Book Club: Outlaw Marriages

Sally Ride, the famous astronaut who passed away in July from pancreatic cancer, left an unexpected gift to America’s youth. In her obituary, it was revealed that Ride, the first American woman to travel into outer space, had been in a committed, same-sex relationship for 27 years with her partner Tam O’Shaughnessy. Having quietly come out, she now serves as an important, high-profile role model for LGBTQ youth.

Although it became public knowledge too recently to be included, Ride’s story mirrors those found in a recently published collective biography by Rodger StreitmatterOutlaw Marriages: The Hidden Histories of Fifteen Extraordinary Same-Sex Couples (Beacon Press, 2012) visits the topic of same-sex marriage in the United States, covering 140 years of history in 15 marriages, from 1865 to 2005.


Marriage practices have taken many forms across time and across cultures.


Streitmatter, a professor of journalism at American University in Washington, D.C., profiles the marriages of luminaries ranging from poet Walt Whitman to screen star Greta Garbo, bringing his subjects to life in stories that can be fascinating, poignant, and even humorous. The 15 marriages he chronicles were “outlaw marriages,” because “each pair of men and each pair of women defied the social order by creating sub-rosa same-sex marriages long before such relationships were legally sanctioned.” Continue reading

Who Controls Your Birth Control?

On the day after Valentine’s Day, the National Domestic Violence Hotline released a report about disturbing behavior that may be displayed by many abusive partners. According to the New York Times, the hotline collected stories of abusers sabotaging their partners’ contraception, whether by hiding their birth control pills, poking holes in condoms, or refusing to use condoms altogether:

About a quarter [of respondents] said yes to one or more of these three questions: “Has your partner or ex ever told you not to use any birth control?” “Has your partner or ex-partner ever tried to force or pressure you to become pregnant?” “Has your partner or ex ever made you have sex without a condom so that you would get pregnant?”

One in six answered yes to the question “Has your partner or ex-partner ever taken off the condom during sex so that you would get pregnant?”

The survey was not part of a scientific study. The respondents were not made up of a representative cross-section of the general population, but rather were a self-selected group, already in abusive relationships and willing to talk about their experiences. From the data released by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, it is impossible to tell how widespread such forms of abuse are in society as a whole. Despite this, the data collected do point to a disturbing way that intimate partner violence can manifest itself. It is important to recognize interference with one’s birth control — and therefore one’s bodily integrity — as abusive behavior.  Continue reading