20 January

Sex and the Future of Happiness

The Open University has just published a fascinating report on sexuality and happiness. Unsurprisingly, couples who perform small acts of kindness for each other, such as making tea first thing in the morning, are likelier to be happy together than couples who do not. Curiously, however, it is also suggested that couples without children and homosexual couples score higher than heterosexual couples with children.

Tea-making being common to all sentient creatures, it would appear that such findings vindicate the mores of the sexual revolution. Not only are homosexual relationships found to be akin to heterosexual ones in all important features, but in fact they are often better. A contraceptive mentality that makes of childlessness a wholesome aspiration for heterosexual couples is likewise vindicated.Those who want children must be not only ready to shoulder the economic a physical burdens of childrearing but also content to be less happy than childless friends.

It is nonetheless interesting that the survey in question raises questions: if childlessness in romantic relationships correlates strongly with happiness — achieved either chemically or naturally –, does not the future of society demands of us a willingness to forego happiness itself? Rather than vindicating the sexual revolution does not the survey suggest that preoccupation with happiness as the measure of value in relationships is not all that it is cracked up to be? Perhaps even more worryingly, how can we offer greater incentives for young couples to have children? With birth-rates at an all-time low happiness is one of the few things capable of making up for the (apparently) ever more thankless task of bringing children into the world.

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