Marriage was originally introduced as a legal device by which a man took possession of a woman, along with her property and issue. She became by the means of this contracti his owned property, just as if he had bought a head of cattle. It's important to note that the taking posession is something that happened anyway, marriage simply built a formalised representation of reality.
Because of the relative importance of the cattle-woman in human society (seeing how men can live without cattle, but the race will become extinct without women), the marriage contract was held at the time as one of the most important writs, the nascent church getting as heavily involved as it could not for any other reason than because its will to power demanded imperatively that it shall be as involved as possible in anything of import.
The importance of marriage drew heavy scrutiny, and consequently it was heavily limited. For one, the man could not leave it. A nice heifer or an old scrawny cow could be sold on, but a wife could not. Furthermore no man could buy more than one woman-cow. The interplay of these two caused a bit of lock-down in the case of infertile women, so an exception was added to the first rule : men could get rid of women incapable of offspring, but only in certain conditions provided this that and the other and so on and so forth.
The limitations on the other side mostly never existed, a slave's a slave and the master's will and word rule supreme. So, the woman had not the right to represent herself, or to give testimony that'd contradict her husband's, or vote, or anything else. It was eventually agreed that she won't be beaten with anything thicker than a thumb, but this towards the later stages, close to the dissolution of the institution. In general, her education, her welfare, her thoughts and ideas and her everything was in the hands of the husband.
This sort of arrangement obviously has its advantages and its disadvantages. In general, looking at the history of the thing, women mostly liked the safety of it while loathing the imposition. Men conversely liked the imposition while loathing the safety. It was, as Paul Graham puts it, one of those "slightly bad deals"ii when you know the overall result is probably fairiii. Obviously hormone-driven teenagers aren't the best agents to evaluate the relative value of property, and since one can get married but once the arrangement naturally fell upon the parents of the young couple.
Unfortunately, beating your fellow man into shape is a very difficult burden, time consuming and intellectually demanding. Sometime in the middle ages it became unfashionable to beat women at all, first in the upper classes (the perpetually lazy) and eventually all through.
Thus, a new sort of marriage emerged about at the time of the Industrial revolution : an arrangement in which the man is still stuck, but the woman is no longer a slave. This not being a stable situation, it slid slowly but surely to the situation where both "partners" - as if the notion of partners is even possible in a marriage! - agree to... welll.... it's not clear exactly what. It would seem through practice in the past fifty years that both partners agree that after an unspecified period the man will give all his property over to the woman and fade into the background.
Predictably, such arrangements aren't particularly interesting to men, and as a result statistically speaking only idiots still get marriediv today. Considering the tax burdens on married suckers, the bleak outlook in terms both of property and issue, it's a wonder the thing even still exists.
If the wife sleeps around, for instance, the natural father if eventually found acquires rights to the offspring, thus obliterating the absolute last nail in which this venerable but now defunct institution was hanging. It's not a transfer of ownership anymore, not over a woman, not over her property, not over her issue. What is it then ? A means to pay more in tax ? That can be easily accomplished with a donation. A little party novelty item ? An excuse for a joint vacation ? What's it supposed to do for anyone ?
In this general context of complete irrelevance of marriage, the irrelevant but vocal gay communityv came up with the bright idea that the one way to troll moar and possibly get more undeserved attention would be to campaign for "gay marriage". Seriously, fuck it, why not ? Makes about as much sense as marriage in general.
To which some really retarded people masquerading as "conservatives" thought proper to raise the objection that marriage is "traditional" and penis-in-asshole is "not traditional". I'm not even going to bother with the obvious "in what parallel universe ?" line of inquiry, seeing how marriage is certainly ulterior in this dispute. All I want to know is... what exactly is "traditional" supposed to mean ? Are these people owners of their wives and thus adhering to a traditional view of marriage ?
No, they're not. They're just idiots who happened to be born in 1950, have no idea that a world existed for quite a few years before the 1950s, and have no representation of the simple fact that what they hold as "values" and possibly "sacred" are little bits of reused chewing-gum that have been chewed by so many sets of teeth and dentures, have been glued to so many underchairs and pavements, have been re-used, re-drawn and re-defined so many times it simply makes no sense to go "O, I am against gay marriage because I want to protect the pseudo-traditional marriage which includes women that talk back and own property jure uxoris from adulteration".
- A contract not between him and her, but between him and the general public, often represented by her father. [↩]
- In How to start a start-up,
When everyone feels they're getting a slightly bad deal, that they're doing more than they should for the amount of stock they have, the stock is optimally apportioned.
- Bear in mind that the discussion is not about whether it seems fair to you today, or whether it is "generally" fair (the later because such a thing as "generally" fair in nonsense in the first place). The discussion is simply about those women and those men at those times. [↩]
- Obviously anecdotally speaking everyone has the subjective impression that it is different for him personally, because he and the woman in question "love each other" or whatever along those lines. It is, after all, in the nature of man to swarm to Las Vegas on the subjectively held belief that unlike everyone else... [↩]
- It recently came to my attention that the current generation of ignorant teenagers believes gays of all types are a significant portion of the population. This is false : gays are about as prevalent as natural tits D or larger : something in the "few percents" range. [↩]