Female Chastity: Does It Make Sense

Today, pre-marital and extra-marital relationships are not given much importance. On the contrary, it is surprising if an adult girl marries a virgin. However, our ancestors treated this issue differently. In most cases, the violation of virginity before marriage or women’s easy behavior was considered unacceptable and severely punished. So why was chastity given such importance?

Lack of confidence in paternity

It is known that early society first practiced promiscuity (promiscuous sexual relations) and then polygamy. Each person could have several sexual partners at the same time. This was true not only for men, but also for women. Over time, however, the pattern of relationships began to change. Men wanted to have heirs who would continue their lineage. Of course, they did not know anything about genetics, but they saw that children often inherited the qualities of their parents – both traits of appearance and health and character. Therefore, the representatives of the stronger sex were interested in leaving their own offspring. And, of course, no one wanted to raise other people’s children. But in a free relationship, no one would give a guarantee that the child was born of that particular man. And there was no DNA testing at the time.

The marriage-family relationship was gradually formed in its traditional form. And if a man married a woman who had already had an affair with someone else, he could not be sure that the children were born to him. Similarly, he was not sure if his wife was unfaithful.

Even some Russian tsars were suspected of being born not to their official fathers but to their mothers’ lovers and thus did not really belong to the tsarist line. Such was said, for example, of Peter the Great and Paul I. Although there is no direct evidence of this.

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There are many known cases where a child does not resemble its biological father, but one of the mother’s former partners. Sometimes both parents are European, and the child is born multiracial, although genetic testing confirms his relationship to his official father. This phenomenon has been given a name – telegony.

The mechanism of telegony is not yet clear to scientists. There is an assumption that the genetic material of all sexual partners somehow “penetrates” into the DNA of a woman and is involved in conception. Our ancestors probably noticed such things, though they could not explain them scientifically.

Struggle against fornication

In most Russian regions virginity was considered important. The morning after the first wedding night, it was customary for guests to bring out a blood-stained sheet or shirt of the newlywed. Sometimes it was replaced by other ritual objects, such as a broom tied with a red ribbon. In some regions dishes were beaten to symbolize the fact that the bride was a virgin.

If the bride was not innocent, the morning the father of the groom brought the bride’s parents a cup with a pierced bottom, which was poured wine. When the father-in-law took his finger out of the hole, the wine would spill, and then both the bride and her parents would be dishonored.

In Russia, extra-marital affairs were called fornication, and promiscuous women were called fornicators. The fate of women who were not married as virgins, as a rule, was more than sad: in the family of her husband, they were exposed to all kinds of humiliation, had to do the most labor-intensive work on the farm. In addition, the husband often beat his wife “for sin.” If a child was born soon after marriage, and there was reason to suspect that it was not her husband’s, then not only the wife, but also the child, suffered. The child was mistreated and might be disinherited in the future as having been “borne on the side”.

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These traditions also spread to the upper classes. In 1573, Tsar Ivan the Terrible married for the fifth time – to Maria Dolgoruky. Alas, the first wedding night revealed that the newlywed “did not respect herself to the crown. The next morning the tsar ordered her to go to Alexandrovskaya Sloboda. There, by order of Ivan Vasilievich, the newly minted tsarina was thrown into an ice-hole carved in the ice, where she drowned. The tsar did not forgive the deceit.

If his wife was accused of treason, she could be subjected to the so-called infamous punishments. One of them was to cut off her hair, which for a woman in Russia was a terrible disgrace. After learning about his wife’s adultery, the husband could wrap her braids on his arm and cut them, after which the woman was afraid to show up in such a form in public. Often a wife-whore was beaten with a whip or lash, and the marriage was dissolved after that.