Mariage blanc

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Mariage blanc (from the French, literally "white marriage") is a marriage that is without consummation.[1] The persons may have married for a variety of reasons, for example, a marriage of convenience is usually entered into in order to aid or rescue one of the spouses from persecution or harm; or for economic, social or visa advantage. Another example is a lavender marriage, one undertaken to disguise the homosexuality of one or both partners. A sexless marriage, on the other hand, may have begun with the standard expectations.


The expression may derive from the absence of hymenal blood on the couple's (white) wedding-night bed-sheets;[2] however, the French word blanc also means blank in the sense of empty, e.g. cartouche à blanc = a blank cartridge, one lacking a bullet.


An example is of a Gentile marrying a Jew to protect that person during times of extreme anti-Semitism such as the lead-up to World War II in areas of Europe menaced by Nazism: "Baron Federico von Berzeviczy-Pallavicini . . . [d]uring the thirties . . . made a mariage blanc with the niece of Demel's Jewish owners, which allowed her to enter a convent under his name and survive the war."[3]

In Iran 'white marriages' describe the exact contrary of a mariage blanc: a couple cohabiting and having sex without being married. Despite conservative Shia rule, such practice is becoming commonplace at the beginning of the 21st century.[4][5][6]

Other reasons[edit]

A mariage blanc may also result if one or both partners discover after their wedding that they are either incapable of, or unwilling to take part in, (productive) sexual intercourse, for example, due to asexuality, impotence or frigidity, chronic illness or disability. The marriages of Thomas Carlyle,[7] John Ruskin, Freya Stark and Max Beerbohm are alleged to have not been consummated through impotence. The brief marriage of Tchaikovsky might be described as a "lavender marriage".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bliss, Alan. (1996) A Dictionary of Foreign Words and Phrases in Current English. Routledge, London. ISBN 0-415-05905-4
  2. ^ Ayto, John. (1993) Euphemisms. Bloomsbury, London. ISBN 0-7475-1294-9.
  3. ^ a footnote in The Grand Surprise: The Journals of Leo Lerman, edited by Stephen Pascal
  4. ^ Ramin Mostaghim; Sarah Parvini (29 May 2015). "'White marriage' a growing trend for young couples in Iran". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  5. ^ "'White marriages': Iran's cohabiting couples defy Sharia law". The Week. 10 Dec 2014. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  6. ^ "Can Iran 'control' its cohabiting couples?". BBC. 10 December 2014. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  7. ^ Harris, Frank. (1973) 'My Life and Loves'. London, Corgi. p232 -243. ed. John F. Gallagher. Author Frank Harris claims that Carlyle had confessed his impotence to him personally, and records an account by Mrs Carlyle's doctor, who had examined and found her to be a virgin after 25 years of marriage. Harris's information is doubted by several scholars, the editor John Gallagher noted in a footnote.