G.K. Chesterton: The Common Murmur Against Monogamy
I was reading a little ditty on lust the other day by Douglas Wilson, in which he produced this quote by Chesterton. I simply could not pass it up. To say that it stunned and arrested me would not be exaggeration. I have often felt this way about my own wife and marriage.
I could never mix in the common murmur of that rising generation against monogamy, because no restriction on sex seemed so odd and unexpected as sex itself. To be allowed, like Endymion, to make love to the moon and then to complain that Jupiter kept his own moons in a harem seemed to me (bred on fairy tales like Endymion’s) a vulgar anti-climax. Keeping to one woman is a small price for so much as seeing one woman. To complain that I could only be married once was like complaining that I had only been born once. It was incommensurate with the terrible excitement of which one was talking. It showed, not an exaggerated sensibility to sex, but a curious insensibility to it. A man is a fool who complains that he cannot enter Eden by five gates at once.
We are told in ten thousand different ways that choosing the faithful marriage bed is boring and dull. Men need pornography to keep things interesting, they say. We’re “wired that way.” Fornicating in the back seat of a Volkswagon in the hull of the Titanic, now that’s hot! Yet as Chesterton knew, this sensibility was due to a shriveled and lamed capacity for joy and thrill, not the other way round. No one, to my knowledge, has described the fruits of marital fidelity with this much sass. Such fidelity, with its bounds and “restrictions” is where the merriment is found, where the children play freely in the streets, as it were. The sexual angst so characteristic of our liberated cityscapes is the train that has broken loose from its tracks, the stormy barge untethered from its pier, the river that has jumped its banks, bringing destruction in its wake.