Sexual Behavior in the Human Male

By Alfred C. Kinsey; Wardell B. Pomeroy et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 17
PRE-MARITAL INTERCOURSE

Throughout history, in all cultures, primitive, classic, and modern, the matter of non-marital intercourse has been one of social concern; but in nearly all cultures extra-marital intercourse has been considered more important than pre-marital intercourse. In the ancient Hittite, Assyrian, and Babylonian codes (Harper 1904, Barton 1925), the issue was more often one of property rights, rather than one of ethics or morals. The married male’s ownership of his wife and his rights to all of the privileges that she could grant, were the primary concern. In most of the codes, pre-marital intercourse was rarely mentioned, unless it occurred after the time of betrothal. Then the first property rights emerged, there were laws against the infringement of those rights by another male, and considerable attention was given to the nature of those rights when an engagement was broken. In all history there are few instances of such concern over premarital intercourse as exists in the Jewish and Anglo-American codes.

There is an almost universal acceptance of pre-marital intercourse among so-called primitive peoples today, throughout the world (e.g., Ratzel 1896, Malinowski 1929, Thurnwald 1931, Wissler 1922, Fortune 1932, Murdock 1934, Blackwood 1935, Linton 1936, Landes 1938, Mead 1939, Reichard 1938, Schapera 1941, Chappie and Coon 1942, Bryk 1944, Ford 1945, Fehlinger 1945). Sometimes the pre-marital activity has certain restrictions put on it, often it is accepted quite without reservation. In only a few instances is there any outright condemnation of the intercourse (Murdock 1934, Mead 1939, Fehlinger 1945, Ford 1945, Morley 1946).

Pre-marital relations have also been more or less openly accepted in most of the other civilizations of the world, in the Orient, in the Ancient World, and among most European groups apart from the Anglo-American stocks.

It would be significant to examine the origins of our current attitudes on coitus before marriage. Explanations of the codes as products of experience, as instruments designed to protect children born out of wedlock, and as devices for protecting the institution of marriage cannot represent the whole of the history. Part of it must stem from the tremendous importance which is attached in Jewish codes to the virginity of the female at the time of marriage.

-547-

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