Category: Against Love (page 1 of 2)

“Against Love” by Laura Kipnis

Love as Subjugation?

In her essay “Against Love,” Laura Kipnis takes a critical stance on today’s idealism and worship of love, and instead explores a more cynical perspective on society’s notions and practices of romantic relationships. Kipnis’ argument is that love costs more than it is worth, as the compromises that must be made in romantic relationships often take priority over one’s own self-fulfillment. In “Against Love,” humans are portrayed as freely complying subjects living beneath the all-powerful dictatorship of their romantic partner, and according to Kipnis this restrains people from the happiness that they could achieve on their own. Love means sacrificing things for another person and frequently prioritizing the other person’s needs over one’s own. Therefore, while a person may feel as though their love for another person is the thing that brings them the most happiness, Kipnis maintains that they are likely giving up more than they gain. It is this that communicates her main point that love, in essence, is synonymous with subjugation.


Kipnis’ argument has a great deal of truth in it, romantic relationships do in fact require sacrifice and hyperawareness of the other’s needs. However, I find that her apparent concept of a relationship is very singular and specific. Her idea of what a relationship is like seems to always involve a partner playing a dominant role that overtakes every minute aspect of the other’s life. Not to say that relationships like this don’t exist, however Kipnis’ description of what she perceives a normal relationship to be like actually appears to me to be a very unhealthy relationship. While there will be certain norms in any given relationship such as each partner sharing an even amount of chores and such, other things that Kipnis generalized to all relationships included things that are not necessarily expected in each relationship. For example, she says that when you have a significant other you can’t go out without them because it’s rude. This is not a concept that can really be applied to relationships in general. Different couples have different methods of communication and different things that they find acceptable and unacceptable, and in my opinion this is greatly overlooked in “Against Love.” Thus, it is incorrect to assume that all romantic couples are essentially the same, and with that it is also therefore incorrect to assume that love is always synonymous with subjugation.

Working for Love

As Laura Kipnis writes in her polemic, “Against Love,” we all want to be loved, be in love, and be someone else’s “special someone,” feeling that desire and passion that overrides our rational thoughts and actions. Her cynical and almost scientific tone when discussing love, infidelity, and marriage demonstrates the many sacrifices one makes to attain love. This feeling of “modern love” according to Kipnis, however, is merely fleeting, and is portrayed as a disillusioned belief that can only lead to torment and despair. Moreover, the marriage that often accompanies this “modern love” is merely a social institution committed to “maximizing submission and minimizing freedom” (740). Thus, with this mindset, adulterers can only be seen as rebels who are trying to assert their freedom from the “domestic confines of love” (736) in which the individual costs heavily outweigh the benefits.

However, while Kipnis constantly pokes fun at the aids that help in the labors of love, bemoaning at the amount of work that goes into a relationship and the sacrifices that come with marriage, she fails to recognize that anything that is of value in life takes some effort and work. It is easy for wood to rot, dust to collect on shelves, nor does it take much effort (if any at all) for relationships to fall apart or for marriages to crumble. This “work” she mentions that goes into relationships, however, is not limited only to relationships of a romantic nature, but also to those that are platonic. Our interactions with those around us take work and effort, not only to maintain relationships, but also for the purpose of working together to succeed in endeavors that would further society as a whole.

Same Old Love

A section of “Against Love” that I found interesting is when Laura Kipnis expounds upon the views of society on “uncoupling” as a failure rather than a success. She explains that although the majority of the members of society are single, it is still considered an inadequacy to not have a significant other, because the individual is not “experiencing love”.

I agree with Kipnis in that this notion itself is absurd. The fact is, although love is an essential component of a potentially healthy life, having a partner to share that love with is not completely necessary. I am not dismissing the fact that it is common to be in a loving relationship with a significant other, but love is a broad concept that is, as Kipnis illustrates, “malleable”. For instance, love can be shared between an individual and his or her pet. A person can give and receive love from his or her family, a different type of platonic, familial relationship. In other words, other aspects of love should be considered because they can make people happier as well.

I also thought that Kipnis’s explanation of mutuality was very insightful. She states that mutuality, which is generally the ability to understand and communicate with each other, is the most vital proponent to make a relationship work. I mostly bring this up because I completely agree. No matter how different the two individuals are, the ability to accept each others’ flaws and quirks is the real key to a relationship, not common interests (although that can be the case). I really do believe that being able to trust each other and communicate with each other effectively is far more important to maintaining a relationship than the feeling of love that the couple has for each other.

Don’t Buy Into Love.

In her piece titled “Against Love” Laura Kipnis outlines the ways in which love has served as a hinderance to human happiness. I thought that this reading was interesting, but I felt as though the writer was arguing against  the wrong thing. I felt like she thought that love as an emotion and love as an institution was the same thing. I also feel like she didn’t make it clear enough that her disdain for love was rooted in it as an institution and not the other form of love. One part of the reading that caught my attention was when she said that  “Saying no to love isn’t simply heresy; it is tragedy—the failure to achieve what is most essentially human” I feel like this isn’t necessarily true. I feel like love is a feeling that humans feel in order to do what is “most essentially human” which would be to reproduce. Or better yet, love isn’t necessary to do what is “most essentially human”, this notion is imposed upon us by our capitalist society in order to make us think that love as an institution is necessary to reproduce successfully.

My favorite part of the reading was the last paragraph where she talked about modern love as a vehicle for our submission to our partners and more importantly, authority. I definitely do take issue with love in this sense. However I think that I (and many others) subscribe to this ritual of modern love because it’s easy, and challenging it would be a very hard task to take on.

Although I understand what the author is saying and see the rationale in her arguments, I feel like this piece is more so about the downsides of being in a long term monogamous relationship rather than the inconvenient nature of falling in love.



Modern Romance

What I found most striking about Kipnis’s essay, “Against Love”, was her ambiguous view towards monogamy and polygamy. Her narrative came across as almost hostile, suggesting that any attempts towards finding love in today’s day and age are futile, purely because of the social standards set around relationships. I agree with Kipnis’s view that the impact that relationship breakdown has on people nowadays is far more worrying than it may have been in the past, however her lack of sympathy for genuine human emotion makes me feel like she is unjustified to put across such an argument. She continues to write about language having to be “codified”, which in itself comes across as cynical.

Her mechanizing portrayal of love could be interpreted in two ways. First is the optimist’s perception: that love is simple and can be put together through attention to detail. Second is the pessimist’s perception, or arguably, the realist’s: love has caused partners to develop a disconnection from the reality of being together. Perhaps Kipnis’s argument is more against the societal standards of love, rather than falling in love itself. People are too quick to jump into relationships and say those three foreboding words, and hence portray a mentality of not taking relationships seriously. It upsets me to think that modern romance has been damaged because of such standards. However, what Kipnis fails to recognize is that as times change, social standards for all aspects of humanity change. Comparing modern standards of love to historical standards of love is one of Kipnis’s setbacks in her essay, and I would recommend that she instead takes on a more optimistic approach to understanding love.

“In Favor of Love”

“Against Love: A Polemic”, by Laura Kipnis, explores a cynical and controversial view of modern love. She points out that throughout history, the everlasting, dreamt-about love seems to be a misconception and unreliable. Through her employment of the word “you”, irony, and comedic relief, her critical view become more relatable, and thus, more persuasive. Although her dark beliefs are unappealing to most, her rhetoric devices help to recognize that they are not quite wrong. As she points out, there are aspects to love and relationships that simply are enological and unsustainable in the long term. Infidelity, lack of passion, mutuality, rebellious midlife crosses, and complete vulnerability seem like easy sacrifices in modern society and relationships; yet on closer inspection, they are challenges for most people in some degree, leading us to chastise the victims.
An interesting and intriguing evidence Kipnis provides is her twenty-eighth paragraph, in which she repeatedly uses “you” tense and relatable relationship experience to prove that love is hard. It is dictated by what one “can’t” do, instead of can. She believes modern love is reliant on domesticity, and thus, it is a power structure at play. Love in Kipnis’s eyes is full of flaws, and these flaws outweigh the benefits any relationship may have. However, it would be foolish to discount the full value of love. Love is complicated, but it gives people purpose and satisfaction that is crucial to the human experience. It is crucial to ones’ emotional life, although it should be reevaluated. While the contemporary love story may have faults and unfortunate intricacies, many of the same writing techniques could be used to support “In Favor of Love”.

Does obtaining “love” mean losing your freedom?

Kipnis emphasizes throughout her work that in order to obtain the long-lasting modern love it seems that one must give up their freedom to exiting the house without informing your partner where you’re headed or that one must acknowledge that there are parts of their identity that they should erase because they “irk” their partner.  She consistently points out throughout the piece that it seems that this “modern love” is a process in which to maintain one must be willing to lose part of themselves. While I have seen people completely change in order to satisfy their partner or to make their partner “stick around” in my opinion those are the least successful relationships and quite frankly don’t last long because the person is losing what essential to being them.

Kipnis makes every part of a relationship seem completely taxing and a game of loss on all sides. She remains very negative and cynical about processes such as: learning more about the intricacies of how your partner thinks or about their past. Kipnis illustrates these processes as the worst possible things for that other person to participate in. She assumes “opening up” is a very uncomfortable process for most people, when there have certainly been others who say that understanding each other better was not only rewarding to the relationship but allowed for the pair to live more freely.

Overall I did enjoy the piece because, although a cynical outlook on long-term relationships, the piece did point out that love can be examined in many different ways. Some may not see parts of building a relationship as rewarding and, in fact, see those parts as acts of submission towards their partner. It was an eye-opening journey into a look at how love is detrimental to the soul potentially, but only in the eyes of some.


Not Against Love, but Society

“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?

Is our notion of love biological?

Laura Kipnis in her essay “Against Love” critiques the way modern love constrains us from small things such as eating fluff to large things such as monogamy. One of the focuses of this essay is how nonsensical having one partner for a lifetime is. The institution of marriage assumes that “desire will manage to sustain itself for thirty or forty or fifty years” (736). She argues that tedious work must go into keeping the passion of a relationship alive and often it becomes as monotonous as another job to do so. I’m interested in why most people aspire to have partnerships that last a lifetime. This notion is so deeply rooted in many places throughout the world so I wonder how that social convention came out. We accept romantic love as a natural or inherent behavior usually so her description of historians considering romantic love a “learned behavior” (735) rejected traditional notions of love. There are some aspects of love that are biological such as the release of oxytocin hormone that increases in romantic situations, but there are many conditioned behaviors that we learn from others as well. She briefly discusses adults who stray out of their monogamous relationships and refers to them as “home-grown closet social theorists” (737). Here she continues to question dedicating our entire romantic and sexual lives to another. When discussing mutuality, she argues that stereotypical relationships “presume, of course, that the majority of those needs can and and should be met by one person. (Question this, and you question the very foundations of the institution. So don’t.” (737) She seems to reject monogamy but she doesn’t commit to embracing polyamory where people have multiple intimate relationships at the same time. Maybe for the sake of not dissuading readers who are already wary of her ideas she didn’t push her argument to the next level.

A Scientific Approach

I found Laura Kipnis’s “Against Love” to take on an incredibly cynical tone.  Kipnis describes modern love with scientific precision, which I found to be a little too cut-and-dry to really encapsulate the different approaches people take towards long-term companionship.  She essentially reduces the social contract of “mature love” to an established and empirical set of observations that, in her opinion, prove love demands submission.  She even refers to subjects as “mates,” a term that sounds very scientific, as though Kipnis is an outsider looking in, objectively parsing out the intricacies of this social practice from a distance.

In this sense, Kipnis jumps to many conclusions that may or may not necessarily be true—that “opening up” is automatically an “arcane” and “uncomfortable” experience, that an expression of needs necessarily means that a partner has already failed to meet them, and that loss of autonomy is inevitable (which may be true, but may not be an entirely negative experience).  While I enjoyed the article and found its observations on the somewhat inexplicable social expectations of love to be witty and original, I don’t believe that modern love is simply the sum of these expectations—there’s a lot more to it than what Kipnis describes, and I don’t think we can turn against love simply because there are some acts of submission may be necessary to build a relationship.

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