Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Howdy, partner

Miss Self-Important has a humorous response to my post below. It's clever, but the point she's making seems very slippery-slope CCOA (conservative critiques of academia). Academia, as MSI presents it, is a veritable anything-goes libertine paradise. That's certainly academia as imagined in much of the right's discussion of academia, but I'm not seeing the world of academia I've experienced.

The personal, the political: I met my husband in grad school, and thus have been single, coupled, and married during my course of study thus far. I'm not in a particularly right-wing region or field - quite the contrary. And my friends and acquaintances tend to be in the same region and/or field. It's never once been my sense that there's some kind of widespread knowledge of or earnest respect for the kind of arrangements MSI tongue-in-cheek describes. If your partner (singular) is someone you can legally marry - and if you live in NY, that's the case - your relationship will be treated differently if you are married or not.

The status quo would seem freewheeling, I imagine, from the perspective of someone who views same-sex relationships as inherently decadent. But that's all that's changed, all that's been introduced, in this oh-so-radical new age. It would not be done to bring three dates to a bring-your-life-partner event, or a different date to each one. There's no feeling that this is but the first step of many, and that at next year's holiday party, an incoming first-year may bring a harem. It comes back - alas - to the Charles Murray argument - there's a certain amount of anything-goes-in-theory, but grad students are not living their lives in as interesting ways as all that. There's a difference between what might be discussed in a seminar (not that these are seminars I've been in, given my field) and how things would be treated in life.

The scenario MSI refers to - "in which someone got a spousal hire for a person to whom it turned out she was not (yet?) married" - is probably a case of, these people were engaged, whether in the shiny-ring-as-Facebook-photo sense or in the they-informed-all-relevant-parties-of-their-intentions one. Unless these were two friends, in which case everyone involved would be, I'd imagine, not thrilled. What's weird with the case I linked to before is not simply that the two aren't married, but also that there's no reason to believe they're future-oriented as a couple. The clearest way to indicate that is to, you know, get engaged/married, but there would be other ways of doing so if you can't get married in your locale, if you have principled objections, snowflake objections, etc.

But what about that "'my partner,'" an expression which, according to MSI, "is sufficiently ambiguous and politically-charged that it makes people anxious about looming discrimination claims"? I can speak from personal experience that if you refer to a partner or a spouse, different situations are assumed, and one can remain gender-neutral these days through the use of "spouse." But "partner" is there to acknowledge the existence of grown-up romantic relationships. If you refer to a "boyfriend," and you're post-college, at an age where people can perfectly well be full-on married, you're referring to the guy you've been kinda seeing lately. (There is a gender difference, such that a grown man referring to a "girlfriend" may be understood as not a bachelor, not gay, as having committed and acknowledged a commitment to a woman, and thus be viewed by those with whichever outlook as reassuringly traditional. It doesn't cut both ways, and probably stops applying if the man is over, say, 35.)

"Partner," in my experience, is used as an umbrella term, with most of what's under said umbrella consisting of... marriages, the rest being long-term presumed-monogamous cohabitations that are either on the cusp of becoming marriages or that for the reasons I've mentioned above (legal, principled, snowflake) are sticking around but not spousal. Once same-sex marriage is legal throughout the country, I suspect that "partner" will cease to be an option. Those now prevented from marrying same-sex partners would do so, the big principled objection would be gone, and what would remain would be esoteric principled objections and snowflakiness.

But for the time being, those who could be legally married but are not have a way of describing their situation. On the one hand, it's worth remembering that marriages are treated differently, and that if you want your relationship to get the respect of a marriage, you might want to think of getting married if that's an option for you, or vocalizing your desire to do so if it were. On the other, it's useful, in professional situations, that there's an efficient, generally-recognized way to describe serious relationships that differentiates them from three-month or three-date this-and-that. And while it's fair, I think, to treat relationships differently on the basis of whether a couple that could marry has gone and done so, it's not fair to treat individuals differently on the basis of marital status. The ambiguity of "partner" isn't necessarily a knock against it.


Miss Self-Important said...

I'm not suggesting polyamory is a widely-accepted relationship form in academia yet, but if there were ever a reason to advocate for its official legitimization, this must be it. Do you think I jest about wanting to be near my friends? Do YOU want to live exclusively among penguins and statisticians for the next 30 years?

However, I do think you're not quite right that once gay marriage is everywhere legal, various other arrangements (partnerships) will cease to be taken seriously because the serious option is now open to all. Right-thinking people know that marriage is a fundamentally suspect institution, and that there are many serious reasons to avoid it and pursue alternatives. Why should you be coerced into so patriarchal, freedom-compromising, state-affirming institution as marriage simply to guarantee that your S.O./partner/committed follower can earn a living nearby. Are universities really so draconian as to demand that? I don't see why "principles" would suddenly be demoted to snowflakiness. I don't think there is any legal obstacle to schools offering jobs to whomever they want, be that your official spouse, your long-term boyfriend, your short-term but at the moment of hiring mistakenly assumed to be long-term boyfriend, or, several of your

Besides, if you were unemployed and I were well-placed, I'd certainly put in a request for a polyamorous partner hire for you.

Flavia said...

I'll just add that partner/spousal hires are not even half as common, or as easily come by, as many critics of those hires (on whatever grounds) tend to assume.

I do know people who have gotten tenure-line partner hires. But I know many more people--and indeed I am people!--who haven't been able to manage it after years of trying, or who have only been able to wangle an adjunct/visiting position for the partner. (Or they've succeeded in finding two jobs in the same geographic region, which solves the two-body problem but not via actual partner hiring.)

Almost of the partner hires I've seen have involved either a) real leverage (one person is famous/highly desirable) or b) flukey good luck (the dept or institution just happened to be hiring in both relevant fields at the same time). Or sometimes a trailing partner eventually, usually after years, gets an "upgrade" from a visiting/adjunct position when a line opens up or when the TT partner gets an outside offer. But I know of literally no one of my generation/career stage who, upon getting an offer, was able to say, "hey, can you hire my partner?" and who got it done.

Britta said...

I think this points to a fundamental difference in how conservatives vs. liberals view human nature. Ironically, the liberal stance is that humans are inherently conservative in terms of personal behaviors and attitudes habitus, and that, by and large, most people generally desire to conform to the status quo, so allowing the few who don't the freedom to live their lives as they please won't affect the system as a whole. For example, most Americans are straight, allowing much the smaller percentage of gay people to get married won't impact heterosexual marriage; most women don't want to have abortions, so allowing those who need one to do so won't suddenly lead to an epidemic of abortions as a hobby; smoking marijuana can be a past time otherwise productive people can engage in, so legalizing pot won't cause a crack epidemic; not that many 14 year olds actually want to have sex, so teaching them condoms exist won't make start getting it on after 6th period, and so forth. In this particular case, there's an assumption that polyamory is something so desirable that only the logistical difficulties of engaging in it is what stops (in this case) academics from entering into long-term threesomes and orgies. Never mind that, even in libertine secular socialist utopias, even if marriage rates decrease on paper, two opposite-sex people raising children in stable relationships is still by far the default, and the number of people engaging in 'immoral' behaviors (abortions, underage sex, drug use) is lower than in the US.

Conversely, conservatives seem to believe that the only thing preventing total libertinism is some sort of harsh external system of enforcement, whether government or maybe The Church. If abortion isn't illegal, women will be getting dozens of abortions a year. If gay marriage is legalized, soon enough people will be wanting to marry goats, or straight same-sex people will marry each other for trivial reasons (I've actually heard this as a serious argument), and so forth. The slippery slope argument assumes an avalanche of a certain sort of behavior is barely held at bay by restrictive moral policies, and the minute they're relaxed, we'll end up with coke-fueled inter-species orgies in the streets. (Of course, given that this sort of behavior does appear to be more prevalent among self-called conservatives, maybe there are reasons for this split in belief, in that people with no super-ego want external controls on behavior.)

The "liberal" response then, to this slippery slope argument is 'so what'? So what if there's one polyamorous couple that manages to swing a multiple person hire? More power to them. Given the difficulties of a two-person spousal hire AND the difficulties of keeping up a long-term polyamorous relationship, anyone accomplished enough to to both (IMO) deserves some sort of respect. Will this lead to universities suddenly inundated with requests for polyamorous spousal hires? Not unless you believe most Americans are secretly polyamorous.

PG said...

However, I do think you're not quite right that once gay marriage is everywhere legal, various other arrangements (partnerships) will cease to be taken seriously because the serious option is now open to all.

I agree with MSI on this point. There are non-poly people who opt not to marry serious, long-term partners, often because they've (unconsciously) bought into rightwing rhetoric about marriage being for The Children and they don't intend to have children, or rightwing rhetoric about marriage's essentially religious qualities. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, a child-free atheist, comes to mind as an example. If she were in academia rather than politics, I don't think it would be appropriate to tell her "Now that we have same-sex marriage, you must marry or else have your live-in partner treated like some dude you brought just to have a date at your sister's wedding."

But I also don't think it's difficult to separate the serious relationships from the less-so, and indeed I'm pretty sure academic institutions already have such metrics for separating "boy/girlfriend" from "partner/ spouse." I can't find this info for students, but here it is for faculty:
"Proof of partnership for fellows requesting couple or family housing (marriage license/domestic partnership documents, bank, utility statements, or a recent lease in both names, and a notarized English translation where applicable); partner's photo ID."

Given the boon of affordable housing that New York academia provides, it would be idiotic for the schools to let just anyone be declared a "partner"; this could be easily exploited to basically get a subtenant who pays the student or faculty member rent.

Even the few of my acquaintances who are poly either have a primary partner to whom they may be married and/or with whom they may have a child, live, share bank accounts and credit cards, etc.; or they don't consider themselves partnered at all, instead having different people with different roles in their life. One of my best friends from college lives in Mass. and has an older woman who is her dominant, but this woman is married with a teenager -- my friend is certainly not her primary partner nor someone this woman would expect to have accommodated either professionally or socially. I have another friend who briefly split her time between two serious partners (as in, when I visited her in San Francisco, I stayed on the couch in one apartment for a couple days, and then moved to a couch in a different apartment), but eventually broke up with the one she'd been with longer but who didn't want to have kids, and now has a baby and lives with the other. That year of two apartments was the exception; otherwise, the poly folks I know are just having one single serious relationship that has the potential for marriage, offspring, credit cards, etc.

The major disruption of family law and social customs was the advent of equal partnership between spouses and parents. Now both spouses might have demanding careers, rather than one being either a housewife or in a low-earning and relatively mobile job like teacher or secretary. Now both spouses are equal decision-makers. It's equality of the partnership that we're still trying to adjust to, after centuries of a default in which the husband/father earned the money and made the decisions. Same-sex marriage is far less of a disruption because it's just taking the previous revolution -- not treating spouses different based on sex -- to its logical conclusion.

Phoebe said...

Going by your interesting comments/blogs, I'd polyamorous-partner-hire any of you!

But yeah, what Flavia says re: spousal hire is true in my experience as well. It's unusual, exceptional. That plus the paucity of demand suggests that genuine polyamorous-hire scenarios would be unusual. Meanwhile, the fact that you kind of need people in your profession to respect you would prevent faux-polyamorous applicants from getting all that far.

But I think Britta's onto something, even if there are sentences here and there I didn't agree with 100%, re: the difference between liberal and conservative approaches to sexuality. MSI, you write that "not suggesting polyamory is a widely-accepted relationship form in academia yet" - how is this a "yet" situation?

MSI, you also write: "Right-thinking people know that marriage is a fundamentally suspect institution, and that there are many serious reasons to avoid it and pursue alternatives."

So I'll bring up Charles Murray once more - there's a great deal of in-theory questioning of what Marriage is all about, a lot of I-don't-believe-in-the-institution from those too young, in their milieu, to marry, but in practice, by a certain age, men and women alike tend to want to a) pair off and b) call it the thing that's recognizable, namely "marriage."

But I don't see why we need to mind if "partner" does persist, as an intermediary step between "boyfriend/girlfriend" and "spouse." It's somewhat ambiguous, but not that ambiguous. Anyway, the philosophy anecdote would be problematic even if the two were entirely married. Less so, but still odd.

PG said...


the liberal stance is that humans are inherently conservative in terms of personal behaviors and attitudes habitus, and that, by and large, most people generally desire to conform to the status quo, so allowing the few who don't the freedom to live their lives as they please won't affect the system as a whole.

I mostly agree with that, with one caveat: making it financially possible to do something that you previously couldn't do tends to change behavior. Births to unmarried (and essentially single) women were pretty much always legally possible; they skyrocketed in number once the combination of decent-paying jobs (for middle and upper class women) and welfare programs (for low income women) made it possible to have a baby without a man supporting you and not starve to death.

I support having government support to single mothers because I don't want babies to starve nor do I share Gingrich's idealization of orphanages. But liberals do need to recognize that people respond strongly to certain financial incentives and that those can alter social norms, at least in certain subcultures.

Phoebe said...


"But I also don't think it's difficult to separate the serious relationships from the less-so, and indeed I'm pretty sure academic institutions already have such metrics for separating "boy/girlfriend" from "partner/ spouse.""

Yes and no. If it's something administrative, yes, but in conversation, no. If you say to a professor something about your life, in general terms, "boyfriend" sounds either like you're a child or you're saying something vaguely lurid. If the relationship is serious enough that you refer to it (i.e. if you live with that person, if your lives are actually entangled) you kind of have to say "partner." But this is relatively new, the phenomenon of straight people referring to a "partner," and was something I first thought made light of the situation of gay couples who can't make things official. So I would, at first, say "boyfriend" to refer to my now-husband, once we were serious enough that he might come up in this context. I soon learned you really do need to use "partner" if that's what you're trying to convey. Or to get married - that way also, problem solved.

caryatis said...

This is a tangent, but I'm wondering about the word "spouse." It makes sense to say "spouse" when you're referring to someone whose gender is unknown, or to spouses in general, but it really rubs me the wrong way when someone says "my spouse."

If you're afraid of being discriminated against for being gay, it's understandable (although in that case why not just refrain from talking about your personal life?) --but if fear of discrimination is not a factor, why not say "husband" or "wife?" Why do straight people do this? It's such an ugly bureaucratic term.

"Partner" is fine I guess, since, as has been said, boyfriend/girlfriend conveys a different tone. But I see nothing gained by calling your husband your spouse.

Phoebe said...


"it really rubs me the wrong way when someone says "my spouse.""

I can see that (having used "spouse" myself), and it's something I've thought about re: "partner." Again, it's that idea that straight people are either a) usurping a term intended for gays who can't marry, or b) pretending to be more interesting than they really are. "Spouse" also can seem like one is admitting to having gone and done something bourgeois, namely marrying, but that one refuses to identify as a husband or wife, finding these terms too loaded.

But I now see the utility of both "spouse" and "partner." "Partner," for the reasons above, but also "spouse," because if you're in a situation where the gender is irrelevant, the gender is irrelevant. Of course, given pronouns (and MSI has some opinions there, I understand), it will generally be obvious quickly who's who, unless a great effort is made to keep that secret. The two most recent times I've heard "partner" used to refer to someone's opposite-sex spouse - and presumably the same would hold re: "spouse" - pronoun usage, as I recall, cleared this up. But if it's really just a quick, quick conversation, or if you're filling out bureaucratic forms, "spouse" seems fine. Why not keep the gender a mystery?

caryatis said...

When filling out forms, of course, some situations, our language demands that gender be marked even when it is not relevant. Pronouns are a great example, as are gendered adjectives like handsome vs. beautiful. On the other hand, in some situations marking gender when it is not relevant would be offensive. That's why saying "lady doctor" is offensive, but "I went to see my oncologist and he or she said..." is absurdly vague, even though in both examples gender is irrelevant. Which is which is something determined by linguistic rules. In other words, if you try to make it up as you go along, you'll confuse people.

As for the desire to create mystery, maybe, if you are balancing on the boundary between being perceived as straight or gay. But that is not the case for most of us--most straight people are automatically assumed to be straight. I believe some people call that the heteronormative assumption. If I used the word "spouse", I think it would cause acquaintances to doubt my word choice more than my sexuality.

Phoebe said...


I think the idea with "spouse" is to make it a word like doctor - I was kind of kidding re: "mystery." As in, not to altogether obscure the gender, but to emphasize that "spouse" and "spouse" are the roles, not husband and "wife." I personally don't think "husband and wife," or for that matter "wife and wife," etc., need be problematic, but I see the appeal of the alternative. At the same time, it might be better for visibility and acceptance of gays and lesbians if "spouse" isn't the new thing. Hard to say.

Britta said...


I think a part of it is what really is the objection to immoral behavior, and this is where many of the conservative critiques fall apart. If it's grounded in a concept of religious sin, or some sort of fundamental violation of humanity, then even one case of its existence is a problem, hence gay marriage needs to be opposed because homosexuality is a sin. However, outside of overtly moral reasons, often predicated on religion, it's harder to make the case of intrinsic badness for many of these options based on practical outcome alone. For example, as you mention, high income jobs for women make single motherhood a possibility for women who otherwise might have gotten married. If opposition to single motherhood is grounded in the fact that there's something God-given about a two parent heterosexual family, then the very existence of single motherhood is the problem. However, if opposition is based on the social outcomes and the greater likelihood of poverty/delinquency in single family homes, if single mothers and their children can be productive members of society, then there's no inherent harm in single motherhood. I think this is where there's a big split: conservatives do see inherent goods in the heterosexual nuclear family concept, and thus want to discourage alternatives. Liberals too by and large see that structure as default, but assume there are other methods to produce this outcome (a healthy, productive citizen), and the goal is to make a good outcome as available as possible, thus the 'it takes a village' rhetoric. Here, where conservatives are right is that high paying jobs and lack of stigma do lead to more single motherhood, but liberals are right in that this doesn't lead to a general collapse of the status quo social structure.

Welfare is different in that no one sees being on welfare as an intrinsic good, but the difference there I think is in causality. Liberals see it as the lesser of two evils once an already bad situation arises (and that much of the bad situation is brought about by the dysfunction of poverty), while conservatives see welfare as bringing about the situation itself. As a liberal, I would say worldwide evidence shows that providing disincentives don't stop poor women from getting pregnant and having children they can't support, and in fact there seems to be an inverse relationship between birth rate, child poverty, and a robust social welfare state.

Flavia said...

Re Caryatis's comment:

Count me as a voice in favor of "spouse," which I use consistently for the reason that you note, Phoebe--I don't like the baggage that "wife" carries ("husband" troubles me less, but I do think there are some deeply inscribed ideas about gender roles in those two terms that on balance I'd rather avoid).

I'm not a prescriptivist about this and really don't care what other people do (and since I'm a femme woman who wears a traditional engagement ring with her wedding band, it's not like I'm trying to mystify my sexuality); but for my money "spouse" is actually a warmer and more intimate term--being etymologically related to betrothal, and hence to elective affinity--as well as a more equitable one. It's certainly not a bureaucratic invention.

But I grew up with a best friend whose ridiculously affectionate German-immigrant parents addressed each other as "spouse," so YMMV.

Phoebe said...


What of the middle ground, though, of people who do think the two-parent family is ideal, but are not concerned about the gender of the two parents? Speaking on behalf of that particular contingent (as their elected leader, of course), I think we tend to agree with those to our left that single parents and their children should be supported, not stigmatized. But we don't have a problem with saying that all things equal, one way - two parents - tends to be preferable. (All if this is a separate issue from day-to-day interactions - hopefully across the political spectrum, people can refrain from being judgmental at inappropriate times/regarding the lives of acquaintances.)

PG said...

Yes and no. If it's something administrative, yes, but in conversation, no.

Sure, but I agreed with your original point that hazy impressions from conversation are not a sufficient basis for a recommender to try to shoehorn in a desirable candidate's significant other. My point that universities already have a metric for separating serious for unserious was more addressed to MSI's speculation that we're in some Wild West where there's just no way to determine who's serious and who's not.

As for labeling conventions, I quite like the term spouse, especially because of its parallels in other languages ("esposos" in Spanish to refer to a married couple). I find the generic term less cumbersome in many contexts (in drafting an office holiday party invitation, "spouses are welcome" is tidier than "husbands and wives are welcome"). However, as shy as I initially felt about saying "husband," I don't think I've ever spontaneously referred to my "spouse" in conversation. In writing, probably, but that's also often been in anonymous/ psuedonymous online fora where people may not know my sex either.

Add me as a vote for generally preferring two-parent families, though obviously not at expense of encouraging women to marry worthless dudes just for the sake of having a "father" who is abusive/ neglectful/ non-contributory/ criminal. What I'd really like would be to encourage women not to date and especially not sleep with these guys in the first place, but I don't know how to make "No Scrubs" into a more persuasive federally-funded campaign. And I'm totally aware of the stupid things one does because one is young and "in love," which brings us to the genius of woman-controlled, inexpensive, doctor-inserted-and-removed contraception.

Regarding being judgmental, while I find it abhorrent to stigmatize the child in any way, I don't think it's altogether wrong to give at least a side-eye at irresponsibility in all its forms, whether it's a man who doesn't take care of his kids or a woman who didn't intend to get pregnant but also didn't bother with contraception. I can give a friend a giant box of diapers and a promise to babysit, and also say, "Oh, hon" when she's marrying a guy just because he got her pregnant. A real village does not just unjudgmentally support you whatever you do; it also shakes its head when you do something dumb. [Hmm. This may be the Asian-American value system noted elsewhere: don't make the single mother an outcast or leave her destitute, but also don't act like this was totally OK -- you don't want your own daughters getting the wrong message here. And again, this doesn't seem at all bizarre or somehow intrinsically conflicted and doomed to fail.]

As a liberal, I would say worldwide evidence shows that providing disincentives don't stop poor women from getting pregnant and having children they can't support, and in fact there seems to be an inverse relationship between birth rate, child poverty, and a robust social welfare state.

Sure, but which is the chicken and which the egg? If you have a high birth rate and high levels of poverty, there's a good chance you can't afford a robust social welfare state. You'd also have to factor in gender equality levels; I'm skeptical that there are many countries with both high levels of gender equality and financial disincentives (particularly in the lack of welfare) against single motherhood, that nonetheless have high levels of child poverty.

Phoebe said...


We may be talking past each other. My point was that there often is ambiguity about who's who, in situations that matter, but not specifically that philosophers scenario, which is problematic for 100 unrelated reasons. The value of "partner" is that it makes it clear that someone is more than person-one's-fooling-around-with-lately. But even so, "spouse" (or "husband/wife") tends to be taken more seriously. This is important because a) it explains why "partner" isn't meaningless PC jargon, and b) it hints at the fact that having made an ostensibly permanent commitment is treated - even in liberal circles - as different from having a serious significant other.

"Regarding being judgmental, while I find it abhorrent to stigmatize the child in any way, I don't think it's altogether wrong to give at least a side-eye at irresponsibility in all its forms, whether it's a man who doesn't take care of his kids or a woman who didn't intend to get pregnant but also didn't bother with contraception."

I guess, but how can you know re: the latter? When a woman gets pregnant, how do you, unless this woman is an incredibly close friend, and even then, know exactly what was going on re: contraception? What about all the pregnancies that occur when some contraception is used, but not quite enough? What if a woman you know did want to get pregnant, but doesn't want to tell you that? I think irresponsible pregnancy might fall into a category not unlike Jewish self-hatred - worth condemning as a concept, but not something you can generally call out in individual cases. As in, by all means say, as a rule, that it's bad, but I'm not sure what good there is in shaming individuals.

Britta said...

Just to clarify, I'm not a big fan of women getting knocked up by shiftless losers, and I am a big fan of children being born in stable, two-body, LT relationships. I think part of it is that you can't always control your future, even if you think you have it all down. There was a NYT article about this, how poor women cared about marriage as much if not more than UMC women, but that the men they married were more unreliable. You could say to avoid these men, but it's hard if it's everyone in your entire community. The choice between celibacy and marriage isn't really fair to put on poor women.

I think the number of women who are actually interested in raising children by themselves, or in 5-person relationships, or whatever cultural conservative nightmare type of situation, is actually vanishingly small. To solve the problem of delinquent men (which seems to be where most of the problem lies), we need to do something about the drug war, finding employment for blue collar men, and ending the prison problem for black youth (which is linked to the drug war). There are, of course, irresponsible people, and I don't mind them getting a little side eye, but I don't think they're congregated solely among the poor, and I also think that the bad decisions of the really immature are made worse by a system that punishes the poor much more harshly than the rich.

I think, as Charles Murphy notes, the Murphy Brown situation is actually a red herring, because outside obnoxious dating advice columnists (all who seem to be conservative) and TV shows, UMC women are extremely traditional in life choices. Obviously this does happen, but again, in statistically small numbers and usually as a last resort.

PG said...

The choice between celibacy and marriage isn't really fair to put on poor women.

Sure, hence "the genius of woman-controlled, inexpensive, doctor-inserted-and-removed contraception." I don't consider myself a plausible advocate for celibacy, but I am very pro-contraception.

I guess, but how can you know re: the latter?

With both of my friends who had pre-marital unplanned pregnancies, they told me about both the deficiencies in contraception and the undesirability of the pregnancy. They're both middle-class college-educated white people, so they got married: one unhappily enough that they split up when the kid was 3; the other not happily but managing with the kid now 2. I probably feel more harshly about the first friend because he's a guy who was not even using condoms reliably despite not wanting to make a baby. But I don't see how to establish a stronger social norm of both parties taking measures to avoid unwanted pregnancy (given that the other person might be less motivated about this than oneself) without being willing to indicate to individuals, whom you know to have failed on this, that they've, y'known, failed. (And that contrary to certain traditional values, getting married doesn't cancel out the failure of responsibility.)