Was Huxley Right?
Illustrated by TAYLOR GUARDA
In this day and age when we encounter someone who attracts us, we normally want to get to know them and move into something more serious when the time is right. However, Aldous Huxley’s futuristic society in his dystopian novel Brave New World takes a more proactive approach to relationships. The view of his World State follows the complete opposite concept of monogamy. Individuals are cultivated from a young age to view sex with detachment. Is our culture beginning to follow in the footsteps that Huxley foresaw?
When evaluating present relationships, what are the norms? Love is still something that we search and strive for, but possessing more than one sexual partner and living independently is becoming conventional for men and women alike. According to a nation wide survey, “29 percent of American men report having 15 or more female sexual partners in a lifetime, while only 9 percent of women report having sex with 15 or more men”. Although this statistic is small compared to the rate at which Huxley’s society slept around, it is increasing more than ever.
Getting married and starting a family remains a goal for some, though the rate of this priority has decreased noticeably during the past decade from 55 to 45 percent. On the other hand, there has been an increase from 34 percent to 46 for people who haven’t ever been married. This is interesting considering the fact that only a few decades ago marriage and a family was the only direction that met with society's approval.
We are in a time when success and growth is based on the career and individualistic decision of the person. In Kate Bolick’s article, “All the Single Ladies”, for instance, she looks at the concept of settling down in a long term relationship. Now at 39, Bolick looks back on the rash decision she made at 28 years old, “The decision to end a stable relationship for abstract rather than concrete reasons (“something was missing”), I see now, is in keeping with a post-Boomer ideology that values emotional fulfillment above all else. And the elevation of independence over coupling." Casual relationships are regarded as convenient and an attempt to remain detached for the benefit of the people involved.
In Huxley’s text, the leaders of the World State destroy monogamy in order to maintain a more peaceful and happy society. Despite all their efforts, in the end chaos ensues when the characters, Lenina Crowne and Bernard Marx cannot resist the involuntary bonds they make. Despite the brainwashing and propaganda their natural human tendencies shine through.
Our current civilization is going down the opposite road from which it came. We were once encouraged and even pushed to find a suitable life partner but now we believe that success can only be achieved ourselves. “In this brave new world, boundaries were fluid, and roles constantly changing” (Bolick). Aldous Huxley depicted a society where people are conditioned to live separate lives. The difference between his world and ours is that we’ve made this decision ourselves.