Dear Sirs/ Madams,
I have been pondering the courtship rituals which have developed and I wrote about them here in my blog :
I dont know if this is the right newsgroup. If it is the wrong newsgroup please point me to the right one kindly.
I am pasting the text here but I suspect the text is not going to be sufficient or that easy to read. The blog is far more picturesque and carries more information in the captions of the pictorial representations of various stages:
It is likely that in the beginning courtship was organic. Two lovers would look at each other and then make love to each other if they felt an attraction. There were likely no serenades, no dinner dates, no asking for hands in marriage, in fact there were likely no wedding ceremonies. These were the days when everything was in plenty and humankind was not aware of scarcity, pain or the anxieties associated with competition over resources. This was a state of innocence and something human kind has attempted to return to ever since there was awareness of scarcity (an evil).
Then it is likely that with passing time some humans began to accumulate errors or misfortunes and as a result some became poorer, uglier and more undesirable than the rest. Finding a mate therefore became increasingly difficult for the poorer, uglier numbers. This caused folk to compensate for their deficiencies either by acquiring more land, more cattle, finer pelt (clothing made from animal hide) or by the acquisition of some attractive skill like skill in musical instruments, skill with tool making, with weaponry, with oratory etc.
When these compensatory skills were not enough and scarcity and tyranny further progressed folk would resort to forcibly abducting women and coerce them into becoming "their" woman. We see that this practice of kidnapping women (or rape of women) still goes on in parts of Africa and even in the backwards regions of Central Asia. This practice is euphemistically termed "bride" kidnapping. This forcible abduction of women likely increased chances of warfare between the various camps between the victim's family and the kidnapper's family. With rape and abduction of women courtship had come to an end for the wrong reasons and merely involved convincing a captive woman to consent to betrothal. Women and cattle began to be equated and considered property (in fact they were literally called "chattel" or cattle). This attitude would prevail and last for thousands of years.
Marriage was perhaps invented to deter kidnapping and abduction. The covenant of marriage bound man and woman together so no other may violate this bond by stealing “someone’s woman”. Those who did steal a woman "belonging to another" were tried for adultery and early punishment for such crimes was draconian (painful death). The act of mating without getting prior approval from society was termed "bestial" and immoral primarily because accumulation of capital in only a few hands had resulted in reduction of the large majority of people into a state of slavery. The large majority of human beings were now the possession of the few who held lands and wealth and not only were they treated like cattle they were also encouraged to behave like the most docile of cattle. These enslaved humans were convinced that if they mated without approval of their superiors (elders, masters, parents) they were moving closer to the beasts in the wild who had no masters (despots). This accusation is still leveled by the tyrants (and their properly indoctrinated subjects) of the third world against the free world.
The classic case of bride kidnapping is that of Helen of Troy who was betrothed with the following condition: that all the suitors of Helen would come to her rescue if she were ever abducted or molested.When Helen was inevitably kidnapped (and this was a common and likely occurrence in the ancient world) it became no longer a matter of punishing a rapist, it sparked a war. The Trojan war lasted a decade and resulted in the complete annihilation of Troy.
Paris Serenades Helen
Mating in the early days was likely restricted and managed by the birth givers of youth. These "guardians" would have great influence in picking, selecting and approving suitors. These marriages were "arranged" by the guardians who viewed their children as their property and investment and hence viewed it their right to decide the fate of “their” children. Although only the wealthy had such rights over their children - the poor married off their children to whoever their masters recommended or whoever brought them the greatest advantage. The very poorest knew that their children were vulnerable to exploitation and even today prefer early and expedient marriages over having their children exploited by the wealthy who may occasionally go "slumming" (or the wealthy playing with the affections, expectations or hopes of the poor) . The practice where marriage is arranged by the guardians is still prevalent in the third world like India and Africa (and some unenlightened societies which have not yet felt secure enough to shed this practice). A large majority still engages in marriages arranged through a "matchmaker", by word of mouth or by exchange of photographs .
If any man (or woman) wished to circumvent the guardians (or the family) he would have to resort to elaborate techniques in order to seduce the object of his desire. For the gentlemen with disposable income this involved mastery of and use of a musical instrument to "serenade" the object of their affection. Hence Romeo serenaded below the balcony of Juliet, Paris seduced Agamemnon's spouse with the aid of a musical instrument and so on. It is likely that the rituals of courtship were "reborn" but were often conducted in the dark or in secret.
Perhaps covert courtship was a rebellion which asserted the independence of the youth who wished to say that despite being sheltered and kept ignorant of the outside world, marriage and life long partnership was about them and not about the guardians or the larger family. Since everyone wants to feel desirable it is likely that these ardent displays of desire caught on and began to undercut the gatekeepers (or the guardians) of the youth. This was quite common in the middle ages particularly where the suitors felt they had to gain an edge over their competitors. Complex courtship rituals like serenades, midnight meetings, love letters were rampant in the poorest parts of the west until the late 1950s.
Perhaps to lessen the allure of such illicit courtship the guardians decided to bring the rituals to the mainstream. In some cases they permitted the "filtered" and vetted suitors to meet briefly with the prospective mate. An ancient work for instance instructs the mother of the girl to coach the male suitors in the appropriate courtship rituals and the kinds of gifts the girl ought to receive (Kama Sutra). This popular work also instructs the mothers and fathers to pretend to be ignorant of the courtship but to closely monitor it nonetheless to give the mates the thrill of being in control of their own fate. Today courtship in such developing communities involves a few meetings usually under supervision. This is changing in India in particular where the emerging economy is modernizing the nation and there is hope of the entire nation embracing ways of love.
With the renaissance, then the enlightenment and then sudden increase in general prosperity, with the advent of new democracies in the new world the practice of arranged marriage and courtship rituals began to undergo experimentation and gained in complexity and pomp. In the beginning the Europeans began to encourage courtship between the youngsters under close supervision by inviting people of similar social status to "debutante balls" or parties where the bachelorettes would make their debut. These balls became increasingly elaborate when the upper classes began to throw evenings of dance and music where the young boys and girls as well as the adults would dance the waltz. These dances were highly structured and decorum was strictly observed. The boys and girls got to move in synchrony and eventually even began to hold hands. They could get to know each other briefly until it was time for a rotation and the girls would move on to dance with some other fresh faced boy.
Because these events happened in the upper classes the suitors could now begin to be picked outside the immediate families (beyond cousins). Needless to say arranged marriages between cousins were on the decline because large numbers of equally wealthy, equally civilized people came in contact with each other. The idea has always been to give everyone equal wealth, health and opportunity to court and mate as in the days of innocence. Ballroom dances are still arranged in the poorest parts of the western world and even in academic settings in the wealthiest countries because the scholars and international students are usually not expected to have enough income, time or cultural background to pursue a mate independently (successfully). Ballroom dances also occur in the elite circles of wealthiest folk in third world countries.
Ballroom Dancing An important Step in evolution of Courtship
With the advent of the industrial revolution the factories began to clamor for laborers and with the advent of the world wars even women were encouraged to work. This led to the two genders meeting at the workplace. At the same time the western world began to introduce compulsory education for children, outlawing child labor and built schools for these children in every neighborhood. The idea was to educate the people so they could make informed decisions in a democracy. Here the boys and girls would meet each other and encounter puberty together. In the beginning the best of breed would be paired up and married off by the time they graduated from high school in order to avoid the perils of meeting opportunistic strangers (or con artists) in the wilderness beyond high school. High school courtship rituals involved going to the movies or a meal at a diner erected to serve the masses. This is where the majority of courtship and lasting relationships would occur and this was the case in the wealthiest countries of the west until the 1950s and still is the case in the most undeveloped parts of the wealthiest countries. Today however most students in high school defer marriage because they want to take a chance with someone better (more educated or more sophisticated) in college or in the professional circles.
The thrust of bringing people together has been to maximize the potential of the people. The idea is to bring the best together more efficiently to maximize cooperative potential between the partners. Since Plato and the early thinkers viewed children as property of the “common wealth” it made sense that society as a whole facilitated the act of marriage and courtship. The idea was to prevent parents from exploiting their children. As a result of viewing the children as a wealth of the people society as a whole began to rally in favor of educating the children and their birth givers (women) by outlawing child labor and spousal and child abuse.
Just like trade is perhaps most efficient in an environment of freedom similarly is the trade of love most efficient perhaps in a free market. Unlike trade and accumulation of capital love and the improvement of human capital requires a higher priority and a higher degree of freedom. Perhaps even the goal of trade (or gracious reciprocity) is improvement of human capital. Where there is loss of freedom human beings may be exploited and traded as in marriage "arrangements" which may bring short term benefits to third parties (parents, relatives, tribes) but may not be in the long term interest of the primary parties (the bride and the groom) and therefore not in the interest of anyone involved (particularly the larger society).
With the advent of the 1960s, and a postindustrial society in the developed world, people began to take greater interest in tackling important issues by means of a higher education and hence postponed marriage and establishment of a family in the interest of higher ideals like peace and love. In the developed world an education meant that students could ponder over world peace while they enjoyed their cars, their rooms, their freedom as well as sexual activity with their loved ones. In contrast in the developing world the students often lacked basics from books to paper (notebooks and hence the use of reusable, erasable slate in the poorer parts of the world till today). The intention of the poor has often been to get an education so they may afford a family or entrance into a higher social class and to fulfill the original intent of their poor parents - since the children were viewed in 3rd world countries as investments and retirement accounts the purpose behind educating them was often to make them capable of sustaining , caring for their elders. Courtship and love and higher ideals (like getting an education in order to improve the lot of humankind) is often (and still is) considered an indulgence, a quixotic immaturity and even an immorality.
In the third world getting an education usually means postponing marriage and intimacy to late 20s, early 30s (for the elites) and mid 30s and sometimes late 30s (and longer for the poor). Improperly timed intimacy (either too early or postponed) and limited set of partners (usually just one) has often been the lot of the poor throughout time. When the poor do attempt to experiment they usually end up with the worst pick of the lot: they often end up suffering from STDs and have to swear off sexual experimentation in favor of monogamy and prudence. In unstable and uncertain times it is often the case that folk will opt for the stability and routine of marriage instead of relying on the kindness (and affection) of strangers.
In contrast in the developed world even the teenagers and minors have enjoyed personal transportation, housing and freedom to engage in sexual relations. In the developed world courtship rituals have begun to span over decades and with multiple partners. Dating and dining and experimentation have become the norm particularly in the well-off countries.
To Restore humankind to Eden
The goal of civilization is perhaps to reduce disparity (physical, financial etc.) by bringing everyone up to a higher level of physical beauty, financial stability and to encourage love between all. The refinement and continual improvement of gentle, targeted, enlightened laws is likely to lead to greater social mobility, greater comforts and leisure activity and hence a facilitation of the trade of love in freedom. Every civilization struggles with maintaining law and order and perpetuating the most humane, the most enlightened laws.
Deterioration of enlightened laws and order and civility results in exploitation of weak (women and children) and prevalence of customs like marriage and arranged marriage and abductions. Introduction of enlightened laws and order and civility results in empowerment of the weak (women and children) and prevalence of love and free activity. It is possible that a country can be wealthy and still have unenlightened laws (religious edicts usually form the legal codes in primitive societies) where love and human rights are secondary even if the soil is fertile and ready for the embrace of higher ideals.
This is an overview of human courtship. It does not cover the forces which have propelled unbridled, unplanned human reproduction: the forces which have encouraged them to multiply no matter what the cost (be it rape , be it incest, malnutrition , limited resources or certain slavery). Love and making love followed by courtship have perhaps occupied the briefest sliver of human history and most of it has occurred perhaps after the advent of modernization, mechanization and automation and primarily in the developed parts of the world. In the developed world a “dating culture” has developed where people are kind and loving towards one another and often spend their days making love to one another. This is perhaps the least that can be expected of a hemisphere that holds love to be the highest of ideals. Nonetheless perhaps free exchange of love is the future and beyond it is an even better future, we hope.
Despite the progress the developing world is still not only contemptuous of love but finds the notion of courtship immoral. Disease and poverty, disparity and strife are so rampant that courtship (or dating) is a luxury in the third world and can be quite dangerous as an activity. Their poverty (material and health wise and consequently usually moral) subjects them to discrimination which discourages their entrance into the courtship rituals of the modern world. Coupled with the stresses that come with adversity and constant conflict they are unlikely to comprehend high ideals like love, freedom etc. Their unfortunate state instead makes them prone to reproduce beyond their means further aggravating their penurious state.