“Savage Love” is “Stupid”

07.11.2011, 11:01 AM

Dan Savage, Judith Stacey, and other contemporary apologists for open marriage are obviously smart people. But in a piece in today’s Washington Post, I argue that their advocacy for open marriage is “stupid.” Here’s why:

1. Even today, sex often results in pregnancy.

2. Monogamous, married sex is more likely to deliver long-lasting satisfaction than the quick thrill offered by infidelity.

3. People often do not realize what they are really consenting to when it comes to open marriage.

4. Swinging increases your risk of acquiring a sexually-transmitted disease (STD).

5. Open marriages put children at risk.

On the last point, we do not really know much about how open infidelity affects children. What we do know, from the recent federal report on child abuse, is that kids are much more likely to be abused if they are exposed to a revolving carousel of romantic partners in the household. But my question is more fundamental: How does mom or dad’s open infidelity distort a child’s views of sex, love, and marriage, and influence their future adult behavior? I can only imagine. But, perhaps the Kennedy clan’s sad experiences with infidelity gives us some sense of how all this plays out across the generations.

I also find it strange that smart people like Savage and Stacey are harkening back to one of the darkest chapters in our nation’s recent family history, especially since the National Marriage Project finds that support for infidelity has fallen since the 1970s.

For all these reasons, let’s keep the “book on open marriage” closed.


6 Responses to ““Savage Love” is “Stupid””

  1. Jeffrey says:

    I know it’s a throwaway snark, but your line about the Kennedys is conflating consensual nonmogomy and infidelity. Unless the Kennedy clan involved a series of agreement on nonmogomy, their eperienece sheds zero light on what Savage proposes.

  2. Mont D. Law says:

    What a pretty straw man – you are arguing against something that Savage is not even remotely suggesting. Consensual non-mongamy is not swinging or infidelity.

    [1. Even today, sex often results in pregnancy.]

    I don’t see why this point is even included. You talk about the heat of the moment – but in consensual non-mongamy – the whole point is there is no heat of the moment. The heat of the moment is what Consensual non-mongamy is meant to combat. It’s the difference between jumping you co-worker at a conference & visiting a sex worker once a month. Which is most likely to result in an unplanned pregnancy.

    [2. Monogamous, married sex is more likely to deliver long-lasting satisfaction than the quick thrill offered by infidelity.]

    Except when it doesn’t. And these stats are from 1992. And again we are not talking about infidelity.

    [3. People often do not realize what they are really consenting to when it comes to open marriage.]

    We are not talking about open marriage. We are talking about a couple negotiating an agreement that allows partners who are mismatched sexually to get their sexual needs met. The idea is to prevent the problems you are citing here.

    5. Open marriages put children at risk.

    Except these are not open marriages and the children are not going to be exposed to a revolving carousel of romantic partners in the home, because this isn’t going to take place in the home. In fact this should prevent divorce and safe kids from that fate, which is Savage’s whole point.

    [On the last point, we do not really know much about how open infidelity affects children.]

    Since this is not open infidelity but a discrete arrangement between the adults I am not sure why it matters.

    [When it comes to marriage, one of the few bright spots to emerge over the last forty years is increasing public support for sexual fidelity—in both theory and practice.]

    Then why the reaction and the condemnation? If you’re correct then this idea is DOA, whatever Savage thinks or the NYT writes. Everyone is so happy with their monogamous marriages & completely down with sexual fidelity so no problem.

    [I also find it strange that smart people like Savage and Stacey are harkening back to one of the darkest chapters in our nation’s recent family history]

    I am surprised that a smart man like you would engage in such transparent question begging.

  3. Mont D. Law says:

    [“Stupid” and “Passé”? I hope so…]

    To quote the rest of the article.

    [Just as the watchword of my generation was freedom, that of my daughter’s generation seems to be control.]

    [Sex for women leads to madness in attics, cancer and death by fire. Better to soul cycle and write cookbooks. Better to give up men and sleep with one’s children. Better to wear one’s baby in a man-distancing sling and breast-feed at all hours so your mate knows your breasts don’t belong to him. Our current orgy of multiple maternity does indeed leave little room for sexuality. With children in your bed, is there any space for sexual passion?]

    This is you’re idea of progress? This is what you think is going to save marriage?

  4. bobbie says:

    ‘Truth Games’ http://is.gd/gAg3ZZ explores open marriages in action in 1970s London, when the freedoms of the swinging 60s began to run into trouble. It’s the two blazing hot summers of 75 and 76, and a group of friends are getting way out of their depth in infidelity. Thought-provoking stuff. Reader reviews on Amazon.co.uk