Marriage, Robert A. Harper, Appleton-Century Crofts, Inc. 1949.

This book is designed as a college text book on marriage. It is, somewhat inconsistently, aimed both at a sociological understanding of marriage, and at preparing the student for his or her own marriage. As a college text, and a relatively late entry compared to most of this collection, it is fairly reasonable on many points. But complete reasonability is a goal few even aim to attain.

He does make some interesting points. In discussing why people marry, he cuts right to the quick, noting that it "offers the only socially approved method of consistent sexual gratification. P. 12. He also notes that those who do not marry are considered odd, and are the odd person out in social situations: "The path of least resistance for an adult who wishes to be accepted as a normal member of most groups is to find a husband or wife." P. 13 In fact, it appears that marriage is a cheap path to social status: "Regardless of his personality deficiencies or social failures, the man who gets himself a good wife tends to be normal and acceptable in the eyes of his associates. The woman, however lacking in skills or beauty or social graces, has vindicated herself when she gets her man. Marriage may be considered, among other things, as a method for the individual either to compensate for lack of achievement in other areas of living or to supplement accomplishments in other fields. The married person, all in all, is an acceptable person." P.14.

He also has some theories on why people don't marry. "The person who delays marriage because of financial insecurity, ill parents, career opportunities, and so on, sometimes finds that much of the motivation for marriage has vanished by the time the original obstacle to marriage has been removed. The relative freedom and lack of responsibilities of single life have become so habitually comfortable for the individual that the possible satisfactions of marriage are comparatively less appealing than in an earlier period of his life. Then too, habituation to bachelor patterns may render the person less attractive to members of the other sex. Single life may have emphasized peculiar and unappealing personality traits. P. 22.

And some quaint theories on the likelihood of success in marriage. He says that that the chances of success are increased by choosing a person who is "predominantly conventional and sociable." Specifically, those seeking lasting marriage should look for a person who attends church regularly, attended Sunday school until relatively late in life, wants to be married by a minister, has approval of both parents, has many friends, and is sexually chaste. P. 38. Maybe it only seems like a long time.

He is a fan of the long courtship (but the short engagement), feeling that a period of time must be given for the initial surge of lust to die down and for compatibility to be tested. "Another indirect way in which a long courtship period is associated with successful marital adjustment is by reducing romantic illusions and purely emotional elements in the choice of mate. It is easier for a man or woman to be blinded by the sex drive for three months than for three years." P. 40. And "Sex is a powerful drive, and the human organism doesn't fancy its frustration. Whether or not love is fully blind, the sex drive may be. Such concerns as compatibility of interests and life philosophy are easily repressed, rationalized, and swept aside by the dynamic psycho-biological compulsion of sex." P. 48.

As for those tests of compatibility, he would have you undertake it scientifically, intentionally put each other in uncomfortable and difficult situations to see the reaction. P. 48-49 "Necking and petting in the moonlight is a fair test only for sexual attraction, which two healthy young adults of opposite sexes may safely assume is high without any test." Apparently, the test of true compatibility is torture "If Pete has always ducked formal teas, Judy should insist on his accompanying her to one to see how much she likes him when he is uncomfortable and ill at ease. If Judy has never played tennis, Pete should be permitted to observe her as she awkwardly, perspiringly, and disheveledly makes a fool of herself." See also P 92.

He attributes womens' inferior position and lack of freedom in society to fact that they are vulnerable to sexual abuse, bear children, and "are more direct threats to established institutions through illegitimate child-bearing." P 59-61. But finds compensation in the concept that women can gain "controls over men through the latter's need for sexual satisfaction, companionship and emotional security. Men need women and are often willing to pay the price for the satisfaction of their needs by meeting women's demands. The Male, more extroverted than the female as a result of his greater actional freedom, is often easily bent to the whims of an intelligent woman. In this fashion, the woman may gain the satisfaction of subtle superiority over the man." P. 63. He does, however, admit that this is not a great trade.

He seems to buy the concept that men and women are different, and have differing mental capacities, saying that the main interests of men are money, business, sports and politics, while the chief preoccupations of women are clothes, home, personalities and social affairs. "Linked with women's greater absorption in the latter interests is an apparently greater degree of emotional instability." P.64 And "One of the unavoidable differences in background training which the couple will face is that one has been reared as a male and the other as a female." P 128. But, he admits that these differences are much more limited at higher levels of socio-economic status and education. P. 65. And he attributes to this lessening of differences in interests the greater marital success of people in these groups.

He is relatively free of the sexual hang ups of the earlier writers. He frankly admits that studies show that "masturbation is almost universally practiced by adolescents in our society." And also that "Although the amount varies with the erotic capacity and social frustrations of the individual, masturbation may be considered a common type of adjustment to social or personal sanctions against the sex act." P. 81. He continues "The desirability or undesirability of masturbation apparently depends entirely upon the attitudes of the individual; at least, no scientific evidence has been produced to establish any absolutely good or bad effects. For many adolescents, masturbation serves merely as tension release and undoubtedly does not harm. For the introverted person, on the other hand, it may symbolize the escape from the necessity of making adjustments with the other sex. For the person who has been conditioned to hold the act sinful, it will produce considerable anxiety."

He notes that the "official (legal and ecclesiastical) position of American society is that sexual intercourse outside of marriage is, under any circumstances, wrong." P. 85 But further notes that this "code has never been followed by the total population." He does not really say that premarital sex should be avoided, but simply moves forward on the presumption that couples will ordinarily choose to delay sex until marriage."

This avoidance of premarital sex is presumably eased by an acceptance of "heavy petting" that would apparently leave as "sex" only that recognized as such by Bill Clinton. "The question of whether or not heavy petting is harmful lends itself to an objective judgment, but here, too, no unqualified yes or no is accurate. As in the case of masturbation, the attitude of the participants seems to be the chief factor. From a strictly physiological standpoint, petting does not have any psychologically undesirable effects. Two precautions, however, are noteworthy: (1) A person who is determined to avoid premarital sexual intercourse should be extremely wary of heavy petting, for the direct sexual stimulation is likely to lead the individual to forget his or her resolutions to remain virginal. (2) Even when petting stops short of full sexual relations, its habitual practice diverts couples from activities which are more valuable to them in adjusting to the other sex in general and to the person they are dating in particular. If the practice becomes the main activity of the relationship, the tensions created and the time thus spent may prevent the couple from discovering other qualities and abilities pertinent to marriage." P. 85. But he leaves it to each couple to set the standard: "An evident answer to this question is that engaged couples should learn the point at which their decision to forego sexual intercourse is likely to be endangered. Only the couples themselves can determine precisely where this point is. For some couples it may mean never permitting themselves to be alone for more than a few moments at a time." P. 103

And finally, he addresses extra-marital sex - "The most elementary rule for the prevention of sexual involvements outside of marriage, then, is to avoid those situations where intense sexual stimulation by anyone other than the marital partner will occur. ... Sheerly stupid underestimation of the strength of the sex drive is sometimes the primary source of extra-marital sexual involvements." P. 136. And, of course, "Nothing is more conducive to extra-marital sex interest than failure to achieve satisfaction in marriage." P. 138.

All in all, it has its moments, but lacks the shear wacky fun of the older texts.