Why Free Love Failed

In the real world, anthropologists have yet to find any society in which the average husband does not care if his wife has a lover. Even in the infamous Trobriand Islands, that delightful “free love” only applied to unmarried teenagers; instead of social sanctions against adultery, we saw private homicide. That cuckoldry paranoia, or jealousy for short, is hardwired into men by evolution is incontrovertible; and the same goes for female anxiety about loss to a rival of one’s source of economic support, which for some peculiar reason never attracts the same high-minded reprobation.

What, then, shall we make of the ideologies that deny or defy this fact of jealousy, such as the free-loving communes of the hippie era? At the time, they were sold to the woman as representing her own liberation – that is, freedom from the awful burden of monogamy. And thanks to the Pill, also freedom from consequences. In retrospect, many women have suspected that the whole thing was a conspiracy of men to get what they often want as much as paternity confidence, namely lots of free sex. This is a very attractive interpretation that satisfies common sense.

On the other hand, it is worth noting that we hear little from the women who enjoyed the free love in the way the theory suggested, who in their heart of hearts do not regret it, and who consequently failed to become bluenoses in their old age. After all, the biggest problem with free love, from the female point of view, is that it removes the basis for moral condemnation and concomitant posturing as a superior being, which is more fun than merely getting laid a whole lot.

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