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"'Not Marriage at All, but Simple Harlotry': The Companionate Marriage Controversy

The phrase “companionate marriage” figures prominently in historians’ descriptions of the middle-class marital norms that accompanied the emergence of sexual modernism in the early twentieth-century United States. Rebecca L. Davis shows that rather than characterizing an accepted social ideal, the term “companionate marriage” provoked widespread outrage. By focusing on how the term was popularized and interpreted following the publication of Judge Ben B. Lindsey’s book The Companionate Marriage in 1927, Davis shows how the era’s anticommunist politics, gender conservatism, and religious tensions constrained companionate marriage’s meanings and limited its reformist scope. Debates over what companionate marriage implied contributed to a rhetorical tradition, well-established today, that links marital reform to godless, antidemocratic radicalism.