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Changing Social Order: Marriage

R. S. Martin



Posted Oct 17 2006

Written for Is the Institution of Marriage as we know it about to change?


I'm a single woman who has never been married and has never had biological kids. I grew up in a religious culture where sex outside marriage was strictly forbidden and I have had no desire to change my habits since I left. Premarrital sex that resulted in a pregnancy was severely punished.


Even a rape victim was forced to marry the man who raped her. According to rumour, this case might never have happened had the parents not tried so extremely hard to control whom their sons married. It seems the son and his cousin (who was raised as his sister) were looking after his farm. He was getting rabid and she fled the scene. She arrived at her parent's home to find Mom gone.


Religious and family values did not allow for a daugher to tell her dad what was going on; probably did not even have the vocabulary for it. Dad ordered her sister next in age to go keep house for this son. So she got raped. They were forced to marry.


It was a live birth but the child lived only a few months. There have been other children and I have no idea how things are working out. At one point they separated against all religious and social rules of the culture. I was so glad to know they had the courage to do this. But eventually they got back together. I have no idea how this happened or how things are working out.


I think if this is what "family values" does to people, then it's high time values changed. I feel so encouraged to know that the scene of society at large has changed so drastically. I suspect that the one-man-one-woman marriage contract is far from "natural" or even normal.


The normal situation seems to be for a man to have as many wives and children as he can support. I suspect that not all the children he supported were exactly his own but that is not something I can back up.


In a social situation where the entire tribe banded together for the hunt it probably did not matter so much whether the biological father or the woman's husband fed the child. That's just some ideas off the top of my head for what they're worth.


BUT they are the type of ideas that prompt me to support things like divorce, abortion, and out-of-wedlock sex depending on the situation. Like our hunter-gatherer ancestors, I believe, however, that the adults who bring a child into the world are responsible to provide that child's physical and emotional needs.


This becomes really complicated when a twelve-year-old girl is raped by a fourteen-year-old relative or acquaintance. This is where the tribal life comes to the rescue. With everybody living in the same compound or village, the children (both generations) could be cared for by older people.


The downside of tribal life that hit me so hard when I was taking anthropology courses was that there was no way out of the village or compound. One was trapped. Having the option to leave a culture that was thoroughly incompatible has meant so much to me.


On the other hand, if life expectancy were what it was two centuries ago, being "trapped for life" in an incompatible social arrangement was not a sixty-year-life sentence, to use someone else's words.


Looking at my own life. At thirty I had not yet exhausted all possibilities. By forty I realized things were never going to change. At fifty I am well on my way to a better life. Jesus got to die before he was forty. Most of the "great people" who composed the "rules of life" by which we live and die were in their twenties or thirties when they wrote and taught.


The rare person who lived to be sixty or seventy was the wise man or woman of society. The eighty-year-old was probably viewed like we today view a 120-year-old. Just a lot of ramblings...



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