Do Arranged Marriages Cause Disease in Children?

I just finished the fascinating book “The Science of Kissing” by Sheril Kirshenbaum. This little red book discusses the newly discovered science behind our ancient and universal custom, including the role it might play in choosing a mate. I was thrown off on a tangent as I realized that throughout human history, women have not traditionally had the luxury to choose their mate. Could this social inhibition against pre-marital kissing have somehow damaged our genetic makeup as a species?
Ms. Kirshenbaum discussed the result of several experiments interested in the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC). These are genes that contain the DNA of proteins which aid in immunity and defense. Everyone has them, but their attributes differ from person to person. Think of them like a doctor’s kit, with each person having a different set of tools in them. Healthy children are borne of parents with distinctly different MHC. Each parent has a set of tools in their bag that the spouse does not. When genetically commingled, this gives the child, essentially, a wider arsenal against various diseases and infections. When both parents have the same tools, obviously the child does not have as much to gain. Two parents with the same MHC profile is analogous to intermarriage between siblings or cousins from an evolutionary standpoint. So how does a woman know she’s getting a man with the right tools?
Several major studies found that women detect the compatibility of a partners’ MHC through scent, subconsciously. This scent is emitted from sebaceous glands all over our bodies, particularly through the sebum around our nose. That is, perhaps not coincidentally, where we can obtain a large dose through kissing. Women find this scent pleasant if the man has an MHC profile distinct from her own. She finds repugnant those whose MHC are similar to her own. Thus nature has allowed the species a way to identify ideal genetic mates, giving us the broadest array of immunities. This is significant because it shows that women have a genetic, cellular method to perpetuate our species which has been suppressed by a male dominated society.
Nature giveth, and the Church taketh away. Whether it is through arranged marriages, rape, purchase, or abduction, cultures around the globe have routinely chosen social and cultural impetus for marriage over attraction. Has this harmed our collective immunity? One glance at the massive “Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy”, your doctor’s bible, would indicate that we are now susceptible to all manner of disease. Could this have been prevented through a little pre-marital snogging?
Until only the last few decades, the first kiss morally allowed by most cultures occurred only after the priest said, “I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may now kiss the bride.” Too late! The Catch-22 of this moral code is that divorce was prohibited as vigorously as tom-foolery. When at last the woman sniffs her mate, what happens if she finds him, well, stinky?
Ms. Kirshenbaum described a few studies that related what happened next. Scientists discovered that women who share similar MHC traits with their husbands were more likely to be unhappy in their marriage, discouraged in their sex-life (the body’s defense against poor genetic pairing), and even more likely to cheat as their subconscious biology forced them to find a more suitable insemination!
Through arranged marriages, and the general suppression of a woman’s right to choose her mate, we may have done great harm to our collective immunity. The result? Though we have no benchmark to compare to, we may have inadvertently sickened our children, generation after generation, for thousands of years. No doubt mental health has suffered as well. As any husband knows: when the wife isn’t happy – no one is.  The result – miserable marriages, henpecked husbands, and, at the extreme end, spousal abuse, verbal and alcohol abuse, and broken homes.
To think! This could all have been prevented with a single kiss!
Luckily, we are now on the right track. Not only has science discovered what culture and religion could not, we’ve been on a love-based marriage system since at least the 60’s. Even divorce is now possible for those who made a mistake.
Scientifically speaking this may be good news for humanity. Perhaps our only measure of success will be the size of the Merck Manual in 200 years.

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