Adultery seen as rebellion in gulag of loveTomorrow is the day when couples do their part to boost the national economy by buying gifts to show how much they love that special someone. Or, as American author Laura Kipnis might see it, it’s the day when couples get rewarded for being compliant little citizens in the name of love and suppressing this thought: “Maybe there’s something else?”
Those in the throes of a budding, non-illicit affair probably won’t have much inclination, or the stomach, to read “Against Love: A Polemic.” The book is a witty, acerbic critique of modern coupledom that sees adultery as a referendum on marriage.
Ms. Kipnis sees the questions of how we love and work as intertwined, describing marriage the way Karl Marx would have described the workers of his time:
“When monogamy becomes labor, when desire is organized contractually, with accounts kept and fidelity extracted like labor from employees, with marriage a domestic factory policed by means of rigid shop-floor discipline designed to keep the wives and husbands and domestic partners of the world choke-chained to the status quo machinery ― is this really what we mean by a ‘good relationship’?”
If something requires so much work to maintain, she says, maybe there’s something wrong with it in the first place. Why would anyone willingly submit to such drudgery? In the name of love, of course.
She paints a grim picture of modern love, and she criticizes those that unquestioningly accept that our cultural expectations of marriage are the natural order of things. The brave ones, Ms. Kipnis says, are adulterers, who go off searching for something better.
Even if her admiration for adulterers isn’t universally shared, anyone who has been part of a couple will identify with the chapter titled “Domestic Gulags.” In it, she lists what can’t you do because you’re in a couple: It starts with “you can’t leave the house without saying where you’re going” and goes on for several pages, ending with “you can’t return the rent-a-car without throwing out the garbage because the mate thinks it looks bad, even if you insist that cleaning the car is rolled into the rates.”
Unfortunately, Ms. Kipnis doesn’t offer any solutions, just some biting observations that are meant to provoke thought, but at least it’s an entertaining attack.
by Sei Chong
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