In reasonably traditional/orthodox Indian marriages, the bride’s first name is also changed. The ‘also’ is to underscore the point that the last name gets changed almost always. The first name of a person, I have always believed, is very important to her. If that is indeed the case, I am surprised that some Indian women are happy/OK with this name-changing business.
Its not just names we are talking about here. Indian weddings come with dowry, customs that ridicule the bride’s family, how the groom is the King during and after the wedding, and a whole lot of other male chauvinistic cultural elements. As an anecdote, during a recent wedding, a North Indian friend of mine was shocked to see the groom taking photographs of a group of the bride’s brother’s friends. He was shocked to see the men of the family taking care of cooking and serving a traditional meal at another religious occasion. I guess South India is a little more progressive/liberal regarding these gender roles than the North – but its all still pretty much the same.
My first reaction has always been that of guilt and sadness about how the entire setup is not “fair.” This kept haunting me for a while, and I had questions regarding whether I’d personally be up to being fair when it came to my turn in a similar setup.
On deeper thought, I noticed something else in an ideal male dominated relationship. This is mostly seen where the man is dominant, but is also a mature and loving person, who genuinely cares for the relationship. Of course, it also involves a woman who submits voluntarily, consciously, and with full consent. In such a case, somewhat counter-intuitively, the lady holds the key. She holds the power. She is the one who can end it all. She can stop giving, stop accepting anytime. The day she says “enough!,” – the male dominance ends.
Why does it end? It ends obviously – as the giver has stopped giving. But thats not the interesting part – The interesting part lies in the expectation of the stop-event happening. Any thoughtful dominant person knows that the power exists as long as the submissive is happy. This apprehension of the submissive not remaining submissive anymore always keeps the dominant keeping the submissive’s happiness as first priority.
This doesn’t mean that the submissive can walk out anytime and the dominant is left nowhere. If the dominant has a lot of choices in life, in relationships, other more important things happening in life – this might not matter at all, and he might wait for the next submissive to come along. But if the relationship is something that cannot be done without, that cannot be broken easily, like a marriage – oh boy! the dominant is in quite a situation.
I suspect that Indian marriages is aware of this equation; of this imminent shift of power. and is probably one of many reasons why they are statistically more stable than others. Interestingly, BDSM literature also emphasizes on this virtual power that the dominant holds, and a possible power-shift towards the submissive, just whose knowledge is enough to keep the balance, and of course, increase the “fun.”
I have seen this work in relationships from both sides of the fence, and of course, none of it has been as clear cut, or as ideal for easy analysis. But I still see this shift of power leading to the dominant appeasing the submissive in various capacities – in everyday life – in major decisions.
PS: Genders here are incidental – it could always be a dominatrix who is apprehensive.