Through out human history one thing has been a surety, and that is at any given time a married man (not all) will seek the company of a woman who is not his wife. This practice is known by a few names, fornication, infidelity, adultery, affair, etc. These words are more specific in denoting that the extra-curricular relationship is happening outside of a marriage as opposed to an unwed relationship. To go along with this behavior we have several names to label the female involved in this relationship. A concubine, mistress, floozy, side chick, side piece, etc. While this behavior has always existed, make no mistake it has not ever been ideal to be a mistress or in today's term side chick. Not for the wife and not for the side chick. I started thinking, how and why did side chicks come about? To say that men just wanted to have their cake and eat it to is simplistic even if it can be the truth in some cases. Coming from London, England, side chicks are not as vilified as they are here in the U.S. Even growing up in the Caribbean, it seemed many men had them. Now don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting that it is a position to aspire to, nor do my values sustain this as good behavior in the least. Heck, I have had to endure the side chick when I was married, so I know it is by no means something I approve of. I just like to find origins of practices that are prominent and just will not go away.
Concubines, Old School Side Chicks
Concubinage (side chick) was a type of interpersonal sexual relationship were the concubine was in a relationship with someone they could not marry either because of their low social rank or naturally because their sexual partner was already married. However, this position provided in many cases great financial security and even power. Side Chicks were able to support whole families in this position.
Greece In ancient Greece, concubines (side chicks) were typically slaves that were kept at the pleasure of the man, and were not allowed under the same roof as the wife. This is the original side chick who existed at the pleasure of the man, nothing more.
Rome, side chick on the way up However, in ancient Rome concubines had a slightly better fare. Here, their relationships were recognized. They still could not hope to marry, either because the men were already married or because of their low social status. While they were tolerated to a degree they were still a side chick and if they ran a foul of religion or the family integrity there would be consequences. It was not considered derogatory to be a concubine. Incidentally, men who were called concubinus also could hold that position.
The Bible side chick In bible times, among the Israelites concubines enjoyed the same rights in the house as the legal wife. Surprising right as we identify this behavior as being against God's rule. But I must note that these women did not enjoy the same respect as the wife. In those times the highest blessing was to have many children, so barren wives would hand over their husbands to their maids who became concubines as was told in the famous story of Sarah and Hagar.
Judaism, side chick then and still To Jews, concubines were referred to as pilegesh which literally meant a mistress staying in the house. Again, I marvel at how the most religious of societies were the most lenient of the side chick position. They even argued that the mistress could receive a marriage proposal with the only detraction being that they could not receive a divorce settlement. Some Jewish thinkers did believe that only kings could have concubines and commoners may not only be prohibited from having them, but they could not have sex outside marriage of any kind with anyone. Even today in contemporary Israel, the Hebrew tradition, there is still a push to make popularize pilegesh for premarital, non-marital and extramarital relationships.
Ancient China, birth of the Olivia Pope style side chick Ancient Chinese wealthy men had several concubines. Emperors could have thousands! Here, she was greatly inferior to the wife and depending on the wife's attitude could have a very volatile existence. Even though their children could be heirs, they were still inferior to the children of the wife. Imperial concubines lived in a place called the Forbidden City and were guarded by eunuchs to make sure that any children they would bear would be that of the Emperor's. Chinese side chicks could and did achieve great power and influence in history as in the story of Cao Xueqin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cao_Xueqin), can we say Olivia Pope!
Islam, side chick can now get the ring Probably the society most known for multiple wives or concubines, Islam allowed for a man of means to marry up to 4 women. They must all be treated with justice and equally. Concubinage was introduced as a social need. Slave women and war prisoners where made into concubines. While their children were legitimate, those women only became free upon the death of her partner. As probably expected, a wife was required to wear the religious dressing of the adab but not the concubine as she was not of Islamic faith. If she embraced Islam, she could have the ability to become a wife if the opportunity arose.
Old England, France, Italy, Spain and Germany, side chicks get love By the time we get to the period of kings and queens, we find that the word concubine is obsolete and the term mistress is now used. With this term comes the most drastic change. Mistresses were now taken for a reason that was not formally expressed in previous historical accounting. Kings and commoners albeit of great means took mistresses because of Love! These people were typically betrothed for marriage even before they were born. Their marriages was a way to unite or curry great favor with other foreign kingdoms. Many times they had not even met their soon-to-be wife till the wedding day. A love match it was not, but they had no say as duty to country came before everything. It is no wonder they took on mistresses. Mistresses were still of a lesser status, but in the case of Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII, a mistress became a wife EVEN though it was prohibited for a king to divorce his wife if in fact she had not been unfaithful. King Henry, rallied to change those religious rules and obtained a divorce.
United States, side chick back to the beginning In early U. S. history, men took mistresses for the most part due to lust. There does not appear to be a solid reason behind it. Most notably white men took slave women as their mistresses. Marriage was forbidden and the children of such union were not free nor were they even acknowledged most of the time. They too were slaves. Even still, these men had long term dalliances with these women as in the case of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings.
This brings us to modern day U.S. and this practice. As I have outlined in the history of this practice, across various countries and time periods it becomes clear to me why this practice is still done. It is strange how the women of today still look for some of the same things that the women of latter day did even though they have far greater freedom and means. They believe they can be taken care of financially, loved truly, and appreciated genuinely in these types of relationships. These psychological remnants somehow are all reasons these women still give for entering into this arrangement. Women have freedom, means of supporting themselves and choice, but like a convenient old slipper they will slip right into this arrangement anytime they are doubting themselves and their abilities. What you may have noticed is that the side chick started as nothing more than an amusement and today she has come full circle and is basically still that. There was never a time in history when she got respect. And this my friends, no matter what the history up or down, is why the side chick status should not be something to aspire to. We all deserve respect. We all have the ability to gain respect. Back in the day we had virtually no choice. So, given all the choices a woman has today, should one of her choices still be an old archaic, respect sapping position of the side chick? History has shown that answer to be NO!
Peace & Light