Monday, April 7, 2014

Of Bundling, Love, and Farmers' Daughters

3 Quarks Daily has just posted my Bundling, Dream Space, Love, and the Farmer’s Daughter, which is revised from something I'd posted a few years ago at New Savanna. For one thing I wanted to include some relevant source material that Charles Cameron had posted; it's about religious practices where clerics live and often sleep with women without, however, having sex. I put one such passage below. You might also want to look at From Ishmael to Joey and Ross: Whither American Manhood? by Gregory Jusdanis, which has this passage:
Ishmael wakes up one morning in a hotel in the whaling town of New Bedford to discover an “affectionate arm” around him. He and the stranger, whose name is Queequeg, are sleeping “socially,” having become “bosom buddies.” As he gradually opens his eyes he realizes that “you had almost thought I had been his wife.” Try as Ishmael might, he can’t unlock Queequeg’s “bridegroom clasp,” hugging him so “tightly.” The following evening Ishmael waits impatiently for Queegueg’s embrace.

Although most American men of the nineteenth century would not have described this occurrence as a marriage, they would have been used to sleeping with other men. Boys became accustomed to sharing beds with their brothers and then with their roommates in college, and with strangers when traveling. So did soldiers. Physical intimacy between men was economically enforced and privacy not available. And before central heating the male body lying next to you was a literal source of warmth. Men, in short, were familiar with the smell and touch of other men.
This Google query on "bundling board" ("bundle" alone is uselessly general) turns up quite a number of hits.

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From William Graham Sumner: Folkways: A Study of the Sociological Importance of Usages, Manners, Customs, Mores, and Morals (the complete text is available through Project Gutenberg).

576. Bundling. One of the most extraordinary instances of what the mores can do to legitimize a custom which, when rationally judged, seems inconsistent with the most elementary requirements of the sex taboo, is bundling. In Latin Europe generally, especially amongst the upper classes, it is not allowed that a young man and a young woman shall be alone together even by day, and the freer usage in England, and still more in the United States, is regarded as improper and contrary to good manners. In the latter countries two young people, if alone together, do not think of transgressing the rules of propriety as set by custom in the society. Such was the case also with night visits. Although the custom was free, and although better taste and judgment have abolished it, yet it was defined and regulated, and was never a proof of licentious manners. It is found amongst uncivilized people, but is hardly to be regarded as a survival in higher civilization. Christians, in the third and fourth centuries, practiced it, even without the limiting conditions which were set in the Middle Ages. Having determined to renounce sex, as an evil, they sought to test themselves by extreme temptation. It was a test or proof of the power of moral rule over natural impulse. “It was a widely spread custom in both the east and the west of the Roman empire to live with virgins. Distinguished persons, including one of the greatest bishops of the empire, who was also one of the greatest theologians, joined in the custom. Public opinion in the church judged them lightly, although unfavorably.” “After the church took on the episcopal constitution, it persecuted and drove out the subintroductae. They were regarded as a survival from the old church which was disapproved. The custom that virgins dwelt in the house with men arose in the oldest period of the Christian church.” “They did not think of any evil as to be apprehended.” “In fact, we have only a little clear evidence that the living together did not correspond in the long run to the assumptions on which it was based.” The custom was abolished in the sixth century. “Spiritual marriage” was connected with the monastic profession and both were due to the ascetic tendency of the time. “From the time when we can clearly find monastic associations in existence, we find hermits living in comradeship with nuns.” We are led back to Jewish associations. The custom is older than Christianity. The custom at Corinth was but imitation of Jewish “God worshipers” or “Praying women.” The Therapeuts had such companions. Their houses of worship were arranged to separate the sexes. Their dances sometimes lasted all night. In the Middle Ages several sects who renounced marriage introduced tests of great temptation. Individuals also, believing that they were carrying on the war between “the flesh” and “the spirit” subjected themselves to similar tests. These are not properly cases in the mores, but they illustrate the intervention of sectarian doctrines or views to traverse the efforts to satisfy interests, and so to disturb the mores.

577. Two forms of bundling. Two cases are to be distinguished: (1) night visits as a mode of wooing; (2) extreme intimacy between two persons who are under the sex taboo (one or both being married, or one or both vowed to celibacy), and who nevertheless observe the taboo.

578. Mediæval bundling. The custom in the second form became common in the woman cult of the twelfth century and it spread all over Europe. As the vassal attended his lord to his bedchamber, so the knight his lady. The woman cult was an aggregation of poses and pretenses to enact a comedy of love, but not to satisfy erotic passion. The custom spread to the peasant classes in later centuries, and it extended to the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Switzerland, England, Scotland, and Wales, but it took rather the first form in the lower classes and in the process of time. In building houses in Holland the windows were built conveniently for this custom. “In 1666-1667 every house on the island of Texel had an opening under the window where the lover could enter so as to sit on the bed and spend the night making love to the daughter of the house.” The custom was called queesten. Parents encouraged it. A girl who had no queester was not esteemed. Rarely did any harm occur. If so, the man was mobbed and wounded or killed. The custom can be traced in North Holland down to the eighteenth century. This was the customary mode of wooing in the low countries and Scandinavia. In spite of the disapproval of both civil and ecclesiastical authorities, the custom continued just as round dances continue now, in spite of the disapproval of many parents, because a girl who should refuse to conform to current usage would be left out of the social movement. The lover was always one who would be accepted as a husband. If he exceeded the limits set by custom he was very hardly dealt with by the people of the village. The custom is reported from the Schwarzwald as late as 1780. It was there the regular method of wooing for classes who had to work all day. The lover was required to enter by the dormer window. Even still the custom is said to exist amongst the peasants of Germany, but it is restricted to one night in the month or in the year. Krasinski describes kissing games customary amongst the Unitarians of the Ukrain. He says that they are a Greek custom and he connects them with bundling.

579. Poverty and wooing. Amongst peasants there was little opportunity for the young people to become acquainted. When the cold season came they could not woo out of doors. The young women could not be protected by careful rules which would prevent wooing. They had to take risks and to take care of themselves. Poverty was the explanation of this custom in all civilized countries, although there was always in it an element of frolic and fun.

580. Night wooing in North American colonies. All the emigrants to North America were familiar with the custom. In the seventeenth century, in the colonies, the houses were small, poorly warmed, and inconvenient, allowing little privacy. No doubt this is the reason why the custom took new life in the colonies. Burnaby says that it was the custom amongst the lower classes of Massachusetts that a pair who contemplated marriage spent the night together in bed partly dressed. If they did not like each other they might not marry, unless the woman became pregnant. The custom was called “tarrying.” It was due to poverty again. Modern inhabitants of tenement houses are constrained in their customs by the same limitation, and the effect is seen in their folkways. The custom of bundling had a wide range of variety. Two people sitting side by side might cover themselves with the same robe, or lie on the bed together for warmth. Peters defended the custom, which, he said, “prevails amongst all classes to the great honor of the country, its religion, and ladies.” The older women resented the attempts of the ministers to preach against the custom. Sofas were introduced as an alternative. The country people thought the sofa less proper. In the middle of the eighteenth century the decline in social manners, which was attributed to the wars, caused the custom to produce more evil results. Also the greater wealth, larger houses, and better social arrangements changed the conditions and there was less need for the custom. It fell under social disapproval and was thrown out of the folkways. Stiles says that “it died hard” after the revolution. In 1788 a ballad in an almanac brought the custom into popular ridicule. Stiles quotes the case of Seger vs. Slingerland, in which the judge, in a case of seduction, held that parents who allowed bundling, although it was the custom, could not recover. 
581. Reasons for bundling. A witness before the Royal Commission on the Marriage Laws, 1868, testified that night visiting was still common amongst the laboring classes in some parts of Scotland. “They have no other means of intercourse.” It was against custom for a lover to visit his sweetheart by day. As to the parents, “Their daughters must have husbands and there is no other way of courting.” This statement sums up the reasons for this custom which, not being a public custom, must have varied very much according to the character of individuals who used it. Attempts were always made to control it by sanctions in public opinion.

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