A new six-episode show about sexual boredom and infidelity, Wanderlust, has been described as the BBC’s “filthiest drama to date”. The producers, of course, say that it is a serious look “at how we build and maintain happy relationships and asks if lifelong monogamy is possible – or even desirable”.

The production, which stars Australian actress Toni Collette, has even been presented as an aid to relationships. Yet the claim that infidelity can save a marriage has long been disproved, perhaps explaining the slightly newer suggestion that twice as much infidelity might do the trick.

Moreover, if the drama is supposed to be therapeutic, why make a film that people who need help would be too embarrassed to watch? A serious dramatic exploration would not resort to the titillating sex scenes which spice the show. And, as Lisa Williams says, it is possible to “recover that loving feeling without resorting to an affair”.

However, she quotes Dr Karen Gurney, a psycho-sexologist from The Havelock Clinic in Harley Street, who has some strange advice to offer: “Sex is not just about procreation.”

But if, as she agrees, it is the constant availability of sex that leads to boredom, one way to promote excitement would be to respect the natural fertility cycle of the woman, rather than expecting to “have sex” on a regular basis, making it as romantic as eating a sandwich. Even the advice which this “expert” offers – basically, for partners to be considerate and take an interest in each other in small ways – is aimed at achieving selfish ends.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that The Havelock Clinic pays tribute to Victorian sexologist Havelock Ellis, [1] a proponent of eugenics who supported birth control and euthanasia, and saw the rejection of infanticide as an “unfortunate” outcome of Christianity [1] – who proposed that poor relief be withdrawn from the “unfit” who refused to be sterilised. [3] As well as “improving the race” he sought to provide a “scientific” basis for a wide variety of sexual practices in order to normalise his own taste for voyeurism. [3] No doubt he would approve of the BBC’s voyeuristic promotion.

Everything that could be said on the subject of married ennui was said – or more importantly, left unsaid – in the 1945 David Lean film Brief Encounter. The difference is that Brief Encounter has a happy ending, as the bored wife returns to her long-suffering husband. The producers of Wanderlust would no doubt say she returned to her boring husband and her boring life – that the plot was far removed from real life.

But in fact infidelity is like serial burglary – the initial thrill wears off, leading the “burglar” to seek even greater thrills. The only “happy ending” is to be as happy as Hugh Hefner, who left an ever-growing trail of unhappy people and ruined lives behind him.

Like the burglar whose only skill is breaking in, the serial adulterer tunnels his way out of the cell of boredom only to find himself in the even smaller cell of his own ego. The glamorisation of the adulterer will not work, because no one can look up to an adulterer.

Anyone can break a promise; the real hero or heroine is the one who is willing to give up all others for the sake of one person (hint: not themselves). The real excitement in life is making a vow, and the real adventure is spending a whole lifetime trying to keep it.

Ann Farmer lives in the UK. She is the author of By Their Fruits: Eugenics, Population Control, and the Abortion Campaign (CUAP, 2008); The Language of Life: Christians Facing the Abortion Challenge (St Pauls, 1995), and Prophets & Priests: the Hidden Face of the Birth Control Movement (St Austin Press, 2002).

Notes

[1] https://thehavelockclinic.com/about/

[2] 'The Control of Population' in 'On Life and Sex: Essays of Love and Virtue, 2 Vols. in One. Garden City, NY: Garden City Publishing Co., 1937, vol. II pp.169-170 (originally published as 'More Essays of Love and Virtue', 1931).

[3] Havelock Ellis, The Problem of Race-Regeneration, 1911.

[4] P. Grosskurth, Havelock Ellis, 1980. 

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Ann Farmer lives in the UK. She is the author of By Their Fruits: Eugenics, Population Control, and the Abortion Campaign (CUAP, 2008); The Language of Life: Christians Facing the Abortion Challenge (St...