“Against Love” by Laura Kipnis is a fascinating essay in that while the narrator technically rants against the horrors of romance, very little of the piece relates directly to love. Most of her work, in fact, refers to societal constructs such as monogamy, marriage, and domesticity.
From the beginning, the narrator equates love to “thirty-year mortgages, spreading waistlines, and monogamy,” while not referring to any sort of primal emotion. Later, she discusses how adultery is a protest against love, while in actuality it is a direct protest against marriage. Similarly, in her “can’t” paragraph, most of the actions that she refers to are domestic, such as cleaning up or watching TV. Therefore, it is worth noting that the narrator rarely despises love itself, only the oppressive and restrictive confines of society in relation to love.
In fact, in many of her tirades against institutionalized love, the narrator brings up other concepts of love and desire as better alternatives. The most prominent example of this appears in her denouncement of monogamy, where she condones adulterers in their rejection of classic monogamy. Instead of despising any sort of physical affection, the narrator denounces it when it is directed towards a single person.
What the narrator fails to consider, then, is the existence of other forms of romantic and sexual love existing outside that of traditional monogamous relationships. Serious open relationships, unmarried couples, traveling couples, and other unorthodox relationships defy many of the constructs that the narrator protests while still embracing love. It begs the question: what would she think of those relationships?