Marriage has always been closely linked with both property and religion. Property has been the stabilizer of marriage; religion, the moralizer.
Primitive marriage was an investment, an economic speculation; it was more a matter of business than an affair of flirtation. The ancients married for the advantage and welfare of the group; wherefore their marriages were planned and arranged by the group, their parents and elders. And that the property mores were effective in stabilizing the marriage institution is borne out by the fact that marriage was more permanent among the early tribes than it is among many modern peoples.
As civilization advanced and private property gained further recognition in the mores, stealing became the great crime. Adultery was recognized as a form of stealing, an infringement of the husband’s property rights; it is not therefore specifically mentioned in the earlier codes and mores. Woman started out as the property of her father, who transferred his title to her husband, and all legalized sex relations grew out of these pre-existent property rights. The Old Testament deals with women as a form of property; the Koran teaches their inferiority. Man had the right to lend his wife to a friend or guest, and this custom still obtains among certain peoples.
Modern sex jealousy is not innate; it is a product of the evolving mores. Primitive man was not jealous of his wife; he was just guarding his property. The reason for holding the wife to stricter sex account than the husband was because her marital infidelity involved descent and inheritance. Very early in the march of civilization the illegitimate child fell into disrepute. At first only the woman was punished for adultery; later on, the mores also decreed the chastisement of her partner, and for long ages the offended husband or the protector father had the full right to kill the male trespasser. Modern peoples retain these mores, which allow so-called crimes of honor under the unwritten law.
Since the chastity taboo had its origin as a phase of the property mores, it applied at first to married women but not to unmarried girls. In later years, chastity was more demanded by the father than by the suitor; a virgin was a commercial asset to the father—she brought a higher price. As chastity came more into demand, it was the practice to pay the father a bride fee in recognition of the service of properly rearing a chaste bride for the husband-to-be. When once started, this idea of female chastity took such hold on the races that it became the practice literally to cage up girls, actually to imprison them for years, in order to assure their virginity. And so the more recent standards and virginity tests automatically gave origin to the professional prostitute classes; they were the rejected brides, those women who were found by the grooms’ mothers not to be virgins.