those on my sexuality—particularly the chains of monogamy.”
With the chains of conventionality broken, Burrows and Brad can escape sexual boredom by “falling in love, over and over and over again”—with other people. “Now, we have the best of both worlds,” she writes, “the security of a steady, stable partner, to have and to hold, and the sense of adventure and excitement at the thought of the unknown, the possibility of new romance around every corner, the butterflies in our stomachs we never thought we’d get the chance to feel again.”
The delusion in these words is breathtaking. Burrows was so quick to throw off the chains of religion and social norms that she fails to see that she has entered a new kind of bondage: she is bound by the chains of her sexual desires. Little does she know that those butterflies that make her feel so alive will soon become dragons that burn off her soul and reduce her to an empty shell of animalistic appetites. Burrows fails to see that liberty—real liberty—is found in self-government and self-control, not in doing whatever the hell she wants.
Deborah Taj Anapol, author of “Polyamory in the Twenty-First Century,” says polyamory doesn’t offer all the answers newbies expect.
“There is an old story about a highly optimistic little girl who’s asked Santa to bring her a pony for Christmas,” Anapol wrote. “She eagerly awakens on Christmas morning and races downstairs to open her presents only to find a huge pile of horse manure. Her puzzled parents ask her why she’s jumping up and down with excitement and gratitude instead of feeling disappointed. Her response is that with all this shit there must be a pony around somewhere. For many people, polyamory is a bit like this. They are expecting great things—more love, more sex, more family, more fun, more pleasure, more excitement. What they find is more jealousy, possessiveness, manipulation, control, self-centeredness, lies, melodrama, chaos, power struggles, and pain.”
All the love and excitement Burrows wants to enliven her relationship with her baby daddy really is, as Anapol puts it, just a pile of manure.
“Thrills come at the beginning and do not last,” C.S. Lewis wrote. “If you decide to make thrills your regular diet and try to prolong them artificially, they will all get weaker and weaker, and fewer and fewer, and you will be a bored, disillusioned old man [or woman] for the rest of your life.”
Thrills Don’t Last, But Faithful Love Does
Burrows says she wants to fall in love over and over again. Instead of doing this with her daughter’s father by getting married and committing to loving only him, she wants to keep alive that titillating feeling by falling in love with other men.
But it’s not love if there is no commitment. It’s only sex. It’s only lust. Those who are in love, Lewis wrote, have a natural inclination to bind themselves by promises—promises of faithfulness and devotion—which is why polyamory inevitably devolves into a pigsty of jealousy and pain. People who love want promises with that love; otherwise, anger and destruction follow.
While most human beings relish being in love, the heart-pounding feeling of “being in love” isn’t often sustained over time. But that doesn’t mean it dies. It stays alive, but grows and matures, moving lovers to a more steady kind of love—a faithful love. This “quieter love,” as Lewis put it, which is a “deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit” and reinforced by grace, enables a couple to keep their promises. “It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”
This doesn’t mean husbands and wives consign themselves to a boring marriage without sex. We are sexual beings, and, if we’re healthy, we long to be physically close to the person we love. It’s important, and necessary, to have a meaningful sex life. But that doesn’t mean we need butterfly-inducing sex found with strangers. There is a beauty to familiar sex between a husband and wife that is a thrill all its own. The love is deep, and sex is an expression of real intimacy—a love built on promises that there is only one. No jealousy. No fear. No pain. And, I should add, no sexually transmitted diseases.
Burrows is a woman enslaved to lust and to romantic notions about “being in love.” It is keeping her from experiencing the glorious freedom of committed—and, yes, quiet—love. So absorbed is she by lust and so bound by her sexual taskmaster that she doesn’t even stop to think about the impact her polyamory will have on her daughter. To become healthy adults, children need the stability of parents who are exclusively committed to each other, without creepy strangers who only care about sex drifting in and out of their lives. They don’t need to roll around in the manure of polyamory with promises that somewhere there’s a shiny pony.
Anyone who thinks the butterflies of sex with strangers are worth all the pain that follows should take Shakespeare’s words in Sonnet 129 to heart. They are wisdom for the ages.
The expense of the spirit in the waste of shame
Is lust in action, and till action, lust
Is perjured, murd’rous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,
Enjoyed no sooner but despised straight,
Past reason hunted, and no sooner had,
Past reason hated as a swallowed bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad;
Mad in pursuit, and in possession so,
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
All this the world well knows, yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.