What is Marriage? | Ryan Anderson


Societies throughout history have taken a particular interest in sexual relationships between men and women because of their potential, and tendency, to create children. Each society must effectively manage the raising of the next generation, or face an exponential problem.  

Ideally for the child and the rest of society, the father would stay with the mother, and both would raise any children their union produces. The concern for every society is how to achieve this ideal. This is the social problem that every society must solve.

The solution adopted by almost every thriving society is to set strong expectations around sexual relationships between men and women. In exchange for a sexual relationship, the man and woman essentially commit in public to stay together and remain sexually exclusive. In other words, they marry.

Marriage is a socially arranged solution for the problem of getting people to stay together and care for children that the mere desire for children, and the sex that makes children possible, does not solve.

James Q. Wilson, The Marriage Problem 41 (2002)

While marriage has many private purposes, it would likely not exist without the public purpose of socially constructing fatherhood and attaching both parents equally to their children.

But for children, there would be no need for any institution concerned with sex.

Russell, Bertrand. Marriage and Morals (1929)

Marriage protects the interests of children (the most vulnerable among us) and is our solution to the social problem that every society must solve. Any public policy affecting fathers and mothers staying together to both raise any children their union produces, should be approached conservatively and with extreme caution.