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 legal advantage. Another variety 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. It could also be that the persons chose to get married but are both asexual. A variation on this could be where some form of sexual activity takes place but not intercourse.[citation needed]


The expression may derive from the absence of hymenal blood on the couple's wedding-night bed-sheets.[2] However, the French word blanc can also be translated to English as 'blank', as in the sense of empty. For example, cartouche à blanc translates as a blank cartridge, or a cartridge that is lacking a bullet.


An example is of a Gentile marrying a Jew to protect that person during times of extreme anti-Semitism such as during the lead-up to World War II in areas of Europe menaced by Nazism: "Baron Federico von Berzeviczy-Pallavicini[3] ... [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."[4]

In Iran white marriages are the opposite of a traditional mariage blanc, meaning a couple cohabiting and having sex without being married. The practice is illegal in Iran,[5] and is heavily decried as an example of "imported western lifestyle", most famously by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who described it as "the darkest type of married life".[6] Despite such concerns, the practice became more commonplace at the start of the 21st century.[7][8][9]

Other reasons

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, sexual intercourse resulting in reproduction. Reasons can include asexuality, impotence or frigidity, chronic illness or disability in either or both partners. The marriages of Thomas Carlyle,[10] John Ruskin, Freya Stark and Max Beerbohm are alleged to have not been consummated through impotence. The brief marriage of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky to Antonina Miliukova might be described as a "lavender marriage".[citation needed]

See also


  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. ^ Slesin, Suzanne (1989-11-14). "Federico Pallavicini, 80, Is Dead; Decorative Artist and Set Designer (Published 1989)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-11-03.
  4. ^ a footnote in The Grand Surprise: The Journals of Leo Lerman, edited by Stephen Pascal
  5. ^ "Can Iran 'control' its cohabiting couples?". BBC. 10 December 2014. Retrieved 25 June 2023.
  6. ^ Ayatollah Khamenei. "The Speech Delivered on Feb 26, 2019, Official Website of Ayatollah Khamenei'". Retrieved 18 September 2019.
  7. ^ Ramin Mostaghim; Sarah Parvini (29 May 2015). "'White marriage' a growing trend for young couples in Iran". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  8. ^ "'White marriages': Iran's cohabiting couples defy Sharia law". The Week. 10 Dec 2014. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  9. ^ "Can Iran 'control' its cohabiting couples?". BBC. 10 December 2014. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  10. ^ 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.