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In the U.S., this notion is repugnant. St. Paul said that it is better to marry than to burn; except for Roman Catholics, Americans tend to believe that it is better to divorce than to burn. The European aim is to keep the family under one roof; the American aim is to provide personal happiness. Partly as a result, the U.S. has developed what sociologists call "serial polygamy," often consisting of little more than a succes sion of love affairs with slight legal trimmings. Cynics point out that serial polygamy was a fact even in Puritan times, when men had three or four wives because women were apt to die young; nowadays, divorce rather than death provides variety.
There is some sympathy for the European system. Says Psychiatrist Joseph Satten of the Menninger Foundation: "Fewer people feel now that infidelity demands a divorce. There is some value to this increased tolerance, because it may help keep our families together. But our society will suffer terribly if we equate freedom in sex with irresponsibility." Most Americans still feel that if the family is to be kept together, it cannot be through infidelity. There are, in fact, signs of stability in the divorce statistics, which have remained steady over the past four years.
Oh Men, Oh Women. Those marriages which do survive seem to be richer and more fun. Part of the reason may be that Americans are becoming more sophisticated and less inhibited in bedas just about everyone is urging them to be. As respectable an authority as Robert C. Dodds, a minister in the United Church of Christ, and General Director of Planning for the National Council of Churches, appends a chapter on sex practices to a marriage handbook, in which a physician urges couples to explore and "conjure up various positions and actions of sexual intercourse." Old taboos are slowly beginning to disappear, and while the upper and educated classes were always more adventurous in their techniques, sexual class lines show signs of fading. Reportedly declining are such prudish practices as making love with one's clothes on or in total darkness.
The long-standing cold war between men and women in the U.S. may be heading for a détente. While American women often still seem too strong and American men too weak, the U.S. has learned that men have the kind of women they deserve. The image of the all-devouring, all-demanding but never-giving American Bitch is virtually gone, both in life and in literature (except possibly on Broadway, where so many plays are written by homosexuals). With the new legitimation of pleasure, the American woman increasingly tries to combine the roles of wife and mistress with the same man, that is. It may be an unattainable goal, but the attempt is fascinating and often successful.
Perhaps American men have yet to discover that in her new and complicated role, woman must be wooed more than everand that wooing women is not a part-time occupation but a full-time attitude. But almost all American men have begun to accept the fact that women nowadays have to be competent and managing typeswithout giving up their femininity. As for the often-heard charge that American men really want mothers, Henry Miller, of all people, recently replied: "I have often wondered what is so objectionable about being