Monday, February 28, 2011

More on dating

 John C Wright writes a post about this dating/marriage crisis.
Traditionally, the price women and their fathers demanded was high indeed: “I will couple with you only if you love me, and agree and vow to cleave to me, forsaking all others. And if the coupling produces a child (which is the natural outcome of sex), you will devote your entire life to producing and protecting a home wherein to raise that child, and it must be a loving home.” Such a thing ordinary prudence would demand, even leaving the morality of it to one side. But the price she asks is high. In return for one moment of ejaculation, our Lothario must vow lifelong love and fidelity?

But suppose nine out of ten of the other women in society, equally as nubile, fertile, young and filled with gaiety and loveliness lower their asking price. Suppose the sweet young nymphs say to him, “I will couple with you merely on the off-chance that one day you might come to love me. And if the coupling produces a child, like Medea I will butcher him, and you do not even need to drive me to the abortion clinic. You may have all the pleasure of the sexual congress, I will bear all the costs and pain of any unpleasant outcomes entirely alone. Modern women are enlightened! We want to be alone and unloved and treated like meat sacks to service the degrading pleasure of the lowest form of masculine life. I will buy the condoms.”
 He makes the obvious point the secular world misses. That promiscuity has confused dating. Marriage is no longer the goal. At least it isn't all the time. People want to arrive at a solid marriage but they have changed the method of getting there from one that is likely to work to one that has almost no chance of working. The truly amazing part is they can sit back and analyze dating and marriage and completely miss this. Casual sex is so ingrained in people's thinking that they can't imagine anything else. Part of it is that even considering the question means re-examining choices that are indefensible. When people have no moral framework they make really bad decisions around sex and even thinking about them can be quite painful.

But I do think the point Wright makes is a little too strong. He describes two groups of women. He could describe two groups of men as well but he is a man so we view it from his perspective. There is a moral group and an amoral group. I don't want to call them immoral because they are not violating their morals.  The simply lack certain moral principles around premarital sex. But he implies the moral group has disappeared today and the amoral group did not exist in some unspecified time where dating was working. I don't think that is the case. There are communities of moral women today. There were always communities of amoral women in the past. In the past amoral women were referred to as sluts or whores and most men would not want to be seen with them. Sure there was a lack of charity towards such people but there was also an understanding that those women were out of bounds. As attractive as the idea of easy sex is, men would avoid these women and pursue relationships with more respectable ladies.

Even today that choice is available to men. The numbers have changed. The amoral culture is the majority now and the moral culture is the minority. Still it is possible to find like minded singles and pursue pure relationships. But it does not happen as often as it should. If it did the pure subculture would grow and become dominate just by producing strong marriages. It is not happening. Why not?

The short answer is contraception. Men and women who want to wait with sex often don't choose to wait until marriage. They might start with that thought but then they question it. Why marriage? If you are headed for marriage is that not enough? When marriage meant children the answer was obvious. Just because you are going to be ready to have children does not mean you should start now. If you are actually ready now then get married now.

But with the assumption of contraception the question becomes harder. Sex is about pleasure and need not involve even the possibility of children. There is the fact that marriage is a sacrament. Priests cannot say mass when they are headed for ordination. They need to be actually ordained. So too you need to be actually married to engage in the marital act. But sacramental spirituality is not that strong in many protestant churches. So there really isn't a very strong protestant answer to why you should wait for marriage. You add to that the teaching that there is no mortal sin. If salvation is purely a matter of faith and moral failings cannot cost you your soul then why be so rigorous about premarital sex?

The trouble is that fuzzy principles lack power. Marriage is objective. Once it is watered down to engaged it can be watered down further to "talking about marriage" and then still further to "really in love". There is no principled distinction in action and there is no real difference in results. People who start out with the plan to wait for marriage often don't succeed and end up with just as high a divorce rate. Not because waiting for marriage is impossible. But it needs to be accompanied by a coherent morality. Otherwise it becomes too easy to fudge. 

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