Spitzer and the losses of Monogamy
This piece created a bit of a stink amongst that least reactive of the internet demographic - 'anonymous'. I asked my benighted beloved why it may have peeved 'anonymous' so and he replied, 'because you sound like a self-indulgent brat'. So, I 'took a look in the mirror' (all present and accounted for ... ?) 'smoked a joint' (at least I would've but I've lost that mouldy stash kept for dinner parties twenty years ago, so this didn't cause any seismic shifts in my thinking - that happened 20 years ago, although I can't remember that far back) I pondered whether I had committed crimes against humanity on a par with 'Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini' (let me know when I'm due at the International War Crimes Tribunal anonymous: ps does that make heterosexual monogamy a war or a crime?). I called up the object of my 'quiet outsource' (my seven exotic dancing boys) and cancelled forthwith though it was hard to access their number there in the deeper recesses of my unconscious, what with them being In My Dreams. So I've given it another crack having gleaned from anonymous' responses that whatever people seem to feel on the subject of monogamy they feel it strongly. It's impossible not to be personal with it, but the point I'm making is that this is one personal that is insufficiently thought of as political.
Elliot Spitzer is a man who may have passed Australians by if it weren’t for the media- mesmerising fact that he not only solicited a 22-year-old ‘elite’ $4500-an-hour call girl, but he got caught and he was a high-profile public figure. His tryst with Ashley Alexandra Dupre has demoted him from New York Governor to prime cad. It isn’t hard for any of us to imagine the humiliation his wife experienced, standing primly beside him, asked to display her loyalty to a man who was disloyal to her.
It’s easy, even a little pleasurable to call Spitzer a complete tool. You’d have to take classes to become as selfish as this man. But the humiliation he perpetrated against his wife, the custodian of his sexual satisfaction, was to spotlight her as woman whose attractions under whelmed her husband such that he looked elsewhere.
Failures of the heart are never spoken of in such terms. Rather Spitzer is thought of as greedy, perverse, perhaps a ‘sex addict’ who experienced power as an aphrodisiac. But maybe he was also something else. Maybe he was in a long-term monogamous relationship and bored with the sex. Maybe he wanted something often lost in committed relationships, thrilling sex.
Does this excuse him? Hell no, the understanding he had with his wife was that the love they felt for each other was such that they wanted no other. No doubt they’d talked through the fact that love does not preclude desire for others. But it’s less likely that they openly acknowledged that while love does a lot of great things for sex it doesn’t insure against the loss of excitement and clearly this is what Spitzer wanted.
It’s a paradox in this post-sexual-revolution age that Spitzer’s actions were scandalous. He has clearly transgressed, but no one is spelling out exactly how. It’s a given that he was a bastard to his wife – he pretended he was honest with her, when in fact he was only honest with his call girl - who, we wrongly assume is another genre of woman to Spitzer’s wife, living in a parallel universe none of us inhabit and therefore suffers none of the ignominy of this exposure. He paid for sex. It isn’t only feminists who are thinking, oh for godsake, sort yourself out so that you’re capable of having an equal relationship with a woman on her terms, and without lining the pockets of organized criminals.
But why is this such big news? Unspoken within the outrage is the fact that these are desires we all negotiate with varying degrees of success, and that goes to the heart of the problem: monogamy serves our love badly. Spitzer is another moral corpse in a body count that demonstrates that monogamy is an unsustainable social system, which lamentably underpins most other social systems, yet too often ends either in tears, unspoken ‘understandings’, bitter recrimination, or worst of all, bewildered children with divorced parents.
It’s easier to think of the Spitzers of this world as giving heterosexual men a bad name. They don’t understand – the stereotype goes - that sex is really about love and intimacy. But women (assumedly unlike Dupre) will settle for pillow talk over head-on-collision sex because as the nurturing sex we are born with the knowledge that love is more important that lust.
Rot. Men and women struggle with the transition the vast majority of relationships make from constant to episodic lust that follows the comforts of familiarity, small-child-coupled-with-work-exhaustion (to the point where this can be the only coupling going on), and the alienation created by domestic inequity (and this one is men’s fault). But even if Spitzer had spent all afternoon dusting the top of the curtain rails, unprompted, we can speculate (since we already quietly are) that he and his wife might have then had a good time, but not quite the kind of time where you resurface having misplaced your name, first language and species. The kind of time we all think we invent in the first years of a relationship.
This transition is one most of us don't seem to want to acknowledge - not in the present climate where sexual identity is pre-eminent, sexual activity is essentialised, and pleasure is truth and liberty, charged with turbo-market profitability. So invested have we become in being sexually successful, it’s become taboo to talk honestly about how we manage the loss of frisson in frottage. We could put this down to us being caught up in a hopelessly unimaginative imagining about sexual intimacy. Or you could put it, and Spitzer’s dalliance, down to something far simpler. Monogamy doesn’t sustain exhilarating sex and we either wish, or pretend, it does, and if you’re particularly selfish and deceptive, you look for it elsewhere.
It’s possible that heterosexual mothers are more prepared for the transition having had to rebuild their utterly bulldozed identities after caring for young children. But I don’t think so. I’m going out on a limb and guessing that Spitzer and probably his wife were grieving the loss of excitement. She probably got over it, and on with it, since in the bigger picture of real contentment, it’s no big deal. But as happens too often the story didn’t end there. It was the fact that he, and a billion others, didn’t get over it (along with his selfish, lying bastardry) that lies behind the weary indignity of infidelity.
Isn’t it just possible that Spitzer’s wife was also betrayed by a construct of intimacy that, with a recurrence that ought to beg questions, does not always serve us well.