“This definition [of marriage] has been with us for millennia, and it’s very difficult for the court to say: ‘Oh, well, we know better.'” — Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy
Marriage, straight or gay, is an interesting institution. Yes, it’s been around for a long time, but couples just a few hundred years ago would barely recognize modern matrimony. The whole idea of marrying for love with the expectation that both partners would remain sexually monogamous would have struck our ancestors as non-sensical. Marriage was meant to create alliances between families and cement bonds within an extended family. (Marriage between cousins is still very common in many cultures.) Children had no say in whom they married. Sex was for procreation and to satisfy the husband. Love didn’t start to come into the mix until about 250 years ago.
The concept that marriage was meant to be between one man and one woman is also a fairly recent development. God certainly didn’t seem to have a problem with polygamy. Many of his personally chosen go-to guys — Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon to name a few — had multiple wives. Hell, King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. (I suspect there were a lot of sexually frustrated women in that flock, not that Solomon probably cared.)
Even well into the 20th Century, it was accepted that men (at least those from the upper classes) might need to satisfy their urges outside of marriage. (I guess a woman who stayed home all day to take care of kids and keep house wasn’t a big turn-on.) It was fine for them to sleep with women on the side, as long as they didn’t flaunt it. As for the wives, well, they faced poverty and social condemnation if their husbands found out they were satisfying urges they weren’t even supposed to have.
My novel Goddess features a woman who wants to explore passions and desires that her husband can’t satisfy. It’s not that he’s a bad guy. She just needs something more than a good father and provider. In previous eras, she would have been told not to have those desires. Today, she’d be counseled to go to couples therapy and learn how to get her needs met within the confines of marriage. Which course is the right one? I guess it depends on your perspective.
I leave you with this excerpt from Goddess.
“You know, before I met Dave, I thought people who cheated on their spouses were selfish jerks. I was sure if I did it, I’d regret it for the rest of my life. But that first time, driving home afterwards, you know what I felt? Elation. I was so happy, being with a man who wanted me more than anything. It was such an amazing feeling.”
“But you never had that with Trent,” I objected.
“So what? Just because Matt was hot for you once doesn’t mean you should settle for what you have now.”
“If I’m unhappy with my marriage, I should talk to Matt. We should be working on it.”
“I’m sure that’s what Ann Landers would tell you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Everybody says keeping up the passion is a lot of work, but maybe that’s because we’re fighting against nature. Did you ever think that this idea that we can stay sexually attracted to one person for the rest of our lives is a myth created by society? Men were never expected to do that. We like to make an example of the few people who can keep it up for thirty years, pardon my pun, but they’re the exception to the rule. It reminds me of an old joke about Calvin Coolidge.”
“Don’t ask me why him. I heard it in my college psychology class. Supposedly, the president and his wife were taking separate tours of a farm. The guide shows Mrs. Coolidge the chicken coop and tells her, ‘A rooster mates up to 20 times a day.’
“Mrs. Coolidge nods her head, impressed, and says, ‘Tell that to Mr. Coolidge.’
“So later on the same guide is showing the president the chickens and tells him about the rooster’s prowess. Coolidge listens, then asks the guide, ‘Same chicken?’
“The guide shakes his head. ‘ Oh no, a different chicken every time.’
“And the president says, ‘Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge.’”
I laughed and shook my head. “Calvin Coolidge isn’t going to convince me to have an affair with Ashland Stewart.”