Marriage, a history: How Love Conquered Marriage


Photograph of a Bride and Her Attendants in New Ulm, Minnesota.

This book discusses the evolution and influence that marriage has had on modern society and how marriage has been changed by the concept of “love-based marriage.”

In the earliest days of humanity:

People shared their food, many people contributed to the raising of children and children had a communal upbringing, as opposed to the nuclear family upbringing.  Notably, people hunted in large groups to get the game so both able-bodied men and women would participate in these hunts because you needed large groups of people to drive large game over cliffs etc. so they could be killed and eaten.  However, when humanity adapted and hunting technology improved, fewer people were needed to hunt and hunting became more focused on speed and upper body strength. So the hunting group became smaller and societies became more clannish and the idea of individualized property developed and thus did marriage.  

Men needed a wife to design cooking utensils and maintain the food supply through gathering. So, sexism also developed once marriage developed.

Once societies became more advanced and early human empires developed, like Egypt and Rome, marriage become politicized.  In Ancient Egypt, it wasn’t uncommon for fathers, who wished to conquer other nations, to force the conquered kings or princes to marry their daughters. These marriages served to form of political domination over the conquered nation.

“When a powerful ruler sent his daughter to be the primary wife of a lesser king or prince, he expected that she would represent his interests in her new husband’s household” p. 58

Some of the conquered kings or princes resented these arranged marriages by their conquerors and did everything in their power to avoid their wives.

The notable story of Anthony and Cleopatra was really about the politics of marriage, not love. (see page 62-63)

“The triumvirate set up to rule Rome after Caesar’s murder was unstable and riven with the rivalry between two of its members, Mark Antony and Octavian, Caesar’s designated successor…The existence of a biological son in Egypt, acknowledged by Caesar himself, was a major worry for Octavian and an intriguing opportunity for Octavian’s foes…Initially, Cleopatra did not take sides in the escalating rivalry between Octavian and Mark Antony…[however] within a year, Cleopatra bore Mark Antony twins…the same year his twins were born, 40 B.C., he and Octavian made up their differences. Antony took responsibility for the Eastern part of the Roman Empire and sealed the deal by marrying Octavian’s sister, Octavia…But Marc Antony did not repudiate his relationship with Cleopatra…Eight years after marrying Octavia, he formally notified her of his intention to divorce her and committ to [Cleopatra]…By this time, Marc Antony was championing Cesarion, son of Cleopatra and Caesar as the rightful ruler of Rome…[Because Cesarion was still young to be ruler]…Antony offered to hold his place at the protector of Caesar’s bloodline.” (p.63)

Other notable examples of political marriage include that of Queen Tiye (a commoner) and Amenhotep III. Amenhotep married this commoner to protect his power from foreign rulers queens.

For generations, both aristocrats and commoners married to build wealth, gain property, gain influential in-laws, consolidate power and enhance their standard of living. In fact, it was considered strange and even a liability for couples to marry for “love” because above all marriage served the purpose of advancing the station of the society or family. Some families even sought to maintain their wealth and power by only marrying cousins, so that no rival families could claim their wealth or power.

Marriage was so politicized that the Catholic church stepped in a forbid cousin marriages, even between eighth cousins. Thus, some of the earliest incest laws were developed.

This is how marriage functioned for years and years. First and foremost, marriage was a way to gain wealth, in-laws, power and survive. It was not about love. Loyalty and love between spouses was not valued. First and foremost loyalty was to your birth family, parents and siblings.

It wasn’t until the 18th century that the idea of love-marriage became popularized. In the 1700s, many younger people went through a period of apprenticeships and then once they completed them, they were able to marry someone of their choice (so long as it conformed to societal expectations of what constitutes a suitable choice) and then they would set up their households. Thus, in the 18th century, people actually married later than those in the 19th century and even the mid-20th century. 

In the  18th century, you began to see a lot of literature about love-based marriages, such as Noel Clarissa (1748) and Charlotte Temple (1791) [p.158].

In the 19th century, the idea of female purity was heavily promoted. White women were expected to be chaste and pure, think of the cult of domesticity. In fact, white women were said to be completely asexual. It was considered desirable for a woman to not want sex at all. In contrast, because many African-American women were enslaved and often faced rape and exploitation, they were viewed as not ideal. Thus the systemic injustice that Black and lower-economic women faced was blamed, not on racism or discrimination, but on lack of female purity.

Policies, which limited women’s right to earn their own money and own property put women in a position of dependence on men, so many women had to marry out of necessity. 

When the Industrial Revolution occurred, the idea of the male-breadwinner marriage developed. Men would go to work and [white] women would stay home. Then, in the 20th century, marriage became even more love-based and idealized. After WWII, the economy was booming and [white] men earned enough to be the sole breadwinners, while the[white]  wife stayed home. People also married young, younger than in the 18th century, in the post-WWII era. So, from the late 1940s to early 1960s, you have the epitome of the male-breadwinner, nuclear family (Coontz). Today many people regard the 1950s marriage model as the ideal marriage, but the reality is that this short period of marriage was more of an anomaly than the norm (Coontz). Thus Coontz, argues that there wasn’t truly a golden age of “good old days” of marriage (Coontz).

In the 1970s-1980s, you had more women join the workforce and divorce increased because prior to this era, no-fault divorce was very uncommon because religious and judicial leaders did not allow for easy no-fault divorce. Today, marrying for anything other than love is considered weird and people divorce more often. Women have more opportunities to work outside the house, own their own homes, so there is more opportunity for many women [or men] to choose not to marry at all. However, in some cultures and countries, women still have to marry as a means of survival (Coontz).

Interesting Things:

  1. People married later in the 17th century than in the 1950s.
  2. The first vibrator was invented in the 19th century, which was the height of the sexual purity movement,  to treat women for hysteria. (See p. 190)
  3. Marriage was used as a tool of eugenics (see p. 213).
  4. Abortion and gay marriage were not as frowned upon in Ancient times as you would have thought and male affection, such as sharing a bed, in the 19th century wasn’t frowned upon. (See p. 185)
  5. The largest single and most successful act of welfare occurred after WWII and it went to white men veterans, Black men weren’t included. (See p. 219/223).
  6.  Poor economic conditions and discrimination contribute to lower marriage rates for low-income, African-American women. Coontz noted that African-Americans are more likely to disapprove of cohabitation, but are often blamed for not valuing marriage and having a high out of wedlock birth rate. I know this is a stereotype we have all heard. This is what Coontz writes, “Sociologist Frank Frustenberg has been following a group of economically disadvantaged women in Baltimore, mostly African-American who became pregnant as unwed teens in the 1960s. Most of these women married the fathers of their children. But 80 percent of those marriages broke down before the children reached age 18…By the 1980s few [women of that generation] married the fathers of their children. One reason they did not marry was that they thought that their boyfriends would not be able to support a family in touch economic times of the 1980s. Many also said their mothers’ experiences had convinced them that being a single mother was preferable to entering an unstable marriage.” (Coontz, 269-271).  (See pages 269, 286-290).
  7. Female lawyers are less likely to marry (p.285).
  8. “Traditional-minded women” are less likely to marry, but their marriages are more likely to last when they do marry (p. 297).
  9. Conclusion: one- size policies to encourage marriage, like the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, do not help. (see p. 292). Solutions should incorporate flexible options.
  10. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell is a 19th-century novel that focuses on love-based marriage.

Source: Marriage, A History of How Love Conquered Marriage by Stephanie Coontz

My Reading List September 2017: Marriage, Marines, Porn and Night Women

My Reading List. 

So, what have I been up to? I’ve been reading about marriage, porn, Marines, and some more stuff. Check it out below…


  1. The Montford Point Marines by Melton McLaurin: This is a non-fiction book about the first African-American Marines, who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Prior to 1942, the Marines had a policy of not accepting African-Americans. However, when Pearl Harbour occurred and the country went to war, President Roosevelt signed executive order 8802, which resulted in the Marines being opened up to African-Americans. However, the executive order allowed the Marines to segregate African-Americans from other Marines. So, the first African-American Marines arrived to serve at the segregated Montford Point in Jacksonville, North Carolina. McLaurin does a great job of detailing the history and impact that the Montford Point Marines had in the United States. Read more


2. Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage by Stephanie Coontz.

This is another non-fiction book, which traces the history of marriage from the earliest days of humanity to the present day. The book focuses mostly on American and European Marriage customs, but I found it very interesting. According to the book, the marriage went through an evolutionary period where during the earliest phases of humanity, before there an idea of individualized property, the marriage did not really exist. However, the advent of conceptions of individualized property, clannish mentality, war, politics, and economy all coalesced to influence the concept of marriage. So, the marriage went from a survival necessity to a political necessity to being love-based, optional part of adulthood. This book really makes you the question and evaluate the value that we ascribe to marriage in this society. I recommend it and wrote a post about what I learned.

3. Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality by Gail Dines

This is a very good non-fiction book about the Porn Industry and it’s explicit sexism and racism.  Basically, Dines premise is that “porn is to sexuality what McDonald’s is to food.” The porn industry defines our sexuality and uses racism and sexism (Interracial Cuckold porn/ Ghetto gaggers) to reinforce the racial/sexual status quo. Dines is very good at tying in the racism implicit in American Society into the porn industry. I recommend it.

Check out Gail Dines Videos below:

TedX- Pornified Culture


Gail Dines discusses Racism in Porn (I recommend watching the whole thing, but if you want to hear about racism/sexism, start at about 24 minutes; 28 minutes she discusses Black people in porn)


here is my post on the interracial cuckold porn/ sexual racism.

4. The Book of Night Women by Marlon James: This is a fiction book, it’s a novel that is set in 18th-century Jamaican plantation. I cried while reading this book. I can’t even describe much about it, but I just have to recommend it.

On Trump & NFL “Sons of Bitches”: You Don’t Care About the Flag, Stop Lying.



Trump referred to NFL players, mostly African-American, who kneeled during the National Anthem as “sons of bitches.” Today, Trump made remarks that he “felt ashamed,” that NFL players were kneeling during the National Anthem because it was an “insult to the military,” which was a very ironic statement.





In the meantime, Trump is slow to assist the crisis in Puerto Rico. 

I’m deeply disappointed that this man was put in the white house in the first place. There’s much that I could say, but I think Tahnesi Coates says it all. Now more people are taking knees.




Charlottesville: Just the Tip of of the Iceberg

Photos of Charlottesville

Charlottesville is a city where the University of Virginia, which was founded by Thomas Jefferson, proudly stands. It is one of the most prestigious Public Universities in the country. It also has a history of slavery and discrimination.   I remember when I was in high school, I participated in a program at the University of Virginia and one of the tour guides told a story of how at the University of Virginia there is prestigious housing zone, called The Lawn, which is reserved for high-achieving students. It is one of the oldest parts of the University and in the antebellum days, slaves were not permitted to be brought to the University, but people with slaves would sneak them in and hide them in these houses. When an African-American student, who lived on The Lawn, wanted to run for student government, this student had racial slurs written on their housing complex. Thomas Jefferson himself owned slaves and fathered mixed-race children with enslaved Sally Hemmings.

The hatred that was seen during the white supremacist march near Charlottesville is not new. It has a long legacy and decades of racist policies have led up to this tension.  This is not a situation of free speech, this is just an expression of hatred and a violation of other people’s civil rights. Trump spoke out and claimed to condemn the violence, but the reality is, his words, his calls for a “Muslim ban,” his birtherism, his flirtation with white supremacy is what flamed the fires of this type of white supremacy in the first place. So, Trump is a contributor to this hatred.

The media appears to be hypocritical. I have not heard any of these white supremacist marchers called thugs, even though, a white supremacist allegedly ran over a peaceful counter protestor. I have not heard anyone asking, “where the parents are,” of these white supremacist protestors. I did not see the same display of force against these white supremacist protestors as was seen in Ferguson, where BLM protestors were pepper-sprayed. I have not seen these white supremacists labeled as terrorists. Fox News refers to this as a white supremacist rally, but called Baltimore a riot.  I guess it’s only people of color who get that kind of treatment.

The one positive thing that came out of this was seeing counter protestors of all colors, white, black, and brown who showed up to take a stand against this. If any of you believe that all white people are evil, you are mistaken because it took courage to stand up against a violent group of white supremacists and do the right thing. There were interfaith, multiracial clergy members who came together, even faced violence themselves, to denounce this and bring a message of peace and love.

All this stems from ignorance. The Public-School system has not done an adequate job in teaching about institutional inequality (the Public-school system itself is an institution of inequality) and we don’t teach children about having empathy for other people. We don’t have a required racial justice curriculum for teachers or students and we do not promote peace and conflict resolutions, we promote violence. There are people who study peace and conflict resolution as a profession and they are trained in how to deal with these situations, why don’t we use them as a resource ever?

(White Woman Killed by White Supremacist)

Added: This is a tragedy and I mourn for Heather, a white woman who stood against prejudice and became a victim of white supremacy in Charlottesville. I mourn for Susie Jackson and the 8 other victims of Charleston shooting back in 2015 and I mourn for all the nameless Black, Brown, White and people of all colors who have been killed and murdered by white supremacy and hatred in general. I also mourn for all those who have been disenfranchised and harmed by the system of white supremacy itself.





Unarmed White Woman Killed By Police In Minneapolis

An Australian woman named Justine Damond was shot in Minneapolis after calling the police to report a suspected sexual assault. For unknown reasons, when police arrived, she was shot. It has been reported that she was unarmed. The police officers have been sent away and placed on administrative leave. One of the police officers was named Mahmoud Noor and the other was named Matthew Harrity. It has been reported that Noor was the one who pulled the trigger.

Noor may be Somali, while Damond is white. Interesting role reversal here. It will be interesting to see how the media and society respond to this. We know countless Black women (and men) have been shot by white police officers and usually when this occurs, it is accompanied by investigations into the victim’s character. Their past will be scrutinized, to look for the slightest infraction, their parentage will be criticized. Will this be the case with Justine?

Will the media wonder whether Justine was behaving aggressively, will they say she might have had an attitude, will they do thorough backgrounds check to find out whether or not she smoked weed in 7th grade?

I doubt it.

It’s a tragedy that someone unarmed was killed by the police. It’s a tragedy that someone lost a daughter, a fiance, a friend… as we Black folks know already, there are systemic problems with policing in this country. It’s unfortunate. BTW, the police officers were wearing body cameras ( they weren’t turned on). This demonstrates that body cameras alone aren’t enough.

The Somali Community in Minneapolis is prepared for an assault on their entire identity. As we know, when minorities do something, the entire group is blamed, when it’s a white person, they are just individuals gone made.

Documentary About Police Shootings (



Update on Reading List 2016-2017

How am I doing on my reading list? 

Well, it’s not always easy to read when you are a full-time student, but I’m finding that ironically I am reading more books from my reading list this year than I have in past years.

What have I read so far?

I’ve read:

Ladivine by Marie N’Diaye. It is a french-novel, which is set in Europe. I read the English- translated version of it. It’s a classic story of a mixed-race woman, who must come to terms with her African heritage, but she keeps running away from it. She denies part of who she is an in essence, she keeps her identity hidden from everyone, including her husband and daughter. Eventually, her double life becomes suffocating and unbearable, not only for her, but for those around her, who love her. An ongoing symbol within the novel is that of an abandoned dog and it is up to the reader to decide what that symbol represents. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s definitely very well-done.

The Subterraneans by Jack Kerouac. It’s is a story inspired by a true story. It is about a young man who rolls with the Subterranean crowd. The subterraneans are an artsy, beatnik type of group. It is sets in the 1950s. He develops a relationship with a Black woman, named Mardou Fox. She is a mysterious character and the protagonist often seems to take her for granted (not unlike how many Black women are taken for granted in the present day). Overall, I enjoyed it. Some of the writing is very erotic and enticing, if you like that.

I’ve also read Souls of Black Folk, which I wrote about in this post.

I’ve also read Citizen, which I wrote about in this post.

I’ve also read Cutting for Stone, which I wrote about in this post.

I’m halfway through From Poor Law to Welfare State and I’ll write what I took away from that book when I am finished.

Now, I am reading I know Why the Caged Bird Sings, next is Go Set a Watchmen, then Parable of the Sower, then the Jungle by Upton Sinclair, then finally Americanah (which I’ve been putting off for years), then I have to read the Bible in entirety and then Anna Karenina.

This many not seem like I’ve been reading as much as I should, but the truth is, I love to read. I always read excerpts and go on amazon to find books, but i get distracted by technology. I’ll be laying on my bed, reading a book, then suddenly my email will buzz and I’ll put the book down to check and next thing I know, it’s 2am in the morning. This is how I end up not reading.

But, I’ve tried to make a habit of reading at least 15- 30 pages every night. I’ve realized that although the internet is a gift in a lot of ways, it can stifle your learning because you are continuously looking for stuff that you already know and you don’t know how to search for what you don’t know because you don’t know what to search for!

It’s like running on a hamster wheel, but with books, I am learning so much more  in the past few months than I ever thought I would. I am realizing how far behind on my reading I am, but thanks to Abagond, I am being inspired to read nightly. I still have so much more to do.

My motivations for reading more include my desire to improve my writing,  my desire to indulge my reading hobby and also my desire to stand against the ignorance that has so permeated the political atmosphere. The more you read and learn from a multitude of viewpoints, the more empathy you have, the more you understand history and society and the more your mind opens. I want my mind to be open.