The story of the evolution of marriage is simply the history of sex control through the pressure of social, religious, and civil restrictions. Nature hardly recognizes individuals; it takes no cognizance of so-called morals; it is only and exclusively interested in the reproduction of the species. Nature compellingly insists on reproduction but indifferently leaves the consequential problems to be solved by society, thus creating an ever-present and major problem for evolutionary mankind. This social conflict consists in the unending war between basic instincts and evolving ethics.
Among the early races there was little or no regulation of the relations of the sexes. Because of this sex license, no prostitution existed. Today, the Pygmies and other backward groups have no marriage institution; a study of these peoples reveals the simple mating customs followed by primitive races. But all ancient peoples should always be studied and judged in the light of the moral standards of the mores of their own times.
Free love, however, has never been in good standing above the scale of rank savagery. The moment societal groups began to form, marriage codes and marital restrictions began to develop. Mating has thus progressed through a multitude of transitions from a state of almost complete sex license to the twentieth-century standards of relatively complete sex restriction.
In the earliest stages of tribal development the mores and restrictive taboos were very crude, but they did keep the sexes apart—this favored quiet, order, and industry—and the long evolution of marriage and the home had begun. The sex customs of dress, adornment, and religious practices had their origin in these early taboos which defined the range of sex liberties and thus eventually created concepts of vice, crime, and sin. But it was long the practice to suspend all sex regulations on high festival days, especially May Day.
Women have always been subject to more restrictive taboos than men. The early mores granted the same degree of sex liberty to unmarried women as to men, but it has always been required of wives that they be faithful to their husbands. Primitive marriage did not much curtail man’s sex liberties, but it did render further sex license taboo to the wife. Married women have always borne some mark which set them apart as a class by themselves, such as hairdress, clothing, veil, seclusion, ornamentation, and rings.