Regnerus, “Cheap Sex”

9780190673611We’re a little late getting to this, but a few months ago Oxford published a new book by University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus, Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy, which has received a lot of attention. Regnerus addresses millennials’ apparent lack of interest in marriage and family and says much of the problem (if it is a problem) results from the fact that sex has become more accessible and less costly, and not only in monetary terms. As religious scruples fade, the spiritual costs of easy sex decrease as well — and when the cost of something goes down, more people decide they can afford it. In fact, Regnerus argues, for some people sex may take the place of traditional religion, offering a substitute, though ultimately dissatisfying, path to the transcendent. There are interesting gender dynamics, too. Regnerus, a conservative, points out that a regime of cheap sex favors men more than women–another irony of the sexual revolution, which was supposed to lead to greater equality between the sexes. Here’s the description from the Oxford website:

Sex is cheap. Coupled sexual activity has become more widely available than ever. Cheap sex has been made possible by two technologies that have little to do with each other – the Pill and high-quality pornography – and its distribution made more efficient by a third technological innovation, online dating. Together, they drive down the cost of real sex, and in turn slow the development of love, make fidelity more challenging, sexual malleability more common, and have even taken a toll on men’s marriageability.

Cheap Sex takes readers on an extended tour inside the American mating market, and highlights key patterns that characterize young adults’ experience today, including the timing of first sex in relationships, overlapping partners, frustrating returns on their relational investments, and a failure to link future goals like marriage with how they navigate their current relationships. Drawing upon several large nationally-representative surveys, in-person interviews with 100 men and women, and the assertions of scholars ranging from evolutionary psychologists to gender theorists, what emerges is a story about social change, technological breakthroughs, and unintended consequences. Men and women have not fundamentally changed, but their unions have. No longer playing a supporting role in relationships, sex has emerged as a central priority in relationship development and continuation. But unravel the layers, and it is obvious that the emergence of “industrial sex” is far more a reflection of men’s interests than women’s.

Birge, “Marriage and the Law in the Age of Khubilai Khan”

In June, the Harvard University Press will release “Marriage and the Law in the Age of Khubilai Khan: Cases from the Yuan dianzhang,” by Bettine Birge (University of Southern California).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Mongol conquest of China in the thirteenth century and Khubilai Khan’s founding of the Yuan dynasty brought together under one government people of 9780674975514-lgdifferent languages, religions, and social customs. Chinese law evolved rapidly to accommodate these changes, as reflected in the great compendium Yuan dianzhang (Statutes and Precedents of the Yuan Dynasty). The records of legal cases contained in this seminal text, Bettine Birge shows, paint a portrait of medieval Chinese family life—and the conflicts that arose from it—that is unmatched by any other historical source.

Marriage and the Law in the Age of Khubilai Khan reveals the complex, sometimes contradictory inner workings of the Mongol-Yuan legal system, seen through the prism of marriage disputes in chapter eighteen of the Yuan dianzhang, which has never before been translated into another language. The text includes court testimony—recorded in the vivid vernacular of people from all social classes—in lawsuits over adultery, divorce, rape, wife-selling, marriages of runaway slaves, and other conflicts. It brings us closer than any other source to the actual Mongolian speech of Khubilai and the great khans who succeeded him as they struggled to reconcile very different Mongol, Muslim, and Chinese legal traditions and confront the challenges of ruling a diverse polyethnic empire.

“Justice and Mercy Have Met” (Martens, ed.)

In January, the Catholic University of America Press released “Justice and Mercy Have Met: Pope Francis and the Reform of the Marriage Nullity Process,” edited by Kurt Martens (The Catholic University of America).  The publisher’s description follows:

With the promulgation of the motu proprio Mitis iudex Dominus Iesus for the Latin Church and the motu proprio Mitis et misericors Iesus for the Eastern Catholic Churches,hfs.bibliometa.jpg both dated August 15, 2015, Pope Francis addressed the calls during the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (October 5-9, 2014) for a simplified procedure for the declaration of the nullity of marriages. Pope Francis introduced a briefer process to be conducted by the diocesan bishop and he simplified the current ordinary nullity process. The new procedural norms went into effect on December 8, 2015.

New legislation always challenges first and foremost the practitioner: how is the new legislation to be understood and applied? Immediately after the new law was made public, a number of articles on this new legislation were published in The Jurist. The School of Canon Law of The Catholic University of America organized a March 2016 Workshop on the very topic of this important procedural reform.

These articles are now brought together in one volume to assist those who work with these norms in the various tribunals dealing with marriage cases. It is hoped that this volume will be of great service to all those who serve the people of God in the ministry of justice, and that these contributions will truly be a help in understanding and applying the new norms.

Cristellon, “Marriage, the Church, and its Judges in Renaissance Venice, 1420-1545”

In January, Palgrave Macmillan will release “Marriage, the Church, and its Judges in Renaissance Venice, 1420-1545,” by Cecilia Cristellon (Konstanz University).  The publisher’s description follows:

This book investigates the actions of marriage tribunals by analyzing the richest source of marriage suits extant in Italy, those of the Venetian ecclesiastical tribunal, 9783319387994between 1420 and the opening of the Council of Trent. It offers a strongly representative overview of the changes the Council introduced to centuries-old marriage practices, relegating it to the realm of marginality and deviance and nearly erasing the memory of it altogether. From the eleventh century onward, the Church assured itself of a jurisdictional monopoly over the matter of marriage, operating both in concert and in conflict with secular authorities by virtue of marriage’s civil consequences, the first of which regarded the legitimacy of children. Secular tribunals were responsible for patrimonial matters between spouses, though the Church at times inserted itself into these matters either directly, by substituting itself for the secular authority, or indirectly, by influencing Rulings through their own sentences. Lay magistratures, for their part, somewhat eroded the authority of ecclesiastical tribunals by continuing to exercise autonomous jurisdiction over marriage, especially regarding separation and crimes strictly connected to the nuptial bond and its definition, including adultery, bigamy, and rape.

Holmes, “The Church of England and Divorce in the Twentieth Century”

In October, Routledge will release The Church of England and Divorce in the Twentieth Century: Legalism and Grace by Ann Sumner Holmes (Louisiana State University). The publisher’s description follows:The Church of England and Divorce in the Twentieth Century

Attitudes towards divorce have changed considerably over the past two centuries. As society has moved away from a Biblical definition of marriage as an indissoluble union, to that of an individual and personal relationship, secular laws have evolved as well. Using unpublished sources and previously inaccessible private collections, Holmes explores the significant role the Church of England has played in these changes, as well as the impact this has had on ecclesiastical policies. This timely study will be relevant to ongoing debates about the meaning and nature of marriage, including the theological doctrines and ecclesiastical policies underlying current debates on same-sex marriage.

 

Reynolds, “How Marriage Became One of the Sacraments”

In February, Cambridge University Press will release “How Marriage Became One of the Sacraments: The Sacramental Theology of Marriage from its Medieval Origins to the Council of Trent” by Philiip Reynolds (Emory University). The publisher’s description follows:

Among the contributions of the medieval church to western culture was the idea that marriage was one of the seven sacraments, which defined the role of married folk in the church. Although it had ancient roots, this new way of regarding marriage raised many problems, to which scholastic theologians applied all their ingenuity. By the late Middle Ages, the doctrine was fully established in Christian thought and practice but not yet as dogma. In the sixteenth century, with the entire Catholic teaching on marriage and celibacy and its associated law and jurisdiction under attack by the Protestant reformers, the Council of Trent defined the doctrine as a dogma of faith for the first time but made major changes to it. Rather than focusing on a particular aspect of intellectual and institutional developments, this book examines them in depth and in detail from their ancient precedents to the Council of Trent

Huleatt on Obergefell

John Huleatt, an alumnus of St. John’s Law School and General Counsel for the Bruderhof Community, a Christian group with roots in the Anabaptist tradition, has posted an interesting reflection on the Obergefell decision and the implications for religious liberty. Here’s a sample:

Accordingly, the state exceeds its legitimate authority when it lends its authoritarian power to either side in this debate. Protecting gays from discrimination in nonreligious matters is an appropriate concern for government and believers alike. But if the government requires believers to act in violation of their conscience in the name of so-called anti-discrimination, it is going too far. The United States, more than most other countries, has a long history of successfully accommodating competing rights. For this to continue, the state and proponents of gay marriage need to understand that no compromise for believers is possible where conscience is at stake. Thus free exercise of religion must be protected just as much as other civil rights. Religious dissent does not lose protection merely by being labeled discrimination. If the American public and the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of our government fail to recognize this, many people who are (in Justice Kennedy’s words) “reasonable and sincere” will have no choice but to resort to civil disobedience.

You can read Huleatt’s essay here.

Serajuddin, “Cases on Muslim Law of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh”

In September, Oxford University Press released “Cases on Muslim Law of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh,” by Alamgir Muhammad Serajuddin (University of Chittagong, Bangladesh).   The publisher’s description follows:

Muslim law is an integral part of the South Asian legal system, and case law plays a major role in its interpretation, application, and development. Through a selection of principal judicial decisions and significant fact situations from pre- and post-independent India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, this volume provides an easy access to the basic principles and rules of Muslim law, and shows how case law acts as a social barometer and an instrument of change.

The cases discussed cover such diverse areas as sources and interpretation of law, institution of marriage, polygamous marriages, dower, restitution of conjugal rights, talaq, khula, irreconcilable breakdown of marriage, legitimacy, guardianship, and maintenance of wives and divorced wives. Among the important legislations, it covers Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act 1939, Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961, and Muslim Women Act 1986.

The book also shows how religion-based rules of personal law have been interpreted by secular courts during certain epochs in history and how the trend of interpretation has changed over the last 150 years.

In the mail: Witte’s “Western Case for Monogamy Over Polygamy”

I was pleased to receive Professor John Witte’s new volume, released earlier this year, The Western Case for Monogamy Over PolygamyWitte, Monogamy and Polygamy, in which, with at least half an eye cocked at the coming legal contests over polygamous marriage, John explores the following questions:

What is the Western tradition’s case for monogamy over polygamy, and is that case still convincing in a post-modern and globalized world? Are there sufficiently compelling reasons to relax Western laws against polygamy, and is this a desirable policy given the global trends away from polygamy and given the social, economic, and psychological conditions that often attend its practice? Or, are there sufficiently compelling reasons, reconstructed in part from the tradition, to maintain and even strengthen these anti-polygamy measures, in part as an effort to hasten the global demise of this practice?

I’ve only had a chance to glance at the book but from that quick scan, it appears that the primary justifications advanced in the book as a historical matter for monogamy over polygamy relate to “joint parental investment in children” and ensuring “that men and women are treated with equal dignity and respect within the domestic sphere,” the latter logic of which, the book claims, “applies to dyadic same-sex couples, who have gained increasing rights in the West in recent years, including the right to marry and to parent in some places.”

The book is immensely and richly detailed and comprehensive, with chapters including “From Polygamy to Monogamy in Judaism,” “The Case for Monogamy Over Polygamy in the Church Fathers,” “Polygamy in the Laws of State and Church in the First Millennium,” “Polygamous Experiments in Early Protestantism,” and “The Liberal Enlightenment Case Against Polygamy.”

“The Polygamy Question” (eds. Bennion and Joffe)

In November, the Utah State University Press will release “The Polygamy Question,” edited by Janet Bennion (Lyndon State College) and Lisa Fishbayn Joffe (Brandeis University).  The publisher’s description follows:

The practice of polygamy occupies a unique place in North American history and has had a profound effect on its legal and social development. The Polygamy Question explores the ways in which indigenous and immigrant polygamy have shaped the lives of individuals, communities, and the broader societies that have engaged with it. The book also considers how polygamy challenges our traditional notions of gender and marriage and how it might be effectively regulated to comport with contemporary notions of justice.

The contributors to this volume—scholars of law, anthropology, sociology, political science, economics, and religious studies—disentangle diverse forms of polygamy and polyamory practiced among a range of religious and national backgrounds including Mormon and Muslim. They chart the harms and benefits these models have on practicing women, children, and men, whether they are independent families or members of coherent religious groups. Contributors also address the complexities of evaluating this form of marriage and the ethical and legal issues surrounding regulation of the practice, including the pros and cons of legalization.

Plural marriage is the next frontier of North American marriage law and possibly the next civil rights battlefield. Students and scholars interested in polygamy, marriage, and family will find much of interest in The Polygamy Question.

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