Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.

Really great interview over at Salon with Susan Squire, the author of the new social history of marriage, "I Don't: A Contrarian History of Marriage."

It's not even that Squire rips up the institution; in fact, according to the article, she's been married for 19 years herself. But she applies a critical eye to the social history of a fundamental societal building block whose function is often superficially overlooked in the pursuit of taffeta and cakes and flowers and rings. And I am always grateful to run across authors who step outside of their own social frameworks a bit and take the long view of things we generally assume to be untouchable.

Um, also, that cover is hilarious. Seriously.

So Squire's analysis dates all the way back to the ancient Greeks, for whom "the highest form of love was cerebral love between men." Interesting. And she describes the early Christian approach to marriage as a "lust containment facility." And then points out the irony that courtly love - a product of adulterous romance between marrieds - in other words, "a code of adultery," has become our contemporary "code of marriage."

The interview touches on Martin Luther's role in this whole evolution of marriage as a love-based partnership rather than as the economic unit it had always been, the revelation of "developing affection" as a part of hitching up coming out of a Christian history that viewed human love as secondary and inferior to the love of God. This is super interesting to me, after having done a lot of work with feminist and queer theologians like Carter Heyward who argue that "godding," the process of interrelationality, the verb that is loving one another in mutuality, is in fact where divinity resides. Many progressive theologians now fall into this camp that eros, the erotic, deep connection, is the locus of the divine, where divinity is made manifest. Soooo, I find this notion particularly fascinating in the wake of Squire's pointing out this intellectual history of love between humans being considered separate and inferior to the love of God. How things change over time, and how little perspective we often have on the mores of our own eras as related to social history.

Anyway, thoughts on marriage and sex and eros and divinity and history this Sunday morning while the laundry dries. Squire gets into some interesting thoughts on sex and lasting romance within the institution, too; I like her worldview - it's a nice mix of pragmatic cynicism and unsentimental realism that carries some kind of hope for the future of marriage as related to romantic love.

Give it a read.

Happily Never After (Salon)


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