Marriage and monogamy are not the answers. Or rather, they may be the solution for some but surely not all. The extinction of “dating” as the baby boomers knew it speaks to how rapidly old social patterns are being overturned as technology — that old bogeyman — facilitates new forms of introduction and relationship building. A less restrictive sexual culture has let couples try out swinging and poly lifestyles, means of staying tied to one another without forfeiting sexual variety. The challenge of 2016 and beyond is to make an honest stab at intimacy in whatever form it might come, to treat each other more gently and to prioritize what makes us feel complete rather than what makes us sound cool. Of course we’ll still mess around and bonk strangers and be reckless with our nude pics, but the scales have fallen from our eyes, and our expectations of what casual sex and can’t yield have been adjusted accordingly. Thank god we learned our lessons last year.
My generation is the product of numerous divorces, so it makes sense that so many of us decided it was safer to be promised nothing, committed nothing, than to have trust violated and partnership severed or, worse, revealed as illusory from the start. The Ashley Madison leaks were a reminder — as if we needed one — that even married women can’t count on loyalty. (Virtually no Ashley Madison coverage admitted the possibility of female cheaters and the hackers released no women’s names; female profiles were dismissed as those of sex workers or bots.) Serial monogamy, we knew, meant navigating a series of break ups, betrayals, and disappointments. But after throwing ourselves into a life of never being beholden to nor invested in nor emotionally vulnerable with the person we were shtupping, we realized the warnings were true: complete freedom looked and felt a lot like loneliness. But this time around, that knowledge could be directly experienced instead sternly delivered from dubious authority figures invested in an old world order.