Thursday, January 6, 2011

"It is most unwise for people in love to marry.” George Bernard Shaw

a wise man once said....

Amid the fight for gay marriage and soaring divorce rates comes the question

Does anyone even know what marriage was for as they are touting a return to family values?

Marriage was an institution developed to create stable economic support for women to raise children (read hunter/farmer), this devolved into males owning the women that they married and the children produced out of that marriage.  It stratified society further by stigmatizing those individuals born out of wedlock (bastards) and the women that born them (pick a name and there are many for "loose" women)

Marriages were an economic force. Marriage was arranged for the benefit of the micro-society. It was not just the upper classes that arranged unions - what do you think all that traditional asking for the daughter's hand in marriage is all about. Villages conferred about what was a good match  - girls were sold off, apprentices and other desirable additions to the community were paid for through dowery tradition. Dowery could pay to a male to take a wife or be paid by the groom to his future wife's family. Either way young people were viewed as asserts to be negotiated for to the family or communities over all fiscal well being.

People married "forever" because:

  •   People didn't live as long especially women (40 anyone - over that hill meant at death door)
  •   Marriage wasn't based on compatibility, love or happiness - it was a union based on economics
  •   Marriages were the basis of your clans wellbeing, it was about the groups survival, leaving your  marriage was a social excommunication.  

So fast forward a century, because we aren't that far removed from arranged marriages and economics driving the pairing of breeding couples. Now marriage is supposed to be about love and romance...which is a social myth perpetuated by Hollywood and entertainment.

Love and Marriage

That will be addressed next time as I have to get back to work.


  1. This is a very important conversation. The right's insistence that gay marriage is dis-attached from family values is built upon this very myth of marriage. You have done a great job unpacking the historical lineage of marriage in this post. More of these unearthings need to happen.

  2. There is a piece that Jane Rule wrote about marriage which I found to be very thought provoking and worthy of further discussion:

    People find it odd that I'm so adamament about discussing the implications of marriage within the community, even as I am married within California. What I tell them is that if we don't continue the discussion of who marriage leaves out, who it privileges and the *limitations* of those privileges (as in me and/or Shirley are always in danger of someone deciding that they don't have to respect we are), then we as a community are screwed.

  3. It's interesting to me that you posted this blog in that I just had this very same conversation with my brother the professor. I concur with you on all your points and am pleased to hear a voice of good reason. Marriage is fine but society needs to begin redefining it's purpose. There can be many different purposes to it depending on each individual and his/her specific needs and desires.

  4. Modernly, people still marry and select specific spouses for a wide variety of reasons and purposes. I believe that what were once "arranged marriages" have become individual decisions regarding socioeconomic status, maybe with some added family pressure, but this is now much, much less a cultural practice. Also, modernly, there is still some centuries-old crap within marriage:stereotypical gender roles; power, control, and domination of women. What I find more significant about the purpose of marriage in our times is the pursuit of the "American Dream." Ms or Mr Right, the house, the cars, 2.5 children and a golden retriever. We are socialized that this is the measure of success, and we are taught that such a life will definitely fulfill us and make us happy. I feel that this is the greatest bullshit about modern marriage in our society today.
    But my friend, there is one place we and romance a "social myth?" Oh, how I look forward to spending a lifetime with someone magnificent and beautiful; decades of bearing witness to each other's lives; decades of sharing in each other's lives and dreams; decades of history together; decades of getting to know each other more closely and falling more deeply in love; decades of living life and all of its events together; a lifetime of dedicated, loving, nurturing companionship. I do believe its out there, I do believe its real, and sadly,I do know that it is rare....and such a marriage does require casting off all of the social and cultural bullshit surrounding marriage. Marriage must be re-defined, I agree. I'd define it as the committed, devoted, dedicated union of two people lovingly sharing life together - whether for a lifetime, or just for a time. What could be more full of wonderment?
    Jamie R.

  5. I have to endorse this is very timely as well. Being in a triangle and looking at what's available for me in terms of social approbation...the options are beyond slim. I'm risk of trial and imprisonment in some places...thank Goddess the children are grown.

    There is a very good book about this written by some poly-friendly or -centric folk. It's called "Sex at Dawn" (being the dawn of civilization, not the wee hours) and it really focuses on your hunter-gatherer to farmer transition and the radical changes the construct of "society" underwent. It's a really good read and I can't recommend it enough.

    Personally, I think any form of long-term commitment is really good for the soul, provided one enters into it freely and having examined all other options (that whole "mauvaise foi" thing....I'm a fundamentalist existentialist). However, if that's not your bag, bag it. There are other ways of being that, as Jackie said, merit examination. And demand both recognition and respect.

    Here's another thing to think about....the possibility that polyamory/monogamy is a scale. Check out this read:

    Okay, enough response. Ping me! I like this!