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I Don't: A Contrarian History of Marriage

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A provocative survey of marriage and what it has meant for society, politics, religion, and the home. For ten thousand years, marriage—and the idea of marriage—has been at the very foundation of human society. In this provocative and ambitious book, Susan Squire unravels the turbulent history and many implications of our most basic institution. Starting with the discovery, A provocative survey of marriage and what it has meant for society, politics, religion, and the home. For ten thousand years, marriage—and the idea of marriage—has been at the very foundation of human society. In this provocative and ambitious book, Susan Squire unravels the turbulent history and many implications of our most basic institution. Starting with the discovery, long before recorded time, that sex leads to paternity (and hence to couplehood), and leading up to the dawn of the modern “love marriage,” Squire delves into the many ways men and women have come together and what the state of their unions has meant for history, society, and politics – especially the politics of the home. This book is the product of thirteen years of intense research, but even more than the intellectual scope, what sets it apart is Squire’s voice and contrarian boldness. Learned, acerbic, opinionated, and funny, she draws on everything from Sumerian mythology to Renaissance theater to Victorian housewives’ manuals (sometimes all at the same time) to create a vivid, kaleidoscopic view of the many things marriage has been and meant. The result is a book to provoke and fascinate readers of all ideological stripes: feminists, traditionalists, conservatives, and progressives alike.


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A provocative survey of marriage and what it has meant for society, politics, religion, and the home. For ten thousand years, marriage—and the idea of marriage—has been at the very foundation of human society. In this provocative and ambitious book, Susan Squire unravels the turbulent history and many implications of our most basic institution. Starting with the discovery, A provocative survey of marriage and what it has meant for society, politics, religion, and the home. For ten thousand years, marriage—and the idea of marriage—has been at the very foundation of human society. In this provocative and ambitious book, Susan Squire unravels the turbulent history and many implications of our most basic institution. Starting with the discovery, long before recorded time, that sex leads to paternity (and hence to couplehood), and leading up to the dawn of the modern “love marriage,” Squire delves into the many ways men and women have come together and what the state of their unions has meant for history, society, and politics – especially the politics of the home. This book is the product of thirteen years of intense research, but even more than the intellectual scope, what sets it apart is Squire’s voice and contrarian boldness. Learned, acerbic, opinionated, and funny, she draws on everything from Sumerian mythology to Renaissance theater to Victorian housewives’ manuals (sometimes all at the same time) to create a vivid, kaleidoscopic view of the many things marriage has been and meant. The result is a book to provoke and fascinate readers of all ideological stripes: feminists, traditionalists, conservatives, and progressives alike.

30 review for I Don't: A Contrarian History of Marriage

  1. 4 out of 5

    lindsay!

    Ok. Listen up. I was so excited to read this book. Seriously. This is evidenced by: 1. Every time I went to a bookstore, I sought it out, gently caressed it, and lamented the the fact that it cost $26 (plus tax). This behavior has many witnesses. 2. I waited on the hold list at the library for this book for eight months. EIGHT months. 3. I have managed to find the time to read no book outside of my impenetrable pile of school readings since August... except for The God of Small Things, over and o Ok. Listen up. I was so excited to read this book. Seriously. This is evidenced by: 1. Every time I went to a bookstore, I sought it out, gently caressed it, and lamented the the fact that it cost $26 (plus tax). This behavior has many witnesses. 2. I waited on the hold list at the library for this book for eight months. EIGHT months. 3. I have managed to find the time to read no book outside of my impenetrable pile of school readings since August... except for The God of Small Things, over and over, but we all know that beauty is a special case. So, it was finally my turn in the library hold line, and I went to collect my gem. And I read it. Rapidly. But guess what. It sucks. Well, actually, let's not be so hasty. It doesn't suck, per se. It is just not glorious. First of all, the title 'history of marriage' is apt, as it spends most of the book discussing cavemen through like 1000 AD -- and it never goes past 1500. I was hoping it would cover more of of the, you know, relatively recent history. Like the Renaissance, at least, and certainly industrial Europe etc etc. But nope. It's like... HISTORYhistory. So, I mean, I was disappointed with that. And, anyway, these periods were pretty interesting, I guess. But, her style in presenting the information was really bizarre. Rather than paint a portrait of married life in each of these societies (Greek, Roman, etc), she just kind of tells anecdotes from each period. Which, I mean, is fine, I guess. But certainly not ideal, as it didn't give me an overarching idea of married life in each period. Also, this book is begging for a conclusion discussing the absurdity of marriage. Like, honestly, marriage is totally absurd. What 'marriage' means to us is a truly arbitrary combination of silly rules, which, put in a historical context, seem just as absurd as "Thou shalt not bang on Wednesdays, Fridays, or Saturdays," or whatever rules they had in ancient wherever. But I think maybe the author was afraid of offending married people, so she left out this cynical conclusion. Which hurts the book overall, I think. In conclusion, I'm a swinger. Who's with me?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kristina

    I very much enjoyed Susan Squire’s I Don’t: A Contrarian History of Marriage. It is a factually based exploration of the historical notion of marriage without ever being dull or dry or tedious. This is due to Squire’s way of presenting this history of marriage with a skeptical, “can you fucking believe this nonsense?” way of writing. The publisher’s summary describes Squire as “learned, acerbic, opinionated and funny” and she is all of that. This is a fascinating exploration of marriage. If there I very much enjoyed Susan Squire’s I Don’t: A Contrarian History of Marriage. It is a factually based exploration of the historical notion of marriage without ever being dull or dry or tedious. This is due to Squire’s way of presenting this history of marriage with a skeptical, “can you fucking believe this nonsense?” way of writing. The publisher’s summary describes Squire as “learned, acerbic, opinionated and funny” and she is all of that. This is a fascinating exploration of marriage. If there is one thing I fault Squire for, it’s the somewhat misleading title: I Don’t. I’m sure when I bought this book in 2009 (yes, and I’m just now reading it) that I thought it was more of an exploration of modern marriage. It is not. If you want to read a book like that, a book that explores why so many women who are currently married would never do it again and why women who used to be married but are now single stay single (for many of the same reasons), you’ll have to read another book. (The book you should read on those subjects is Rebecca Traister's excellent All the Single Ladies.) Or, if you’re a woman, talk to other women. We know exactly why we would pass on a second go-around of that institution (as many of us have). Some of the reasons can probably be traced back centuries to the Church’s idea of the perfect wife. Squire presents the history of marriage in a linear timeline, starting with the grunting cavemen and hunter-gatherers of prehistory. In her Prologue (always read the prologue of books—a lot of information can be packed into them; in this case, Squire discusses how the concept of marriage arose, then lays out the thesis of her book), marriage isn’t yet a thing, but when it does and men somehow connect the sexual act with procreation, that’s when the real trouble starts: men come to view themselves as a source—the only source—of life itself. This eventually comes to be known as the “rule of the father”: fatherhood is everything, motherhood is nothing; men are the far superior creatures, women lesser creatures in every aspect. If men are indeed superior to women physically, intellectually, and morally, then why are men so threatened by women? Why do they regard marriage as an oppressive institution? Why are men, in tales written by men, repeatedly outmaneuvered and outsmarted by the weaker sex? These are questions that Squire attempts to answer in her fifteen chapters. However, if you read the Prologue, she answers those questions. What compels the designated stronger sex, whose members produce and preserve the work that defines Western culture, to view itself repeatedly as an easy mark for members of the designated sex? If one side is really convinced of its superiority to the other, why the need to issue ceaseless reminders on that score? How can men have at their disposal an arsenal of weapons, including law and custom weighted heavily in their favor, to be used against women—who have, in any tangible sense, zilch—and yet project themselves as defenseless victims ofwomen? (7) This is due, Squire says, to the contradiction between authority and power. Men very definitely have the authority (God-given authority) but they don’t always have the power, particularly in marriage. And boy, does that make them insecure: “In marriage, men cannot help revealing themselves—physically, emotionally, spiritually, sexually, on way or another—to their wives. This is also true in reverse, of course, but the stakes are so much lower that a wife’s exposure can do worse than to confirm the assumption at the heart of patriarchal marriage: Women are inferior to men as servants are inferior to masters, and no one expects much from inferiors. But masters have a hell of a lot to lose and hell of a distance to fall” (8). This heightened sense of power has a flip side: a heightened sense of vulnerability. Men have set themselves up to be such powerful beings that they cannot allow any show of weakness or insecurity. What threatens them is women, and once men identify this problem, they spend centuries trying to address it, creating “a historical constant: Women must be controlled, but women can’t be controlled” (9). In the chapters that follow, Squire discusses the different ways that men try to control women, thus providing solace to their fragile egos and very specific male anxieties. These methods are never 100% effective, of course, prompting the introduction of another theory. I particularly enjoyed the first chapter: “Paradise Lost, Just Because He Listened to His Wife.” It’s a critical analysis of Genesis, particularly the two contradictory stories of the creation of Adam and Eve and Eve’s supposed “original sin” of eating the forbidden fruit and “tricking” Adam into eating it as well. This chapter had me pulling out the three Bibles I own and comparing the scriptures. Of course the story put forth by the Catholic Church (Eve is a temptress who tricked Adam into eating the fruit) is nonsense; amazing what you can learn when you read the source material for yourself. The last two chapters that deal with Martin Luther and the Reformation are also quite entertaining, mostly due to the character of Martin Luther. Despite still holding fast to the ideal woman (and wife) as submissive, obedient, etc., he is a refreshing voice of sense regarding many of the Catholic Church’s policies and I love his insults: “miserable bags of maggot fodder” (any of the popes), “crawling mass of reptiles” (popes), “His Avarice” (pope again), “lackeys and bullies” and “soul murderers” (Popes and bishops, etc.) have turned the church into a “filthy privy” (202). Luther is making these speeches and writing these essays, “all the while…waiting for the pope’s SWAT team to arrive and bump him off” (202). Squire’s irreverent sense of humor adds to the fun of reading this book. Her sarcastic side comments sometimes echo my own. This is her summary of Genesis 16 and 17: “Long story; the upshot is that Hagar returns without her attitude problem, and all is well and good aside from Sarah’s continuing barrenness. By the time God gets around to fixing her up, Sarah is ninety. You can’t blame her for laughing out loud at God when he tells her she’ll conceive a son within the year. (Sarah appears to be the only biblical character to laugh at God. This is as witty as he gets.)” (36). Reading this book has introduced me to other books I’d like to read as well, particularly one titled The Reign of the Phallus by Eva C. Keuls. In chapter three, Squire discusses ancient Athens and how great the men have it there—until all their penis statues go missing: Sculpted in marble or painted on clay, always colossal and always erect, displayed in public squares and private homes, the phallus is to Athens what the cross will be to medieval European towns: all over the place. Citizens can attend to men’s business in town without losing sight of men’s pride and joy, due to the fully engorged marble phalluses sculpted on statues of the gods…One summer morning in 415 BCE, the men of Athens wake up, throw on their togas, and head out of the house to powwow with their peers, expecting as usual to pass one, two, twenty, who knows how many priapic statues. Except that the statues have been castrated. Imagine the horror (59).This (as yet unsolved) mystery is discussed more fully in The Reign of the Phallus and I intend to learn more about it. This is an excellent book. Although she does not discuss modern marriage (and for those Goodreads reviewers who complained about this: you should have read “A Note to The Reader.” She clearly states that the book ends with the 16th century because “you already know what happens after that.” Plus, the last chapter makes it fairly clear what the basis for modern marriage is), and she doesn’t discuss marriage in the way I had thought she would, this is a fascinating look at the history of marriage. These ancient and superstitious beliefs are echoed today by political leaders who still consider women a problem to be addressed and controlled. This is NOT, as at least one male GR reviewer groused, an anti-male screed. If that is your takeaway from this book, you have missed the point (or not read the book). There are a few typos, which I thought odd in a book this well-written and (otherwise) well-edited. There’s an extensive bibliography if you’d like to read more on the subject (which of course I do—Reign of Dicks, here I come) and the chapter notes shouldn’t be skipped because they are often amusing.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jessi

    Fortunately, Susan Squire is funny as hell. Otherwise, this book would be too depressing to read. Marriage-it hasn't been so nice to the ladies, as it turns out. I recommend this book, even if you're afraid it will turn you off from the m word. And it likely will. Until you remember you don't live in ancient Greece or are Christian. (Oops, sorry. Are you Christian?) Fortunately, Susan Squire is funny as hell. Otherwise, this book would be too depressing to read. Marriage-it hasn't been so nice to the ladies, as it turns out. I recommend this book, even if you're afraid it will turn you off from the m word. And it likely will. Until you remember you don't live in ancient Greece or are Christian. (Oops, sorry. Are you Christian?)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I wanted so much more from this book. It could've included some commentary or insight. It could've included more history past the time of the Reformation rather than just summing up everything since that time in a page or two. It could've discussed marriage in other parts of the world besides the West. It could've explored other points of view on marriage besides extremely religious men's. The book is just a summary of a handful of texts written by men in ancient times who had a very extreme and I wanted so much more from this book. It could've included some commentary or insight. It could've included more history past the time of the Reformation rather than just summing up everything since that time in a page or two. It could've discussed marriage in other parts of the world besides the West. It could've explored other points of view on marriage besides extremely religious men's. The book is just a summary of a handful of texts written by men in ancient times who had a very extreme and mostly unchanging view of marriage—essentially, that a wife is a man's baby-maker, and should otherwise stay out of his way. The book started off with what I thought was a somewhat ludicrous assumption; that with the advent of agriculture came men's realization that they too played a role in reproduction, and therefore women were a problem to be mastered. Then we get a long, dull regurgitation of Christian texts that instructed men on how to deal with their wives. And then at the very end, Squire essentially says "but nowadays we marry for love. The End." I don't recommend this book. I found Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert to be far more entertaining and almost more informative, despite the fact that Gilbert only rehashed the history of marriage for a short portion of her book. (And Committed is a much better book than Eat, Pray, Love, by the way.)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Fun book. Not terribly deep. Does a survey of marriage in the western world from the Bible through Greece and Rome through Europe to Martin Luther. Does a nice job of poking fun at the notion that there is a traditional marriage that we’re falling away from. Instead, marriage serves changing social purposes and responds to changing social conditions. I feel weird about her suggestion that the first women’s rights protest might have been about a woman’s right to wear purple and gold jewelry in Ro Fun book. Not terribly deep. Does a survey of marriage in the western world from the Bible through Greece and Rome through Europe to Martin Luther. Does a nice job of poking fun at the notion that there is a traditional marriage that we’re falling away from. Instead, marriage serves changing social purposes and responds to changing social conditions. I feel weird about her suggestion that the first women’s rights protest might have been about a woman’s right to wear purple and gold jewelry in Rome after the austerities of the Punic Wars. I want to believe it’s more like Lysistrata or the founding of the Amazon Nation. Mmm, Xena. We apparently have the speeches in the Roman Senate about the purple thing. At least as translated, Cato’s speech advocating an increase on the restrictions on women sounds like Anita Byrant or Pat Robinson; Valerius’s rejoinder sounds a lot like the majority leader in the Iowa Senate telling the folks who want a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage “get over it.” Nothing world shattering, except perhaps for those few who will never believe it who believe that marriage as practiced in the US today is marriage as practiced through history, but fun and quick.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    First off, I have to address it, the editing was pretty atrocious (I found at least 3 really glaring and embarrassing spelling mistakes/unfinished sentences); however, the information contained in the book was fascinating enough to make this Not a Big Deal. The author is witty and I found myself laughing out loud on lots of occasions. The writing style took some time to get used to, because I'm usually reading mass market type non-fiction. Susan Squire assumes you already know quite a bit about First off, I have to address it, the editing was pretty atrocious (I found at least 3 really glaring and embarrassing spelling mistakes/unfinished sentences); however, the information contained in the book was fascinating enough to make this Not a Big Deal. The author is witty and I found myself laughing out loud on lots of occasions. The writing style took some time to get used to, because I'm usually reading mass market type non-fiction. Susan Squire assumes you already know quite a bit about history, theology, philosophy and feminism if you've picked up this book, so there isn't much in the way of explanation. This made the book smooth reading once I adjusted - nothing there to interrupt the flow of ideas. The author begins in the Garden of Eden with the Bible's multiple takes on marriage and escorts us up to Martin Luther's front porch. I found the bits about the Classical/Ancient world the most interesting, and it was interesting to see how the same handful of theories were expressed in so many different forms and guises. Overall, a great review of wife and husband roles through a large chunk of history - quick and fun to read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    This is not just a history of marriage, but also a history of sex and the relationship between the sexes in the West since the beginning of civilization. It's an essential read for anyone who's wondered what marriage really means or why it began. Squire starts with some acute Biblical analysis, describes ancient Athens, Rome, medieval Europe, and ends with the influence of Martin Luther. The running theme through all this ancient literature is of the good man turned wrong by the conniving temptr This is not just a history of marriage, but also a history of sex and the relationship between the sexes in the West since the beginning of civilization. It's an essential read for anyone who's wondered what marriage really means or why it began. Squire starts with some acute Biblical analysis, describes ancient Athens, Rome, medieval Europe, and ends with the influence of Martin Luther. The running theme through all this ancient literature is of the good man turned wrong by the conniving temptress. Reading all this at once really humanized these ancient writers for me and made me wonder what kind of bizarre psychological issues these guys of The Church had to make them hate sex so much. Some may think all this 2000 year old history is old news, but considering the Bible is still probably the single most influential book in our society today, in reality it's extremely relevant to understanding the current zeitgeist. Most think we're way past all that misogyny and bigotry, but actually we still have a long way to go.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Logophile (Heather)

    This book is a chronological look at marriage through the ages, and damn, but THAT is a depressing venture, though this hopscotches through the millenniums with a comparatively light tone. This is also a pretty well-researched book; however, it does have some flaws in that department. As the Torah and Christian Bible are a good look at two historical perspectives of marriage Squire consults them both and uses them to illustrate her point. People have always interpreted the Bible in ways that supp This book is a chronological look at marriage through the ages, and damn, but THAT is a depressing venture, though this hopscotches through the millenniums with a comparatively light tone. This is also a pretty well-researched book; however, it does have some flaws in that department. As the Torah and Christian Bible are a good look at two historical perspectives of marriage Squire consults them both and uses them to illustrate her point. People have always interpreted the Bible in ways that support their view of things, and Susan Squire is no exception, that I completely understand and accept. Factual errors are more problematic to me, for example, the two Timothy epistles were not written by St. Paul using the pen name Timothy. They are are in fact, epistles, or letters, clearly addressed from Paul, using his own name, TO a man named Timothy. Setting that aside, I found this book worth reading but slow going. Her accounting of men through the ages is not particularly flattering, but then, given the realities, how could it be?

  9. 5 out of 5

    John

    Trite, anecdotal, and biased are a few words I would use to describe Squire's book. It's an awesome read if you have never had a history or theology class. Also, you would need no to lack the most common of senses to not have realized most of what she surmises. The stories and anecdotes used are cherry picked and biased as hell to fit the authors overall narrative. Allow me to save you a few hours and paraphrase: Men bad and oppressive, Church and religion of any kind bad and oppressive. The end Trite, anecdotal, and biased are a few words I would use to describe Squire's book. It's an awesome read if you have never had a history or theology class. Also, you would need no to lack the most common of senses to not have realized most of what she surmises. The stories and anecdotes used are cherry picked and biased as hell to fit the authors overall narrative. Allow me to save you a few hours and paraphrase: Men bad and oppressive, Church and religion of any kind bad and oppressive. The end. I get it, but don't aggree. There are plenty of reasons to avoid marrige, she fails to list any of them. If you are a reader that is interested in this topic, I highly recommend skipping this one and reading Christopher Ryan's book 'Sex at Dawn' instead.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    This book was a tricky one to rate. I found the first part to be engaging, informative and really interesting to read. Towards the middle, I guess the historical momentum was too much to follow, and by the end, the author was exhausted and just wanted to wrap the whole thing up. I would recommend though, especially because it had great background research in the form of notes at the end of book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    Squire recapitulates the boilerplate feminist critique of the patriarchal nature & history of the institution of marriage. And though she limits herself to the history of such within the context of Western Civilization (Asian, African, and Meso-American traditions come in for short shrift here), her points are well taken. So well taken, in fact, that her critique has by now, in the 21st century, become the conventional wisdom among most enlightened, educated people. One wonders what exactly she Squire recapitulates the boilerplate feminist critique of the patriarchal nature & history of the institution of marriage. And though she limits herself to the history of such within the context of Western Civilization (Asian, African, and Meso-American traditions come in for short shrift here), her points are well taken. So well taken, in fact, that her critique has by now, in the 21st century, become the conventional wisdom among most enlightened, educated people. One wonders what exactly she thought was contrarian about it. The Hollywood Pitch synopsis: When men figure out that semen makes babies, they use religion to control women through marriage. Yada yada yada, Martin Luther comes along and invents Love. The End. Though this synopsis is accurate (more or less), the great majority of the work is spent illuminating the various ways that men have used political, religious, and cultural power to maintain women in a subservient position through marriage. So far, so good--we all pretty much know this is true. However, the final chapter of the book is somewhat misguided: it assigns to Martin Luther (surely one of the more hateful and spiteful people to appear in history's annals) the credit of linking marriage, at long last, with Love. And there, the book ends, with the facile line "Love may not be the answer, but for now, it is the story." The preface of I Don't begins in man's prehistory, and proceeds in earnest with close readings of the Biblical justifications for the (mal)treatment of women; in doing so, it announced bold intentions, and a grand scope. Instead, it rather arbitrarily ends with Luther. Has marriage as an institution remained unchanged since the 16th century? Is there nothing to be said of the utter havoc that has been wreaked upon marriage and Western life by Romanticism? Have access to education, birth control, and real wages not altered the status of women? And despite this, why have people continued to marry? These and other pertinent questions go unaddressed and unanswered. Squire also fails to introduce much in the way of modern knowledge of sexual behavior, and of human evolution--other than a token reference to post-1980s men being able to determine paternity through DNA--instead repeatedly insisting that the subjugation of women is made necessary by the insecurity of men. While this has no doubt been true of many men throughout history, there is little in the way of evidence offered to support this assertion. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence in evolutionary biology that does explains some of this subjugating behavior: the fact that testosterone in males exceeds that in females by a factor of 10; the fact that males have a variety of evolutionary strategies open to them that females do not; the fact that our biological/genetic change still occurs on an almost geologic time-scale, while the change in human culture occurs at a comparatively breakneck speed; and so forth. Until males are castrated at birth as a matter of routine, we may expect them to continue to be more aggressive, more violent, and more sexually promiscuous than females far into the foreseeable future. We may also, sadly, expect them to be generally less capable intellectually than females (research has linked childhood mental development with exposure to testosterone in the womb--the less one is exposed to it, the more quickly one develops). There is a need for a critical, perhaps even a truly "contrarian" examination of marriage; I Don't is not it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Connie

    “This is a story about the idea of marriage in the West: why it came about, what it was supposed to accomplish, who was behind it, and how was it implanted into the minds of the many - where it remains, whether the many are conscious of it or not.” This quote, from the opening A Note to the Reader, sums up the contents of the book. This book is about the history of marriage in the West starting from primal nomadic cultures to the Reformation. It is about how marriage comes to be and how it has c “This is a story about the idea of marriage in the West: why it came about, what it was supposed to accomplish, who was behind it, and how was it implanted into the minds of the many - where it remains, whether the many are conscious of it or not.” This quote, from the opening A Note to the Reader, sums up the contents of the book. This book is about the history of marriage in the West starting from primal nomadic cultures to the Reformation. It is about how marriage comes to be and how it has changed with cultural upheavals and shifts in religion. It is about the gender roles and the reasoning behind the superiority of man and the inferiority of the woman. It is about adultery, courtly love, polygamy and the beginnings of the witch-hunts. Overall, it is about why marriage happens and how it changed from a means of reproduction to lust control and finally, love. Instead of a dry, academic voice found way too often in non-fiction (in my opinion), Susan Squire’s writing style is charming, engaging and witty. Her banter about the battle of the sexes is humorous, sometimes even laugh out loud. Using sharp wit, she take stabs at religion. I especially enjoyed the jabs at the ideal wife. “He presents her as a real person in real time, a player on the stage of real life - and also a fantasy, a flawless jewel, the quintessence of the perfect wife. The one belies the other - either she’s real or she’s perfect; she can’t be both.” Even her chapter titles are plain amusing. For example, “Paradise Lost, Just Because He Listened to His Wife”, “What a Man Wants”, “Be Fertile and Increase - the Sequel”. Definitely a book I love and will recommend. Informative and Entertaining.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    This book is much more about the repression of sexual passion than about marriage per se. If you are expecting a diatribe against “marriage” this is not the book. This book is entertaining and funny. Its’ basic premise, and the author backs up her statements citing the Old and New Testaments, is that religion (Christianity in particular) inhibits sexual joy, passion, eroticism... Even though it wants its converts to be “fruitful and multiply”, it does a wonderful doubletalk suppressing sexual ar This book is much more about the repression of sexual passion than about marriage per se. If you are expecting a diatribe against “marriage” this is not the book. This book is entertaining and funny. Its’ basic premise, and the author backs up her statements citing the Old and New Testaments, is that religion (Christianity in particular) inhibits sexual joy, passion, eroticism... Even though it wants its converts to be “fruitful and multiply”, it does a wonderful doubletalk suppressing sexual ardour. Until the Renaissance women were treated as inferior beings, but also as temptresses. A woman’s role was to be subservient to men in general and husbands in particular. They had no rights, but the author raises the question – was that because men were afraid of their potential dominance? As Ms Squire points out – there is a conundrum here because if the female is inferior, why were so many religious rules required to suppress and control them? If women were inferior why were men so concerned and afraid of women as a seductress, a temptress? The “Adam and Eve” mythology has Eve leading Adam astray. By constraining marital sexual enjoyment the paradigm starts to self-destruct in the Renaissance when people (some of whom were men) begin to realize that if a man has to find sexual fulfillment outside marriage, then he can discover it within marriage. The Church’s control disintegrates when the enjoyment and rise of romanticism overcomes the constraints of chastity and celibacy.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    The historical anecdotes that Squire discusses are all very fascinating but I finished with so many questions. Not so much because she ends with Martin Luther but because she provides examples of how sexuality, gender, and marriage have been produced and intertwined without ever really going to the next level by discussing and analyzing these cultural texts beyond providing them as examples in a woven together narrative. She makes an argument (that marrying for love is a relatively new concept a The historical anecdotes that Squire discusses are all very fascinating but I finished with so many questions. Not so much because she ends with Martin Luther but because she provides examples of how sexuality, gender, and marriage have been produced and intertwined without ever really going to the next level by discussing and analyzing these cultural texts beyond providing them as examples in a woven together narrative. She makes an argument (that marrying for love is a relatively new concept and that--before romantic love--marriage was largely rooted in beliefs that women were inferior to and corrupting of men) without really...arguing that straight out. I appreciated her humor and irony but I think it would have been better if Squire spelled out her argument more or provided some synthesis in the last chapter.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jenn

    Recently, I have been thinking a lot about the definition of marriage and how our present interpretation of marriage was formed. I picked up this book impulsively at the library hoping that it would answer some of my questions. The good news, it did. The bad news? The author's sarcastic and sometimes flippant tone was a bit off-putting to me at times. Additionally, there were editing errors that frustrated me. There was some rather crude language in parts that seemed unnecessary. And finally, th Recently, I have been thinking a lot about the definition of marriage and how our present interpretation of marriage was formed. I picked up this book impulsively at the library hoping that it would answer some of my questions. The good news, it did. The bad news? The author's sarcastic and sometimes flippant tone was a bit off-putting to me at times. Additionally, there were editing errors that frustrated me. There was some rather crude language in parts that seemed unnecessary. And finally, the author's recanting of the history of marriage ends with the Reformation, leaving 500 years of history unexamined. So, I did learn a few things, but I didn't entirely enjoy the read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Courtney Stoker

    I generally prefer my academic books to be academic, but the snarky tone of this tome is particularly appropriate to the subject matter. This woman knows her stuff, but the book isn't as dense as it could be. Further, I appreciated the humor when delving into such a depressing history as that of marriage; marriage is the result of a culmination of sexist patriarchal practices, and Squire's goal in this book is to make us realize that its "tradition" is anything but desirable, and those who attemp I generally prefer my academic books to be academic, but the snarky tone of this tome is particularly appropriate to the subject matter. This woman knows her stuff, but the book isn't as dense as it could be. Further, I appreciated the humor when delving into such a depressing history as that of marriage; marriage is the result of a culmination of sexist patriarchal practices, and Squire's goal in this book is to make us realize that its "tradition" is anything but desirable, and those who attempt to protect that tradition are either misguided or misogynist.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    This book is fascinating reminder that marrying for love and companionship is a ridiculously new phenomena. Presenting a fairly comprehensive view of marriage in the West from the conception of human culture to modern times, this history reminds us that marriage has been defined and re-defined through time, religion, and culture. The idea of marriage is itself rooted in the subservience of women, and as such could use more than a little updating. Or do we still promise to love, honor, and obey?

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas Moryl

    Interesting if you don't know much about how marriage has been used historically as a tool to control women and property, but written in a very casual style that undermines its message. Stops discussing marriage at the Reformation, and only focuses on the Western world. There's a lot still to be learned about marriage in other traditions as well as after the Reformation. Ultimately, unfulfilling as either a critique of marriage or an exploration of its role throughout history. Interesting if you don't know much about how marriage has been used historically as a tool to control women and property, but written in a very casual style that undermines its message. Stops discussing marriage at the Reformation, and only focuses on the Western world. There's a lot still to be learned about marriage in other traditions as well as after the Reformation. Ultimately, unfulfilling as either a critique of marriage or an exploration of its role throughout history.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Uke

    Feminist tract the history of marriage, linked the idea of marriage with the protestant reformation. It focuses on how the idea that love is a part of marriage is a relatively new concept. “THE thousand-year reign of celibacy over marriage is about to end, and the man about to end it is, miraculously, a 40-year--old virgin wearing a monk’s cowl.” Her perspective on Martin Luther is interesting, and the story of how he and his wife meet is downright charming. Shoot, I'D want to marry this woman, s Feminist tract the history of marriage, linked the idea of marriage with the protestant reformation. It focuses on how the idea that love is a part of marriage is a relatively new concept. “THE thousand-year reign of celibacy over marriage is about to end, and the man about to end it is, miraculously, a 40-year--old virgin wearing a monk’s cowl.” Her perspective on Martin Luther is interesting, and the story of how he and his wife meet is downright charming. Shoot, I'D want to marry this woman, she sounds amazing. That said it's rather bold to claim that romance in marriage did not exist up until this point.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Savanna

    I wish I could give 3.5 stars sometimes! This book is charmingly and amusingly written. It's very easy and pleasant to read. Squire shares a lot of facts and some compelling insights on love and marriage as cultural phenomena. The writing is concise and balanced, and I was very interested in the book from the beginning clear through to the end. Squire sure knows how to hold your attention! But despite the concise chapters, pleasing tone, and steady pace of this book, I was disappointed in three wa I wish I could give 3.5 stars sometimes! This book is charmingly and amusingly written. It's very easy and pleasant to read. Squire shares a lot of facts and some compelling insights on love and marriage as cultural phenomena. The writing is concise and balanced, and I was very interested in the book from the beginning clear through to the end. Squire sure knows how to hold your attention! But despite the concise chapters, pleasing tone, and steady pace of this book, I was disappointed in three ways. These things kept me from adding I Don't to my list of favourites. Firstly, this book doesn't stand up well as a complete history of marriage. At best, we could say it's a brief history of Western marriage. It begins with Judeo-Christian scripture and the Ancient Greeks. Then it follows the ancient Doctors of the Church through the Protestant Reformation before abruptly skipping to today. So the book only discusses one very limited history of marriage. It doesn't explore other traditions—even though marriage is so ubiquitous across cultures. Seems like a missed opportunity. Secondly, even within this narrow framework and even for a trade history, the narrative is a bit too myopic for my taste. It paints attitudes and events in very broad strokes without acknowledging that it does so—especially with regard to feministic thinking and notions of women's rights. The book suggests that, even in Martin Luther's time, "no one" had thought about women's rights. Thinkers like Christine de Pizan were certainly a minority, but they had lived and published by then, and I think it's important to acknowledge them. Thirdly, I felt let down by the final chapter. It hopped fright from Luther to a couple pages on modern times before the final curtain. I think this sudden ending was unfortunate. The book had built up this wonderful momentum that I thought would carry us into some interesting perspectives on modern marriage and the future of the institution—some talk about non-hetero marriage, abstaining from marriage, and common-law partnerships. But nope. This conclusion seemed both precipitous and incomplete. Still, I Don't is an interesting and fun read. It's more descriptive than analytical, and it doesn't offer as complete a story as the title implies, but I'd recommend it to anyone looking for some light-hearted history.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Chloe

    This book is overreaching at times. Thinks of it self as witty when it is really crude. Author sounds angry and flippant most of the time, therefore when she is presenting factually accurate data, it immediately turned me off. Most of the book contains concepts that aren't entirely new, at least I wasn't blown away by the content. Yeah, we all know by now that originally Biblical marriage regarded women as property, what I came for is how that effects our concept of marriage today. While the histo This book is overreaching at times. Thinks of it self as witty when it is really crude. Author sounds angry and flippant most of the time, therefore when she is presenting factually accurate data, it immediately turned me off. Most of the book contains concepts that aren't entirely new, at least I wasn't blown away by the content. Yeah, we all know by now that originally Biblical marriage regarded women as property, what I came for is how that effects our concept of marriage today. While the history of marriage is true, but only to a point. It only looks at the historical Western concept of marriage, and all other marriage types and histories are completely ignored. Way to Euro-centric for me. Also, the narrative of marriage was not culturally consistent in time. First Biblical marriage, then jump forward in time (or in culture?), and now we are looking at marriage in Athens, then marriage in the Roman empire, now medieval marriage. It seemed like she picked and chose the cultures and periods of time where treatment of women provided the most sensational anecdotes. If she ever mentioned a culture that had a more progressive view of marriage, she had to pile with extra sarcasm all of the negatives that practically made any positive non-existent. Also, this is the first nonfiction book in which the word "fuck" is used so casually. After summing up some Bible passes "In other words: you fuck 'em, you own 'em. Vice versa." Jeeze, and don't get me starting on the spelling mistakes. Did an editor ever read this before this was sent to print? The whole tone of this book smacks of a angry but well-researched blog post which was sparked as a rant against the oppressive male pigs in society. Also this is the first time I have ever seen a block quote have a sarcastic remark inserted into it. Grow up! This ends up to be one of the books in which I am slightly embarrassed that I in principle agree with but definitely not with the delivery. With Squire's tone, Eurocentricism, and cherry picking she might weaken her argument she ultimately makes in stead of providing a point that can be taken seriously by someone who has yet been convinced.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    “I Do: A Contrarian History of Marriage” is a feminist interpretation of the development of gender roles and sexual relationships through the history of Western civilization. Squires’ ambitious examination begins with an analysis of the Bible creation story and the social practices of matrilineal descent and polygamy amongst the biblical Israelites. She describes the pragmatic marriages of the ancient Athenians, the unique and surprisingly modern sounding practice of trial marriage in the Roman “I Do: A Contrarian History of Marriage” is a feminist interpretation of the development of gender roles and sexual relationships through the history of Western civilization. Squires’ ambitious examination begins with an analysis of the Bible creation story and the social practices of matrilineal descent and polygamy amongst the biblical Israelites. She describes the pragmatic marriages of the ancient Athenians, the unique and surprisingly modern sounding practice of trial marriage in the Roman Empire, and the influence of the Christian church on the relationship between the sexes during the Middle Ages. She traces how the rise of courtly love, the Black Death and the finally, the influence of Martin Luther ushered in a new view of marriage that celebrated togetherness, commitment and family. Squires’ writing is irreverent and at times hilarious enough to inspire a good loud laugh. She also does a good job of illustrating how social practices are firmly rooted in the cultural and religious perspectives of the time. Her examples are interesting and pertinent, and the book provides a clear and enjoyable overview of the history of marriage through to the Enlightenment. Unfortunately, I found her view -that the institution exists strictly as a result of patriarchal ideals meant to control female reproductive behavior- completely ignored the role that marriage plays to connect both men and women to collective social behavior. Because she ignored this perspective, I had difficulty taking her views seriously and instead, ended up enjoying the book most for its entertainment value.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Ulrich

    I'm very interested in learning about the origins of marriage in human culture, the reasons behind it and how it's shaped society. This book was not what I expected at all. First and foremost it is not a comprehensive history of marriage as much as it is a general overview of that history in the Western world. It goes from scientific assumption on the behavior of early humans, through the ancient Israelites up until Luther's reformation. I was very disappointed that non-caucasian cultures were n I'm very interested in learning about the origins of marriage in human culture, the reasons behind it and how it's shaped society. This book was not what I expected at all. First and foremost it is not a comprehensive history of marriage as much as it is a general overview of that history in the Western world. It goes from scientific assumption on the behavior of early humans, through the ancient Israelites up until Luther's reformation. I was very disappointed that non-caucasian cultures were not included. Squire's real agenda here is not so much history as it is men's and society's negative attempts to subjugate the female gender. It is often very amusing and even shocking as many of these anti-female ideas are quite outlandish. As a feminist I certainly couldn't complain, but this book is definitely misrepresented. It is interesting to see how far society has come since the days where women were branded as inferior, evil, mutated men, but sadly it shed little light on the institution of marriage. It's a quick, amusing read if you're in the mood for some sobering feminist rhetoric (albeit poorly edited, as some other reviews on goodreads have noted). Beyond that, I found it to be of little value, though I was reminded of how awesome medieval literature could be.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    The rapture fades and the anxiety creeps in. “A good wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.” “Woman is the gateway through which the devil comes.” “A woman is beautiful to look upon, contaminating to the touch, and deadly to keep.” “There is no doubt that certain witches can do marvelous things with regard to male organs. These witches collect male organs in great numbers, as many as twenty or thirty members together, and put them in a bird’s nest The rapture fades and the anxiety creeps in. “A good wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.” “Woman is the gateway through which the devil comes.” “A woman is beautiful to look upon, contaminating to the touch, and deadly to keep.” “There is no doubt that certain witches can do marvelous things with regard to male organs. These witches collect male organs in great numbers, as many as twenty or thirty members together, and put them in a bird’s nest, or shut them up in a box, where they move themselves like living members, and eat oats and corn, as has been seen by many and is a matter of common report. A certain mans tells that, when he had lost his member, he approached a known witch to ask her to restore it to him. She told the afflicted man to climb a certain tree, and that he might take which he liked out of a nest in which there were several members. But when he tried to take a big one, the witch said: You must not take that one, because it belonged to a parish priest.”

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    The book was a bit of a let-down. Far from being a coherent history, it's a highly episodic account of marriage in Western culture. It starts with guesswork about pre-history, takes up the main narrative with the Israelites, proceeds via Athens and Rome to the Dark and Middle Ages, and then quits with Martin Luther. I'll give it contrarian, but it's far from covering the history of marriage. For instance, why cover only Athens and not Sparta, where marriage took a very different form? I get the The book was a bit of a let-down. Far from being a coherent history, it's a highly episodic account of marriage in Western culture. It starts with guesswork about pre-history, takes up the main narrative with the Israelites, proceeds via Athens and Rome to the Dark and Middle Ages, and then quits with Martin Luther. I'll give it contrarian, but it's far from covering the history of marriage. For instance, why cover only Athens and not Sparta, where marriage took a very different form? I get the focus on the Church, but why stop with Luther? There are some interesting points scattered throughout the book (dear lord, I did not realize what perverts so many men of the Church were- or that witches were supposed to keep collections of pet penises) and the author has a wonderful sense of humor, but overall it just wasn't satisfying.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Caleb

    This is a jolly book about the changing ideas of what constitutes nuptial bliss over the ages. It's not a book you'd read to learn facts; startlingly brazen factual errors dot every page (I'm not sure whether my favorite is the remark about how testicles are "useless" to celibate and chaste clergymen, or the straight-faced description of someone practicing "homeopathy" in the sixteenth century). The real reason you ought to read this book is the delicious sarcasm dripping from each sentence. Squ This is a jolly book about the changing ideas of what constitutes nuptial bliss over the ages. It's not a book you'd read to learn facts; startlingly brazen factual errors dot every page (I'm not sure whether my favorite is the remark about how testicles are "useless" to celibate and chaste clergymen, or the straight-faced description of someone practicing "homeopathy" in the sixteenth century). The real reason you ought to read this book is the delicious sarcasm dripping from each sentence. Squire clearly takes great delight in surveying the savagery of the classical and medieval eras from the safety of the 21st century, and occasionally the sheer bull-headedness of ancient relationship advice inspires her to reach Wodehousian heights of wit (such as when she describes Plutarch as "smugly married").

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ingeborg

    I expected a lot more from this one, the conclusions are commonplace, and I didn't particularly like the author’s tone (it seems like she really strives to be funny, but it doesn’t work every time. And also, there is no need, not everything is funny, not everything needs to be funny. If I wanted something amusing I would have started reading Kishon, not a book about marriage?) There are some interesting anecdotes about men and women, especially about how the men of the past have seen women and t I expected a lot more from this one, the conclusions are commonplace, and I didn't particularly like the author’s tone (it seems like she really strives to be funny, but it doesn’t work every time. And also, there is no need, not everything is funny, not everything needs to be funny. If I wanted something amusing I would have started reading Kishon, not a book about marriage?) There are some interesting anecdotes about men and women, especially about how the men of the past have seen women and their place in society. The ending is peculiar, the book ends as if it were cut in the middle of the sentence, there is no real conclusion, nothing, just that there is a fact that in modern times we marry for love, which is fine, but it could have been elaborated a little? Or she could have made some kind of conclusion about the periods she covered already.

  28. 5 out of 5

    G (galen)

    It's is kinda like the crash course/stand up comedian version of A History of The Wife. A lot of the same information and scholarship distilled down to the most hilariously devastating one-liners on marriage (and women) by the great thinkers and leaders of our species. Condensed into 200 pages we see century after century of men dealing with the dilemma: Women! Can't live with them Can't live without them! Sex. Women. Sex with Women. (Sex without Women.) And "Is that baby mine?" That's what it's It's is kinda like the crash course/stand up comedian version of A History of The Wife. A lot of the same information and scholarship distilled down to the most hilariously devastating one-liners on marriage (and women) by the great thinkers and leaders of our species. Condensed into 200 pages we see century after century of men dealing with the dilemma: Women! Can't live with them Can't live without them! Sex. Women. Sex with Women. (Sex without Women.) And "Is that baby mine?" That's what it's all about. It was funny. Informed. A quick read. Yalom's A History of the Wife was better, but this was good in a pinch. :)

  29. 5 out of 5

    Meri

    The sweeping scope of the title is misleading: it's really a history of womens' roles in the western world, ending with Martin Luther. Which is fine by me, as the product was witty and entertaining, but too much more would have inspired me to burn my wedding veil and scream at my husband for being such a bastard, historically. Though it pokes at the usual chauvinistic blather that none of us need hear again, like Eve's role in the fall of man, it also brings up some interesting history I hadn't The sweeping scope of the title is misleading: it's really a history of womens' roles in the western world, ending with Martin Luther. Which is fine by me, as the product was witty and entertaining, but too much more would have inspired me to burn my wedding veil and scream at my husband for being such a bastard, historically. Though it pokes at the usual chauvinistic blather that none of us need hear again, like Eve's role in the fall of man, it also brings up some interesting history I hadn't heard before, like that cohabitation before (mutually approved) marriage was the norm in ancient Rome.

  30. 5 out of 5

    C

    Witty and fun, this historical look at marriage in the West reads more like an essay in Maxim than an academic paper. Susan Squire starts with Genesis and traces the history of marriage from Biblical beginnings up through the reformation, ending with Martin Luther. Marriage here only serves as the lens through which to view misogynistic cultural attitudes towards women in the West - and it's an entertaining, if maddening, romp. A vivid outline of cultural "progress" in the West, I Don't is highl Witty and fun, this historical look at marriage in the West reads more like an essay in Maxim than an academic paper. Susan Squire starts with Genesis and traces the history of marriage from Biblical beginnings up through the reformation, ending with Martin Luther. Marriage here only serves as the lens through which to view misogynistic cultural attitudes towards women in the West - and it's an entertaining, if maddening, romp. A vivid outline of cultural "progress" in the West, I Don't is highly entertaining, with lots of banter and double entendres to keep you reading.

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