From Time Ideas: Do You Have A Right To Privacy In Your Marriage?

Privacy, a new off-Broadway play starring Daniel Radcliffe at the Public Theater in New York City, contemplates all the ways in which the digital revolution has destroyed privacy -- and it mourns for its loss.

The provocative production got me thinking about renowned couple's counselor Esther Perel's Ted Talk, "Rethinking Infidelity." In her eloquent lecture, she discusses the ways in which our privacy has dramatically decreased due to technological innovations, while our access to sexual possibilities has exponentially increased for the same reason, making the expectation of marital monogamy far harder to fulfill, and infidelity far easier to discover.

Despite the frightening and ever-expanding ways to electronically snoop, in order to fully modernize marriage we need to resist the degrading urge to spy on our spouses and acknowledge, in radical opposition to our times, each individual's right to privacy within matrimony, including the right to act in our own sexual and romantic self-interests independent of our partner's knowledge or consent. (Bear with me.)

Seismic cultural shifts over the last decade suggest that the monogamy imperative's days are numbered. Digital technology -- innumerable dating sites, hook-up apps and social media platforms -- have made sex far more accessible than it's ever been, proving the comedian Chris Rock's joke increasingly true: you're only as faithful as your options. Today, up to 75% of us stray in one form or another according Perel, author of the best-selling Mating in Captivity.

Alongside the proliferation of sexual opportunities for regular Joes and Janes, America's greater acceptance of same-sex love and desire has strongly challenged conventional sexual morality. Some legal scholars even argue that the logic laid out in the Supreme Court's opinion in Lawrence vs. Texas, which over-turned anti-sodomy laws, set the groundwork for the decriminalization of adultery laws, which are rarely enforced but still on the books in more than 20 states.

While sexual progressives have long advocated for the superior ethics of sexual freedom and full disclosure, the sense of rightness derived from divulging or confessing says more about our fraught attitudes toward sexuality than it does about the higher ethics of transparency.

The inclination to confess an extramarital affair, or demand the details of a spouse's sexual conquests in an open relationship stems, in part, from a Judeo-Christian morality that views all sex as inherently dirty and suspect -- and hence, in need of 24-hour surveillance and control. It also derives from an antediluvian belief that marriage means a kind of merging that renders the very notion of privacy anathema or moot.

If the idea of a "private life" outside marriage sounds oxymoronic, it's because we've so thoroughly romanticized the fusion of ourselves with our partners as a kind of testament to the depths of our intimacy. But a dark shadow hovers over this ideal that harkens back to colonial times: coverture laws.

Read the rest of the story at Follow Stephanie Fairyington @Fairyington1