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Marriage a most unnatural state of affairs?

(165 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.

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

Dahlen Fri 06-Jul-12 23:36:09

Yes it all comes down to ownership of wealth doesn't it. And the easiest way to control that in a patriarchy is through ownership of women in a pair-bonding ritual. These days, men don't 'own' their wives, but the cult of monogamy continues. The trouble is, if you throw it out, the whole of society and the economy needs to change. I think it will change over time anyway, but it will be slow.

LineRunner Fri 06-Jul-12 23:37:03

I dislike the reductionist aspects of evolutionary biology, which has focused inappropriately and anthropomorphically on a few species where males attack 'step' offspring. (Even the vocabulary is wrong.)

The anthropological and historical record does contain examples of polyandry - not many, but they are there.

MiniTheMinx Fri 06-Jul-12 23:40:40

I agree with Dahlen, society would need a huge shift and communal living would also require changes to the built environment. It's interesting to study the built environment because you find that even now we design our environment around the nuclear family. It's also quite worrying too that we have a huge lack of housing and we are wreaking havoc on the natural environment in order to prop up systems that are starting to fail.

Dahlen Fri 06-Jul-12 23:41:48

I think it's really interesting to speculate what our economy would be like if the nuclear family only made up say 30% of society. I think that economically children would be much more of the state's responsibility rather than the parents, much like pensioners are not the financial responsibility of their own children today.

The growth in single parents, and the trend of so many parents not contributing to their offspring's upkeep and forcing the state to step in instead, may actually be the start of this. It would certainly explain why single parents are so often the object of wrath, as their very existence threatens that ultimate bastion of patriarchy and the status quo - government.

Alameda Fri 06-Jul-12 23:42:59

it's strange isn't it, houses always have a sort of giant marital chamber and then all these smaller rooms that children (with loads more stuff) often have to share

how much space do you need to shag in, really?

MiniTheMinx Fri 06-Jul-12 23:43:29

Government & capitalism

Dahlen Fri 06-Jul-12 23:46:37

Thinking of some of the cars I've experimented in, not a lot. wink

Saying that, I do appreciate a good amount of space these days...

Alameda Fri 06-Jul-12 23:48:50

I was thinking of a loo on the Norwich to Liverpool St train, but yes is usually nice to spread out a bit more than that

was just what mini said about the built environment, made me think of the master bedroom thing and have never quite understood that

Dahlen Fri 06-Jul-12 23:51:55

It is crazy really isn't it. Kids have so much more to keep in their rooms than parents.

MiniTheMinx Fri 06-Jul-12 23:53:57

Pensions and benefits to single parents it would seem can not be afforded under free market capitalism. All the more reason to make male workers keep their women and their offspring. make women perform domestic work and reproductive labour in isolation, being consumers and cheap labour. keeps the wheels on capitalism. Ian Duncan smith is a classic example of upholding class power by exhorting the merits of marriage.

Dahlen Fri 06-Jul-12 23:55:29

Quite. IDS makes me seethe.

MiniTheMinx Fri 06-Jul-12 23:57:22

Why is it called a "master" bedroom? hmm

Dahlen Sat 07-Jul-12 00:03:20

Do you know I'd never even thought of that connotation before. I'm renaming mine the mistress bedroom. Or do you think that conjures up images of a dominatrix-style lair? Perhaps the room-where-everyone-inevitably-ends-up,-including-the-bloody-cat bedroom might be more accurate.

creativepebble Sat 07-Jul-12 00:09:35

Artificial it may be, but marriage does make a union very public and it says 'this is it, come what may'. For me, having married in church with God's blessing (whoever you consider Him/Her to be) made it even more powerful, dh less so, but it's still all about the public declaration that we will not quit.
We have been very, very close to quitting and I think if we weren't married we would probably not still be together (I'm not sure at the moment whether this is a good or a bad thing). It's about the kids too now...
I would love to have the strength to be more radical and a bit more of a hippy about it all and share the love (been there) but I suppose I need that security and there is the need to conform and please the family.
Fascinating thread btw.

GothAnneGeddes Sat 07-Jul-12 00:41:23

Just a side point, I think the communal living can be equally damaging for women as the nuclear set-up. Limited privacy, interfering/ domineering relatives...

IMHO I disagree with both romanticising or demonising monogamy, I think it's arisen more from convenience then anything else, easier to keep one partner then have a relationship, emotional,financial or otherwise, with several.

solidgoldbrass Sat 07-Jul-12 00:52:01

Thing is 'marriage' hasn't always meant 'monogamy'. Even the Christian Bible features men with lots of female possessions wives who the Christian god didn't get all snitty with. Marriage, whatever form it takes, has always been a legal matter, to do with ownership of property, whether that was taken to mean land, money or the bodies of women and children.
I don't actually have a problem with 'marriage', heterosexual, homosexual or more-than-two-people. You can marry a cardboard box or your invisible dalek pal and it's fine by me.

The thing about romantic heteromonogamy ('true love') whether or not marriage is involved, is that it doesn't usually work very well or last very long in terms of making people happy. The reason it's pushed so hard is that it benefits men more than women, and it's nowadays (post industrial revolution) a matter of enabling every man who wants, to aquire the domestic services of a woman.

NoComet Sat 07-Jul-12 00:52:45

I can't conceive of ever having had a child unless I was in a stable monogamous relationship. I'm old fashioned and married, but can understand people who make equally firm private promises.

Yes relationships fall apart, but I believe DCs should start life with "parents" who are willing to support each other (inverted commas because I'm quite happy to accept that with adoption, donation and same sex couples these may not be biological parents)

It takes a village is a lovely concept, but I think we all need the support of one special someone.

solidgoldbrass Sat 07-Jul-12 00:55:19

SBB: I take it you're pro-choice then.

GothAnneGeddes Sat 07-Jul-12 02:25:32

SGB - but I'm not sure poly relationships are anymore stable. Certainly, I think that they are probably more time consuming.

Then if you look at things like swinging, often people involved in that have as many rules (if not more) then monogamists.

Just a question, is that you think people should accept that relationship are often serial, as in people should stop focusing on the idea of having one life-long relationship? Or do you think that some form of polyamoury would make people happier?

Himalaya Sat 07-Jul-12 08:14:38

I think the whole community/village/extended family model is worse-more constraining - for women (as opposed to the community you cobble together yourself, which is great but not so stable).

Himalaya Sat 07-Jul-12 08:16:42

GAG - don't you think serial monogamy, rather than one partner for life is the accepted norm nowadays?

exoticfruits Sat 07-Jul-12 08:41:55

Am I alone in that I got married because I loved DH and wanted to grow old together? He did the same-I can't see how it is controlling my reproduction and wealth. People's happiness depends on the little things and how they handle boredom. Only boring people get bored.
I expect that some people-male and female-are not suited to monogamy. It suits me and I wouldn't want anything different.
However I don't see a wedding as a fairy tale-it really doesn't matter if you go down to the registry office on a wet Monday in jeans, as long as it is what you want.
I also wouldn't put up with abuse and wouldn't be with DH if I didn't trust him 100%

You do not have to get married! It is personal choice.

exoticfruits Sat 07-Jul-12 08:43:46

We also don't come in isolation-we get each others parents, uncles, cousins, great aunts, old family friends etc etc etc which it lovely.

vezzie Sat 07-Jul-12 10:11:58

The isolation of individual nuclear families is terribly unfair for children, if only materially. The more I think about it, the more bizarre it seems that these tiny vulnerable people land in our midst, and are allocated to all-powerful parents who have sole responsibility for them, and some of them will never be able to go anywhere, not even a weekend by the sea, and some of them will be taken skiing and snorkeling every year. Some of them won't even be properly fed. It's absolutely bizarre.
I mean I don't want people coming and snooping around going "eggs again? Really?" but it seems horrible that my children have so little recourse to external support to make up for our failings (which aren't that bad I hope in the grand scheme of things, but you know what I mean)

Dahlen Sat 07-Jul-12 10:19:09

I think arguments pro/anti any form of living are again trying to find a one-size-fits-all solution, which isn't ever going to work because people are unique.

It's difficult to know what society would look like without the constant bombardment of messages about romance and 'the one' we are always subject to. But I strongly suspect, given the biological imperative to reproduce, that pair-bonding will always play a part in it. Whether that's monogamous and life-long is open to interpretation though.

I certainly think the world would be a much nicer place if we stopped telling people there is only one good way and let them get on with whatever way worked for them.

Himalaya - interesting point about communal living. There are many different forms of it, of course, but very few that have been set up affording women truly equal status or taking into account their differing needs compared to men.

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