Howard Kirk is a lecturer in sociology at the local university. He is a "theoretician of sociability." The Kirks are trendy leftist people, but living together for many years and the advance of middle age have left unfavourable traces in their relationship. It is Barbara Kirk who notices this change, whereas Howard is as enthusiastic and self-assured as always. Officially, the Kirks oppose traditional gender roles just as fiercely as the exploitation of humans by other humans. Nevertheless practices have crept into their lives which do not live up to such high standards: Howard writes books, while Barbara — stranded with much of the housework and two little children — would like to but never gets round to doing it. Any female student who comes to live with, rather than work for, them is ruthlessly made to baby-sit and perform domestic chores.