Moira Weigel:

As Jenkins tells it, however, her inspiration came from Bertrand Russell — one of the founding fathers of analytic philosophy and a titanic presence at Cambridge.

“What I didn’t realize when I was studying his philosophy of mathematics was that he wrote about all these other things,” Jenkins recalls. She particularly means his 1929 book, Marriage and Morals, in which Russell advocated for what he called “free love.” Jenkins calls the book “a precursor of the contemporary sex-positive movement.”

You should be able to repeat this one from memory by now. What are the twin pillars of the utopian project? Come on, you remember, we’ve talked about it a few times. A remade economy and…? That’s right, reinvented sex. It’s the latter we’re dealing with here, in yet another article propagandizing for polyamory, soon to become the hot new sexual liberation cause. You’ve already seen several articles in this genre, and trust me, you’ll see many more in the near future, but this one stood out for me thanks to the above section. Bertrand Russell was her inspiration to start philosophizing about free love? I wonder if she made it to the part in his autobiography where he said, while reflecting on the chastening consequences of his attempts to escape the irrational cage of monogamy, “Anyone else could have told me this in advance, but I was blinded by theory.” Ploosa shawnje, ploosa la memshows, I said to myself, as I read an article in an academic publication attempting to impress me with the fact that Jenkins has provided theoretical rigor to back up her lifestyle. Oh, well, yes, I’m sure that’s why all the previous attempts of utopian communities to transcend monogamy fizzled out — they just didn’t have enough academic philosophers around to theorize for them.

The article never mentions children, interestingly enough, since they are probably the biggest obstacle to the progressive fantasy of a society consisting of multiple lovers flowing languidly into and out of each others’ lives. That would widen the focus to include questions of responsibilities, obligations, costs, and tradeoffs, and progressives are much more comfortable sticking to the narrow question of maximizing personal choice and pleasure. Most people will eventually want to have kids, and in doing so, will quickly realize, on a visceral level, the benefits of domestic stability and romantic favoritism. Free love as a romantic ideal will primarily appeal to the young and childless, but considering how much the media seem to be dominated by the perspectives of college-age gender-studies majors, we can expect to see a disproportionate amount of breathless attention paid to it.