Well, color me surprised: Matt Walsh is at it again.** I never know where to begin with this guy–should I start with his imaginary friends that write him letters and emails? Or maybe with the fact that he’s created caricatures of people for the sake of taking them down? Actually, I might go with just shaking my head at how many people seem to like and follow this guy.
This week’s installment is “stereotypes of liberal college professors.” Oh, nice one, Matt. Let’s take on academia! Because no one has ever done that before and done it better than Matt Walsh! I think it’s hilarious that Matt tries to sell us on his being the subject of conversation in high schools and colleges (remember the one about health class?). No, dude, you are just not that important.
I’m pretty sure my favorite part of the fake email is where, since he couldn’t actually think of something to write, Matt says,
[Five more sentences of insults and pretentious self-aggrandizement]
Oh, okay. We get to hear all about how “worried” this fictional professor is that Matt is a topic of conversation, thus stroking Matt’s ego, but we don’t get to read about the “self-aggrandizement” of the professor.
The gist of the email is that the fictional professor believes monogamy is not natural to humans (particularly men) and is no longer necessary. He then goes on to personalize it, suggesting that Matt will inevitably cheat on his wife. I will admit that I’ve met people who believe this and who are unkind about the way that some people choose to live their lives. However, none of them fall into the stereotypes Matt has suggested here (well-educated atheist in academia), and none of them have had the misogynistic overlays Matt has used in his fictional scenario (that is, only men cheat, only men believe monogamy is unnatural, etc.).
After making a couple of snide remarks about the “professor,” Matt goes on to say:
A married person who doesn’t believe in monogamy seems an awful lot like a Satanist in a church choir, or an existential nihilist performing lifesaving heart surgery. There’s a bit of a philosophical conflict of interest at work, wouldn’t you agree?
No, Matt, I don’t agree, and you’re an ass who doesn’t understand any of the things your conflating here. Matt is equating non-monogamy with cheating. Those are not the same thing. We can have a conversation about whether it’s moral or a good idea or whatever, but we need to do it on the terms of what the concepts actually are. A person can be non-monogamous in a marriage without sneaking around and having illicit affairs.
Matt tells us why he bothers answering these fake emails:
In fact, I wouldn’t even bother to address such absurdity if it wasn’t becoming so widespread. What you people — you socially “progressive” academics — have realized is that you can not launch a salient attack against the ideals behind marriage, or abstinence for that matter, so instead you’ve decided to make the bizarre case that these things are somehow mythological.
“Widespread”? Really? I’m not seeing it. Also, this is not a new thing. People who believe humans are not wired for monogamy have been around for a long, long time. Goodness, I remember reading this stuff back when I was in high school in the ’80s, and it wasn’t new even then (though as a high schooler I thought I’d stumbled on some terrifying new philosophy). Matt needs to catch up a little.
As for not being able to “launch a salient attack against the ideals behind marriage,” Matt needs to catch up there, too. In so many ways, marriage and family have changed. I don’t mean in the last half-century with the changes in divorce laws or in the last ten years with more states legalizing marriage equality. I mean over the course of human existence. The purpose, function, and practice of marriage are ever-shifting, and that isn’t a bad thing at all. I, for one, am happy that I’m not still considered property, for example. The ideal behind marriage–which I would argue is a mutual expression of love, trust, and commitment–can still be present no matter how a couple decides to live that out.
The more you say it, the more people believe it, and the more they believe it the more true it becomes. It’s a clever trick. You’ve succeeded, at least partially, in shouting at a reality until it disappears.
But conservatives never, ever do this. Nope. And it’s never been used to bully, shame, and abuse people. Ever.
Monogamy is not natural. You’re right about that.
I honestly don’t even know what he means by this. He also goes on to talk about “rationality” and a whole bunch of other stuff that generally makes very little sense to me. Maybe I just don’t have Matt’s incredible intellectual powers of debate. At no point does he bother explaining how monogamy is supernatural. I was expecting some stuff about, you know, God somewhere in there, but he never gets around to that.
It’s above our nature. It might not be realistic. Space flight isn’t realistic, either.
I think Matt and I have vastly different definitions of “realistic.” Does he mean “naturalistic”? Because realism, by definition, is something that is real. Space flight has been real for over 40 years.
I’m already bored with Matt’s not-really-a-rebuttal. There’s no direction here. He’s basically saying that the “professor” is wrong because he’s wrong. Or because of space flight. He finally tells us what he really thinks:
If you won 600 million dollars in the lottery, would you go out the next day and break into cars to steal the change from the cup holders? That’s what sleeping around is like when you’ve already found a woman who will pledge her life and her entire being to you for the remainder of her existence.
Ah. So there we have it–he sees non-monogamy as “sleeping around.” Because in Matt’s world, there are only two kinds of sexual expression: Man-Woman-Marriage sex and Get-It-On-With-Anyone sex. On, off. Black and white. He cannot imagine anything outside of those options. (This is, of course, how we know the “professor” doesn’t exist, by the way–he’s created as the anti-Matt.)
You tell me that you are in an “open marriage.” I will probably be lambasted for “judging” you for it, but, sorry Professor, an “open marriage” makes about as much sense as a plane without wings or a boat that doesn’t float.
Matt means it doesn’t make sense to him. I’m willing to bet it makes sense to the people who choose something different. My concern is less about Matt judging a fictional character for a scenario that, in this case, doesn’t actually exist than about the fact that Matt just doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about and isn’t arguing his case particularly well.
Marriages, by definition, are supposed to be closed.
By whose definition? In the Bible, marriages certainly weren’t “closed.” Multiple wives? Check. Concubines? Check. Song of Solomon may even be referring to an unmarried couple. Human history and culture is full of a wide variety of configurations, all of which were considered acceptable. The fact that we’ve now caught up with ourselves socially (to an extent) and can embrace marriage as a choice rather than as a business deal is wonderfully freeing.
If you aren’t strong enough to stay committed to one person, that’s your business. Walk down that path of loneliness and confusion, but you can’t drag the entire institution of marriage along with you. Personally, I like circles but I hate squares. Can I subvert the laws of geometry and suddenly decide that all squares shall henceforth be circles? No, because geometry is geometry, despite my strange square-hating quirks. Similarly, marriage is marriage, no matter how many college professors insist otherwise.
Oh, Matt. You poor soul. Though I now see exactly where he’s gone with this. He seems to think that this one fictional character can single-handedly take down marriage. I don’t think this fake letter is about non-monogamy at all. I think it’s a disguise for Matt’s frustration with the trajectory of marriage equality. I’ve heard that argument before, that marriage is on its way out. You know what’s really shooting down marriage? It’s not people who live happily in open marriages. It’s not same-sex couples. It’s not polys. Heck, it’s not even divorce (I can’t imagine telling someone who has escaped an abuser that s/he has ripped the fabric of society). No, it’s people like Matt who want to cling to a very narrow definition of what marriage is or should be (which is fine, if that’s what the couple wants) and then enforce it so everyone else must follow suit.
Matt seems content to blame crumbling marriages on nebulous philosophies and the relatively small number of people who are honest about their non-monogamy. But that denies abuse, addiction, actual cheating (vs. non-monogamy), religious oppression, misogyny, and homophobia as far bigger contributors. It’s important to open the conversation about how people can live moral, healthy lives. That’s not what Matt’s done here. Perhaps that’s because it’s easier to hide behind imaginary academics than it is to engage with live human beings.
*I think that was actually the title of a Far Side book. Man, I miss Far Side.
**If you get the chance, check out this page. The Five Drunk Rednecks (I love it) posted a couple of comments on my previous posts about Matt Walsh (it’s so gratifying that I have that much reach with my tiny little blog). So I ventured over to their page. I would call it a treasure trove, except “treasure” isn’t the word I want and I’m not sure what its antithesis is. Anyway, read up on it over there. Matt Walsh has been saying douchey things for ages.