Marriage a most unnatural state of affairs?

(159 Posts)
MiniTheMinx Fri 06-Jul-12 22:03:41

The monogamous family seems to me to uphold patriarchy better than any other institution. Men have for thousands of years sought to control women's reproduction as a means of controlling wealth. The most obvious way in which they have done this is through marriage.

Having read quite a lot and of course experiencing first hand the joys and the lows of monogamy, with all the emotional fall out, the sense of ownership but also support, the security but also the boredom! (at times) I question just how natural monogamy is.

Women are brought up to believe in fairy tale endings, white weddings and happy retirements, men, meanwhile we are told are naturally less inclined towards faithfulness. Their behaviour proof of biology, our faithfulness and commitment is likewise biologically driven.

I don't believe biology drives our desire for monogamous relationships and think this a materialist social construct which can be accounted for by the study of our material and economic history.

www.thefword.org.uk/blog/2011/04/feminism_and_re_1

www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1884/origin-family/ch02d.htm

jezebel.com/5339211/is-non+monogamy-a-feminist-relationship-choice

I am interested in hearing what others of you think, is marriage and monogamy an unnatural state of affairs?

Lightf00t Fri 12-Sep-14 17:23:51

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

FoodUnit Thu 30-Aug-12 09:43:47

As humans we are really adaptable and monogamy/nuclear family seems to be the best model where resources are scarce and wide territories need to be covered to reach those resources like the Steppes or Arctic circle. I suppose in larger groups with lots of cooperation its probably shared group childcare where various liaisons of different duration go on - 'falling in and out of love'. I think sexual jealousy is pretty natural too, so I'm sure its natural to negotiate or fake exclusivity for the sake of social stability where individuals experience high levels of jealousy. But there are also going to be lots of cases in these cooperative groups where people 'aren't bothered' because they don't invest much into their sexual affairs. And being single 'not being into the game' is probably natural too- especially for women who have had a baby and feel fulfilled by this. IMO

mummytime Wed 18-Jul-12 14:21:08

Part of the reason they made chocolate was as an alternative to the demon drink. Bourneville indeed used to have no pubs (and at least 20 years ago only 1 bar).

TeiTetua Wed 18-Jul-12 13:58:23

I think the great chocolate barons were Quakers rather than Calvinists. They felt that they owed more than a wage to the people who created their wealth. It seems pitifully little by modern standards, but compared to (say) coal miners, the Cadbury workers were fortunate.

Surely anyone can sign a contract with anyone to do whatever they agree on, as long as it's legal? So a 2-year agreement to live together on some terms or other would be perfectly OK, and ultimately the courts would deal with it if things broke down--and if events worked out as planned, it would stay a private matter between the two people.

bigroundbump Sun 15-Jul-12 21:51:22

Wow feeling some pretty big 'issues' in this thread. As a happily married non-religious woman (who would certainly describe myself as a feminist) I find it a bit odd when friends say they"don't believe in marriage". Firstly what's to believe? Marriage is real and people make the decision to do it or not. I would never say "I don't believe in living together \ being single" as it would sound narrow minded and offensive.

Why do people get so worked up about what other people choose (to have kids / not to have kids. To breastfeed / not to breastfeed. To get married / not get married)

Surely we should be concerned for people's happiness (male and female), weather that is living alone, with a partner, in a commune, with kids, without kids married or not married - it is our own free choice.

If you don't want to live with a partner who refuses to take on domestic chores / share childcare responsibility or make you feel supported in life then don't. It's not the 'being married' that's the issue its the person making you feel bad that you need to deal with.

kickassangel Thu 12-Jul-12 14:19:55

some of the big factory owners paid for education and housing etc. examples being rowntrees, Terry's and Cadbury. The Calvinsitic belief system was that the owners could enjoy their wealth a certain amount, but not too much. So they provided 'model villages' for employees, with churches and houses, the stores were owned by the Company (The Company Store) which set the prices, and education was provided for children. By the 1850s education was legally required for young children, and throughout the later 1800s the age of education kept rising.

There is still a village outside York where there are no pubs as the Rowntree foundation set it up and forbade any alcohol. I think that Bourbon may be like this as well. <channelling 'A' Level history from nearly 30 years ago>

Anyway - my problem with marriage is that it's so all or nothing. Either you aren't married, so there are very few legal protections for vulnerable partners, or you are and it's for life.

I'd like to see it be possible to move in with someone, with the idea that you're committing for 2 years (or whatever), then you can commit further or split up, but with agreed ways to resolve the situation. IF people want a life-long contract they can do that, have it blessed by the church and have a big party as well, but I think it would be good if even then, the couple have had to go through a process to discuss 'what if' about a split. Or a couple could commit to co-raising children without having to agree to live together and do the whole 'nuclear family' thing.

I think it's really easy when you're in love to be willing to give your life to the idea of happy ever after. Perhaps if people were forced to talk through what happens if/when you split up, they would be more aware of any differences in their expectations of what commitment means. How many SAHM think that they're being respected for the work they put into the family, only to find that the dad doesn't intend to provide good support when they divorce, and never did? IF you have to talk through child maintenance and how much the role of 'housekeeper/mother/childcare' etc is, it could (hopefully) make people know what they're getting into.

summerflower Thu 12-Jul-12 13:52:50

Did factories used to pay for schooling of the workers?

I'm not sure they did, Mini, I think they provided schooling for children who were in the labour force, but I am happy to be contradicted on that. It's a good question.

Apart from that, the whole topic of marriage depresses me so much, I'm staying out of it. I'm married, I don't wear a wedding band, I don't live with OH, I don't think of myself as a wife, I feel like the whole thing tries to shoe-horn me and our relationship into a socially sanctioned box, which I do my best to negotiate.

kickassangel Wed 11-Jul-12 15:47:11

I would like to see some kind of 'contract' as an option instead of marriage.

I think that the moment there is a child, then there should be a contract which comes into effect and holds both parents responsible for the upbringing of that child. Of course, to enforce that, then there would have to be a whole load of bureaucracy. But the concept that becoming a parent brings automatic responsibility is one that I would like to see more firmly enforced. I think too many people don't step up to that enough.

Then adults can choose to make thier own contracts if they wish. e.g. a couple may decide on a 5 year contract when a child is born, so that they both support the child through the early years. They may have a life-long one, or none at all.
BUT any contract/agreement would have been written in how the relationship will be separated at the end.

It would then mean that the law would be pro-active, looking at how best to protect the children, and the parents that care for them. At the moment it is reactive, and only steps in once people are at a stage where they find co-operating extremely difficult. It would also be so much easier to makes decision if you knew what would happen upon separation, particularly regarding the issue of SAHP.

I'd hope that people would also see that moving in with someone, or having a child with them, if they refuse to even a basic contract, would be a big red flag, but I'm sure there would still be some who say 'they love me, I don't need a contract'.

EclecticShock Tue 10-Jul-12 19:52:42

Agree with your post himalaya.

Himalaya Mon 09-Jul-12 11:57:45

Mini grin...I am sure you don't, it is just that is where the 'problem is that workers are alienated from their labour' line of reasoning always seems to take me.

It always seems to me (as with discussion of patriarchy) that the argument is saying 'wouldn't it be great if we could have got to this situation of having internet, medicine, advanced economies etc...but have done it some nicer, fairer way than we did', or forgetting altogether how amazing and unprecedented the current situation in industrialised economies is, and just saying capitalism/patriarchy is 100% shit, lets rip it up and start again.

It seems to me that the good and the bad are so deeply intertwined that all we can do is mitigate and evolve it.

MiniTheMinx Mon 09-Jul-12 11:06:49

I always get the impression that Himalaya thinks I would like to see a return to living in mud huts grin
I agree with you Dahlen it is criminal that profit sits side by side with unmet needs. However one of the contradictions of capitalism is that in order to invest in technology, jobs and infrastructure the capitalist must create the surplus, this is done at private or institutional level not at governmental level. The surplus has to be created before it can be invested which is why we now see innovations such as Daves Big Society bank. One of the new solutions to the capital surplus absorption problem is to invest in social enterprise. Of course this creates profits that are then privatised to create more capital surplus and so it continues. Whilst some good may come of capitalists making money out of meeting social need, as the wealth grows the inequality actually widens. That is the greatest contradiction. There is no way of mitigating against this, if there was it would have been done.

Dahlen Mon 09-Jul-12 10:05:51

I think that's a false dichotomy.

There is no reason why technology can't develop and productivity increase to generate more profit. The point is that a greater part of that profit should be used for the greater good. It is obscene that billions are made in profits that line the pockets of shareholders while there is so much deprivation. I am all for a meritocracy where talent and effort are rewarded, but there should be a minimum standard for those at the bottom of the pile, which should be met before even greater profits are allowed for those at the top.

Himalaya Mon 09-Jul-12 07:59:38

Mini

" Of course things like containerisation and transport, technology and systems for communication have meant that workers are further alienated from the product of their productivity and the profits............"

You always make it sound so baaaad grin

.... As if we'd all be better off un-alienated from the products of our labour tending sheep, being cobblers etc...rather than making widgets, being accountants or whatever and enjoying the modern electricity, healthcare, transport, food supply etc ... that goes along with that.

I think generally the things that make people independent - education, their own capital/savings, rights and ability to work in a high enough productivity job to afford their cost of living (which generally implies capital investment and/or professionalisation). You can have that in a modern marriage (but there are pressures not to). I think communes (as well as making me personally itchy) tend to work by enforcing
an artificial degree of interdependence through low productivity.

The most obvious example is the Amish who so restrict their use of technology in order to stick together. Hippy communes also seem to involve a lot of busy work. Local big man politics in Africa and Latin America is a variation on this - where politicians would rather scupper the chances of outside investment and trade which would make people less dependent on them.

MiniTheMinx Sun 08-Jul-12 15:54:26

Hothead, you have knocked it on the head! society doesn't want to pay, two reasons maybe, men do not want to pay towards the costs of other children but also we have been socialised into thinking only of ourselves. We are all individuals in competition to each other.

MiniTheMinx Sun 08-Jul-12 15:52:17

Yes, the money is there, $50 trillion of surplus capital, we have a surplus capital consumption crisis but the uber wealthy, the share holders, the owners are not interested in paying taxes and meeting unmet social needs. capitalism is very good at creating the need for a welfare system, not so good at financing it. The costs associated with the creation of the surplus workforce (unemployed), the need for an educated and skilled workforce, health care to keep the workers healthy and reproducing themselves, childcare and schooling, these costs must be born by the worker himself we are told implicitly and explicitly through either government policy towards those on benefits (just one example) or the acquiescence to the capitalist class interests in terms of tax avoidance and subsidies.

Could you employer pay for childcare? No because to do so would piss off the shareholders. Did factories once provide schooling for the children of the workers? yes they did. It goes from bad to very much worse.

HotheadPaisan Sun 08-Jul-12 15:25:59

And DP gave up work of course, why couldn't I get childcare vouchers to pay her?

HotheadPaisan Sun 08-Jul-12 15:24:04

And it's not always easy to get the continuity with childcare you'd like so you have to made decisions based on that, not easy.

HotheadPaisan Sun 08-Jul-12 15:22:24

I think there's a halfway house. I stayed at home for the first 8/9 months then my DP carried on at home, just don't see why it should have such an effect on career and earnings but it does, even for the two short periods I took out.

Xenia Sun 08-Jul-12 15:18:15

So if they stopped being housewives their husbands (and they) would have to pay for nannies and nurseries and women's worth would be recognised.

HotheadPaisan Sun 08-Jul-12 15:16:17

Also agree with Xenia on what a lot of women lose by not continuing to work, disagree though that the money isn't there for childcare and caring, society just doesn't want to pay for it because it doesn't have to, women are doing it for free.

HotheadPaisan Sun 08-Jul-12 15:14:04

Evo-psych sucks, carry on with the Marxist analysis, much more interesting.

MiniTheMinx Sun 08-Jul-12 13:39:41

Yes of course Himalaya, but if I don't use short hand I could write pages grin Of course things like containerisation and transport, technology and systems for communication have meant that workers are further alienated from the product of their productivity and the profits............ so we can make the component parts in one place and assemble nearer to the point of consumption. It is too simplistic to just state labour costs, into that we should add, education, docility of the work force, deregulation of labour and so on, government subsidies, tax rates and the countries infrastructure such as roads and water.

Back to marriage and monogamy, it seems from reading about history and reading Engles that monogamy was something that was forced upon women whilst men through their public lives and wealth had greater freedoms. In ancient times the practice of "Hetaerism" co-existed with marriage, so that prostitution and marriage became two sides of one coin. Of course there is a class element to this, the keeping of female slaves, the wife also property of the husband, the husband embodied the bourgeois the wife the proletariat, prostitution replaced the freedom that women had experienced in previous generations. So women as a class were denied freedoms they had once experienced whilst simultaneously made use of in the public sphere to further the wealth & power of men.

Tressy Sun 08-Jul-12 13:22:09

Hi Mini, probably won't continue it. I have been used to total control over my own life and emotions and cannot relinquish that power to someone else.

Himalaya Sun 08-Jul-12 13:09:42

Mini -

It's too simplistic to say that capital goes to where the labour is cheap.

Capital goes to (if the market works) where the risk-return return rail is best. This depends on a lot of things - consumer demand, natural resources, stability, ease of doing business, education and productivity of the workforce.

MiniTheMinx Sun 08-Jul-12 12:15:07

bill false!!! bit false

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