Alyssa Rosenberg: Bey and Jay Make the Case that Conservatives Can’t


I’d love to write about last night’s Grammy Awards today, but I’m swamped and so I’m just going to point to Alyssa Rosenberg’s piece at thinkprogress. She writes, “Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Jay-Z got on the Grammy stage last night and did what conservatives have been dying for someone to do for ages: they made marriage look fun, and sexy, and a source of mutual professional fulfillment.”

She goes on:

“Drunk In Love” is raunchy, fun and even silly. “Why can’t I keep my fingers off it, baby? I want you,” Beyoncé sings. She teases her partner, who both in the real-life creation of the song and its narrative, is her husband Jay-Z, “Can’t keep your eyes off my fatty, daddy, I want you.” It’s a song about flirting, about going out and partying, about having fantastic, adventuresome, totally enthralling sex–with your spouse. That’s a far, far better argument for marriage than the pseudo-scientific case for holding onto your oxytocin by not having sex before you say your vows on the grounds that such conservation efforts will make your first time better.


And that’s what makes Jay-Z’s appearance on stage with Beyoncé at the Grammys so lovely. Mrs. Knowles-Carter doesn’t need her husband with her to dominate a performance space. But she chose their duet. And what we got was a performance that’s explicitly about what a good time they’re having together. Everyone else might get to look at her curves–a reminder that dressing up and showing off doesn’t have to end after marriage, either–but Jay-Z’s the one who gets to look a little goofy checking her out in wonderment that she’s his, the one who actually gets to touch. She gets to own the stage by herself, first, and Jay-Z shows up when the song requires his presence, at which point Bey cedes the stage to him before taking it back. There’s time for them both to shine. And at the end, Jay-Z throws his arm around his wife and squeezes her, and her head inclines towards his shoulder: there’s room for mutual pride and tenderness here, too.

This may not be the vision of marriage conservatives intended to try to promote. And it’s absolutely a more aspirational, exciting good than the idea that marriage will discipline wayward men or provide support for women who can’t manage economically on their own. But if conservatives want to sell Americans on marriage, maybe they have to talk more about the bliss half of wedded bliss, to think about the desire part of making marriage desirable. And maybe the entertainment industry that Douthat’s singled out as the enemy of marriage has something to add to the case for marital happiness. If marriage is a product that conservatives desperately want to sell, the smartest thing they could do right now is to hire Beyoncé and Jay-Z as a product spokescouple.

In fairness, the smartest thing any of us could do right now is to hire Beyoncé and Jay-Z as a spokescouple. The problem social conservatives have—at least as far as I can tell—is that Rosenberg is right: this is not the vision of marriage they intend to promote. As she notes, it’s an egalitarian vision of marriage based on choice, not necessity. The particular sort of bliss we see in Jay-Z and Beyoncé is one that, as Amanda Marcotte notes today, social conservatives (too often) tell us doesn’t exist, or is just fleeting.

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