The Death of Monogamy

Is it time to ditch fidelity and find yourself an affair? FREYA BERRY on the age of the super injunction.

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Am I alone in getting a little bit excited about the word ‘super-injunction’? It suggests something cool and exciting and, well, super. As in: ‘gosh, aren’t the cream tea and this injunction super?’ So it’s a little bit depressing to find they are mostly being applied to stop the media exposing a range of sordid celebrity affairs from cabinet ministers to footballers.

Evidently public figures have a great need to maintain an appearance of monogamy. However much Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a monumental arse, the discreet veil drawn by the French press over his doings up until now shows the extent to which people value tradition. Fidelity, it seems, is still socially important – at least in appearance, if not in practice.

But is fidelity really all that? Ever since the first caveman snuck out for some late-night pothole exploration with Mrs. Ogg from next-door, people have cheated. In 2006, the BBC found that one in five married men had cheated, compared with one in ten women.

Despite my mother’s (and my own) belief that I am going to die alone, leaving nothing but two hundred cats, I actually managed to trick someone into going out with me last term. Take that, Mum. And as most will attest, it’s nice to have someone who is obliged to listen to you moan about work, or even just because you get sex on tap (although I have those kind of push taps you can stop and start – I’m not sure what that says about my relationship).

Although I don’t strictly fall into the Strauss-Kahn category, University presents its own set of carnal temptations. I find myself thrust into a social environment where I spend my time surrounded by super-intelligent boys (my college is 70% male), some rowers with a body that would make Michelangelo’s David invest in some protein shakes.

Forget Eve and her measly apple: for the attached Cambridge girl at a Men’s Lacrosse swap, there’s a whole orchard of temptation.

Another nail in the coffin of fidelity is that, as an English undergraduate, I spend my days reading about heady affairs and whirlwind romances in fictional worlds where everyone is ‘at it’. Byron may have been not-so-secretly gay (and married), but that didn’t stop him getting through half the women in Europe. And he got to keep a bear while he was at Cambridge.

Being a renowned (but never publically spoken about) cheater whilst in a steady relationship seems to give you a one-way ticket to a more glamorous life. Why else is the idealised world of fiction so full of sauce? An affair, as opposed to just being a slutty single, allows you to have the security of a long-standing partner whilst maintaining the excitement and novelty of the quick fix. Of course, when the solid waste hits the ventilator, one can indulge in much anguished soul-searching and decision-making, which keeps any book nice and interesting.

The Bard understood human nature better than anyone and yet his moral ideals were pretty dubious. His characters switch affections faster than you can say, ‘Ay, there’s the rub’. What about Romeo and Juliet, you say? What indeed. Before the play begins, old Romeo is essentially betrothed to a lass named Rosaline – whom he promptly ditches at one glance from a thirteen-year-old girl. Shakespeare hardly rewards fidelity: Desdemona gets killed by her very gullible husband, and the Bard himself only left his own wife the second best bed in his will. Maybe take note?

From Mark Antony to Martin Amis to, err… Brad Pitt, it seems that cheating can unleash the creative side in people. Admittedly, Frieda Kahlo’s numerous affairs from Diego Rivera did not rid her of her monobrow but artistic success seems to lie in that creative surge and indefinable sense of freedom that playing away affords.

In the face of overwhelming evidence, I really have no option but to explain this to the boyfriend. Perhaps something along the lines of: ‘Baby, I just don’t think I stand a chance of getting a first without taking a lover. Plus there’s a totally fit rower in the second year.’