What If We Took Every Marriage Proposal Seriously?

When I made Caesar salad from scratch, my dinner guest proposed to me on the spot.

Fortunately, we already happened to be married, so we didn’t really have to do anything about that proposal. But what if I had someone else over for dinner, and the same thing happened? What if it happened again and again, because my Caesar salad recipe is just that good?

Obviously it’d be ludicrous to suggest that I should take every marriage proposal seriously, since I’m already married. And even if I were single, if I received proposals left and right, no one would actually suggest that I take every proposal seriously and consider it thoughtfully, right?

If you’re with me so far, it’s probably because you acknowledge that marriage is a serious commitment, and that it shouldn’t be rushed into, the same way you wouldn’t rush into any other major life change like suddenly going into a new job field, up and moving to a new country, and so on.

But here’s my point: if it’s ludicrous to suggest that an attractive salad-maker seriously consider every marriage proposal that comes her way, it should be just as ridiculous to say that a person should respond seriously to every flirtatious comment and every attempt at intimacy. And yet that’s exactly what our culture requires women to do.

If someone compliments me, I must accept it graciously, no matter whether it’s a ploy to get in my pants. If a stranger initiates physical contact that’s superficially harmless, I shouldn’t draw attention to it even if it makes me uncomfortable. Even responding to cat-calls with a clever retort makes me an unfunny feminist who takes everything too seriously. These things are not considered “serious,” and it’s easy for offenders to claim that women shouldn’t take it seriously, it doesn’t mean anything.

What if we took every attempt at physical or social contact as seriously as we took marriage proposals? Our cultural landscape might look a lot different, and I think it’d look better.

About Jeana

Jeana

Jeana Jorgensen, PhD recently completed her doctoral degree in folklore and gender studies at Indiana University. She studies fairy tales and other narratives, dance, body art, feminist theory, digital humanities, and gender identity.