“Against Love”: immediately controversy is conveyed by the title of Laura Kipnis’ article on modern relationships. The reader is put on the defensive as Kipnis starts her argument with strong metaphors attacking one of the most basic human interactions that we see as natural and embrace without question. Namely, love, a word held in superposition between complex and simple. Kipnis argues it has been overrated and too much is sacrificed in the pursuit of making it last.
Defining her own terms that apply to most relationships such as “advanced intimacy” and “mutuality” she provides a new perspective on old notions. Her tone throughout is consistently sarcastic but make no mistake, Kipnis is addressing a real issue on what we value as a society. Descriptive language is Kipnis’ fishing line that keeps you reading, often creating vivid and objectionable images that no one can avoid cringing at. Concepts surrounding love and the ideal couple change from age to age and from culture to culture but Kipnis doesn’t disregard this.
She compares today’s norms to historical precedence as she identifies the shift from focusing on the convenience of financially organized marriages to the achievement of unending life-long love. Kipnis’ article presents a fascinating argument by proposing an idea not commonly discussed. Skilled in rhetoric, Kipnis uses many techniques to effectively make her point that perhaps society’s viewpoint is misguided on what it means to have success in love. Historically marriage and love have been separated, it was not expected that you would find happiness in a marriage, only fiscal security.
Using logos in the form of comparison and contrast to present the changing societal norms of traditional marriage, Kipnis cites a 12th-century essay, “De Amore et Amoris Remedio”, which discusses love as an extreme condition in need of remedy and management. Passionate romance was believed to be a disordering ailment that threatened the political and practical goals of wedded union. Kipnis hammers home the point by citing a historian of marriage, Lawrence Stone, who suggested “today’s rising divorce rates are just a modern technique for achieving what was once taken care of far more efficiently by early mortality” (Par. ).
Passionate romance was believed to be a disordering ailment that threatened the political and practical goals of a wedded union. The point she makes here is that modern society has fooled itself with “story book” relationships. The perfect ideal is to be in an unending commitment based solely on the notion that all your needs are satisfied by your partner and them alone. Kipnis logically argues that having a life-long relationship with no tangible purpose does not ultimately satisfy what we seek. Kipnis horrifies her reader with her choice of descriptive comparisons.
She refers to “opening-up” as the requirement to divulge all and any information on yourself to your partner in order to maintain a relationship. Images like “opening-up can leave you feeling quite vulnerable, lying there psychically spread-eagled and shivering on the examining table of your relationship” crop up throughout the article (Par. 24). Exemplifying the unfortunate consequences of wanting far too much from a relationship that is only capable of satisfying specific needs, Kipnis observes, “…grisly acts of self-mutilation will be required” (Par. ).
Descriptive language is used to intimidate the reader but also make them realize the severity of the situation. “Why has modern love developed in such a way as to maximize submission and minimize freedom, with so little argument? ” Kipnis asks. She denounces the ideal of marital bliss that has been sold to us through media, entertainment, and social conditioning with her powerful closing lines: We are more than happy to police ourselves and those we love and call it living happily ever after.
Perhaps a secular society needed another metaphysical entity to subjugate itself to after the death of God, and love was available for the job. But isn’t it a little depressing to think that we are somehow incapable of inventing forms of emotional life based on anything than subjugation? (Par. 32) The final question of the article leaves the reader stunned. Whether you were convinced or not, her methods were powerful. The reader is transported to the prison that Kipnis believes modern love is and she effectively accomplishes this with vivid description.
To keep the tone and mood light however, Kipnis never stops putting humor, however dark, in her essay. Kipnis writes that trading in the adventures of passion for the dullness of everlasting monogamy is “…similar to voluntarily amputating a healthy limb…”. The constant requirements of mutuality, intimacy, sharing, compromising, and being responsible for meeting the other’s needs are described in sarcastic detail. Kipnis goes through an entire list of “cannots” in a relationship and ends the long-winded paragraph with “Thus is love obtained”.
She uses sarcasm by pointing out that all of those controlling necessities of love actually lack much of the very definition of amorous love. It is up to the reader how seriously they take her points. It seems as though she has taken a drastic stance on a real issue in order to get her readers to see the validity of her points. Her tone provides an over the top angry, disregarding rant that readers can enjoy listening to the drama of but still see the veracity of her opinions. Defining her own terms Kipnis uses “mutuality” and “advanced intimacy” to create a frequency she and her reader can then communicate on.
She says “mutuality” is the idea that your one significant other is required to provide for all your needs, which as she appropriately points out is a tall order for any one individual to serve. These needs fall mostly into the “can’t” category, and Kipnis provides a long list of actual rules from interviews with actual couples. This list is appalling and unpleasant to read, and supports the author’s contention that these rules are appalling and unpleasant to live under. “Advanced Intimacy” is the convention of being required to share absolutely everything with your partner. Both of these terms exemplify the impracticality of modern romance.
As Kipnis shares the experiences that a contemporary demanding relationship comprises, she is describing to her reader the symptoms of the unrealistically high standards for love. The list of freedoms you lose with love is particularly effective at proving her propositions. Kipnis challenges the reader with complex language; she is obviously aiming at a more educated audience. She uses Latin and French in her writing, which requires a more erudite audience. With every tool of rhetoric Kipnis employs, the reader’s cultural conditioning to aspire to a monogamous, long-term sexual and romantic relationship is reshaped.
Therapy, advice, prescriptions, interventions, are all summed up with one of her best allusions, calling the booming economy of new technology for old romances “…capitalism’s Lourdes for dying marriages. ” (Par. 12). What she means is that all of the so-called remedies to relationships are equivalent to cultural superstitions. Kipnis emphasizes the ill effect that the goal of achieving idyllic love has had on our world. Her most difficult to understand phrases are in the form of allusions, which she employs throughout the article.
Kipnis maintains her resolve with an apt allusion that “the expression of needs” is often the Trojan horse of intimate warfare, since expressing needs means, by definition, that one’s partner has thus far failed to meet them. ” (Par. 24). She uses allusion to define “modern love’s central anxiety, that structuring social contradiction the size of the San Andreas Fault: namely, the expectation that romance and sexual attraction can last a lifetime of coupled togetherness…”(Par. 3). Her main point here is to create descriptions that pull you into her perception of love’s cruelties.
Whether you agree with the author’s thesis or you think she has some serious issues with relationships, there is no denying the mastery of her writing. Her essay actively goads us into seeing the world in a different light, maybe a much darker one. Kipnis has taken on a big topic here, one on which everyone has their own opinion and that opinion tends to be final, especially those currently in a relationship. I believe however she is able to support her ideas and convince some that love is not all it is cracked up to be. The framework modern love is built on is flawed.
It is constructed around media influences and the concept that a perfect storybook couple is everyone’s ultimate goal. Yet it is impossible to reach. Some may toss this essay aside seeing it as depressing or overly pessimistic, but in fact the diligent reader would look closer and see that Kipnis is merely saying our happiness should be sought in setting more realistic goals. Kipnis is no ultracrepidarian, having written many books on sexuality and obsession in the American psyche. The article drives us into reassessing old assumptions, and mesmerizes the reader with the clever rhetorical devices Kipnis uses to build a precisely crafted case.