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Honorable Marriage Proposal

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In some societies, a woman's sexual reputation is a very important thing. As she is expected to be a virgin on her wedding night, having sex before marriage (especially if it results in pregnancy) is just about the most scandalous thing she can do. Not only will she have to suffer the disapproval of those around her, but it will seriously lower her chance of getting an offer of marriage in the future. In settings where women are economically dependent on their husbands and may not be educated, this could all but condemn her to a life as a beggar or a prostitute. She might even be at risk of being harmed or killed by her family or society. If she already has a fiancé, he would be considered justified in breaking off the engagement. The stigma is so bad that if a woman is even suspected of having had sex with a man, due to being alone with him for an extended length of time—typically overnight (there is no such thing as Innocent Cohabitation in the mind of society)—she will still have to suffer the consequences. The only thing that can avert this is for her to get married as quickly as possible.

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Men in these societies are, of course, aware of the negative consequences as well. So a man who sees a woman at risk of getting a bad reputation may decide to help her out by offering to marry her, whether or not he was the one who initially caused her reputation to be in jeopardy. He may have other motivations for making the offer, of course—from being in love with her to needing a wife in a hurry for reasons of his own, or with some persuasion from the father-in-law and his "little big-armed friend" Mr. Winchester—but saving her reputation is the main impetus for the proposal.

Note that thanks to the good old Double Standard, men typically do not suffer the same stigma if suspected of having sex before marriage. Therefore, the proposer is basically Always Male, while the proposee is basically Always Female.

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This trope is a particular favorite with writers of historical Romance Novels, especially Regency romances, and may lead to Marriage Before Romance. In Western works, it rarely appears in anything set later than The '50s, as the social upheavals of The '60s largely did away with the set of expectations that made it work. It may still apply in other parts of the world, however, or in fictional societies.

A clever couple can use this strategy to overcome a Parental Marriage Veto by arranging to be alone together long enough to cause talk. In such a case, the parents may find that they have to accept what they see as a less-than-ideal match in order to save their daughter's reputation. This is one of the purposes of an Elopement: even if the couple are caught before being married, the woman's reputation will be compromised if they have been alone together long enough.

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A woman may also try the same tactic in order to force or encourage a proposal from a reluctant man. The phrase "make an honest woman of me" may come into this discussion. See The Baby Trap.

See also Defiled Forever, My Girl Is Not a Slut, and Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe. Contrast Marry for Love, although it occasionally overlaps.

Subtropes: Shotgun Wedding (where the proposal is coerced), Give the Baby a Father (where the woman is pregnant or has a child by a different man than the proposer when the proposal takes place).


Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Memorably inverted and parodied twice in Axis Powers Hetalia:
    • When Italy hugs Japan (and in the comic, kisses him on the cheek), Japan is so shocked that he immediately demands that Italy marry him as compensation.
    • A flashback to Japan's days as a Hikiko Mori shows Japan's dog, Pochi, demanding exactly the same from the Netherlands' pet bunny after the other licks him on the cheek.
  • In Bakemonogatari, the protagonist Koyomi Araragi visits his lesbian underclassman, Kanbaru Suruga, while she's lounging naked in her room. At first, she doesn't make an effort to change or cover herself, and Araragi (jokingly) offers to take responsibility for viewing her in this state by marrying her. She says that while his offer is very attractive, she doesn't want his Clingy Jealous Girlfriend to murder her.
  • KonoSuba: Darkness claims to be pregnant with Kazuma's child in order to get out of an Arranged Marriage, and her father then treats Kazuma as his new son-in-law. Everyone ignores Kazuma when he points out that they're both still virgins, so there's no possible way she could be pregnant.
  • Silver Spoon
    • Due to Hachiken getting too friendly with the pigs who are going to be slaughtered for meat, they're getting too used to humans. One of the students, Yoshino, gets mad at him, and demands he make it up to her if she can't eat pork after this. Hachiken promises to "take responsibility"...which is the point when Tokiwa wanders by. The rumor that Hachiken got Yoshino pregnant spreads around the school, and of course those two only find out when they get dragged into the teacher's office, and everything is made clear.
      Hachiken: She was talking about a pig, you moron, a pig!
      Tokiwa: Huh? Hachiken, you got a pig pregnant?
      Yoshino: Hachiken, I think you can hit him now!
    • When Mikage tells her parents that she wants to get into an illustrious horse college despite her poor grades, Hachiken tells her family he'll take responsibility if she fails. While her mother and grandmother are ecstatic about the idea (and her father tries to throw a table at him), what he was trying to say is that he's planning to tutor her, so it will be his fault if she fails.

    Fan Works 
  • Hisao offers to marry his girlfriend Lilly in The Test after she gets pregnant. Lilly ends up agreeing.
  • In Mended, Samuel offered to marry Delia after she became pregnant with Ash, but she declined because she thought he only asked because he felt obligated. The two stayed together and she finally agreed to marry him nearly 18 years afterwards.

    Film — Animation 
  • In Lady and the Tramp, after learning that Lady has been out with Tramp, her friends Jock and Trusty try to gently persuade her to take one of them, as even though they're older, they're still in the prime of life. (No mention is made of what anyone would say when "their" puppies don't resemble them, as Gender Equals Breed is in full force for Lady's litter.) The wording is left rather ambiguous, making it sound more like they're inviting her to come and live in one of their houses, in order to keep the movie's G rating intact.

    Film — Live Action 
  • In the film version of A Damsel in Distress (1937), based on the novel by P. G. Wodehouse, Lord Marshmorton uses this idea to gain his battleaxe sister Caroline's consent to his daughter's marriage to an American Broadway star. After sending Jerry to Alyce's room to make up with her after a quarrel, Lord Marshmorton informs Lady Caroline that the two are alone together. Once it becomes clear that this tidbit is about to spread to the guests at their fancy party, Lady Caroline is suddenly in favor of the match because "There's never been a scandal in Totleigh Castle!"
  • Becomes a point of confusion in Dirty Dancing, when Dr. Houseman asks who's responsible for the pregnant girl (meaning "who knocked her up?"), and Johnny Castle says "I am" (meaning "I'm taking responsibility for helping her out").
  • In Double Harness, Joan's father finds her and John in a compromising situation, so John must marry Joan in the name of honour.
  • After being discarded by Antoine Tardieu in Roger Vadim's And God Created Woman (1956), Juliette is poised to be sent away to a dissolute shelter. Antoine's younger brother, Michel, takes pity on Juliette and hastily marries her, believing that he can tame her wild ways. In fairness, Michel was also looking to score a hot babe to show up Antoine. Things unravel when Juliette, played by Brigitte Bardot, slips into sex kitten mode.
  • Invoked (as a joke) in Four Weddings and a Funeral. The morning after Charles and Carrie sleep together, Carrie asks Charles when he's planning on announcing their engagement: "I assumed since we slept together, we'd be getting married."
  • In The Philadelphia Story, Mike Connor offers to marry Tracy after their drunken antics of the previous night cause her fiance to dump her on the morning of her wedding.
  • This is a driving force in the plot of the TV movie Revenge Of The Bridesmaids. Abigail and Parker are all geared up to trash the wedding of their frenemy Kaitlyn for stealing their BFF’s true love for herself for his money, until they find out that he’s only marrying her because he got her pregnant, and therefore, for the greater good, the wedding must go on. As it turns out, she’s actually only pretending to be pregnant so that the boy will have no choice but to marry her to give her "baby" a father. What she plans to do after the wedding, whether fake a miscarriage or steal a baby, is unknown.
  • In Sailor of the King, Richard Saville offers one of these to Lucinda and is firmly turned down.
  • Humorously referenced in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; when Caractacus kisses Truly at the end of the movie, she teases him that "Now you have to marry me!" and they both laugh, implying that this is exactly what will happen.
  • In Grease, Rizzo has a pregnancy scare and Kenickie, upon hearing of it, tells her that "I don't run away from my mistakes." She gently tells him that it was someone else's mistake, which is a lie but she's trying to spare him. By the end of the movie, Kenickie makes the offer again, a bit more blatantly; Rizzo has since learned that she's not pregnant, but he assures her that it's "a bona fide offer" nonetheless.

    Literature 
  • Georgette Heyer uses the trope a few times:
    • Discussed in Charity Girl. Cherry's father says that Desford should offer to marry Cherry to save her reputation after he took her to London. Everyone who hears the idea laughs it off, as Desford went to great lengths to make sure Cherry's reputation was not damaged.
    • Happens twice in Devil's Cub. First Vidal insists he must marry Mary to make up for compromising her reputation by taking her to France with him. Then Mr. Comyn, who happens to meet them in France, presents her with a way out of that dilemma by offering to marry her himself.
  • Gender-Inverted in A Brother's Price; in the setting of the book, there's about one man for every ten women, and as such, sisters will share a husband between them. Given that STD Immunity is averted, there's a very real fear that a husband who's had sex before could have picked up something, which would subsequently spread to all of his wives. At one point in the book, main character Jerin has been kidnapped by a group of women who made their marriage-intent extremely well-known earlier in the book, in addition to having been alone with Cira, who has been rescuing Jerin from kidnappers. When he mentions this trope to the latter, she reassures Jerin that she is perfectly willing to marry him to protect his reputation. He doesn't believe her, as she would never be able to pay the brother's price for him all by herself, but since she's the missing Princess Halley, she's already one of his wives, though he didn't know that at the time.
  • In The Breaking of Northwall, Jestak's primary motivation for most of the novel was rescuing Tia from slavery. Meanwhile, while a slave, Tia was raped at least once by the guards, and faces Defiled Forever as a result. After everyone escapes, the elders agree to ignore the time while Tia was enslaved but ask Jestak to marry her since the two were together (and unchaperoned) for a few nights during the escape. This misses Shotgun Wedding because both Jestak and Tia are eager to wed.
  • In "Madame Baptiste" by Guy de Maupassant: a young girl is raped by a valet named Baptiste, turning her into a pariah in her village (hence the nickname). A man marries her anyway in spite of public opinion (on occasion joking that he at least is assured of her fidelity). Then one day, some asshat with a bone to pick with the husband uses the nickname again, driving the poor woman to suicide (the story opens with the narrator seeing the sparsely-attended funeral and joining in).
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Robb Stark marries Jeyne Westerling after sleeping with her, putting her honor (that of a girl deflowered before marriage) above his own (he promised to marry another). It's clearly also Honor Before Reason and Robb pays for it by being murdered by the family whose daughter he'd promised to wed.
  • A variation in Evil Under the Sun: Kenneth Marshall, described as "one of those incurably chivalrous men", is said to have serially rescued two women from infamy by marrying them (the second after the first's death). A variation in that the reason for the women's ignominy was something other than sex.
  • The relationship between protagonists Don and Denise in We Can't Rewind works out something like this, although she's not so much "defiled" in his eyes as she is a Broken Bird from being molested and impregnated as a preteen, and the marriage is more for love and forging a single wholesome family from two broken ones than restoring any of the long-lost "honor" she ever had to her. What makes it this trope is that the widower Don is basically extending his code of honor to her in wanting to get properly married before getting busy with her, so to speak.
  • In the first book of The Young Ancients, Tor offers to marry his best friend's fiancée after she becomes pregnant with another man's child. Despite a generally sexually libertine culture (she would be expected to have several politically strategic lovers on the side in any case), her fiancé Rolph is a crown prince, so it's widely understood that the first child must be his. The offer is much appreciated, and does a lot to smooth things over, but ultimately the king and queen decide to marry her off to an entirely fictitious minor noble who will suffer a tragic accident after five years, leaving the widow a small estate and the ability to remarry without shame.
  • In The Summer Before the War, Daniel proposes to Celeste after she became pregnant from a rape. Having a child out of wedlock was extremely shameful in the time period.
  • toyed with and ultimately played straight in the Sebastian St Cyr mystery novels by CS Harris, set during the Regency period. In the fifth book, St Cyr and his acquaintance Hero Jarvis are trapped together in a crypt. With every expectation that they will die of starvation or lack of air, they have sex in an act of defiance of their fate. By a downright-miraculous chance they are discovered and released. As soon as their rescuer leaves, Sebastian invokes this, saying, "I am prepared to do the honorable thing." Hero, who is an ahead-of-her-time feminist and determined never to marry, is horrified at the idea and flees. In book six, Hero discovers she's pregnant: rather than take Sebastian up on his offer, she arranges to have the baby in secret and give it up for adoption. But the friend in charge of the arrangements is murdered, and Sebastian called in to solve it, which leads him to discover the pregnancy. At the end of book six, Hero and Sebastian end up marrying after all; to their mutual astonishment (though not the reader's), they're actually extremely well matched and their marriage swiftly becomes a real one.
  • In The Outsiders, Sodapop's girlfriend Sandy "went to live with her grandmother in Florida." We later learn that he proposed to her despite knowing that he wasn't the father, only for her to leave and, eventually, start sending back his letters unopened.
  • At the beginning of Pachinko, teenage Sunja got pregnant by an older, married man who won't marry her in Korea because his Japanese father-in-law (also his business mentor) was a powerful Yakuza. Sunja was going to have trouble finding a man to marry her anyway since her father had a cleft palate and most families didn’t want it in the bloodline, being a non-virgin pregnant with another man's baby just added to her complications. When a young minister named Isak staying at their boarding house heard Sunja's predicament from her mother, he decided to ask Sunja to marry him and be the baby’s father. Isak had tuberculosis and didn't expect to be long for the world and didn’t know if he'd ever get another chance to get married or have a kid. Being a Nice Guy, he also just saw it as the right thing to do.
  • Codex Alera: Discussed in ''First Lord's Fury, when Tavi discovers that Kitai is pregnant. He suggests that they could get married right now so their child won't be seen as a bastard, but they ultimately decide to wait and get properly married when the war is over.
  • The Kingdom and the Crown: While describing the events leading up to the birth of Jesus, Mary offhandedly mentions that Joseph marrying her after she was found with child was him basically admitting he was the one who got her pregnant in the first place.
  • When Fran of The Stand is impregnated by her boyfriend, his idea of "taking responsibility" is to offer to either marry her or pay for an abortion, her choice. She refuses both and decides to raise the baby herself, later accepting the help of new beau Stu Redman.
  • In A Yellow Raft In Blue Water, when Christine George tells Elgin Taylor that she's pregnant with his child after they have made love to each other in public at Tacoma State Park, Elgin decides that he's going to marry Christine so that the child wouldn't be without a father. In fact, he insists on marrying Christine when she tries to tell him that they don't need to be married for her to have his child.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Mad Men, Bob Benton offers to marry Joan Harris in part because her unmarried status means that she is getting less respect at work, and in part so that she can avoid the stigma of being a single mother. (He also wants to avoid questions about his sexuality.) She turns him down, not wanting to get stuck in another unhappy marriage.
  • In one episode of Welcome Back, Kotter, Arnold proposes to Rosalie, who is trying to guilt-trip the macho boys in the class with a pregnancy scare (which she made up whole-cloth). It earns him a second date when she drops the charade.
  • Bones has Wendell tell Angela he’ll marry her when she thinks she’s pregnant; but it’s a false positive, and she’s more moved by Hodgins’ words anyway and they’re soon back together.
  • CSI: NY: Danny asks Lindsay to marry him when she’s pregnant with Lucy, but it gets Zigzagged when she refuses and the actual wedding happens several episodes later.
  • Leverage: "The Lost Heir Job" deals with a millionaire who years before had had a relationship with a stripper who he had suddenly decided he wanted to marry one day, but his Amoral Attorney sent her away to prevent any threats to taking over his fortune. Nate correctly figures it meant she was pregnant, producing a legal heir, who is actually the girl heading the charity he was going to leave his fortune to when he died.
  • A frequent topic on Maury is the Daddy DNA Test. Often the man under investigation says that if he is the father he'll take on fatherly responsibilities - usually just before they announce that he is not the father.
  • The Nanny: Due to a Miss Conception Grace (who is about 7 years old) thinks she's pregnant, and her friend Willy who allegedly impregnated her makes plans to quit grade school and get a job to support them.
  • Riverdale: In season 1, it's revealed that Jason Blossom impregnated Polly Cooper. When he found out, he planned to elope with her, but was murdered before he could.

  • ‘’Gilmore Girls’’: Christopher to Lorelai (“I guess we should get married” as they look at their newborn daughter). It’s made clear that her family wanted her to marry him, but she didn’t as she was 16 and felt they were too young. They do end up getting married in Season 7, but Lorelai is not pregnant and the marriage is short lived.
—-> *Christopher also proposes to Sherry when she gets pregnant at the end of season 2. It happens off screen, but there’s no mention of marriage until she gets pregnant and then he’s saying he “has to marry her”. Sherry calls him her fiancé in the delivery room. It’s hinted they got married....when Christopher mentions their divorce.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • In The Bible, the young girl Miriam (Mary) is visited by an angel and told to rejoice, as she is now pregnant. Her fiancé Joseph accepts her anyway and marries her so that no shame falls on her. He then brings up her firstborn child as his own. (Zigzagged a bit because they were already engaged at the time, but Joseph mentally re-committed to marry her in order to save her reputation.) Joseph almost gave her an honorable divorce proposal. Under Jewish law, he had two choices when he found Mary was pregnant—publicly divorce her and have her stoned (which was the penalty for adultery), or quietly give her a certificate of divorce and send her on her way (which would still leave her an unwed mother with a bad reputation, but was the more merciful of the two options). Before he could do this, an angel came and told him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife—that she had not been unfaithful: she had become pregnant by the Holy Spirit. To outsiders, this was probably viewed as an Honorable Marriage Proposal, because the real reason was understandably difficult to understand at best and thought as bunk at worst.
  • In the Mabinogion, Math fab Mathonwy discovers that his virgin servant, Goewin, was raped by his nephew Gilfaethwy, who was helped by his brother, Gwydion. He marries her to save her honor and punishes his nephews by turning them into animals for three years.

    Theatre 

  • Much Ado About Nothing: Shakespeare even used this. Claudio thinks that he's caused Hero to die of sadness after wrongly accusing her of betraying him with another man on the eve of their wedding. Hero's father Leonato says that he can make it right by marrying his niece Beatrice. Claudio agrees.
  • Westeros: An American Musical: Robb at some point marries a woman he has just met and fell in love with instead of the woman with whom he was to have an Arranged Marriage. It later turns out that Robb felt the need to marry his wife because he had slept with her out of wedlock.

    Visual Novels 
  • In the first Paramedium game, the unnamed boy who got Mrs Clansey's daughter pregnant said that he'd be happy to come back and marry her. He never did, and the daughter's ghost is distraught about it. It's possible that the disapproving Mrs Clansey got rid of him — as she tries with Lance, whom she deliriously mistakes for him.
  • In one ending of War: 13th Day, Ambrosia is found in an inadvertently compromising position with Arsenik. After she is blackmailed, Arsenik proposes to her not only to keep her reputation intact but out of true affection.
    Arsenik: Your honor would be preserved, and you would have a husband, willing to cater to your every desire. Please do not assume this is solely out of obligation. Truly, I would be happy to have you — more than happy. You must know that I fancy you, Miss Ambrosia.

    Webcomics 

  • In Magience, Rune accidentally kisses Tilly, and immediately declares that she'll marry the girl to make up for it, to the latter's confusion. Funnily enough, despite them both being straight, they have some fun with it; when Rune gets kidnapped a few minutes later, Tilly helps gather a group of adventurers to find her, with her stated goal being to rescue her wife.
  • Defied in The Order of the Stick: upon being raised from the dead, Durkon immediately pops the question to the mother of his illegitimate child. The mother turns him down. Vehemently.

    Western Animation 

  • Bojack Horseman:
    • In the backstory, Princess Carolyn got pregnant as a teenager by the son of her mom's employer, and the boy agreed to marry her despite his well-off parents' reservations. Unfortunately, she suffered a miscarriage and the boyfriend's parents immediately cut her off.
    • A similar thing happened with BoJack's parents, with his heiress mother getting pregnant after a one-night-stand with his drifter father. This proved to be a huge mistake which torpedoed all of their plans and left them both deeply unhappy for life, seriously screwing up their son in the process.
  • On The Simpsons, Homer marries Marge when they find out she's pregnant with Bart. His father urged him to do so, but did not force them to get married, and neither did Marge's parents (who would, in fact, have preferred she marry literally anyone but Homer). They get married in a small wedding chapel across state lines (called "Shotgun Pete's), affiliated with a casino. Homer felt bad that he couldn't provide her with a nicer wedding, but Marge was happy to marry him.
    Marge: I'd be lying if I said this is how I pictured my wedding day as a little girl, but you're exactly how I'd pictured my husband.

Alternative Title(s): Wed Locking

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