Views on Socially Acceptable and Legal Marriage
The type and functions of marriage vary
from culture to culture. In the United States, Europe, and China
in the early 21st century, legally sanctioned marriages are monogamous
(although some pockets of society still sanction polygamy socially,
if not legally) and divorce is relatively simple and socially sanctioned.
In the West, the prevailing view toward marriage today is that it
is based on emotional attachment between the partners and entered
In the Islamic world, marriage is sanctioned between a man and
a woman, however there are verses in chapter 4 of the Qur'an which
state that in certain conditions a man is allowed up to four wives.
In Imperial China, formal marriage was sanctioned only between
a man and a woman, although a man could take several concubines
and the children from the union were considered legitimate.
Societies that Permit Polygamy
Some societies permitted polygamy, in which a man could have multiple
wives; even in such societies however, most men have only one.
In such societies, having multiple wives is generally considered
a sign of wealth and power. The status of multiple wives has
varied from one society to another. In Islamic societies, the
different wives were considered equal while in Imperial China,
one woman was considered the primary wife while the other women
were considered concubines. Among the upper classes, the primary
wife was an arranged marriage with an elaborate formal ceremony
while the concubines were taken on later with minimal ceremony.
Monogamous Societies are Most Popular
There are also many monogamous societies, where a marriage consists
of only two people, a very few polyandrous, where a woman could
have multiple husbands. Societies which permit group marriage
are extremely rare, but have existed in utopian societies such
as the Oneida Community.
However, in 21st century Western cultures, while bigamy is illegal
and sexual relations outside marriage are generally frowned-upon,
divorce and remarriage have been relatively easy to undertake.
This has led to a practice called serial monogamy. Serial monogamy
occurs when a husband, usually of average to high socioeconomic
status, divorces an older wife in order to take on a younger
wife. The younger wife is popularly referred to as the "trophy
wife" by many who frown upon the practice. The modern practice
of serial monogamy is strikingly similar to patterns of polygamy
in other societies, and some evolutionary psychologists speculate
that this practice is a normal human mating strategy.
Legally sanctioned marriages are generally conducted between heterosexual
couples, although there are countries that recognize same-sex
marriage, including The Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, the American
state of Massachusetts, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Greenland,
Iceland, Germany, France, and the American state of Vermont allow
couples to enter legal partnerships, but these partnerships are
not considered marriages even if they bestow many of the same
legal benefits upon the couple.
article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
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