And how were such unions viewed by the people around them? It turns out that same-sex marriage has a rather longer history than is usually thought. Of course, it depends on what you mean by marriage. The history of many Native American, African and Asian cultures includes same-sex and transgender conjugal unions.
Primitive and non-western societies
But examples of formal religious ceremonies in which two men who love each other are solemnly wedded together for life can be found across Europe, throughout classical antiquity and until the end of the middle ages. Such unions of sworn kinship or ritual brotherhood were entered into by kings and aristocrats, by comrades in arms, and by men in all sorts of other social contexts — in the 14th century, Chaucer described sworn brotherhood between merchants, monks, clerks, and even peasant farmers. In any deeply patriarchal culture, it was easy to presume that love between men was the noblest and most exquisite kind.
It was the passion of David and Jonathan, of Achilles and Patroclus , and of countless popular ballads. Yet beyond their testimony to centuries of publicly celebrated same-sex love, the precise meaning and incidence of such unions remains unclear. Wed-brotherhood did not imply cohabitation or sex though in some cases, such as Edward II and Piers Gaveston , it might have ; nor did it preclude heterosexual marriage.
Only once did James mix these metaphors of kinship with a conjugal ideal. For all its emotional intensity, this was not the language of gay marriage but of a patriarchal ruler. Like other monarchs, James spoke easily of himself as the benevolent husband and father of his people, his kingdom and his parliament. He loved James. But he could not conceive of really being married to anyone but his own wife. This was easier to do in Renaissance Italy, where it was much more socially acceptable though still illegal for same-sex love to extend to sodomy. More generally, though, and certainly in the English-speaking world, men did not tend to live together as conjugal couples.
Passionate friendship and love between men took lots of different forms. But from James I to Oscar Wilde, and beyond, a man who loved other men was also quite likely to wed a woman and have children with her. If we conceive of marriage as the long-term, exclusive cohabitation and sexual union of two people, then, in the Christian west at least, few male couples would qualify before the dawn of the 20th century.
In fact, for the last years, the practice of same-sex marriage has been largely the preserve of women. To begin with, this was a secretive and punishable matter. In medieval and Renaissance Europe, it was often not even possible for two women to live together independently: households were supposed to be headed by men. Yet we know of a few 16th-century cases of women who disguised themselves as men and lived in marriage with other women. In Amsterdam in , the middle-aged widow Trijntje Barents fell in love with year-old Hendrickje Lamberts.
Some time into their affair, Hendrickje began to dress as a man. They were a settled couple, who wished they could legally marry. Other Dutch couples did just that. In the s, Cornelia Gerritse van Breugel disguised herself as a man in order to wed her long-time lover, Elisabeth Boleyn, in an Amsterdam church. Such cases were even more common in 18th-century England. In the early s, when both were in their late teens, Mary East and her girlfriend decided to move to London and make a life together as husband and wife. The two of them became successful publicans and pillars of their East End community.
Everyone presumed they were married. For more than three decades, they kept their secret, and lived as a married couple. It is impossible to tell how many other female husbands lived undetected with their wives. Quick, secret marriages were easy to contract in London until the act: there was a busy trade in no-questions-asked ceremonies in taverns, brothels, prisons and chapels.
The first clergyman they approached refused to do it. But they would easily have been able to find another priest. Bishops and legislators take note: same-sex marriages have already taken place within the Church of England. Sometimes it seems that female husbands were what we would now call intersex or trans. Long before the modern transgender movement, individuals and communities grappled with the potential fluidity of sex and gender.
It is fitting that the most sensitive interpreter of this fragmentary and opaque evidence, Emma Donoghue , is a brilliant novelist as well as a scholar. For, as she explored in her first book, Passions Between Women Scarlet , almost nothing about these cases is clear-cut — except the inescapable fact that, even three or four centuries ago, it was not unheard of for two women to cohabit in marriage. By the end of the 18th century, the world had changed.
From this point on it became increasingly possible for women to live together openly in western society. The growth of cities, the expansion of domestic service, the development of textile trades and the spread of schooling for girls all created new opportunities for unmarried women to travel away from home, make a living and meet one another.
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The 18th century also saw a revolution in ideas about male and female sexuality, which created a new cult of female friendship. In poetry, fiction and real life, innocent love between women came to be celebrated on an unprecedented scale — as an elevated and enduring passion, and a crucial support to courtship and marriage. The cultivation of intense same-sex relations became as important to middle- and upper-class womanhood as being a daughter, wife or mother.
This was the world into which Charity Bryant was born in She was the youngest child of a Massachusetts doctor — educated, spirited and constantly at odds with her crabby father and domineering stepmother. When she turned 20, they threw her out, and she became an itinerant schoolteacher. By the age of 23 she had decided she would never marry. Instead, she channelled her emotional energy into a succession of passionate attachments to other young women.
For several years she kept up a secret correspondence, and spent as much time as possible, with Mercy Ford, who lived in a nearby village. In their parents became alarmed and put a stop to it. In , on the eve of turning 30, Charity made a new start. She moved to the tiny frontier town of Weybridge, in western Vermont, and set up as a seamstress.
Here, she met Sylvia Drake, seven years her junior, the sister of a friend. Within a few months, she had rented a room of her own, hired the younger woman as her apprentice and urged her to move in as soon as possible. The following year, the couple built themselves a single-roomed house and tailoring shop. Charity ordered a ring. They took the first of several trips back to Massachusetts, where Charity introduced her friends and relations to her new mate.
When Sylvia died in , their families buried them together, under a joint headstone. The past is unalterable. But what we see in it depends on our present preoccupations. Once you begin to look, similar couples can be found all over the place. These were women at the heart of 18th-, 19th- and earlyth-century intellectual society, the friends and colleagues of many of its leading writers and thinkers. Before the 20th century, she asserted, sex between women was largely unimaginable, even to those who lived and slept together.
Yet more recent scholarship takes exactly the opposite view. Why should heterosexuality be presumed when a man and a woman share a bed, yet homosexual acts always have to be explicitly proven? The pathbreaking publication by Helena Whitbread and Jill Liddington of the private writings of Anne Lister , the Yorkshire gentlewoman and lesbian rake, proved that at least some contemporaries of Bryant and Drake in England, France and Italy did feel themselves to be part of a subculture of women who loved, and had sex, with one another.
And, as is increasingly recognised, Georgian and Victorian culture was as full of female as of male homoeroticism. Then fate brings her a stranger, handsome Jondolar, and Ayla is torn between fear and hope — and carried to an awakening of desire that would shape the future of mankind. Recommended by: Sidney Bristol Committed. Description: "A shape-shifter who can't shift and a psychic who dreams about death live in the body of Erin Jerome, who's trying to maintain a normal life as a Louisiana assistant DA while avoiding the secret world of shifters, demons, vampires, witches and djinn.
When a shape-shifting psychotic starts stalking Erin, sending her gifts of dead bodies in the crazed hope of luring her to his side, bounty-hunting shifter Jude Donovan vows to keep her safe. Erin wonders whether, like her shifter mother, she carries the seeds of madness and fears that when Jude learns the truth about her he'll turn from her in disgust. Recommended by: Patricia Briggs Alpha and Omega series. Description: "Mary Grey had come from Canada to the land of her forebears: Northumberland.
His name was Connor Winslow, and Mary quickly discovered that he thought she was his cousin—a girl supposedly dead these past eight years. Alive, she would be heiress to an inheritance Connor was determined to have for himself. Description: "Beautiful, clever, rich — and single — Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage.
Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protegee Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected.
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Synopsis: "Isabella Swan's move to Forks, a perpetually rainy town in Washington, could have been the most boring move she ever made. When she meets the mysterious, alluring Edward Cullen — a vampire — her life takes a thrilling and terrifying romantic turn. Description: "By edict of the king, the mighty Scottish laird Alec Kincaid must take an English bride.
His choice was Jamie, youngest daughter of Baron Jamison Alec ached to touch her, to tame her, to possess her But Jamie vowed never to surrender to this highland barbarian. He was everything her heart warned against—an arrogant scoundrel whose rough good looks spoke of savage pleasures. And though Kincaid's scorching kisses fired her blood, she brazenly resisted him Recommended by: Jenn Bennett Roaring Twenties series. Description: "Tough minded Jessica Trent's sole intention is to free her nitwit brother from the destructive influence of Sebastian Ballister, the notorious Marquess of Dain.
She never expects to desire the arrogant, amoral cad. And When Dain's reciprocal passion places them in a scandalously compromising, and public, position, Jessica is left with no choice but to seek satisfaction Description: "Jane Austen's witty comedy of manners — one of the most popular novels of all time — features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues.
Recommended by: Anna Zabo Takeover. Description: "Minerva Dobbs knows that happily-ever-after is a fairy tale, especially with a man who asked her to dinner to win a bet. Even if he is gorgeous and successful Calvin Morrisey.
The roots of gay oppression
Cal knows commitment is impossible, especially with a woman as cranky as Min Dobbs. Even if she does wear great shoes and keeps him on his toes. When they say good-bye at the end of their evening, they cut their losses and agree never to see each other again. But Fate has other plans, and it's not long before Min and Cal meet again. Soon, they're dealing with a jealous ex-boyfriend, Krispy Kreme donuts, a determined psychologist, chaos theory, a freakishly intelligent cat, Chicken Marsala, and more risky propositions than either of them ever dreamed of.
Including the biggest gamble of all—true love. Description: "Adrift after her sister Bailey's sudden death, Lennie finds herself torn between quiet, seductive Toby—Bailey's boyfriend who shares her grief—and Joe, the new boy in town who bursts with life and musical genius. Each offers Lennie something she desperately needs Description: "They were a perfect family, golden and carefree—until a heartbreaking tragedy shattered their happiness. Now, for the sake of an inheritance that will ensure their future, the children must be hidden away out of sight, as if they never existed.
But as brutal days swell into agonizing months and years, Cathy, Chris, and twins Cory and Carrie realize their survival is at the mercy of their cruel and superstitious grandmother…and this cramped and helpless world may be the only one they ever know. Description: "Anna can't wait for her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a good job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she's not too thrilled when her father unexpectedly ships her off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St.
Clair, the perfect boy. The only problem? He's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her crush back home. Will a year of romantic near-misses end in the French kiss Anna awaits? Description: "Genius physics professor Dr. Jane Darlington desperately wants a baby. Which means she must find someone very special to father her child. But his champion good looks and down-home ways are deceiving. Description: "Lady Aline Marsden was brought up to marry a man of her own class, but from the moment she meets John McKenna, she risks everything to be with him.
Although their love is forbidden, McKenna's passion for the beautiful Aline is too compelling to deny. When their secret is discovered, their world is shattered. McKenna is forced to leave forever, unaware that the only reason Aline has given him up is to save him. Now McKenna has returned, a powerful man determined to take revenge against the woman who broke his heart.
But the magic between them burns as fiercely as ever…and as McKenna uncovers Aline's deepest secret, together they discover a love that will defy Fate itself. Description: "Following the unexpected death of her father, year-old Layken is forced to be the rock for both her mother and younger brother.
Outwardly, she appears resilient and tenacious, but inwardly, she's losing hope. Enter Will Cooper: The attractive, year-old new neighbor with an intriguing passion for slam poetry and a unique sense of humor. Within days of their introduction, Will and Layken form an intense emotional connection, leaving Layken with a renewed sense of hope.
Not long after an intense, heart-stopping first date, they are slammed to the core when a shocking revelation forces their new relationship to a sudden halt. Daily interactions become impossibly painful as they struggle to find a balance between the feelings that pull them together, and the secret that keeps them apart. Description: "Powered by the dreams and struggles of three generations, The Thorn Birds is the epic saga of a family rooted in the Australian sheep country.
At the story's heart is the love of Meggie Cleary, who can never possess the man she desperately adores, and Ralph de Bricassart, who rises from parish priest to the inner circles of the Vatican Recommended by: Shayla Black His to Take. Description: "Behind the foreboding walls of Newgate Prison, a pact is sealed in secret — as a dashing and doomed criminal consents to wed a beautiful heiress In the fading echoes of hollow wedding vows, a promise is broken — as a sensuous free-spirit flees to a lush Caribbean paradise, abandoning the handsome stranger she married to the gallows.
But Ruark Beauchamp's destiny is now eternally intertwined with his exquisite, tempestuous Shanna's. And no iron ever forged can imprison his magnificent passion Recommended by: Damon Suede Hot Head. Description: "Combining two distinct yet interwoven parts—one set in ancient Jerusalem, one in contemporary Moscow—the novel veers from moods of wild theatricality with violent storms, vampire attacks, and a Satanic ball; to such somber scenes as the meeting of Pilate and Yeshua, and the murder of Judas in the moonlit garden of Gethsemane; to the substanceless, circus-like reality of Moscow.
Its central characters, Woland Satan and his retinue—including the vodka-drinking black cat, Behemoth; the poet, Ivan Homeless; Pontius Pilate; and a writer known only as The Master, and his passionate companion, Margarita—exist in a world that blends fantasy and chilling realism, an artful collage of grotesqueries, dark comedy, and timeless ethical questions. Synopsis: "Merry Wilding is a lady of breeding, of innocence, and of breathtaking beauty. With high hopes for a holiday in England, she sets sail from New York — but the tide of her life is destined to turn.
Mistakenly swept aboard an infamous pirate ship, Merry finds herself at the mercy of a wicked crew Soon she's spending her days yearning for escape, and her nights learning the pleasures of captivity. Recommended by: Anna Todd After trilogy. Description: "When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him.
For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. Recommended by: Kresley Cole The Master. Description: "Erienne's father had given her hand to the richest suitor. She was now Lady Saxton, mistress of a great manor all but ruined by fire, wife to a man whose mysteriously shrouded form aroused fear and pity. Yet even as she fell in love with her adoring husband, Erienne despaired of freeing her heart from the dashingly handsome Yankee who couldn't forget her.
The beautiful Erienne, once filled with young dreams of romance, was now a wife and woman Recommended by: Aleatha Romig Consequences. Description: "Caleb is a man with a singular interest in revenge. Kidnapped as a young boy and sold into slavery by a power-hungry mobster, he has thought of nothing but vengeance.
For twelve years he has immersed himself in the world of pleasure slaves searching for the one man he holds ultimately responsible. Finally, the architect of his suffering has emerged with a new identity, but not a new nature. If Caleb is to get close enough to strike, he must become the very thing he abhors and kidnap a beautiful girl to train her to be all that he once was. Eighteen-year-old Olivia Ruiz has just woken up in a strange place. Blindfolded and bound, there is only a calm male voice to welcome her.
His name is Caleb, though he demands to be called Master. She has a dark sensuality that cannot be hidden or denied, though she tries to accomplish both. Although she is frightened by the strong, sadistic, and arrogant man who holds her prisoner, what keeps Olivia awake in the dark is her unwelcome attraction to him. Description: "A natural disaster leaves a young girl wandering alone in an unfamiliar and dangerous land until she is found by a woman of the Clan, people very different from her own kind.
To them, blond, blue-eyed Ayla looks peculiar and ugly — she is one of the Others, those who have moved into their ancient homeland; but Iza cannot leave the girl to die and takes her with them. But the brutal and proud youth who is destined to become their next leader sees her differences as a threat to his authority. He develops a deep and abiding hatred for the strange girl of the Others who lives in their midst, and is determined to get his revenge. Recommended by: Skye Warren Wanderlust.
Description: "Emily Vargas has been taken captive. As part of his conditioning methods, her captor refuses to speak to her, knowing how much she craves human contact. He's far too beautiful to be a monster. Combined with his lack of violence toward her, this has her walking a fine line at the edge of sanity. Told in the first person from Emily's perspective, Comfort Food is a tale of erotic surrender that explores what happens when all expectations of pleasure and pain are turned upside down, as whips become comfort and chicken soup becomes punishment.
Bared to You Description: "He was beautiful and brilliant, jagged and white-hot. I craved his touch like a drug, even knowing it would weaken me. I was flawed and damaged, and he opened those cracks in me so easily. Gideon knew. He had demons of his own. The bonds of his love transformed me, even as i prayed that the torment of our pasts didn't tear us apart. Recommended by: Christopher Rice Desire Exchange series. Flynn is trouble from the start. He used to pilot rescue helicopters, until a devastating crash killed his crew. As they become lovers against all the odds, Tom must save Flynn's life as well as his own.
Recommended by: Francine Rivers Redeeming Love. Description: "Three women. Three keys to find. If one fails, they all lose. If they succeed - money, power and a new destiny awaits. It will take more than intellect, more than determination. They will have to open their hearts, their minds, and believe that everything is possible. Recommended by: Marta Perry Keepers of the Promise series. But a palpable terror is crouching in the shadows. Philippe's uncle, Leon de Valmy, is the epitome of charm, yet dynamic and arrogant — his paralysis little hindrance as he moves noiselessly in his wheelchair from room to room.
Only his son Raoul, a handsome, sardonic man who drives himself and his car with equally reckless abandon, seems able to stand up to him. To Linda, Raoul is an enigma — though irresistibly attracted to him, she senses some dark twist in his nature. When an accident deep in the woods nearly kills Linda's innocent charge, she begins to wonder if someone has deadly plans for the young count.
Recommended by: Jennifer L. Armentrout , aka J. Lynn Trust in Me. Description: "What was supposed to be an evening of celebration with friends, fun, and games becomes a night of danger, drama, and obsessive love. Because when Jenny, her boyfriend, Tom, and their friends begin to play the Game, it comes to life. Suddenly they are in a dark world where Julian, the gorgeous guy who sold Jenny the Game, rules as Prince of the Shadows.
Julian makes their darkest nightmares realities—and he will do anything to claim the beautiful Jenny as his prize. The Game is real, and the only way to win is to face your most secret fears. You cannot quit—to lose the Game is to lose your life. And that is just the beginning…. Description: "Frederica Merriville and her three siblings have come to London for the glittering social season, in order to give young and beautiful Charis a chance to make a good marriage.
Frederica herself, a witty charmer, believes herself happily beyond marriageable age -- she is twenty-four, after all. But when they are introduced to London society by their distant 'cousin' Lord Alverstoke, Frederica is amazed to finds herself, unknowingly, falling in love. Likewise, Alverstoke, a cold aristocrat, finds himself thoroughly beguiled by Frederica and her young rascally brothers. Description: "Every creature or being that was thought to be mythical isn't. They all secretly exist alongside humans and enjoy the gift of immortality.
These immortals call their world the lord. You may have had a brush with one of Lorekind already. The eccentric billionaire with hypnotic charisma—and an aversion to sunlight.
The ethereal waif of impossible beauty—whose fingernails look more like claws. The Highlander with a seventeenth-century Scottish accent and animal magnetism—who can never be penciled in on the night of the full moon. They walk among us, but they war among themselves.
Name That Book cont. Part II
Recommended by: Anne Tenino Poster Boy. Description: "Four women, Judy, Kate, Pagan and Maxine, are summoned to a New York apartment where they are asked which one of them is the mother of the host. As they unlock the past, the women remember the things that tie them together. Recommended by: Heather Manning Swept to Sea.
Description: "Rural switchboard operator Georgie Gail is proud of her independence in a man's world, which makes it twice as vexing when the telephone company sends a man to look over her shoulder. Dashing Luke Palmer is more than he appears though. He's a Texas Ranger working undercover to infiltrate a notorious gang of train robbers. Repairing telephones and tangling with this tempestuous woman is the last thing he wants to do. But when his stakeout puts Georgie in peril, he realizes more than his job is on the line. Description: "There has never been a woman like luscious, raven-haired, hot-tempered Skye O'Malley.
She is the courageous seafaring captain of her own mighty fleet, and intelligent enough to win a battle of wits with Queen Elizabeth herself. Follow along as Skye O'Malley is swept up in a journey filled with romance and passion that takes her from glittering Ireland, to lush Algeria, to the heart of London in pursuit of a unique and eternal love Noah is restoring a plantation home to its former glory, and he is haunted by images of the beautiful girl he met fourteen years earlier, a girl he loved like no other.
Unable to find her, yet unwilling to forget the summer they spent together, Noah is content to live with only memories Description: "The year is Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an 'outlander'—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart.
For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives. Recommended by: Shoshanna Evers Enslaved trilogy. The test is severe—sexual in method, psychological in substance… The artistic interest here has precisely to do with the use not only of erotic materials but also erotic methods, the deliberate stimulation of the reader as a part of and means to a total, authentic literary experience.
Description: "Ambitious newspaper reporter Kate Love's determination to unmask a railroad stock swindler has led her to the brink of matrimony with the wealthiest, most eligible black man in the East — the very scoundrel she intends to expose! But at the last possible moment a champion appears to whisk her away from the altar: Dix Wildhorse, a Black Seminole marshal from Oklahoma's Indian country.
A daring black knight whom Kate's father sent to rescue — and wed — the free-spirited ebony hellion, Dix ignites fires within her with just a touch, a whisper, a brazen kiss. But Kate isn't about to abandon her career to become the dutiful wife of a lawman who wants to keep her wrapped up in a protective cocoon. As the battle of wills intensifies, the heat of their passion blazes with unmatched fury.