May 31, 2006

Gen-Xers for hypocrisy.

Andrew Sullivan writes:
Dan [Savage] and I agreed that moderate hypocrisy - especially in marriages - is often the best policy. Momogamy [sic] is very hard for men, straight or gay, and if one partner falters occasionally (and I don't mean regularly), sometimes discretion is perfectly acceptable. You could see [Erica] Jong bridle at the thought of such dishonesty. But I think the post-seventies generation - those of us who grew up while our parents were having a sexual revolution - both appreciate the gains for sexual and emotional freedom, while being a little more aware of their potential hazards. An acceptance of mild hypocrisy as essential social and marital glue is not a revolutionary statement. It's a post-revolutionary one. As is, I'd say, my generation as a whole.
Erica squirms at hypocrisy because she's old? Accepting or rejecting dishonesty is a generational matter? Does this have the ring of truth? I don't think it does. There has always been a range of opinion and tolerance for lies in relationships. And what people squirm at in public or say they accept may not be the same in private. And you don't really know exactly what Jong's nonverbal expression meant. Maybe she was remembering something she was dishonest about. Maybe Dan and Andrew were preening about their "discretion," and it rubbed her the wrong way. I mean, Andrew's preening about it now isn't he?

ADDED: Sullivan's typo "momogamy" just kills me. It's the ultimate in Oedipal.

81 comments:

Diane said...

"...both appreciate the gains for sexual and emotional freedom, while being a little more aware of their potential hazards. An acceptance of mild hypocrisy as essential social and marital glue is not a revolutionary statement."

There is a big difference between mild hypocrisy and lying in a relationship. I also suspect monogamy is not always the best option, but both partners need to be aware of the other's opinion on the matter and, even more important, their wish to pursue additional relationships. Wanting and doing are two fantastically different things. Perhaps the difference hasn't been explained well enough to Gen Xers?

Diane Ensey

Elizabeth said...

Sullivan is about 42-43 years old. I doubt his parents, unless they were teens when he was born, were in the throes of the sexual revolution. To my ears, it's a bit funny to hear someone in their 40s assert that their behavior is grounded in their generational experience as youngsters. What about all those ensuing decades? Sullivan feels old-fartdom creeping up, so he's casting back to his image of himself as a young turk.

A little hypocrisy in marriage? Not revolutionary, not post-revolutionary--it's as old as marriage.

Joe Baby said...

Waah! Monogamy is hard for men! So we should do what we want and lie about it.

Wow, how noble. Let's spend every moment advocating for inclusion into an institution which we have low regard for, i.e. marriage. No wonder Pat Robertson spends so much time in the gym.

Nice that he portrays Jong as some sort of rube for being averse to lying.

Also, wouldn't this reliance on "discretion" (a post-mod definition, his) kinda increase the chances that it will happen over and over again? A man who confesses likely wants to change. A man who is "discreet" preserves his game for another day.

I might accept his "mild hypocrisy" def as applying if a husband tells his wife he is not attracted to Carmen Electra. But for affairs? Wow.

I'm not sure who AS has a lower respect for: men, for not being able to control themselves; or women, for thinking they don't deserve to live in truth.

Meade said...

Oh come on baby, who you gonna believe -- discrete post-revolutionary mildly hypocritical Gen-Xer me or your own two squirmy old lyin' eyes?

michael a litscher said...

Sounds like Sullifan is rationalizing (possibly his own) bad behavior.

If monogomy is too much for some men (and women), then they should spare themselves and their partners and stay single.

SteveR said...

Well sounds like BS to me. So these guys uncover some brilliant justification for screwing around. This is new?

We you get married and have an honest relationship, monogamy isn't an "option", gee I'd like the leather seats.

PD Shaw said...

While I still support gay marriage, I feel Sullivan just took the case for gay marriage back a few steps. I at least care a little less.

Bissage said...

According to Mr. Sullivan, the sexual revolution resulted in gains (sexual and emotional freedom) and potential hazards (unspecified). Had Ms. Jong been born a sufficient number of years later than she was, she would possess a sufficient appreciation for the latter and agree with Mr. Sullivan as to the virtues of: (1) moderate hypocrisy, (2) discretion, (3) dishonesty, and (4) mild hypocrisy, all four apparently being functionally equivalent.

Please, somebody open a window. What a load of crap!

StrangerInTheseParts said...

Andrew Sullivan has a strange compulsion to assert membership in groups that, I think, are never quite sure he is a representative member of. When ever he speaks of "us men" - or "gays", or "conservatives", or "catholics" - I feel a vague discomfort.

He has viable and interesting points of view and opinions. But he always seems like the guy who is chummily slapping everyone's back at a class reunion but no one actually remembers hanging out with.

MadisonMan said...

I know a lot of men in my neighborhood -- that is, my neighbors. And all are monogamous (as far as I know -- and Madison is a very small town when it comes to knowing about affairs, I think). Maybe things are different on the coasts where Dan (west) and Andrew (east) live.

StrangerInTheseParts said...

Oh - by the way - defending cheating and lying about it would not be an example of a viable or interesting point of view. I meant his writings more generally.

He also has a strange compulsion to assert half-truths with the force of conviction and then back-peddle when confronted. Then he plays off his change-of-heart as proof that he is better than others because he has the 'courage' to change and admit he's wrong.

Old Dad said...

I thought it was the baby boomers who invented sex?

And who invented safe sex?

And I didn't know that cheating was such a modern phenomena, or is it just that we can now feel good about it?

Mark said...

I am so tired of weak men who make excuses like "monogamy is hard". The concept of integrity and honor seems to be totally lost on someone like Sullivan. A man, a fully adult man, takes his marriage vows seriously and makes it a point of personal honor to live up to them. Those are the kind of men who hold a society together, not loquacious libertines like Andrew Sullivan.

kevinb said...

Of course you lie to your wife if she asks," Do these pants make my ass look big?"

What a beautiful example of moral equivalance to say that cheating, and then lying about it, are the same.

Brendan said...

Sounds like Andrew and the oft-mentioned bf are having problems --or at least laying the groundwork for an "open" relationship. This is the Clintonian "it's only sex" defense applied writ large to so-called monogamous unions. Polemicists like Sullivan vigorously defended Clinton because his antics validated their own aberrant, anti-social behavior. Bubba screwing around made their own infidelities more palatable. "If the Prez can get away with it, why not me?" Honor and trust? Soooo old-fashioned.

John said...

Marriage, by definition - at least in this country - IS monogomy. That's WHY you get married in the first place - to spend your life with another human being. I understand that not all marriages work out and there are remedies for that (preferably not blunt instruments), but while in the marriage, it is meant to be monogamous.

So the hypocrisy isn't so much after the marriage, it's probably before. Monogamy is hard but I'll get married anyway and lie about it!

As earlier posters mentioned, some people in our society can justify anything - as long as they feel good about it.

Brendan said...

Cognitive dissonance: the only term that I remember from Psych 101. I think it applies here.

Joseph Hovsep said...

I wasn't at the talk but I do read Savage Love pretty regularly. About a month ago, a woman who had been married seven years, cheated on her husband a few times, but was committed to monogamy in the future, asked Savage if she should fess up to her prior indiscretions. Savage responded:

Trust your gut on this—your lying, cheating gut—and keep your mouth shut. While honesty gets all the good press, no marriage would survive long without lies great and small. Continue to protect your husband from the truth, and strive to be the woman you've duped your husband into believing that you are.

I don't think an active policy of lying to one's partner about sexual indiscretions can really be defended, but in this context (been bad in the past and committed to change), I think Savage has a point.

As far as the generational thing goes, I think perhaps the methods and subjects of our hypocrisy change, but I have some trouble believing that social acceptance of hypocrisy per se is greater today than in 1950 or 1975.

In fact, I'm not sure that social acceptance of lying about monogamy is greater today either. Given the greater social freedom to be openly gay or single or nonmonogamous or just plain kinky than there was a generation or two ago (I'm thinking Brokeback Mountain for example), I think its probably less socially acceptable to lie about those things to your partner of choice today.

PatCA said...

Andrew, "momogamy"? Your Freudian slip is showing, indeed.

If you go by Hollywood dogma, Kinsey invented sex in the '60s but didn't really catch on for a decade or two, which would leave Sullivan's parents out of the revolution entirely. I assume they were British, and everyone knows they don't have sex anyways, so I think at his age he's trying to keep with young, edgy Dan, the charming activist who admitted to licking doorknobs to spread the flu to a Republican candidate.

Too Many Jims said...

"Sullivan's typo "momogamy" just kills me. It's the ultimate in Oedipal."

Somewhat seriously, do gay men have "Oedipal" complexes in the Freudian sense? (And I know that Ann did not refer to Freud.)

Elizabeth said...

This is the Clintonian "it's only sex" defense applied writ large to so-called monogamous unions.

Don't forget the Newtonian "It's not sex if it's oral" and "It's not cheating if my wife is hospitalized for cancer and I'm not getting any at home."

jeff said...

Well, I think Sullivan just confirmed, yet again, that he's an idiot.

Craig Ranapia said...

Well, I wonder how much "mild hypocrisy" Andrew Sullivan (who happens to be HIV-positive) would applaud if his partner was having unsafe sex with strangers? And when does (tolerably) 'occasional' become (intolerably) 'regular' where infidelity is concerned - screwing a hooker while away on business, OK? Having an affair with a co-worker, verboten?

Blah...

Then again, I don't think Jong is much of an improvement - what she calls honesty, I call being a dog who expects a pat on the head every time he licks his genitals.

Sean said...

Obviously, I wasn't there, but I would suspect that maybe Jong's wincing reflected her recognition that behavior of the type Sullivan condoned wasn't what she wanted in relationship, but that she had long ago destroyed any axiological basis on which she might object.

bearing said...

While I can appreciate the need to evaluate whether silence or fessing up is more likely to preserve the marriage:

What about sexually transmitted diseases? A spouse has a right to know, absolutely, if s/he's been put at risk.

Condoms don't protect 100% --- particularly against genital warts and herpes.

Steven said...

Savage and Sullivan are both never-married homosexual men. What qualifies either to comment on how a hexterosexual marriage should work, given they have neither experience in one nor desire for one?

Erica Jong has actually been married; she has actual desire for and experience with heterosexual marriage. That seems to be a much more plausible reason for her disagreement than age; unlike Savage and Sullivan, she isn't an ignorant outsider pontificating.

Ann Althouse said...

Sullivan has spent much of his life arguing passionately to be allowed to marry. How can you characterize him as an outsider to the desire to be married? Maybe heterosexual marriage is different, because it requires a man to accommodate to a woman's ideas and feelings, but still, Sullivan has envied that relationship in the extreme or has purported to.

Is his current blog post inconsistent with that? Not really.

A person may choose to marry and intend to be monogamous and then fail to live up to the obligation. In fact, it happens all the time. The question is, what do you do next? Do you confide in the partner whom you betrayed or do you keep it to yourself? Either way hurts, and it's difficult to perceive which is better. Obviously, it would have been better not to cheat, but that isn't the question.

The generational thing is that Boomers thought they were doing something new by telling the truth to each other. The traditional thing to do is to lie, and Savage and Sullivan are just saying maybe the traditional approach really is better, because it has more potential to preserve the marriage. The Boomer generation thought honesty would work, but the next generation saw that it didn't. So all that makes some sense.

It also makes sense for a 40 year old man to to say he had parents who from the sexual revolution era. He was born in the mid-60s. I'm quite sure that folks who were in their 20s and 30s in the 60s were big on the sexual revolution. I was a teenager then, and, believe me, the folks 10 or 20 years older than me were the ones who were into "swinging" and "the Playboy philosophy" and "open marriage" and that sort of thing. People my age thought they were creepy. That's why the movie "The Graduate" had so much resonance for us.

Pogo said...

How Orwellian.
Honesty means lying.
Monogamy means polyamory.

Hypocrisy is not merely aiming for perfection and failing at it, for we are all are sinners, and we all fail. Instead, hypocrisy is not aiming for perfection at all, and lying about it.

Within a marriage, cheating is a cataclysm because it is a betrayal, and betrayal is one of the worst of human crimes, because it is pure selfishness. While humans are indeed often selfish, there's no need to excuse it, even less need to extol its virtues.

Pogo said...

And having read Ann's update, I'll disagree slightly, as I read Sullivan not to be arguing in favor of silence and dishonesty because they would hold a marriage together, but instead that the mechanism made "a little something on the side" easier, because men are like that anyway. So why mess up a good thing with the truth?

Wickedpinto said...

Painting with a broad brush is something that Andrew shouldn't do.

You don't create distinctions by patronizing the usage of stereo-types.

Wickedpinto said...

The Boss
The traditional thing to do is to lie,

Actually the traditional thing is to tell the truth and to not care. Victorian ideals were built under. . . well Queen victoria. Prior to the female primacy of marriage, which is a new 20th century thing, the nature of marriage is that women were property, and once married a woman had no right to disagree with the predilections of the husband. So the Traditional stance is to cheat, and to be honest, and not care what his wife said about it.

Personaly, I think that this female supremacy has value, but it also has variations. Of the 5 women I have met in my life that I loved, and would be willing to marry, I was honest with from day one. I'm more than a bit of a transient, and never in the same place, I travel a fair bit until recently, and where I reside now is nowhere near the women I have loved.

While I was with those women I was a transient, and I would move around a lot, we were just "dating" or rather "in love with the idea of each other" and knew that at that time we couldn't be together for any period of time. When we believed that it was real there were rules, simple rules, If it's me, come back to me when I'm there. Thats all I wished of a woman I loved in that situation.

However, I had developed a personal philosophy about relationships before I went into the MC. I had had mine, so I wasn't too worried about me being unfaithful, but I understood that even women have needs. I resolved, before the situation came to pass, that if I were engaged, married or whatever, and I was deployed, I could forgive the animalistic desire to have sex that resides in all of us, but there were 4 things I could not forgive.

No Affairs, (you need to get laid, get laid, but he isn't your lover)

No diseases, (you like him enough to trust him, and taint everyone else?)

No Children, (you will procreate in 12 or so months, but not in the time with me?)

and, NEVER EVER EVER when I am there.

If you cheat on a loved one, while the loved one is easily accessible, then that is YOUR BETRAYAL of them, not their willingness to ignore you. If things are so bad you must find another when you are under the same roof as a loved one, then you shouldn't be under that roof.

I understand the basic human desire to engage in the physical expression of love, even if it is only an instant of that sensation, but if you are already committed (not by contract, but by your own desire and love for that individual) to someone, then every misstep, in the presence of that loved one is a betrayal.

Gay, Straight, bi, whatever, You need to respect that one you have made the commitment to to accept the fact that you have voided that contract, and not blame them, or punish them with your constant lies, deceit, and self congratulatory actions.

Leave.

kmg4 said...

A lot of this has to do with the psychology of prosperity, and Maslow's hierarchy.

Joseph Hovsep said...

Steven, I didn't get the impression Sullivan and Savage were limiting their comments to "heterosexual" marriage. They were talking about honesty in communication between committed partners. Both are in long term serious relationships. Savage is a writer and sex advice columnist, but he lives a pretty personally conservative life, which he has detailed in his writings (he and his partner are raising a kid).

I don't see how the fact that they are gay or aren't in the market for a heterosexual marriage makes them "ignorant outsiders" any more than the unmarried and childless Pat Robertson or the army of unmarried and childless Catholic priests who do a lot of marriage-advice giving. Sometimes outsiders have the most valuable advice to give precisely because they are not invested in any particular perspective.

Agree or disagree with what they have to say, but I don't think its fair to dismiss their thoughts just because they are gay or because you don't like the kind of marriages they have.

Steven said...

Yes, if you start from the premise that gay marriages are indistinguishable from to the point of interchangability with straight mariages, you will find it easy to take Sullivan's desire for a homosexual marriage to be the same thing as his envy of heterosexual marriage. And I'm perfectly willing to believe Sullivan confuses them, too.

But desire for something and envy of something are quite different. Many, many people envy the income of top CEOs; but a large fraction of them would not work a 70-hours-a-week high stress job if you gave it to them. They want their current jobs to pay CEO salaries, like Sullivan wants his relationship to have marriage-like trappings, which is quite different.

As you half-concede, and at risk of overgeneralizing, the dynamic of relationships where women are involved are quite different from those where only men are involved. See the vastly differential marriage rates between female couples and male couples in Massachusetts, for a verifiable indicator of what I'm talking about.

Neither Dan Savage or Andrew Sullivan either has any experience in a marriage that involves women, or wants any. As a result, they will be subject not merely to the ordinary disconnect between the sexes when commenting on cross-gender relationships, but one not even informed by experience trying to manage relationship expectations across the divide. Which is at least as big an explanation for their disconnect with a woman with marital experience on how those relationships should be conducted as any generational claim might be.

Steven said...

Joseph --

I was perhaps harsh-sounding with "ignorant". By my point is that while Andrew Sullivan makes his disagreement with Erica Jong a generational issue, it seems at least as plausible as a disconnect between outsiders and insiders.

Yes, Sullivan is speaking on all marriages, not heterosexual ones specifically -- but speaking on the general constitutes speaking on the particular forms as well. And he knows knows nothing of straight marrriages from the inside, while while Jong has extensive experience (if a rather dismal record by traditional standards of three divorces).

And no, being outsiders doesn't mean Dan Savage and Andrew Sullivan are wrong -- it merely serves as an explanation, in my opinion more plausible than a generational difference, of the difference in opinion.

boinky said...

Ah, poor Andrew.
Since he has an "open marriage" he can't see why everyone else can't.
But women have a differnt point of view. Even in polygamous societies, or in societies like upper Manhattan, where enlightened people are supposed to be free and easy, most women want faithful husbands.
Maybe if he were married to a woman, and had to survive the stresses of marriage and children, he'd understand.
Even Lesbians in long term commitments could tell him that fidelity and love are very important to women...

Harkonnendog said...

There are two interpretations of the excerpt here in the comments.

I'm reading the excerpt to mean that if you are too weak to always do the right thing and never fool around it is sometimes better to lie about it than confess and/or give up on monagomy.

That's not a justification for fooling around, but a justification for not confessing about fooling around, and/or trying to convince your spouse that monogamy sucks.

ganzo azul said...

Wasn't there a generational aspect to the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal? It was suggested that oral sex was not sex and it was implied that an act shy of ejaculation was not sex. I seem to recall that whether this constituted moderate or mild hypocrisy fell along generational lines. Is it not possible that a generation may have come to view a man or woman's capacity for rationalization as something less than a treacherous betrayal warranting total cutoff?

john said...

Take my word for it. Honesty is not the best policy when it comes to sex. Lie and lie convincingly and consistantly. And do your best not have to do it very often. It is not a generational thing.

john said...

Take my word for it. Honesty is not the best policy when it comes to sex. Lie and lie convincingly and consistantly. If you can't do that, keep your pants on and keep your mouth shut. Nobody wants to know that they are not the love of your life.

M. Simon said...

British Music Hall comedians Flanders and Swan:

Always be sincere, whether you mean it or not.

madawaskan said...

Oh damn it- be honest.

The greatest sin is not the infidelity but taking the other person's freedom of choice away from them.

That is what I loathe most the eating your cake and having it too aspect.

You are robbing the person you supposedly love of free will- a basic human right.

Jeff said...

I think the difference between the ME Generation and Gen-X is this: Gen-X was burned, badly, by the excesses of the divorce culture and thus place a greater premium on trust and monogamy. The sad irony is that makes some of us gun-shy from committment and has resulted in the oldest cohort of unmarried/childless Americans ever.

That said, I think they're blase about hypocrisy because they're gay men, not because of their generation

I recall reading somewhere that there is a theory of sexual behavior that holds that homosexuals act as straight men would if women would play along. They don't so straight men have to conform to their partners notions of sexual ettiquette and ethics. Gay men can act as they want to (anonymous sex, spontaneous sex, open relationships/multiple partners, lights out parties, etc) and have their behavior reinforced and rewarded because their partners share the same mores.

The idea being that the closed circuit of monogendered relationships embody each gender's essential sexual impulses.

I suppose that the theory works for women/lesbians as well, although to a lesser extent as women seem to set more of the rules in general. The possible relationship between "lesbian bed death" and (straight) wifely headaches is perhaps better left unexplored...

Jeff said...

madawaskan- your comment is spot on!

Wurly said...

I cannot believe that Andrew Sullivan thinks that "hypocrisy" on this issue is generational. Didn't he ever see the great 1939 George Cukor movie "The Women".

chuck b. said...

I read Sullivan's post and I don't see how any definition of the word "preening" makes that word the right choice. It's kind of an odd word choice. How is Sullivan "preening"? Is he dressing his discretion with elaborate care? Is he gloating about it? I don't see any gloating. His argument seems very plain to me.

Ann Althouse said...

Chuck: First, I phrase it as a question, so I'm saying how I hear it and asking readers what they hear. I read it as preening. He sounds rather pleased with himself and seems to be showing off -- at the expense of Erica Jong, who is specifically put in her place as an old, outdated woman. That is how I hear it.

ignacio said...

Isn't there a natural tendency to feel a bit of contempt for someone who believes one's lies? If you "fool" someone you have made him into a fool.

Doesn't this then tend to infect and poison the relationship?

slipped risk said...

Steven said...
Savage and Sullivan are both never-married homosexual men. What qualifies either to comment on how a hexterosexual marriage should work, given they have neither experience in one nor desire for one?

they were both, presumably, raised by parents who were married -- and in savage's case, divorced -- and, as occupants of the world, have had just as much experience with observing marriage of any and all variety.

i'm not defending either's views, just that their lack of direct particiapation in heterosexual marriage hardly disqualifies them from making observations about it.

that logic is what's wrong with debates on race and representation, etc. -- that no one but a black person is qualified to tell a black person what to do, etc.

specious.

Johnny Nucleo said...

I'm surprised that what Sullivan said is so controversial. Of course you never tell when you cheat. This is a no-brainer. Unless you want to end the relationship. Or get your nuts cut off.

You are not supposed to cheat. It is wrong. It is - I'll flat out say it - evil. Yet many people do. Life is funny that way.

I doubt there has been an increase in cheating over the last sixty years. It's just that after World War II everyone, perhaps understandably, went a bit loco and a lot of the wisdom of our ancestors was tossed out. Perhaps (and it's a big perhaps) the legacy of Generation X will be the re-affirmation of some of that wisdom.

One more thing. A lot of people that are faithful are only faithful because they lack opportunities to cheat. You love your wife. That's beautiful. But let's say you're at The Mansion and Miss November can't keep her hands off you. I'm not talking that chick at the office with the nice caboose, I'm talking Miss November. Your wife will never know. Be honest. What do you do?

Marghlar said...

Johnny: count me as one who finds the prospect tedious, but then I generally enjoy sex much more with a partner who knows my proclivities than I ever have in a hook-up.

On the broader topic: I am one of those who thinks that honesty is more important than fidelity. I'd much rather have my partner be honest about her urges, and act on them if she must, than ever put in a position where she felt compelled to lie to me. In our marriage, we are both free to do as we like, but are both mindful of the consequences that any straying would have on our partner's emotional state. To date, neither of us have found the propsect of a dalliance worth the damage it would inflict on our relationship.

I think Jong's scowl is right on the money.

Joel said...

there aint nothing funnier than a bunch of pointy heads and urbane sophisticates discussing the finer points of a healthy relationship.

i just cant get clinton in his lip biting puppy dog pose out of my head...

"i did not have sex with that woman....i mean she sucked the stones right out my kidneys, but that aint sex!"

and of course the woman is gonna stay with him and endure a tad, tiny, eensy weensy bit of hypocrisy if the power and the money are there to compensate....I mean hey! wtf.

chuck b. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Finn Kristiansen said...

I think Andrew Sullivan is trying to spread the ethic of some gay relationships (which are often more open to multiple temporary partnerships) to the general population.

We can acknowledge that men, and many women often find it hard NOT to cheat, but should we resort to lying?

Isn't the solution more forgiveness? Encourage people not to cheat, don't be overly surprised when it does occur, and then, be willing to forgive.

Seems better to teach forgiveness than how to lie.

chuck b. said...

Cheating is flat out evil? Wow. If cheating is evil what does that make Osama Bin Laden? Eviller?

***

Fair enough defense of "preening". I can't dispute your reaction to Sullivan. But that means I'm also not going to dispute Sullivan's reaction to Jong's "bridl[ing]" either.

If anything in Sullivan's comment makes it seem self-satisfied to me it's the invocation of being *post*-revolutionary. Like that's so much better than being revolutionary.

Wickedpinto said...

I'm sorry, this is one of the few times that I will take charge.

I'm 30, and I KNOW the world that we see, I've never been married, or engaged.

I KNOW the rules.

the common method of the BS "oh, she's my girlfriend" BS is discarded, cuz women are not fools, you might be her fiance, but you are a guy, who runs away from the commitment.

the whole "I'm engaged" from a woman, is a bunch of BS, because while she is more likely to be faithful, she wants to KNOW what it's like to be UNFAITHFUL, cuz she knows her soon to be husband won't.

I'm a Truly loving person, I HOPE my partner is as experienced as I, though that is unlikely, but I hope she understands the experience my whorishness defines.

I hope that the woman I find to love today, tomorrow, and forever knows that I could have found women to serve a moment, in the same way that I understand that she might have taken in the cup of joy for that said same moment.

Love, joy, satisfaction, are not built on ABSTINANCE, but rather on the LOVE of a person.

I have loved women who have had more experience than I. and I didn't care cuz I have had ENOuGH experience to suit me. But I loved Jen anyways.

T loved me though she had been around the block, and she knew I had been around that block a few more times.

Tana, and I didn't know where we stood cuz we were both rounding the block at the same time.

and Shino, loved me, cuz she was my teacher, and she caught me as I was moving around the block. Shino is prolly the one who loved me best, though I loved T best.

Sorry Shino, I love you too, but I love you her best.

LOVE is a REAL thing, and absent commitment, and an honest action, it really means nothing.

I'm sorry shino, I'm sorry jen, I'm sorry Tana, but I will always love you Tash.

is that cruel?

Daryl Herbert said...

I don't think an active policy of lying to one's partner about sexual indiscretions can really be defended, but in this context (been bad in the past and committed to change), I think Savage has a point.

The question is why she would suddenly want to bring this up with her husband. What possible good could it serve? Would it strengthen the marriage? Hell no!

The only reason to tell this to your spouse is to shame them, to hurt them, and to bring about drama. That's true whether or not you're consciously aware that that's actually the outcome you want. Even if you pretend to be the one who is more hurt and shamed by what happened.

Anyone thinking of breaking this sort of news to their significant other needs to step back and think about why they want to hurt their SO. Do you have some anger issues burning in the back of your mind? It would be much healthier for the relationship to deal with those thoughts directly and constructively.

So much of human behavior can be driven for the wrong reasons. Even if we can justify our acts, that doesn't mean they happened for the right reasons. Taking responsibility for the outcomes of your actions is an important part of being an adult. Even if you're fully capable of justifying your actions. If you're approaching your relationship from the "justification" mindset, you're already in an adversarial mindset.

Michael Farris said...

I'm hesitant to post partly because I'm hesitant to click partly because I'm hesitant to read what Crazy Andy's going on about now.

But ... there's cheating and there's cheating. Some commenters here don't seem distinguish between an unplanned and regretted momentary lapse in judgement (or a very few such lapses) with conscious, calculated multiple counts of infidelity with intent to deceive.

IMO in the first case it's probably better most of the time (enough qualifiers? I can add more...) for Spouse A to not unburden themselves, but to suffer in silence and try to rise above it and not relapse.

In the second case, probably the cheater is either a rotten spouse or the cheated on Spouse knows what's going on and accepts the situation consciously or unconsciously (or both may be true). That is, it's either a de facto open relationship (such as I assume the Clintons have) or it's your basic dysfunctional marriage that's going to end in court.

And as a reader of Dan Savage I don't recall him ever being casual about infidelity. IIRC he's pretty consistent on the following points: -If one partner wants an open relationship, they need to negotiate it ahead of acting on it,
-People (esp but not only men) are imperfect and occasional lapses might happen, most of which the cheated on partner doesn't need to know about (but if it's a pattern, then something's wrong and needs to be dealt with),
-In exceptional cases, longer term discreet adultery may be called for (as in situations when one partner unilaterally stops having sex but the other, for good reasons, doesn't want to divorce them).

Alan Kellogg said...

Guys, if you're going to have an affair, make sure your wife approves of the woman you'll be cheating with.

Michael Farris said...

"Savage and Sullivan are both never-married homosexual men."

IINM Savage is married.

Aspasia M. said...

Wicked Pinto,

I'm a little confused, but it sounded kind of sweet.

It also sounds like you should marry Tash.

----------

Aren't both Savage and Sullivan married?

JodyTresidder said...

If Andy Sullivan is redefining the post-revolutionary marriage as serial infidelity punctuated by bursts of monogamy (well, he is, isn't he?) then I'm jolly well going to redefine the ideal post-revolutionary wedding present.

(Don't know what it is yet - but it won't be worth much).

I also really liked wickedpinto's barmy monologue - I think!

Marghlar said...

Michael Farris said:

But ... there's cheating and there's cheating. Some commenters here don't seem distinguish between an unplanned and regretted momentary lapse in judgement (or a very few such lapses) with conscious, calculated multiple counts of infidelity with intent to deceive.

Sounds like a cop-out to me. You always have a choice, to act or not to act. All these polite euphemisms (a "lapse in judgment") serve to hide the ball, which is that there is a choice to mess around with someone else, even though one knows that one's spouse will probably be wounded by this behavior.

If you don't want to have any indiscretions, it's easy. But lapses in judgment occur only when you want them to. If you tie it to intoxication, you still have to address the choice to be intoxicated in a compromising situation (just like we have in the criminal law).

Reminds me of a real phone call my wife got from a friend once: "I think I may have accidentally had sex last night." WTF? A few too many qualifiers, no?

JodyTresidder said...

"Reminds me of a real phone call my wife got from a friend once: "I think I may have accidentally had sex last night." WTF? A few too many qualifiers, no?".

Marghlar,
Your comment made me laugh. I just read a lovely line in some novel when a strait-laced character is ticked off by a racier friend on the phone for assuming the latter has just had another boozy one-night stand. The strait-laced friend humbly apologizes and enquires more politely about the new boyfriend in the other woman's bed. There is a pause, and the racier friend replies: "I'm not sure he speaks English, actually."

LarryK said...

Andrew Sullivan still has a blog? Who knew? I wonder if his desire for "discretion" and less than full disclosure extends to other types of behavior where people, being human, may "falter occassionally" - say, American soldiers interrogating Iraqi prisoners?

GayPatriotWest said...

Ann, yours is a really great post in the sense that it got me thinking. It's rare that I follow the entire comment thread to a blog not my own -- and did that just now.

My rabbi, in discussing a passage in Genesis on the relationship between Abraham and Sarah, said that it's okay to lie in order to preserve a marriage. I wish I could remember the passage.

So, if one spouse "slips up," by having an affair, then ending it because he (or she) realizes it could compromise the marriage, he would do well not to mention it to his (or her) significant other.

Michael Farris seems to nail it when he distinguishes between "an unplanned and regretted momentary lapse in judgement" and "conscious, calculated multiple counts of infidelity with intent to deceive." Emphasis added.

I'm not yet sure what to make of Andrew's remarks. At first blush, they suggest (to me at least) that Andrew is not serious about marriage because real marriage includes monogamy at its core. If one enters into a marriage, he does so expecting to remain faithful to his beloved. If a lapse occurs later, it doesn't suggest that the "lapser" was hypocritical at the time of his betrothal, but merely proved imperfect in the execution of his intent.

That said, those of use who believe in marriage should insist that marriage means monogamy and when we enter into such relationships should strive and work hard at living up to the monogamous ideal, but also recognize that we're human and prone to fail.

In sum, those not striving for monogamy are not serious about marriage. At first reading, Andrew's remarks suggest he's not striving for monogamy. But, note I said "suggest." Perhaps his ideas are not so different from my own. And further reflection might lead me to amend my initial evaluation.

Freeman Hunt said...

But ... there's cheating and there's cheating. Some commenters here don't seem distinguish between an unplanned and regretted momentary lapse in judgement (or a very few such lapses) with conscious, calculated multiple counts of infidelity with intent to deceive.

How would the first person be more trustworthy than the second? Who could trust a person so caught up with sex that she experiences "momentary lapse[s] in judgement" even when trying (supposedly) to be faithful?

At least the purposeful deceiver is carrying out what he intends; perhaps if he decides not to deceive, he can carry that out as well.

Thus I find the potential future trustworthiness of the first individual to be no greater than that of the second. Both should zip up their pants and spill their guts.

Dorian said...

Ah, yes the sexual revolution when the youth of the time flung caution and clothing to the wind in a revolt against carnal restraint - magnanimously deciding that illicit sex with multiple partners was a noble goal, well worth the inconvenient truth of: genital warts, herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea, unplanned pregnancies and their crowning achievement – AIDS.

Is this the sexual revolution Andrews talking about?

SteveR said...

A "momentary lapse in judgement" may be a lane change without properly checking your blind spot and having an accident.

A sequence of events leading to sex outside your spousal relationship is not momentary. I'm not going to buy that hair splitting.

Kevin said...

Whatever happened to not accepting our failures? I was always told we should learn from them so we didn't repeat them. Sullivan is embracing dishonesty and unfaithfulness as unavoidable rather than as flaws to be overcome. I just don't get him anymore.

Harkonnendog said...

"Isn't the solution more forgiveness? Encourage people not to cheat, don't be overly surprised when it does occur, and then, be willing to forgive."

How many times do you forgive? 7?

Jaibones said...

ADDED: "Sullivan's typo "momogamy" just kills me. It's the ultimate in Oedipal."

Maybe not, Ann. There is a culture out there (married men, mostly) whose tastes in the feminine change along with their age and abilities, and among these men the word "Mom" takes on a sexual connotation unaffiliated with Oepidal reference, as in "hey, nice Mom over there at field three..."

There's nothing wrong with scoping out the yummy thirtyish ladies with 2 kids at the soccer field, Ann, and I do mean scoping as in telescoping, as in viewing with critical intent, as in gazing. Surely I thought YOU would appreciate that and not go all InternetGross on us...

jackson zed said...

The problem for the future of the marriage isn't the cheating, that's in the past. The problem is the lie. It's the gift that keeps on giving. The fact is that most of us lie about ourselves to others all the time, and by the time you hit about thirty or so, they become impossible to keep track of. We find ourselves with a profile of lies to maintain for each individual we know, and soon the sheer volume of the lies begins to bring about the very ego insecurity that had us lying in the first place.

In short, don't do the crime if you can't do the time. And most of us will not be able to endure the life sentence of dishonesty necessitated by our own lying.

yours/
peter.

Johnny Nucleo said...

Chuck B. said: "If cheating is evil what does that make Osama Bin Laden? Eviller?"

Actually, yes. There are degrees of Evil, just as there are degrees of Good. For instance, it's good to save someone's life. It's also good to pay someone a compliment, like "Chuck B. is smarter than fifty percent of the population." Compliments are good, but nowhere near as good as saving someone's life. You dig?

Johnny Nucleo said...

Marghlar said: "You always have a choice, to act or not to act. All these polite euphemisms (a "lapse in judgment") serve to hide the ball, which is that there is a choice to mess around with someone else, even though one knows that one's spouse will probably be wounded by this behavior."

Wonderful, dead-on, out-of-the-park.

Hans Gruber said...

This is nothing new, and is often hinted at by people like Andrew. Andrew, in an essay written many years ago, before the marriage issue was very big, wrote of the superiority of gay couples in recognizing the need for "extra-marital" outlets. He claimed at the time he meant non-sexual extra-marital outlets. I was skeptical at the time. This, I think, settles it.

It seems like Sullivan is saying Gay marriages are better because they represent the next step in the evolution of marriage, they will help usher out the stuffy tedium of monogamy and honesty.

Jay said...

Infidelity does not seem to work if the object of a marriage is to stay married. Looking back over the 30+ years that our classmates and we have been married, infidelity has, without an exception that comes readily to mind, been a prelude to divorce. It is no accident that 50% of men are unfaithful (25-30% of women)and 50% of marriages fail. Sometimes it takes 20 years, but eventually it gets there. If a couple has mutual loyalty and generosity, many problems can be overcome. Without them, the marriage is fragile and seldom able to withstand other serious problems. Even the most forebearing partners will generally call it quits after the second STD.
As to fessing up or concealing the indiscretion, if you feel OK with your partner loving the person you are pretending to be instead of the real you, keeping the secret may work for you. If not, you may have to fess up and try to make the best of it.

Andrew Graff said...

"While I still support gay marriage, I feel Sullivan just took the case for gay marriage back a few steps. I at least care a little less."

I have never supported it, and its comments like Mr. Sullivan's which continually reaffirm my lack of support of it.

Monogamy is hard for men? Who gave Mr. Sullivan the right to speak for men, much less married men. Perhaps Mr. Sullivan should speak for himself and stop projecting. How would Mr. Sullivan like me to speak on behalf of gay men?

"There are degrees of Evil, just as there are degrees of Good."

There are not degree of evil, but there are degrees of depravity. It is a subtle semantic difference, but it is an important one.

Doug said...

Sullivan's praise of "mild hypocrisy" would have seemed more in keeping with the practice he praises if he had praised it discretely.

Jeremy Nimmo said...

Ah, momogamy. Like somdomite for monogamists!

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