There are things in life that we take for granted thinking that it has always been like this. I once came into a debate where a biology professor explained how marriage evolved from an evolution point of view. The read is very interesting. I guess you would like to check it up and decide for your self.
In order to understand why marriage originated one has to take a look at two allied trends in human psychology. The first is that men and women’s genetic interests are *not* the same but are, in fact, in competition. The second, which flows from the first, is that it is in the interests of both parties to only be supporting those off-spring that they can reasonably afford to. Now, for the mother, that question is relatively simple to work out–she supports the children that came out of her womb first and foremost and if there’s anything left over then adoptive or step-children can benefit as well. For the father, that question is a little harder to work out. It’s in *his* genes best interests not to support another man’s children but he has no way of knowing, with reasonable certainty, which children are his and which are not–unless there were some way of buying an insurance policy against being cuckolded. Marriage is such an insurance policy.
How does marriage insure against a man supporting children that are not genetically his? Notice that the legacy (and in some cases not-so-legacy) penalties for adultery almost *always* fell on the woman much more harshly than the man. Did you ever stop to think about why that is? Marriage was originally designed as a *generational property transfer* with women being the property in question. The father transfers ownership of his daughter to the husband–*literally* this was what marriage was originally intended for. The emphasis on virginity has *nothing* to do with sexual purity and everything to do with making certain that a man isn’t going to marry a woman who is *already* pregnant with the child of another man.
The first *institutional* codes for marriage were written in the Hammurbic Laws (see Gerda Lerner’s “The Creation of Patriarchy) and the Levitical marriage codes, from which we Westerners inherited our marriage codes, are direct line descendants of the Hammurbic Laws. But in ALL human cultures one sees the following things:
* Father’s ‘give away’ their daughters
* The *ideal* bride is a young woman who is a virgin.
* The penalties for adultery are harsher on women than on men.
* The prescription on pre or extra-marital sex are much more severe and enthusiastically enforced on women than on men.
In MANY cultures divorce is easier for men to obtain than for women. (Running the gamut from impossible to merely extremely difficult.)
ALL of this is more or less exactly what one would *expect* if marriage were originally instituted to protect the genetic interests of men against the genetic interests of women. Now, did the Ancients conceive of it this way? Of course they didn’t! But one of the great human forms of art is self-deception. The idea of ‘romantic’ love leading to marriage is a recent creation of Western civilization, being no more than between 500 and 700 years old. Before that marriage was pretty blatantly a matter of economics (there’s a *reason* why sons are more prized than daughters in agrarian cultures and it’s because sons don’t cost their families a ‘bride price’ whereas daughters *do*). We in the West have just fooled ourselves into believing that marriage has *always* been about love, but it hasn’t and there’s nothing in the history of our species to suggest that it has.
(Please keep in mind that I am talking about our Ancestral populations and the *average* behavior and its effects over time.)
Is that why we are still emphasising on the virginity of our women?