'Forced marriage: MAFS and reality television’s chamber of horrors' by Alecia Simmonds

Perched on the precipice of the Blue Mountains, Leura is both quiet and wild, a place of misty romance, sylvan charm, and middle-class entitlement. I am here because some friends have offered me their house as a writing retreat for ten days so that I can pen a chapter on the history of marriage (1788 to marriage equality) for The Cambridge Companion to Australian Legal History. The house is an arcadia of silence: perfect for a task that I accepted with appropriate academic reverence. There are three hundred pages of typed notes arranged in neurotic chronological order on my desk, and a hillock of books at my feet. The problem is that it’s now day seven and I’ve hardly written a thing. The problem, I’ve realised, is MAFS.

Before I left Sydney, a friend suggested that I watch an episode of Married at First Sight (MAFS). I agreed that it would be good to see where marriage was at these days. Has marriage equality queered the institution? Does a show like this demonstrate how trivial marriage has become? Has it shed its historical privileges and status? Now, on day seven, it is MAFS and not my scholarship that I am thinking about. MAFS has sabotaged my chapter.

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Published in April 2019, no. 410
Alecia Simmonds

Alecia Simmonds

Alecia Simmonds is an inter-disciplinary scholar in law and history at UTS and NYU-Sydney, and a writer for Gourmet Traveller and Fairfax Digital. Her book Wild Man: A true story of a police killing, mental illness and the law won the 2016 Davitt prize for best crime non-fiction. She is currently working on a book on the historical relationship between love and law in Australia.

Comments (4)

  • Leave a comment

    Superb essay, Alecia! The last paragraph absolutely nails it.

    Friday, 12 April 2019 11:02 posted by  Paul Morgan
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    Great piece.

    Sunday, 31 March 2019 11:10 posted by  celes
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    Alecia I absolutely love this review. Words fail me about the recklessness shown by the producers and 'experts' delivering the content of this show. I am a gay man and finally had the right to legally marry my partner of 19 years last year. When I see how the heterosexual community treats their rights to marry and celebrate marriage, it causes much anger and upset in me. The marriage equality campaign was timely and right to demonstrate what love should be about and the right of celebration. This show just kicks that hard work and commitment in the guts.

    Saturday, 30 March 2019 10:18 posted by  Roger Levi
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    The greatest sin of all in MAFS, is the presentation of these so-called experts to the public. The rest is a disgrace.
    If a young person or couple of any age wanted or needed help and were hesitant about the ‘talking world’, what conclusions would be reached by them after watching this show. Trivialising, embarrassing, coercive and ‘authoritarian’, these so-called experts have sold themselves and their profession down the gurgler. Who cares? I care about people.

    Saturday, 30 March 2019 03:46 posted by  Martha

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