Age of marriage/sexual activity

(8 Posts)

I think it varies a lot so I don't want to generalize - I'm sure there were lots of marriages where men simply saw it as doing their duty rather than anything to feel excited or repulsed about.

Lots of medieval marriages at age 12 were to other children, neither of whom would be expected to consummate the marriage until much later. People got quite judgy about parents (like Margaret Beaufort's) who actually encouraged their very young teenagers to have sex, because it was understood it wasn't healthy, as maud says.

Canon law defined a child as someone between 7 and 12/14, and it was understood that child marriage was very definitely immoral (though it does happen). So someone aged 12 would be seen as only just not a child rather the way someone aged 16 is now. I do think the attitude to 12 year olds actually getting married and having sex is not very different from the way people tend to be concerned if a 16 year old is (legally) getting married or shacking up with a 30 year old.

MandMand Sat 01-Feb-14 11:10:26

I think also that once a child reached puberty, they would no longer be considered to be a child. Childhood simply didn't exist in the modern sense - most children in poor families would be doing a full days work by the time they were 7 or 8, or be apprenticed to a trade or in domestic service by 12 or 13, living away from home.

As I recall from a women's history module, a historian did some research into marriages in the 17th century and found in country areas a majority of brides were pregnant at the time of marriage. Sort of ensuring the family line would continue that the bride was fertile before the knot was actually tied.

I'll try and remember the historian/book now.

I guess I can see why it happened to some extent but did the men not find it v unpleasant/disgusting or is that just social influence of modern times?

If my husband was told he had to marry a 13 year old he would be truly grossed out even a 16 year old would seem wrong and I don't think he could get turned on by what is still a v young girl, he's 22 and often the age gaps then were much more!

Did mistresses tend to be of an age with the male?

MandMand Thu 30-Jan-14 21:50:00

In upper class/aristocratic families, marriage was of course all about political alliances and property deals - the girls were married off young to seal the deal. Even in less wealthy families, most marriages would have been to a greater or lesser extent "arranged" between families rather than love matches, and as still seen today in some communities, it was important to uphold the family honour by ensuring the girl was a virgin, and preferably meek and compliant - much easier with a younger girl.

I always think of Margaret Beaufort, married off at 12 to the 25 year old Edmund Tudor, and giving birth to the future King Henry VII at the age of just 13. Even in those times, it was more usual to wait a few years before consummating a marriage with a child bride, to increase the chances of her surviving childbirth and fulfilling the dynastic aims of such alliances.

So in 1865 under 16 was seen as not good anymore?
Did the change coincide with longer living?

As I remember the age of consent was 12 for both girls and boys until 19th Century when it was raised to 13 1875 and then 16 in 1885 with a big outcry over child prostitution.

As it was common for people to die a lot younger and for women especially to die in childbirth then the available pool of women may have been so much younger?

Why is it that the age of girls in particular were so much younger when they got married?
Now we would see it as grooming/disgusting that an older man would want to marry let alone have sex with a 13/14 year old.
Did anyone see it as such then?
When and why did this change?

In Greece I read that often the older men would have a young boy who he 'taught' stuff too and then get another one when the first was too grown up. So that wasn't really about fertility etc!

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