The modern practice in the Western world demonstrates the partial progress in undermining the sexual system that has been achieved over the past 200 years. Most young people now have more than one sexual partner with whom they share a romantic love experience. Once a more or less serious commitment is made, the couple lives monogamously together for some years, until the wish to have children leads to marriage.
In a quarter or a third of the cases the first marriage ends in divorce within ten years and is followed by a new permanent relationship.
This practice is called ‘serial monogamy’. Most people follow this practice because they are unable to have more than one sexual or romantic relationship at the same time. Serial monogamy is thus an extension and continuation of traditional monogamy.
The institute of marriage is very popular. The wedding of a royal couple draws millions of people to the tv and for many such an event still has a magic and fairytale quality, besides functioning as an example of proper conduct and true happiness.
Homosexuals get married (in the few countries where it is allowed) to express their normality and respectability. Resistance against gay marriages comes from conservatives who feel that it undermines the fundamental structure of society, as well as from progressives or radical reformers, who have expected gays and lesbians to break through the sexual order, to resist conforming to the institute of marriage and everything that comes with it. But gays and lesbians are, as it turns out, quite ordinary people, who want to live in a family, or at least in monogamous partnership, and be accepted fully within their society.
The way sexual relationships are experienced has also changed gradually during the past few hundred years. When we compare the way young people (adolescents) relate to each other with the ‘natural’ order, there is now much more freedom of choice, at least on the surface. Young people have a pool of peers that they meet at school, recreational events and work. They enter into a number of relationships, for which criteria like good looks and musical preference may count more heavily than background. They consciously experience their ability to make their own choices, they try alternative life styles till the time comes when (in most cases) they start a monogamous relationship, marry and have children.
Youth culture expresses the intense emotionality of adolescent life. Popular music portrays every aspect of sexual attraction and the experience of love: the sweet happiness of a new love, the exclusivity of this unique person with whom one wants to share the rest of one’s life, the plea not to be left alone, the jealousy, the sadness and depression caused by the loss of the loved one, making up after a fight, or just the hot desire for sex. All these elements are present in our nature, but they have never before reached such a dominant expression in culture. We could say that modern western culture has reached the age of adolescence. These are turbulent times, but they may hold a great promise for the future.
At the same time, the coming times look bleak, for a reaction has set in against the modernity of the present Western world: its individualism, tolerance, materialism, pleasure seeking, sexual equality and freedom, its non-religiousness. This reaction is worldwide and shows itself in a restauration of old-time values, a renewed influence of the church, neo-conservative and zero tolerance tendencies in politics, all in the western world as well. The most angry countermovements are neo-fascism and religious fundamentalism, which draw young people from all walks of life who have missed out on the happy and carefree youth culture owing to gross injustice in their private or political life.
The underlying and recurrent battle in the world is about the sexual system, the conceived threat to the sexual (gender) difference, the family, natural reproduction and the liberation of lust (love).