Societal Constraints on Love

7 min readOct 24, 2023


written by art historian & curator Mihaela Manolache

Love, universally regarded as one of the most profound and fundamental human emotions, is a force that transcends borders and binds individuals across cultures, religions, and ages. However, beneath the veneer of this universally cherished emotion lies a stark reality: love is not always celebrated and accepted with open arms in all societies. Love remains contentious and, at times, taboo in various corners of the world, challenging social norms, traditions, and deeply ingrained beliefs.

Throughout history, societies have grappled with differing notions of love and the constraints imposed upon it, ranging from arranged marriages stifling personal choice to the stigmatisation of same-sex relationships and interfaith unions. These divergent perspectives reflect the deeply rooted cultural and social values that shape our understanding of love and relationships.

Medallion by Gluck

By examining these cultural variations and their consequences, we gain valuable insights into the intricate nuances of human emotions and the relentless tension between love’s universality and its capacity to be taboo in select societies. While love typically represents a source of joy, unity, and personal fulfilment, it can also become a source of conflict, ostracism, and discrimination when it defies established norms and expectations. In the following lines, we will delve into the intriguing phenomenon of love as a taboo, exploring the complex web of factors that render it a forbidden or controversial topic.

Taboos on Love: An Age-Old Conundrum

Love has often been a powerful catalyst for societal change, challenging conventions. At its core, a taboo is a prohibition or restriction, often rooted in cultural, religious, or historical contexts. When love defies these taboos, it can become a source of tension, discrimination, and even persecution.

One of the most pervasive examples of societal constraints on love is the institution of arranged marriages. This practice is prevalent in many cultures, particularly throughout South Asia, the Middle East…