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Can I Patent That?

February 21st, 2007 · 7 Comments

In the course of a response to Meghan O’Rourke’s review of yet one more book bemoaning the “hook-up culture,” Ross Douthat writes:

A less self-contradictory line of argument is suggested by her remark about “explorative sex lives,” which points toward what you might call the Julian Sanchez theory – which is that “interesting and varied sex” is an end unto itself whose upside outweighs the putative benefits of only having sex with people you love, and thus Stepp’s “sex and love should go together” theory risks, er, stepping on people’s god-given right to interesting, promiscuous copulation.

While I’m flattered, I do feel compelled to point out that the observation that sex is fun is not, alas, original to me. And at the risk of denting my libertine cred, I thought it pretty clear that the “variety” I endorsed in the post he links consisted of more than a string of anonymous zipless fucks, though I suppose it’s possible Ross regards everything short of holding out for your One True Love as equivalent to “nice shoes, wanna shag?” bartrawling.

Addendum: Is it excessively cynical of me to think that the first casualty of an insistence on love and sex always going together might be your criteria for being “in love?” As in: “Holy hell, I’m 25 and have never had sex… You! SOUL MATE! NOW!”

Tags: Sexual Politics



7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 steveintheknow // Feb 21, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    Nice try on being excessively cynical. I have heard that line from “everybody”, not the least from my own head. At least everyone for which sex and love do not require coupling.

    Although….would it not be a little more depressing for the alternative to be true?

  • 2 Matt F // Feb 21, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    “Holy hell, I’m 25 and have never had sex… You! SOUL MATE! NOW!”

    I’m reminded of every person I know who went to BYU.

  • 3 James Kabala // Feb 21, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    Well, part of the answer to that is that most societies before us recognized that “true love,” while a great thing to have, should not necessarily be a prerequisite for marriage, and that the belief that marriages must be full of undying passion would lead (as it has) to a high divorce rate.

  • 4 yeselson // Feb 21, 2007 at 7:18 pm

    I should have posted this over at Douthat’s site where I got waylaid by the God police, but the historiography on family and marriage in modern western society–say, since the 17th century–convincingly argues that the linkage of romantic love and a hoped for sexual/personal compatibility under the one-stop rubric of “spouse” is a social construction of increasingly commodified western culture–Lawrence Stone’s definitive work on England, Family, Sex, and Marriage in England, 1500-1800 should be consulted here. Americans are apparently particularly prone to this sentimental conceit: Ann Douglas’s classic, The Feminization of American Culture, about the 19th century shift to a popular culture of cheap sentimentality, is a useful primer in this regard.

    It’s great when it happens, but it often doesn’t, and the manifold complexities of sexuality–as consolation, quotidian tedium, ecstatic pleasure, familiar evocation–especially when leavened with the bodily autonomy brought upon by the second women’s movement seem to overwhelm social traditionalists who, under other circumstances, insistently argue for the flexibility and endless creative capacity of the economic market place. Apparently, they don’t understand that these two modern forms of freedom are linked.

    An odd intellectual lacunae.

  • 5 Dilan Esper // Feb 21, 2007 at 10:52 pm

    Julian is absolutely right. Indeed, the statistics correlate– since the sexual revolution, people have started getting married later.

    If you can’t have sex before marriage, and you are horny, that’s going to lead you to get married too early. And in turn, that’s going to lead to a lot of divorces, a lot of domestic violence, a lot of people having babies too young, a lot of people cutting their educations short, and a lot of other social problems.

  • 6 Anonymous // Feb 22, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    The average age of marriage has fluctuated greatly throughout history, however. In seventeenth-century England it was about as high as it does today.

  • 7 James Kabala // Feb 22, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    I wrote that last one.