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7 reasons marriage will be dead in the 21st century

Sex is taken care of and hassle-free open relationships are quite appealing.

 |  5-minute read |   03-02-2016
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According to the Pew Research Center, 72 per cent of American adults were married in 1960. That number drastically fell to 50 per cent in 2014 and is still on the decline. This could well become the worldwide trend. Here's why:

1. Sex: Let's face it - one of the major reasons why people, especially men, get married is to have sex. There are many conservative societies where there's no chance for sex unless you get married. That is changing in an era of freer and more open relationships where more and more people of both sexes are open to the idea of sex outside marriage.

Masturbation is becoming less of a taboo and the amount of pornography available is rising exponentially. Sex dolls have been prevalent in societies and it is just the taboo factor that has stopped them from proliferating.

Those in the field of robotics talk of sex robots and again the taboo factor is the only thing that will hold them back. Once that is overcome, it could become a full-fledged industry. This aspect has been mentioned in fiction like Isaac Asimov's robot series.

Having a robotic sex partner instead of an actual human in the future is not as far-fetched as it sounds.

2. Frittering time: Think of India in the pre-liberalisation era and up to the 1980s. Doordarshan's reach was limited. There was no Internet and not many clubs were open to the middleclass. If you didn't get married and hated books - you could well die of boredom!

Functions and social gatherings revolved around married couples. Bachelors had a tough time. Spinsters faced a greater taboo. That's been the story for most conservative societies in the world.

That has changed in the 24X7 Internet Age. There's social media, 24-hour satellite TV with hundreds of channels and no shortage of activities, malls, resorts and the like. Work pressure is high and no longer a nine-to-five affair. You could be at work all day.

You could be unmarried and yet extremely busy. There's lesser imperative to get married due to that. Unthinkable just a few decades back.

3. Independence versus compromise: Let's face it. Marriage is a compromise. Sometimes it's just one compromise after another. As we become a more evolved species, society becomes more complex and civilisation develops, a person is becoming more and more independent.

Forget adults, even small children have become quite independent and refuse to compromise. In such a scenario, getting married seems less and less appealing.

4. Woman's financial independence: Centuries ago, a woman would marry a man chiefly to become financially dependent on him. That has changed at least in the developed world and in cities of the developing world.

Now, in most societies, there is an equal chance of either a boy or girl becoming financially independent after growing up. If a woman chooses to be independent in every way, she can do just that.

Even men no longer have to depend on wives for housekeeping activities. A man or woman can be the earner or the housekeeper, or both and those choosing to be both may not have to rely on marriage.

5. Fewer children: Till the 19th century, a woman giving birth to 10 to 15 children used to be a common affair. In the 1950-55 period, Total Fertility Rate (TFR) was close to 5. In the 2010-15 period, that fell to 2.36. Fewer children would mean a lesser need for family and an even lesser need for marriage.

There are more single mothers today. It is also possible to have a child with just one partner. In the West, many unmarried mothers may have children out of a wedlock, get pregnant through a donor's sperm, or choose to adopt.

These factors result in redundant marriages.

6. Changing relationship culture: While sex has been taken care of, today the concept of having a steady boyfriend or girlfriend is much more acceptable than it was decades ago. Live-in relationships have been granted legal status in many places. This kind of a relationship is much more hassle-free and hence quite appealing.

7. Rise of homosexuality: This is another factor, now coming out in the open. Gay relationships are coming out of the closet and there may be no need for marriage there. This relationship is quite different from the heterosexual one.

It is impossible for same sex couples to have children biologically. So men can choose to adopt and women, on the other hand, can rely on sperm donors to get pregnant. That's it. The homosexual marriage institution can never be like the heterosexual one.

Today more gay marriages are out of defiance. If there is zero taboo, such couples too may choose a simple live-in relationship instead.

Post Script: Now you may well ask, when marriage has survived for thousands of years, why will it suddenly fall apart in the 21st century? The answer is the 20th century. What is the biggest fundamental shift of the 20th century?

You may say electricity or Internet, modern democracy or nuclear weapons or a post-World War world, or the like. I would argue that it is "women empowerment". Till the 19th century, women didn't have the right to vote, had to have 10-15 children and found most of the jobs of the world closed to them.

That's the way it had been for thousands of years.

The 20th century saw the right to vote becoming a reality for women, the active use of contraceptives and the opening up of the job market in almost every field. This has been a grossly underplayed historical event. Women empowerment had a domino effect and resulted in a rapid decline in the number of marriages.

Women no longer want to compromise and can easily survive (and actually flourish) without getting married. It is for this very reason that the institution of marriage could well be dead in the 21st century!

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Writer

Sunil Rajguru Sunil Rajguru @sunilrajguru

The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.

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