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Thread: Future Marriages?

  1. #1
    Aerospace engineer turned writer Laer Carroll's Avatar
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    Future Marriages?

    Since my divorce many years ago I've twice been in a relationship which was so close that I classified it as a marriage. This even though neither was the conventional type.

    The first was a three way relationship with a bisexual woman and a Lesbian, S and C. We went to parties as a triple and S introduced C and me as her spouses. I spent as much time with C as with S, for we had much in common. I loved her as much as I loved S.

    After almost ten years I met someone I came to care for deeply. We dated for a time, but both of us were turned on by a different type. We quit dating but remained close. When her guest house lost her renter she suggested I move in. I paid two rents for a couple of months so that my former spouses could find someone to move in and pay a third of monthly expenses.

    After twenty years I moved out because I met someone I wanted to live with and the guest house was too small. That lasted two years. Six years have passed and I still am with my second "wife" in all but sharing a bed, though I still live alone. She is only eight miles away and I spend much of most weekends there. Her family treats me as part of their extended family.

    I'm sure these and related patterns repeat millions of times elsewhere, and have for all of history. Communal marriages are an old form, rebirthed in the Hippies '60s in the Western world, for instance. So far most of these "marriages" have no legal support. I speculate that they some day will be, that they are the wave of the future.

    Have you had or have such marriages, or whatever we may eventually call them? Or have direct knowledge of them? Do you foresee other kinds coming into existence?

    I'll speculate on one that may arise. I guess we'll eventually discover means to be forever physically young. The number of children will have to be limited, maybe by licensing. We may develop a form of communal marriage where a village will have just a few children who are legally in everyone's extended family. The village may be physically close. But I can foresee villages where transportation and communication are so advanced that family members live far away from each other, yet function as if they live next door.

    And a child may know hi/r great-g-g-g'mother personally.

    Lots of room for SF writers to explore family problems!
    Last edited by Laer Carroll; 05-06-2017 at 10:30 AM.

  2. #2
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Research tends to point toward most people being naturally serially monogamous. As such, i would imagine any future in which marriages (from a legal standpoint) evolve to meet peoples needs would probably come with built in sunsets. After 7 years, say, the marriage expires unless both parties renew it. In addition, marriage as a legal framework will probably get more complex and inclusive, accommodating poly and other different forms of relationships.

    All that said, there will always be traditionalists and it is pretty likely there would be some hardcore proponents of life-long, heterosexual traditional marriage. It might be good fodder for a story.

  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW benbenberi's Avatar
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    Marriage originated as a system to manage property rights and inheritance, not personal relationships. I see no reason why it should not evolve back into an economic contract distinct from/independent of sexual alliance, reproduction & child rearing, and other intimate relationships -- which are, as you suggest, much more varied and fluid than the rigid marriage structure that currently exists.

  4. #4
    All dressed up and no place to go realityfix's Avatar
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    I believe that technology will be the scissors that cut the fabric of traditional marriage. Technology that is supposed to bring us together, like smart phones and social media, have actually started to isolate us as individuals. Don't get me wrong, it's nice to be able to almost call from anywhere on the planet if you have an emergency, but it is a bit sad to see a nice sunny day that is almost void of anyone under the age of sixteen because they are all inside communicating with one another using technology. But, I digress.

    I believe technology will return marriage to the days of relationships of convenience. Married people will live mostly separate lives not because of lack of sexual interest but because both partners have their own careers, wealth, etc. and they will schedule romantic interludes together and meet with their geneticist to design and construct their perfect children. Sort of like "Brave New World"meets "Caves of Steel". I wouldn't be surprised if real busy power couples could use virtual reality sex if they are in different parts of the world. Hmmmm, interesting story ideas churning here involving cyber hacks of virtual reality sex between really important people.

    Personally, I believe in traditional marriages even if I haven't had much luck with them. To me, it is an anchor for my life or magnetic north for my compass.
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  5. #5
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    Just read Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald, marriage contracts are an important business in the setting and he offers and interesting take on the matter. Somewhat similar to the feudal model Benbenberi is describing, with added Libertarian ugliness. Oh yeah, and lawyers fighting each other to the death. Kim Stanley Robinson's 2312 has its own take on marriage and coupling, with a similar takeaway that the door is gonna swing much wider on what's acceptable. As well it should.

    My own take is that marriage in the future is gonna be like organized religion in Europe: Many people still practice it ardently, but it's one of those things that's becoming less crucial to society, and unlikely to make any big comeback. I'll admit to being biased on the topic, I've always been somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of marriage in general, whereas my gf/common-law wife despises it with a passion. People are in no hurry to stop getting married, tho, so this attitude might be a weird one, and not very interesting as a story idea. Unless you make smug jerks like us the villains in your dystopia. Which would be funny.




  6. #6
    but appreciated anyway... Unimportant's Avatar
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    I expect that, in future, marriages will expand to Fem+Male+Neith+Mult to include any genders and any number of partners. Or, at least, I would like to think so.

    Marriage as a concept (past, current, and future) is subject to societal acceptance. Marriage as a legal entity in future, like now, will likely depend at least in part on the legality of the marriages and what it entails wrt inheritance, health insurance, etc, and thus will vary by region/country.

  7. #7
    Beastly Fido Roxxsmom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ian_Eller View Post
    Research tends to point toward most people being naturally serially monogamous. As such, i would imagine any future in which marriages (from a legal standpoint) evolve to meet peoples needs would probably come with built in sunsets. After 7 years, say, the marriage expires unless both parties renew it. In addition, marriage as a legal framework will probably get more complex and inclusive, accommodating poly and other different forms of relationships.

    All that said, there will always be traditionalists and it is pretty likely there would be some hardcore proponents of life-long, heterosexual traditional marriage. It might be good fodder for a story.
    Approximately half of all marriages end in divorce, but that means that half don't, and not all end after just seven years, so I suspect many people would still want life long marriages, or to shoot for that at least. Marriage obviously means something to a lot of people, which is why couples who were denied the right to have it fought so hard for it.

    Plus, splitting up is a real hassle, to put it lightly, not something people look forward to. Separating couples have to decide how to divvy up houses, cars, possessions, pets, kids, even the circle of friends they might acquire as a couple. It makes for economic vulnerability too, as one person (most often the woman in opposite gender couples) will typically experience a decline in their standard of living when one household becomes two, and it can take years to recover, if one ever does.

    I'm far from a traditionalist, and I'm very in favor people having different options for marriage. I see this as an expanding trend, though there will likely be backlashes and societal resistance along the way.

    But I'd be very against being told that I couldn't have a marriage with an indefinite term or the expectation that the bond would be lifelong, and I'm guessing many others would too. I was with my partner for eight years before we married, and it's been 17 since, and I've never regretted making that commitment, even though I sacrificed a lot professionally and economically in order to do so (I wouldn't have done this for anyone who didn't promise to be there for me economically and socially, for as long as we both lived). He's my best friend as well as my romantic partner, and he's quite honestly one of the best people I've ever known. I don't think people who feel as we do are that unusual, to be honest.

    It might be interesting to explore what the ramifications of dismantling marriage as a lifetime expectation would be, what its economic consequences would be, how it would affect children and the dynamics of extended families and so on. The rules about the disposition of mutually acquired property, homes, children etc. would have to be codified even more than they are now, when divorce is common but regarded as an unfortunate and unplanned occurrence to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, not a foregone conclusion that will happen in a set number of years. It would certainly encourage couples to act more like roommates, keeping their possessions separate, being very clear about who owns what and about who owns which pet (or who will have custody of which child).
    Last edited by Roxxsmom; 05-06-2017 at 08:59 AM.
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  8. #8
    Aerospace engineer turned writer Laer Carroll's Avatar
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    MaeZe, I'm glad that I read your post before you had second thoughts and deleted it. I think it was a useful addition to the topic.

    You brought up single-parent marriages. They've always existed, but in my long life I've seen general attitudes toward it change from something horribly shameful to merely inconvenient. (There are still some people with the old attitude, of course. Social change never happens quickly or completely.)

    Many of the problems with single-parent marriages come from cultures and subcultures which are still male-centric. Men more often than women feel free to completely abandon the children they helped bring into the world. Men still make more money than women and have more freedom to advance in society. As societies evolve more toward a fairer distribution of everything between the sexes I speculate that these tendencies will decrease.

    I just noticed that I mentioned THE SEXES as if there only two. It's becoming clearer that there is more diversity in sexual orientation. Same-sex couples, and those that include transgender people, still have a lot harder time having a marriage, and dissolving it when they feel the need to. Most especially in how they handle children, but also in other items they share. I hope that these problems ease in the future.

    Given all the complexities of living as a family and changing it at need I don't see sexual utopia any time soon. Or ever. Improvements in any area may ease problems in that area but they usually bring problems in others.

    SF writers will still have plenty of problems to explore!
    Last edited by Laer Carroll; 05-06-2017 at 05:32 PM.

  9. #9
    Perpetually in transit Helix's Avatar
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    This thread is very 'Western'. Perhaps it would be worth looking at marriage and its equivalents in all of the other parts of the world.


  10. #10
    Cultured vulture Albedo's Avatar
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    ^^Culture is important. What sort of religions, civil institutions, and beliefs around the role of marriage in family, child-rearing, inheritance, etc. are there in your future society?

    There's no real reason to expect that marriage will keep becoming more equal or equitable with time. I mean, I would like to imagine a future where it does, but I can imagine just as many futures where it's become more rigid and oppressive than it's ever been.

    Utopian vision: marriage (along with relationships in general) becomes a completely flexible institution and people can have as much or as little of it as they want, in any style they want, with whomever will participate mutually, and their marriage status doesn't affect their social or economic security whatsoever.

    Dystopian vision: the State Matchmaking AI assigned you your future husband while you were both still in the gestation vat. Good luck getting a divorce.

  11. #11
    Cultured vulture Albedo's Avatar
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    (Except, even 'arranged marriages BAD' is kind of a Western hangup. There are certainly cultures where people retain a preference for matchmaking, even as they become more 'liberalised'. Perhaps the vat babies LIKE that their ideal partner has been chosen for them by an omniscient, impartial AI. It would take away a lot of the work of hooking up.)
    Last edited by Albedo; 05-06-2017 at 11:25 AM.

  12. #12
    Cultured vulture Albedo's Avatar
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    What if the State Matchmaking Computer runs a thousand simulations of your possible future lives, and assigns you the partner/s that will ensure the happiest statistically possible outcome for you? You'd be a fool to resist, so resistance is naturally illegal. Don't worry, it takes into account your sexual preferences, inheritable diseases, future earning potential, even taste in music (there's a gene for that in the future), to find you your soulmate. It would be morally insane of you not to submit.

  13. #13
    Cultured vulture Albedo's Avatar
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    While we're growing people in vats, anyway, it would surely be trivial to include some sort of gene-level encryption, so that people can only (if they so desire) reproduce with their assigned mate, even if they should somehow evade the compliance-drones and elope with a suboptimal match.

  14. #14
    Aerospace engineer turned writer Laer Carroll's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helix View Post
    This thread is very 'Western'. Perhaps it would be worth looking at marriage and its equivalents in all of the other parts of the world.
    Great thinking! Hopefully that would expand the discussion.

    You do know this means you've been volunteered to do the looking?

    Quote Originally Posted by Albedo View Post
    While we're growing people in vats, anyway, it would surely be trivial to include some sort of gene-level encryption, so that people can only (if they so desire) reproduce with their assigned mate, even if they should somehow evade the compliance-drones and elope with a suboptimal match.
    Now THAT's true SF type thinking!!!
    Last edited by Laer Carroll; 05-08-2017 at 01:57 AM.

  15. #15
    Perpetually in transit Helix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Laer Carroll View Post
    Great thinking! Hopefully that would expand the discussion.

    You do know this means you've been volunteered to do the looking?
    Nope.


  16. #16
    practical experience, FTW Cobalt Jade's Avatar
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    Stephanie Coontz's Marriage: A History is a must-read for this topic.

  17. #17
    Vickichuuuuuuuuu Ehlionney's Avatar
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    My personal viewpoint: marriage is and has always been purely a legal and economical contract, that has taken on a facade of supposedly providing legitimacy to a relationship. At no point in history, including today, had it ever actually had to do with love.

    Especially in western culture, there is the belief that if you "truly" love someone then you will marry them, and if you do not marry them, then you do not truly love each other.

    My counterargument: when you are married, there are often severe financial, legal, social, and mental consequences involved with separating. Marriages are WELL KNOWN to continue long after their natural endpoint because of these consequences. So the prevalence of anecdotes about long marriages as a justification of marriage is just that, purely anecdotal. A relationship that lasts equally long OUTSIDE of massage, on the other hand, literally means that the involved parties wake up every single damn morning as make a renewed commitment to each other. This is, by default, FAR more romantic than marriage. There aren't any consequences holding them together, they won't zombify a dead relationship busy to avoid paying lawyers, if they are still together is because they want to be.

    So with that in mind, I believe that as society and technology grow, so too will our ability to provide the same legal and economic benefits to non-married relationships. Ownership tagging your possessions, the ability to meet with your children after separation via virtual reality with built-in protections against child abuse, universal healthcare so that people don't need to depend on spouses for insurance (or the ability to designate which parties to provide dependent insurance to regardless of marital status), the ability to file taxes with ANYONE so long as all involved parties only file that one time, the ability to designate what parties will have access to you in the case of medical emergencies, etc.

    And also on the social side of things, I believe people will grow to lend the same respect for a relationship regardless of marital status, genders involved, or numbers involved. I REALLY hope for this, honestly, because it really sickens me that society looks down on long-term non married relationships. When I was in the military, my spouse had certain social benefits for emotional support, access to events and functions, recognition of their place in my life. They were treated as PART of me, part of my life. After our divorce, my next partner was completely non-existent in the Army's eyes, even though we lasted longer than my marriage had. They were "just" my partner, and it was made very clear that a partner was far less than a spouse.

    Research tends to point toward most people being naturally serially monogamous. As such, i would imagine any future in which marriages (from a legal standpoint) evolve to meet peoples needs would probably come with built in sunsets. After 7 years, say, the marriage expires unless both parties renew it. In addition, marriage as a legal framework will probably get more complex and inclusive, accommodating poly and other different forms of relationships.
    I don't know much about research on the topic, to be honest. But, I can say without doubt that polyamory is far more common than anything I've ever read would suggest. Over the past 15 years of my relationship adventures, I've seen the number of listings seeking additional partners for an existing unit grow by incredible amounts as the social stigma behind to go away. When my ex-spouse and I first got started, we used to pick people up in the club/bar and never mention that we were married, just that we were looking for fun. Now I see it openly stated on dating profiles online, I see people saying that they are looking to join a relationship like that, etc. It's grown from stereotypes of creepy Mormon stuff (and honestly EVEN as someone hardwired as polyamorous, I find the Mormon practice disturbing, but that's diverging from the topic) to something considered slightly unusual/possibly kinky but not deserving of ostracism.

    I think your studies suggesting serial monogamy are likely flawed, my first guess would be selection bias. My personal theory is that people are "wired" for a spectrum of monogamy<-->polygamy by nature, and then the topic is further muddied by a nurtured cultural obsession with jealousy, possessiveness, and paranoia in relationships. I've met people who were clearly wired for polygamy but unable to live that way because they were raised to believe in a happily ever after princess fairy tale ending. In fact, their struggles clearly reflected the same internal struggles faced by queer and trans folks, which lends more credibility to the idea that it exists on a spectrum and is hardwired.
    Show me your cute queer/LGBT stories please :O

  18. #18
    Vickichuuuuuuuuu Ehlionney's Avatar
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    I wonder if society would try to pigeonhole polyamorous relationships into stereotypes, like "you need some of these, some of those, etc" lol. Like a stereotype of bisexuals being expected to marry at least one masc and one femme. Or stereotypes of straight people with a harem. It always seems to me that monogamous folks have pretty wild expectations of how polyamory works.

    My most successful poly relationship involved myself dating a bisexual man "Jack" and bisexual aromantic woman "Jill", and all three of us together with an asexual woman "Alice." Jill was only in it for the sex and because she was friends with Alice and Jack and the three shared lots of similar interests (sports and reality tv...ugh...). Jack and I were very romantically attached to Alice, and she LOVED cuddling. Alice and I lived together and Jack and Jill lived separately in other parts of town. Alice and I also shared mutual interests (writing, video games, building custom computers) that Jack and Jill didn't care for. I didn't care for Jack emotionally as he was kind of an obnoxious jock lol, but we had a great sex life. So for Jack and I, the only romantic relationship was with Alice (since Jill was aromantic).

    So basically, everyone had different motivations for being in the relationship, were interested in different members for different reasons, and fulfilled different needs for each other that made up for areas in which some of the others were lacking. I couldn't do sports or reality tv stuff with the others, so they relied on each other for it; only Alice shared my interests, so we bonded over that; Alice got plenty of romantic attention from Jack and I, Jill got tons of sex.

    To me, THAT'S how poly relationships work. Everyone fulfilling each other's needs, and making sure that if there's a need that isn't fulfilled, that person should find a partner that can. But every time I see media examples of polyamory, it's all about sex sex sex sex. It's all about swingers and open relationships and threesomes etc.
    Show me your cute queer/LGBT stories please :O

  19. #19
    Aerospace engineer turned writer Laer Carroll's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helix View Post
    This thread is very 'Western'. Perhaps it would be worth looking at marriage and its equivalents in all of the other parts of the world.
    Quote Originally Posted by Laer Carroll View Post
    Great thinking! Hopefully that would expand the discussion. You do know this means you've been volunteered to do the looking?
    Quote Originally Posted by Helix View Post
    Nope.
    Hey, you open a topic, you should at least take a stab at expanding it!

    OK, if you won't here is a little bit about non-"Western" marriages. My perspectives, of course, which no one else may agree with.

    First we have to answer just what those "other parts of the world" are. Is one of them "Eastern"? What is an "Eastern" culture?

    Some people claim they are the opposite of Western. Ws are logical, Es are intuitive. Ws see time as serial, Es as circular (or sometimes eternal and unchanging). And so on for a long list of opposites.

    Unfortunately Easterners would likely strongly or even angrily disagree. The people of China, Japan, Korea, and all down the Eastern edge of Eurasia see themselves as distinct cultures. And sometimes body types. Many can just glance at another "Easterner" and recognize them as one of them, or an alien.

    It gets worse. In China for instance there are distinctive geographical, linguistic, and cultural areas. Some of the language "dialects" are as different from each other as the Romance languages of Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian, and so on.

    OK. So let's focus on modern marriage in the Han culture, who speak Mandarin. Today it has become mostly Western, with all the trimmings: officiated ceremonies, white wedding gowns for women and black tuxedos for men, marrying for love, and increasing rates of divorce. Officially couples now marry as a duty to the state, though many couples just pay lip service to the ideal. China has become economically a vigorously capitalistic society (while remaining politically communistic), so women and men tend to try to marry up. There doesn't seem to much likelihood of going back to arranged and other traditional marriages.

    If you want arranged marriages the Middle East is the place to look, which includes India and to some extent Israel. The following is very general, with lots of regional variation. The fathers plan the marriage, may employ a go-between, dowries and bridal fees are negotiated. Negotiations may fail. If the agreed on prices are not paid after marriage, or the recipients change their minds about how much is enough, the bride may be divorced with extreme prejudice. At the least she becomes unmarriageable. At the worst she is murdered, by beating, stabbing, or even burning alive.

    That last sounds unbelievable? Or my statements too harsh? Not from what I've read from sources in the Arab and Indian world. There are efforts to ease or abolish the most horrific practices, or to punish them more often and more severely. So the future is likely to see improvements, but slowly because they involve many millions of people.

    And we haven't even gotten to Africa yet.
    Last edited by Laer Carroll; 05-09-2017 at 01:26 AM.

  20. #20
    Beastly Fido Roxxsmom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helix View Post
    This thread is very 'Western'. Perhaps it would be worth looking at marriage and its equivalents in all of the other parts of the world.
    As is a lot of SF. Or at least, a lot of SF has traditionally projected whatever the current, western norms are into the future, so space colonies and ships seem to be mostly inhabited by 20th century US or western European types.

    People and their institutions are pretty adaptable, though one can't discount the importance of history, religion, or traditions in shaping the future either and their capacity for keeping institutions alive well past their "best by" dates. Still, if something really isn't working for people, it will tend to evolve. Marriage certainly has evolved across different times and places. But if one wants to project a future with seven year only marriages, one would have to come up with a scenario where they would be beneficial in some way to the people engaging in them--more beneficial than either no marriage at all, or than longer-term or indefinite-term economic and romantic pairings.

    I'm a hopeless romantic, but I'll frankly admit that some of my reasons for wanting to be married and not just living together with my partner are economic in nature. There are many economic benefits that marriage still confers in our very ownership-based, western countries at this time, at least for couples that stay together for a long time. We don't even have kids, but I'd still be a lot poorer and less secure economically if I weren't married to my partner.

    I could see marriage being primarily a business arrangement, as it has been in some times and places in history, but even there, the sexual element (spouses were always expected to sleep with one another, as a rule) makes it so much nicer and more convenient if you are romantically attracted to the person and like hanging with them as a friend too. But I suppose it might depend on where people in general get their personal and emotional support. I've read SF where the stable family structure revolves around matrilineal clans living on space ships, for instance, where people rarely leave their "homes" to join the families of the lovers they meet while in port (time dilation added a layer of complexity there as well).
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  21. #21
    Aerospace engineer turned writer Laer Carroll's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roxxsmom View Post
    I've read SF where the stable family structure revolves around matrilineal clans living on space ships, for instance, where people rarely leave their "homes" to join the families of the lovers they meet while in port (time dilation added a layer of complexity there as well).
    That sounds like Citizen of the Galaxy by Heinlein, who also posited something like that in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. But I'd not be surprised if other authors have explored the same customs.

    In both those books the marriage and other customs were influenced by the technological advances of their times.

    There are other tech-influenced possibilities if/when sex change becomes cheap, easy, and safe. (Maybe someone swallows a pill containing nanobots which re-architects one's body overnight, or during a week spent unconscious in a vat of them.)

    There might not be any LGBTQIA movement because everyone could undergo easy sexmod and anyone could be whatever gender or combination of genders one wants, several times a year. How would marriages look like then?

    Ursula Le Guin wrote about something like this in The Left Hand of Darkness. I vaguely recall that neither war nor rape existed on the world with such a tech. I suspect that is too utopian to be realistic.

  22. #22
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I imagine that if the secret to immortality is ever discovered, the divorice rate would eventually reach 100%, and soon "'til death do we part" would become "'til at least 15 years do we part."

  23. #23
    Tending bar by the litterbox. Thomas Vail's Avatar
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    100% of ALL marriages end in death or divorce.

    But hey, people change over a thousand years!

    Although that's not as farcical a statement as it may seem if you're talking about genuine immortality. Things may change when there's no longer a guaranteed end point to existence, but people are not locked in a fixed state, and so it would probably be extraordinarily rare and maybe a little weird for a couple to remain compatible and in love for century after century.

    I imagine it'd be one of those cases like today, where a pair are sweethearts from toddlerhood on and die within hours of each other after turning 110.

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