I refer the reader to Rosalind Coward's discussion of the couple:
In our society, the preferred unit is the heterosexually committed couple who are assumed to have children. Since the end of the last century, state intervention and social policy have constructed this unit which is not a neutral unit. For it is maintained by a definite ideology and concomitant practices which make women dependent on men... This unit, which is to the direct disadvantage of women, works not through direct coercion, but because it appears to correspond to the sexual identities of men and women. This social unit is maintained by appearing as the natural expression of sexual and emotional needs and activities. Because it is the only structure in which our society recognises dependency between individuals, it becomes the easiest way in which dependency can be expressed.
Patriarchal Precendents: Sexuality and Social Relations (Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1982), p. 284.

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