The high-wire love lives of a Jon Gosselin or a Mark Sanford — or a Spears, or even a Lindsey Lohan — are remarkably true to the America that watches their shows, buys their CDs, and votes them into office. It’s the highly-educated, highly risk-averse milieu lamented by Nehring and Tsing Loh that’s a world unto itself.
Their complaints about this world’s romance deficit are substantially overstated, obviously — and shot through with a dash of self-justification. (Tsing Loh had an affair; Nehring recently became an unwed mother.) But both do put their finger on a post-sexual revolution paradox — namely, that the same overclass that was once most invested in erotic experimentation ended up building the sturdiest walls against the passions it unleashed.
As Nehring observes, our hyper-educated, socially-liberal elite is considerably more romantically conservative than its blasé attitude toward pornography or premarital sex would lead you to expect. The difficult scramble up the meritocratic ladder tends to discourage wild passions and death-defying flings. For bright young overachievers, there’s often a definite tameness to the way that collegiate “safe sex” segues into the upwardly-mobile security of “companionate marriages” — or, if you’re feeling more cynical, “consumption partnerships.”