Magazine article The Spectator

Status Anxiety: Toby Young

Magazine article The Spectator

Status Anxiety: Toby Young

Article excerpt

I'm due to speak at an Intelligence Squared debate on Saturday and I'm worried that I might be on the wrong side. The motion is 'Monogamy equals monotony' and I'm opening the batting for the opposition. Now don't get me wrong. I'm perfectly happy to make the case for monogamy. But the problem with framing the debate in this way is that it invites those of us opposing the motion to argue that, in fact, being faithful to one person is every bit as exciting as sleeping with whomever we choose.

Not only is that a difficult argument to win, but if we base the case for fidelity on those grounds, we deny ourselves one of the main pleasures of being in a monogamous relationship -- namely, the sense of superiority you have over those who are too shallow to commit themselves to one person or too weak to keep their promises. When I compare myself with my unfaithful married friends, I don't want the difference between us to consist in their failure to appreciate just how stimulating monogamy can be. Rather, I want to feel morally superior. I know that being unfaithful would probably be more fun, but I've chosen not to because I think keeping my marital vows is more important than massaging my ego via an endless series of sexual conquests.

My position is that, yes, monogamy does equal monotony in the sense that fidelity is more boring than infidelity, but that's not a reason to abandon it, because doing your moral duty is more important than 'following your bliss', or whatever awful phrase the free love brigade come up with next.

Nevertheless, I think I can still comfortably oppose the motion, because at bottom this is a debate about the pros and cons of monogamy and I think the pros outweigh the cons. I intend to cite the work of the American sociologist Charles Murray, who makes the link between family breakdown and social deprivation. In Coming Apart , his most recent book, he points out that in 2010 only 48 per cent of white working-class adults were married, compared with 83 per cent of the educated elite. That's a dramatic decline since the 1960s, when 84 per cent of the white working class were married, and helps account for their declining fortunes as well as the increasing gulf between those at the top and bottom of American society. …

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