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Gay or Straight, We All Want a Wife

Lesbians are getting married at a higher rate than gay men, and it's probably not because of commitment-phobic guys.

In the wake of New York's passage of gay marriage, the New York Post rolled out a compelling statistic: In the states that allow same-sex marriage, gay women tie the knot more than gay men do. Considering that studies often show there are slightly more gay men than lesbians, these numbers are pretty significant. The Post was quick to surmise that the statistics reinforce how men are simply more commitment-phobic, whether they're gay or straight. Marriage scholar Stephanie Coontz seemed to agree, telling the Post, "This is the way men and women have been socialized from the time we're born... 'Go out, don't commit too early'...It's the message all men receive."

But consider the flip side: Maybe people, gay or straight, feel better about gaining a wife than they do a husband. Recent statistics show that the commitment-phobic straight man stereotype is a myth: 66 percent of men agree that it's "better to get married than to go through life single," compared to 51 percent of women. Even Coontz clarified her statements for GOOD: "Although women tend to be more eager to get a proposal or to propose and more excited about the wedding," she says, "men are actually more likely than women to say that (eventually) being married is their ideal lifestyle."

They have every reason to feel this way: men benefit more from taking the plunge than women do. Married men earn more money and feel more satisfied with their lives. Women, on the other hand, feel more ambivalent about the whole exercise. Once women seal the deal, they're more likely to be tasked with child-rearing, perform more housework, and sacrifice career time for family time—all of which benefits their spouses. It's no wonder that Judy Brady's 1971 women's liberation essay, "I Want A Wife," became an instant classic.

There isn't yet any conclusive explanation for why lesbians are more eager to marry than gay men. Here's one theory: Lesbians are more likely to line up at the altar because, culturally, gaining a wife is a better deal than gaining a husband. Perhaps they're more confident that a woman would share in the child-rearing and housekeeping responsibilities. Gay men, on the other hand, may think: "What's in it for me?"

This is all speculation, and it's way too early for comprehensive studies on how equitable lesbian marriages actually are. At the very least, though, we shouldn't be leaning on age-old stereotypes about how people feel about matrimony, especially if they've been debunked.

photo (cc) by Flickr user Kanaka Menehune

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