Prior to World War One, which severely shocked the social order, there were many examples of love, but virtually none of what might be called romantic, sexually inspired love. Basically there was no time for such an emotional, physical luxury. Sure there were the romantic poets — Byron, Shelly, Keats, etc. But their amorous writings were little more than otherworld fantasies for most.
For average men and women, Family (often an extended families) was all about security, survival and probing the desperate hope of religion. The primary point of men and women was not to seek and expect happiness and fulfillment. The point was simply to band together in domestic units for mutual support.
In the West religion, mostly the Christian religion was thought to be the only path to happiness, a way to an afterlife of paradise through the grace of Jesus Christ. Thus folks, with little recourse, clung fervently to a trust that God would put an end to their daily grind and that they would be rewarded for their faith and fidelity with the wonders of heaven.
In those times virtually no romantic options were available to women. Most automatically submitted to the role of housewife, consisting of cooking, cleaning washing and ironing and childbirth (the latter a potentially most dangerous consequence of sexual intercourse) and minding her brood of children. Lacking today’s timesaving technology and grand supermarkets, a women’s home routine was dawn to dusk drudgery.
Romance and sexual fulfillment for women was a near impossibility. Society and the church proclaimed sex outside of marriage an abomination. And since it was believed that “good” girls were incapable of sexual pleasure, that it was simply a wife’s duty to submit to her husband, few young girls, beyond idle curiosity, eagerly looked forward to physical intimacy. Besides in many cases a girl’s husband was not of her own choosing, but rather a parental arrangement often meant to suit a group’s interest more than that of the perspective bride, hardly a recipe for romance.
Just about the only respectable alternatives to the fate of housewife for a woman was as a spinster schoolteacher or go to trotting off to the local nunnery to marry God. In fact with little sexual satisfaction or romantic love to anticipate, compared to the slog of becoming a housewife and mother, these alternatives could seem mighty inviting. Of course a girl could always turn to the world’s oldest profession of prostitution were she prepared to become a permanent social outcast.
But then technology and the world wars of the twentieth century turned all of this upside down. It became possible with female job opportunities opening up (see Downton Abby) for women to function and survive outside the family unit. This gave her leverage to want more than just domestic servitude. Still, for most women they did not see themselves as independent operators. Laws continued to tie women to men when it came to ownership and inheritance rights, and divorce was both difficult and a stain upon on a women’s reputation.
Then in the 1960’s the pill came into being, the ultimate tool of female liberation. But of course even today there are conservative males who resent this liberation device and wish to put a stop to it. But with the pill also came the women’s liberation movement to appose any male counter-revolution against female rights.
Meanwhile as science and technology was helping to give women options, Hollywood was steadily pumping out movies about romantic love in which sex was implied to be an enjoyable aspect of romance for both women and men. Gradually the idea began to take hold that a woman was not a whore just because she enjoyed total physical contact with a man she loved regardless of her legal connection to him.
Today few bat an eye when unmarried young people move in together or when a bride walks down the isle in a formal white dress draped over an extended tummy. But of course for all that is an improvement there is the inevitable negative offset — probability balance.
Hollywood’s romantic movies have drastically altered a woman expectation of her lover or husband from the very lows of yesteryear to the impossible highs of today. In scanning the various dating sites “she” wants not only an honest provider and good father for her children. He need be exceptionally good looking, funny, charming, wealthy; and when they meet, as the movie Sleepless in Seattle makes clear, there should be instant magic between them.
No wonder, in the TV show Married at First Sight, couples thrown together so often crash and burn. These are usually folks that have been around the dating block a few times without finding “the one,” so in desperation they agree to allow “professionals” to match them up with “the one” and push them sight unseen into the marriage pool.
It is not to say that practical matters of daily life in marriage can’t be combined with romantic sexual love, it happens on occasion. But it requires a pair possessed of uncommon sensitivity to others to pull it off. Unfortunately more often than not opposites attract, and thus most likely a good one will be paired with a lemon. But, girls, it’s worth a try.