Alternatively teach them that a bit of shagging isn’t the end of the world

Married couples need to be taught about monogamy to help stem a tide of family breakdown which could blight life in Britain for decades, a leading High Court judge will say today.

Sir Paul Coleridge, the family division judge, will warn of “yawning public ignorance” about the damaging mental effects on children of conflict between parents, even from birth.

It emerged last week that Sir Paul, who is retiring next year, decided to step down because of opposition from within the judiciary to his support for traditional marriage.

Some relationships don’t change with a bit of extra-marital shagging, some are destroyed by it and some thrive on it.

There simply isn’t a one fits all model that we should be teaching anyone.

34 comments on “Alternatively teach them that a bit of shagging isn’t the end of the world

  1. It emerged last week that Sir Paul, who is retiring next year, decided to step down because of opposition from within the judiciary to his support for traditional marriage.

    So someone is being forced out of their job by a hostile working environment because they support traditional marriages?

    How times have changed.

    TW Some relationships don’t change with a bit of extra-marital shagging, some are destroyed by it and some thrive on it.

    There simply isn’t a one fits all model that we should be teaching anyone.

    Actually there probably is. We should be teaching them not to shag people. People will anyway to a certain extent. But then it is probably best to leave them to deal with it the best they can rather than teaching people there is no point trying – or that any other marital arrangement is equal to or equivalent of a real marriage. They aren’t. Choosing to be a single parent, especially a single mother (or even worse, a lesbian mother) is tantamount to child abuse. It ought to be strongly discouraged.

  2. You sound like N. Clegg. Actually, you Know that there are a great many models of behaviour which we teach as ‘one fits all’ -they are often called virtues such as ‘keeping your promises’, a bit like contracts really, though it depends on the original wording of course…

  3. “…some are destroyed by it… and some thrive on it… There simply isn’t a one fits all model…”

    Maybe not, but I’m willing to bet the former fits a hell of a lot more than the latter.

  4. Cheating on your partner is bad.

    Having sex with someone else whilst married with your partner’s permission (whether that conversation is in the form of “you can do these things but I don’t ever want to find out who”, or whether it’s specific and notified for each new partner, or whether you’re both involved in threesomes or poly relationships) is not bad, and anyone who says it is should probably fuck off and go live in a tyrannical theocracy.

  5. Arguably, the natural socio-sexual (whatever the term is) system for Northern Europeans is marriage with bits on the side; that is, a formal pair bonding commitment with informal additional liasons. You could reasonably argue (at least I would) that this the problem with the Puritan-Feminists, in that their central campaign is an ahistoric and unnatural attempt to impose an artificial monogomal purity on an intrinsically (possibly, genetically even) morally “loose” society.

    Of course this is all speculation, but my guess is that if one could somehow do the experiment of releasing said Northern European types from all social pressures and history (which is intrinsically possible), the resultant system would default to pair bonds, with additional options (ranging from car keys in the tumble dryer swinging with other couples, to prostitution, threesomes etc), which is why things rapidly snapped towards that in the liberal interstitial in the early 1970s.

    The interesting thnig for me of such a speculation is that, if true, an attempted system of rigorous monogamy and optional divorce is bound to cause a lot of those pair bonds breaking down, because they’re too strict for our version of human nature.

  6. john b – “Having sex with someone else whilst married with your partner’s permission …. is not bad, and anyone who says it is should probably fuck off and go live in a tyrannical theocracy.”

    And you base this insight on ….. ? Have you ever checked the outcomes of children in such households? Or is this just a gut feeling?

    Cheating on your wife is probably the least damaging even if it is, obviously, cheating.

  7. Ian B – “Of course this is all speculation, but my guess is that if one could somehow do the experiment of releasing said Northern European types from all social pressures and history (which is intrinsically possible), the resultant system would default to pair bonds, with additional options (ranging from car keys in the tumble dryer swinging with other couples, to prostitution, threesomes etc), which is why things rapidly snapped towards that in the liberal interstitial in the early 1970s.”

    You forget the prime causes of those car keys etc etc – antibiotics and reliable birth control. What people do “naturally” is so grossly distorted by government action on the one hand, and technological advances on the other, that it is pointless to speculate.

    But if I did, I would say that with the rise of HIV, if we moved to a fair divorce system, ie one not designed to screw men every which way possible, or took the government out of the divorce industry altogether, then as women age faster and men get richer into middle age, women would be much more interested in holding on to their husbands. Which means no hanky panky involving car keys or anything else. They would be far more interested in puritanism than they are now.

  8. SMFS-

    The problem is for that argument, that the unfair divorce system is part of the puritanism. The whole campaign for 150 years has been designed to skew the system in favour of women in all respects; the two things go together. The failed puritan paradigm attempts to reduce male interest in sex, and thus in finding new sexual partners, but it doesn’t work.

    I also think we shouldn’t get too carried away with stereotypes of men purely interested in sex. It seems clear to me that men want family life (fathers for justice and all that) and it’s women taking that family life away from them via the courts.

  9. Also, SMFS-

    You forget the prime causes of those car keys etc etc – antibiotics and reliable birth control.

    I’ve made that point myself; but what is striking is that sexual looseness has been a major cultural part of European culture historically, even when disease and pregnancy risks were very great. The social purity era (approx, 1860-1960, give or take) actually stands out as the aberrant one.

  10. Shagging isn’t the end of the world, this modern let-it-all-hang-out, teary-eyed confessional bollocks is.

    Men are, by and large, dirty dogs. Some more than others. Marriage is a long haul commitment, beset on all sides by temptations. It’s unrealistic to expect everybody to act like saints all of the time. Possibly even harmful.

    Human nature hasn’t changed, but in the good old days cheating husbands had the decency to do their best to make sure the wife would never find out. If you’re going to stray, you owe her that courtesy as an absolute minimum.

    We should remember the sage advice offered by Shaggy ft. Rik Rok.

  11. The reason that marriages break down is not because people cheat – they have been happily doing so since time immemorial. The reason marriages break down is a combination of

    - no fault divorce (viz. they can)
    - the absurd privilege and importance given to the sexual act by modern society
    - the risible idea that your marriage partner should be capable of fulfilling every one of your social, emotional, practical and sexual needs.
    - the equally contemptible doctrine that if they don’t, you should abandon them, no matter how many dependents you have, and go in search of someone who can.

    The morality of cheating on your partner doesn’t really come into it.

  12. Shagging isn’t the end of the world, this modern let-it-all-hang-out, teary-eyed confessional bollocks is.

    Amen to that. People always go on about how much ‘better’ Britain is now that people can be open about their feeeeeelings and men are prepared to cry in public when they lose at games, to which I call ballocks.

    There’s an awful lot to be said for bottling everything up, and never boring on to anyone other than your closest chum, after one too many whiskies, about your personal problems.

    I note, in passing, that when this was an expected norm, we were an awful lot wealthier and more influential. Not suggesting causation, mind, merely correlation.

  13. Sam – Few things are more off-putting than a crying man. Self-pity is simultaneously useless and self-serving. The Boy of Tears, Nick Clegg, comes to mind.

    Having a stiff upper lip requires a modicum of discipline, of stoicism. Virtues that are greatly underrated these days.

    Imagine if Churchill had blubbed about Dunkirk, or George VI had gone on This Morning to cry about his speech impediment.

    We used to expect grown men to act like men. If only Marlon Brando’s Don Corleone was around to administer a helpful slap to lachrymose chaps.

  14. Ian B,

    The social purity era (approx, 1860-1960, give or take) actually stands out as the aberrant one.

    Is there any evidence that people in society did this, or that it just became the case that people had to present this respectable front?

    Worth noting that the divorce law (in the case of adultery) came in just before that. So, shagging someone on the side had economic consequences, especially for women.

  15. @ SMFS

    You seem obsessed with the impact on the cheeeeeldren of people spreading it about a bit. they’re irrelevant. if someone shags about and has children they can’t/won’t bring up properly then the problem is with their parenting, not their shagging. If a married couple choose a more ‘open’ arrangement and it negatively impacts their children then the issue is with their parenting choices, not (inherently) their shagging choices.

    We know all this to be true. Because the decisions about shagging can be made by people with children, and people without children, and (ideally, in most cases) people without children but with the nous to avoid inadvertently having any. There and fore, we should not colour a discussion about shagging with a discussion about the children.

  16. Is there any evidence that people in society did this, or that it just became the case that people had to present this respectable front?

    If you mean, did they adhere to the social purity ideal, I think the answer is yes, they did. But with some caveats; firstly that it was far less universal than some people like to think, and also that a lot of stuff went underground. If you consider a regime in which people “don’t talk about things”, people within that regime or looking back on it will get a false impression that such things didn’t go on. There was an (in)famous medical study done in the 1930s; the purpose was to discover whether blood groups are inherited, so they took samples from parents and babies in a maternity hospital. It was in a “nice”, white American suburb. It turned out 1 in 10 of the babies was not the child of the mother’s husband. The study was not published at the time, to avoid scandal.

  17. “There simply isn’t a one fits all model that we should be teaching anyone.”

    But if that isn’t true then what is the point of having government telling us how to live?

    Apart from providing gainful employment to otherwise unemployable idiots obviously.

  18. There simply isn’t a one fits all model that we should be teaching anyone.

    Who is this “we”, by the way? It can’t be me personally, because it’s none of my concern whether a couple are faithful to each other. It can’t be the state’s, because it’s even less of their concern. And it can’t be “society’s”. because “society” is just one of those weasel words that mean nothing and everything.

  19. Without strong and persistant marriage the supply of children is not enough. That is why the state imports breeders. Who tend to be marriers.
    You can have all the fun you think you should have but – in the long run- you will be replaced and future attitude will stamp you flat.

  20. The Thought Gang – “You seem obsessed with the impact on the cheeeeeldren of people spreading it about a bit.”

    Well what they do is not neither here nor there. It has little to no effect on me. But it does have an effect on others when children are involved. So it seems to me to be a bit reasonable to consider the impact on our future muggers, drug users, strippers and porn stars.

    Divorce is correlated with a reduction of about five years in life expectancy for the children. I think that is a matter of concern. If they could prove the Father smoking caused the children to die five years early it would be a national hysteria.

    “they’re irrelevant. if someone shags about and has children they can’t/won’t bring up properly then the problem is with their parenting, not their shagging.”

    Sure, but it is a package deal innit? It is not as if their shagging and their parenting are unconnected is it? I remember the Seventies. I remember a lot of Upper Middle Class professionals who drank too much and shagged anything that moved. Their children were invariably f**ked up. Which, as long as they kept away from heroin, wasn’t the end of the world for the rest of us. But at the other end of the social scale, I suspect it would have been.

    “We know all this to be true. Because the decisions about shagging can be made by people with children, and people without children, and (ideally, in most cases) people without children but with the nous to avoid inadvertently having any. There and fore, we should not colour a discussion about shagging with a discussion about the children.”

    Except we do not know that is true. It looks a lot like how, why and who we shag has an enormous impact on children. To the point that a recent study of Canadian families has shown that daughters of lesbian couples have a seven percent chance of attending university that their sisters from married heterosexual families – even though openly lesbian couples are more likely to have gone to university themselves. Again if mothers drinking the odd glass of wine while pregnant did that, it would be shouted from the roof tops.

    Perhaps theoretically there are couples where they can shag whatever whenever they like without it having an impact on their children. But I know of no case. The Gold Standard for child rearing remains the committed, married, heterosexual couple. And anything that moves away from that verges on child abuse.

    We should do all we can to encourage people to stick to that model. Even though they won’t. And by all means, look at the countries where they don’t. Jamaica for instance.

  21. Matthew L – “Relevant:”

    How is it relevant? Dan Savage is probably a very good advice columnist. I do not know. But I do know he is the sort of vile person who rarely helps his cause.

    Also you miss the point. The people to the Left of that nice rainbow only get the freedom they want because of the rest of us. They get to play at being trans or poly or whatever because the rest of us protect and coddle them. We make society work. They reap the benefits. The obvious examples being the divorce laws and welfare. They are acting out a fantasy like the Society for Creative Whatsyamacallit. And it is not really helping them.

    “(except to SMFS, who is still living in 1890 fantasy land and completely immune to evidence or logic of any kind).”

    How would you know? You haven’t tried.

    And of course the 1890s were not short of polys either.

  22. Philip Scott Thomas – “Who is this “we”, by the way? It can’t be me personally, because it’s none of my concern whether a couple are faithful to each other. It can’t be the state’s, because it’s even less of their concern.”

    Yes it can. What you mean is that you have chosen to ignore it. But obviously other people’s sex lives have an enormous impact on you. Democracy appears to be only possible in monogamous societies for instance. I would have thought you personally would have had an interest in democracy surviving.

    Even if you don’t, I would hope the State would. But even if we are happy to slide down to a Third World sh!thole like Egypt, which does seem to be the government policy de jour, the children of unstable marriages are far more likely to end up raping your dog, stealing your DVD player and beating the crap out of you for fun. There is both a strong personal and a strong State interest in making sure that does not happen. Not that anyone has the guts to do so. So the future of urban Britain will be like New York in the 1980s. How does a lack of strong marriage work for the African American community?

  23. If conflict between parents is bad for their children, we should advise parents to minimize domestic conflict and let them work out for themselves how best to do it.

    But I think it’s true that couples who cope well with infidelity are in the minority.

  24. Divorce is correlated with a reduction of about five years in life expectancy for the children. I think that is a matter of concern.

    SMFS

    Citation/source?

  25. PaulB – “If conflict between parents is bad for their children, we should advise parents to minimize domestic conflict and let them work out for themselves how best to do it.”

    If. What if it is not?

    Machiii – “Citation/source?”

    Freidman and Martin’s Longevity Project. It is a study of some 1500 people that has been going on since 1921.

  26. SMFS, you’re using the same logic as the hunter gatherer wing of the green movement uses with climate change.

  27. The Longevity Project is interesting, but the sample was small (~1500, most of them not having divorced parents) and not random (it was one doctor’s selection of “gifted children”), and the children were born around 1910. It’s easy to think of possible confounding factors.

    Also interestingly, the authors report that “smoking was the strongest mediator of the divorce-mortality link”. So if the link is genuine, it may well be much weaker now.

  28. Going back a bit here, but….

    john b,

    > Having sex with someone else whilst married with your partner’s permission … is not bad, and anyone who says it is should probably fuck off and go live in a tyrannical theocracy.

    My problem with this is that the people who do this invariably utter marriage vows that include the line “forsaking all others” or one of its equivalents. When two people stand up in front of witnesses, many of whom are children, and make solemn vows that they apparently have no intention of keeping, that has an effect: it normalises the breaking of promises when they’re inconvenient. And because so many people now do this so enthusiastically, the idea of someone’s word actually being binding has been thoroughly eroded. It used to be that, when someone promised to stay with you for life, you could reasonably bank on that promise, basing life decisions and long-term financial commitments on it. Now, it’s almost meaningless, and long-term commitments are every bit as much of a gamble within marriage as without it. Which makes life a bit more shit for everyone. Just ask any woman who gave up twenty years of her career and pensions contribution on the understanding that she’d be sharing the pension of a man who in the end fucked off for a younger model before retiring.

    If the laissez-faire cheaters want to write some new marriage vows — “For better but not much worse, especially not if we get bored, forsaking some others, for as long as we both shall feel like it” — fine. Then we can know up front what they’re doing. But no, they want to pretend they’re committed because it looks romantic. They’re devaluing the currency.

    And I really don’t think there’s anything tyrannical or theocratic about objecting to that.

    Quite the opposite, in fact: I have a lot of sympathy for people who got married back in the days when you pretty-much had to. There was a time when, thanks to… well, not theocracy, but religiosity, certainly, people had to marry to be respectable. Plenty of people in unwanted loveless marriages, and I sympathise with their use of liberalised divorce laws. But those days are gone. One is now allowed, if one wishes, to be Peter Stringfellow, and one is still respected in polite society (apart from the haircut). There is no longer anything remotely like theocracy or tyranny forcing philanderers into marriage, so could they kindly fuck off out of it?

  29. “forsaking all others” is CofE wording. There’s nothing like it in the civil marriage vows used in most weddings. But I agree that when you make a vow you should mean it.

  30. Matthew L – “you’re using the same logic as the hunter gatherer wing of the green movement uses with climate change.”

    I am mildly pleased to hear I have convinced you.

    PaulB – “The Longevity Project is interesting, but the sample was small (~1500, most of them not having divorced parents) and not random (it was one doctor’s selection of “gifted children”), and the children were born around 1910. It’s easy to think of possible confounding factors.”

    Sure. But it is easy to think of confounding factors in any study. This one is unique, or pretty close to it, because of the length of time it has run. Nor is it small. Dozens of studies are much smaller than this. Thousands even. It is a reasonable approximation. It is true that a doctor was asked to select gifted children, but does that directly affect the results? Hard to say, but they were not chosen for anything that could clear or directly be related to divorce. So it suggests that the finding is robust.

    It would be nice if we had a larger study that was genuinely random going back to the 1920s. But we don’t. This will have to do.

    “Also interestingly, the authors report that “smoking was the strongest mediator of the divorce-mortality link”. So if the link is genuine, it may well be much weaker now.”

    You have misquoted that. The full sentence is “Behaviorally, smoking was the strongest mediator of the divorce-mortality link.” Not quite the same.

    But the link between drug use, risky behaviour in general and parental divorce is well established. No surprise there.

  31. No this finding is not robust. If you take a group of 1500 people, select 150 (? I’m guessing) of them according to some criterion, and apply a battery of measures to find differences between the 150 and the rest, some of the results are going to come up positive at random.

    The results are even less meaningful if the group is not random but a particular subset of the population – perhaps any genuine results apply not in general but just to that subset. Things are worse still if members of the subset are selected on the whim of the experimenter – who knows what biases he may be introducing.

    This sort of project could be useful for generating hypotheses to test in statistically sound studies. It cannot generate robust results.

    It would be possible to test the hypothesis without running another longitudinal study – look at the proportion of a sample of deaths at a given age whose parents were divorced, compared with the proportion of people of that age with divorced parents in the surviving population. Has anyone done that study, or are they too busy selling popular psychology books?

  32. “I am mildly pleased to hear I have convinced you”

    Of what? The only thing you’ve convinced me of is that your logic is as useless as your moral views.

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