NY Mag featured an op-ed by “feminist” Michael Sonmore on July 16 that I hope, on some level, is a piece of satire. Mr. Sonmore’s “What Open Marriage Taught One Man About Feminism” is one of the saddest things I’ve read in years.
The author, a stay-at-home dad, says in his first paragraph:
“She’ll come home in the middle of the night, crawl into bed beside me, and tell me all about how she and Paulo had sex. I won’t explode with anger or seethe with resentment. I’ll tell her it’s a hot story and I’m glad she had fun. It’s hot because she’s excited, and I’m glad because I’m a feminist.”
If Mr. Sonmore’s understanding of modern feminism is correct, then modern feminism is a recipe for disaster.
As a Catholic man, I have vowed before God to give myself — 100 percent — in mind, body, and soul to my wife. She has done the same and we have become one unit. My responsibility is to love her with every fiber of my being, which demands that I always look out for her long-term interests. If I allowed my wife to objectify another human being and turn him into a living sex toy, then I would not be looking out for her spiritual health. If she allowed me to treat female coworkers as masturbatory slot machines, then there is no doubt my spirit would cry out in sorrow.
The author continues:
She didn’t present it as an issue of feminism to me, but after much soul-searching about why the idea of my wife having sex with other men bothered me I came to a few conclusions: Monogamy meant I controlled her sexual expression, and, not to get all women’s-studies major about it, patriarchal oppression essentially boils down to a man’s fear that a woman with sexual agency is a woman he can’t control.
Here again we find a man who doesn’t understand that marriage is not about “oppression” or “control” of one party over another, but a team effort to fully realize one’s mental, physical, and (most importantly) spiritual potential. The proper exercise of authority and control saves lives — and souls. I want my wife to demand that I strive for the kind of happiness that is only attained when one achieves mastery over his or her basest instincts. She expects the same from me.
It gets worse for Mr. Sonmore:
For my wife, the choice between honoring our vows and fulfilling her desires was a false choice, another trap. She knew how deep our love was, and knew that her wanting a variety of sexual experiences as we traveled through life together would not diminish or disrupt that love. It took me about six months — many long, intense conversations, and an ocean of red wine — before I knew it, too.
When my wife told me she wanted to open our marriage and take other lovers, she wasn’t rejecting me, she was embracing herself. When I understood that, I finally became a feminist.
Does a reader laugh or cry that it took the author “an ocean of red wine” to “know” his wife was right? His spirit cried out in protest; instead of listening, he poured an ocean of red wine down his throat to try and shut it up. And yet it still cries out to him, even if he can’t read between the lines of his own op-ed.
Would it be “patriarchal oppression” for a man with two children to forbid his wife from playing Russian Roulette? Of course not. Likewise, it takes a serious amount of self-delusion to believe that prohibiting the sexual equivalent of Russian Roulette is “oppression.”
Speaking of sexual Russian Roulette:
I never forget that my wife is a whole person unto herself, a complete and dynamic individual, and though we are together, we’re not one. …
There are of course moments of jealousy, resentment, and insecurity. Recently, my wife went on a date and fell asleep at his apartment. I hadn’t heard from her since 10 p.m., she still wasn’t home at 6 a.m. My texts went unanswered and my calls went to voicemail. A tight knot of dread lodged in my stomach as I imagined all kinds of dire scenarios and realized that I not only didn’t know where she was, I had no idea whom she was with. I pictured myself going to the police saying, “I think she’s in Red Hook with a guy named Ryan. I don’t know his last name, but I think he’s a graphic designer? I’m not sure there’s actually a word for the unique blend of acute terror and unforgivable shame I felt that morning imagining that I’d lost my wife to Ryan, the maybe graphic designer.”
“We’re not one.” Again, that is where Mr. Sonmore is very wrong. If he or his wife realized and respected how spiritually entwined they are, then he would ironically never be put in a place where “a tight knot of dread” formed in his stomach.
Mr. Sonmore imagined himself saying to the cops, “I think she’s … with a guy named Ryan,” although he could have just as easily said “I think she’s with a man … named Jason Voorhees.”
How does Dear old Dad explain it to the kids when mom leaves the family for another man, mom contracts weird diseases, mom becomes pregnant with another man’s child, or mom winds up dead inside another man’s freezer? These are questions the happily married Catholic man will never have to ponder, and he is better for it.
And then there is this:
I don’t want her to fall in love with anyone else, and every time she goes on a date, I confront the possibility that she might. It happened at the beginning: The first person she dated after we opened up fell hard in love with her, and my wife, overwhelmed by his ardor, tried to love him back. Watching it happen, I was confused, angry, and terrified that she wanted to leave me.
Imagine a marriage where confusion, anger, and terror were always looming over your head at night. It would not be heavenly — it would be hell.
There is a reason why Catholics pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” That is because evil exists, and the surest way to find yourself in a confusing, anger-filled terror-tunnel of your own making is to have a marriage where giving into all forms of sexual temptation is defined as “freedom.”
If you get a chance, then pray for Mr. Sonmore and his wife. They need it.