Lecture on Nature of Marriage

Many attempts have been made to identify the essential nature of marriage and to list its purposes, a project often as revealing of the observer’s assumptions as of the observed practices. Across cultures, the ceremonial and social phenomena conventionally defined as marriage assume countless forms and serve varied purposes, yet marriage is usually defined as the formal ideological recognition of a sexual relationship between one man and one woman (monogamy); among one man and two or more women (polygamy: polygyny); or among one woman and two or more men (polygamy: polyandry). Because sexual intercourse is approved in this relationship, the children of a marriage usually possess a status superior to children born beyond its boundaries.