Saturday, June 23, 2012

Getting Married: To have sex or to have babies

I just realized something. The proponents of traditional marriage who say that the purpose of marriage is to provide a good environment for children are ignoring an important point in marriage traditions. Traditionally, you had to get married before you could legally have sex with the object of your desire. So the purpose of marriage was to have sex. If the sex didn't occur, that is, if the marriage wasn't consummated, the marriage could be annulled as though it had never happened. The lack of offspring wasn't enough to annul a marriage, but the lack of sex was.

Now a vast majority of Americans are having sex before marriage. So we don't need to get married to have sex. I think this is why marriage is breaking down in the US. The problem was that sex outside marriage destabilized marriage for many people.

Then again, I don't think that's the reason. Over 95% of Americans are having pre-marital sex, but 95% of marriages haven't destabilized.

More likely is that when society became more accepting of sex before marriage, it also became more accepting of other changes to tradition:
  • Divorce
  • Delayed marriage
  • Delayed childbearing through contraception
  • Voluntary childless marriages
  • Alternative sexual positions and techniques
  • Sequential relationships and sex partners
  • Dating and having sex concurrently with multiple partners (but not too many)
  • Raising children outside marriage
  • Getting married after the birth of a child
  • Women having both careers and children
  • Women in high-commitment jobs
Gosh, with all those other changes, accepting same-sex relationships and marriage doesn't seem like such a big deal. After all, it's apparent traditional lost a long time ago.

This isn't the first time tradition has been challenged. Think of the play The Fiddler on the Roof. It's all about Tevye's daughters breaking the tradition of arranged marriage. Maybe the lesson is that people accept the non-traditional when they see good aspects to the change.

You may now kiss the bride and finally have sex with her.
Photo: some twitter thing

Extra: Heavens! Changes to the Nuptial Mass are arcane to the rest of us.

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