14 November 2005

Sympathy for Maureen Dowd

Please see:

The article cited above is pretty long but well worth reading. In it,
among other things, Ms. Dowd complains about the difficulty modern,
liberated women have finding husbands. There are about a hundred
different points in that article that I want to talk about but I reckon
I'll start with one...

Last week I attended the wedding of a good friend. This was a fellow
who had managed to keep his virtue for 32 years, and he managed to find
a bride who had done the same thing...but for a few fewer years. During
the service the pastor read a fairly common wedding passage, Eph
5:22-23, "Wives, be subject to your husbands...husbands love your
wives...etc, etc. But right there in verse 32 Paul says "...and the two
shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery."

Paul's a pretty bright guy and uses the term "mystery" precious few
times, and yet here it is being used to describe something that we've
come to take for granted. I'm not just talking about sex, the entirety
of marriage is encompassed here, but certainly sex is a big part of it.

The day before my friend's wedding, Rebekah and I celebrated our fifth
anniversary. Every year I make it a point to really look at what the
last year has brought to my marriage. How it's changed, how I've
changed, and what I might learn. Year after year I'm struck by how
integrated she has become in my life, how I not only love her more, but
my overall capacity to love grows. That as I love Rebekah I learn to
love God and vice versa. And each year I marvel at our ability to be
ever more intimate even when it seems that no more intimacy is

One flesh indeed.

It seems to me that at some point in the relatively recent past, women
believed that their virtue - sex - was a treasure. A thing to be kept,
and valued and protected. But then, perhaps it was part of the sexual
revolution, women were convinced that sex was a source of power. The
truism that men would do and say just about anything to get sex was
taken to mean that women could, and should, use sex as a way to get
what they wanted. It wasn't a treasure, it was a tool, and in fact the
very idea that it was special was just men trying to manipulate women
and control them...again.

Marriage is perhaps the single most civilizing invention ever. When a
society enforces a standard whereby sex occurs inside a marriage, and
only inside a marriage, where children are raised inside a marriage and
only inside a marriage, there is an incredibly powerful force that
supports healthy relationships, healthy kids, and peaceful society.

Part of the message from the sexual revolution was that there were no
healthy marriages - that it was all a scam. There was this "everybody
knows..." way of saying that practically every American family was
riven with sexual dysfunction, wife beating, child molestation and
repressed homosexuality. The image of Ozzie and Harriet stuffing
graveyards full of skeletons into their tract-home closets became a
cliche it was repeated so often in so many books and movies and TV
Specials. And the answer to all this hypocrisy was to cut sex free from
its fetters. To "respect" your sexuality by expressing every facet of
it with anybody you desire and in any circumstance that presented
itself. If you can't be with the one you love - love the one you're

Since then, sex has gone from a source of power to nothing more than
something to do. Casual sex, friends with privileges, fuck-buddies.
etc. etc. Sex is so prevalent on TV because the folks who make TV think
it's puritanical to assign any gravity at all to the act. Sure it can
still be used as a tool. Sure it can still be a source of great joy and
intimacy - but these are only there insofar as the consenting
participants put them there.

But they're dead wrong. There was a time when sex and marriage were
practically synonyms. It was that you got married to have sex in the
proper context, sex WAS marriage. A marriage ceremony wasn't anything
that ceremony was consummated. Sex had intrinsic power - the two were
made one flesh...this is a great mystery...a mystery we've ignored to
our detriment.

I think a great deal of the very real problem Ms. Dowd explores comes
down to the fact that modern, liberated women no longer see sex as a
treasure. (Now before anybody freaks out, I'm not saying that it's all
women's fault, but right now it's women's role that I'm exploring.) If
men know they can only get sex inside a marriage, they will marry - and
that marriage will usually change them for the better almost despite
themselves. But if sex is widely available without taking on that
responsibility, and with attractive, desirable women - then marriage
becomes less and less important. It's a buyer's market and now women,
who long to be wanted, find themselves competing with one another for
who can be the biggest hooch. It's like that dreadful show Elimidate.
And this trend is another thing Ms. Down complains about - not because
it's degrading to the poor ladies who feel it's the only way to get
married, but because she sees it as a step back from the "advances" her
generation made.

In the past, Ms. Dowd has suggested that men wont marry her because
she's too smart, too talkative, and/or too successful. She says, in so
many words, that men feel threatened by her. But if a man knows that he
can sleep with Ms. Dowd with no strings (and I'm not suggesting that's
the case, but it is with many in her cohort), then raise kids with some
woman far less troublesome...what's the reason to deal with Maureeen?
So many of the things that the sexual revolution sold to women as
benefits are actually destructive to what these same women truly

Maureen - I'm sorry for the situation you and your generation find
yourself in. Unfortunately, I don't think there is anything you can do
about it yourself. Even if any given 'liberated' women were to change
her attitude toward marriage and sex, it wouldn't matter. So you wont
give it up without a ring, but your sweatpants wearing neighbor will,
so a fellow will just go over there. Our culture will need to change on
a more fundamental level and come to value sex as magical again -
special - mystical at some level...a mystery. Like it or not, women are
the gatekeepers of that treasure. Men can learn to respect that
mystery, and play by the rules, but will always be like foxes guarding
the hen house if it's left up to us.


matt said...

Great post...
""This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called 'woman',
for she was taken out of man."

" and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee."

Ms. Dowd's attitude confirms this verse in Genesis 3. The majority of women today feel as though they can do the majority of the jobs and accomplish as many tasks as men, and better. Matter of fact, they probably could. But it is their curse that they are to be in submission to their husbands if they are to receive the blessing of God. It's the submission order. Men have it, and we have our curses as well.
This is an interesting observation.

TheMightyQuinn said...

Wow! great post.
The idea of sex being seen as a way to acquire power sort of brings to mind the latter part of the Roman empire where woman of that time would often do the same.
I think historically that all of the "great" ,advanced and influential societies of the past rested on the foundations of a traditional view of Marriage, sex, and family. Whenever that view was changed or redifined those societies failed. I'm not saying thats the only reason I'm just saying that it seems to be a fairly noticable one.
The wieght of this is, for example, that after the fall of the Roman empire most of their advancements, technology, and conveniences were, for the most part, never seen again until after the "middle-ages" and the coming of the Reformation and the Renaissance.
One could say then that this "liberal" or "progressive" view of Marriage, sex and family, actually takes us backwards and is not really progressive at all but regressive.
I'm not sure if I should make the connection like that, I'm just sort of thinking out loud so take it with a grain of salt I guess. :)

Great Post! and "congrats" on your 5th Anniversary

Devin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Devin said...

The ironic thing about the tactic of trying to manipulate a man with sex is that the man still wins. The woman promises sex through verbal and physical suggestion, displays her body in sexy outfits, and, presumably, eventually gives in and delivers on the promise. Whereas in Dowd's 1950s model the man had to imagine all of this, in the post-60s model the man is served with the woman he had fantasized about for as long as was convenient for him. Case in point: "Sex in the City" was largely written by males.

The Sexual Revolution has done more to bind women to men's baser desires than to liberate them. I have a hard time imagining that the Suffragettes who challenged the atmosphere of their time would consider these activists 'sisters'. Something tells me that they would have seen the ugly fruits of this so-called "Revolution" coming, had the stated ideals been presented to them. As Quinn said, much of what passes as "progressive" in today's NewSpeak is actually degenerative, breaking down society and leading it toward chaos.

Speaking of the 'barbarians at the gates' scenario, how does this sort of society fare when it faces a more traditional familial structure that will not budge? While I would shy from anything approaching an endorsement of Islamic familial practices, we may learn something from the domestic clashes that are currently erupting in France and "socially progressive" Western Europe. One side promotes contraception and abortion on demand and eschews traditional marriage, thus experiencing ever-decreasing child birth rates; the other side enforces a traditional family structure, including prodigious childbirth. Who will emerge as the dominant civilization?

For the record, I must be different from the majority of men. I have no problem with women in authority, women who are intelligent, women who are successful. (Not to mention I find tall women attractive, but that's neither here nor there.) Unlike the men quoted in Dowd's essay, at first mention of the word "Harvard" I would perk up, not shut down. Granted, I would probably feel a little intimidated at first ("You're a business major? Wow. I want to make comic books."), but I would certainly be more attracted than troubled. I think I can point to my own marriage as proof of this - Marilyn is far more successful by the world's standards than I, and this is one of many reasons why I find her so lovely. It's also entirely possible that she is more intelligent than I am, but let's leave that for another time.

In any case, the secular world - or, at least, the pop culture Dowd refers to - simply doesn't understand masculinity and femininity. It's so wrapped up in insecurity, lust, and pure selfishness that what is conceived by advertising with a goal to sell products that people don't necessarily need (Cosmo magazine, beer commercials, etc.) is accepted as a true representation of life. After decades of indoctrination through mass media, how can we be surprised when people grow up believing the sexual roles portrayed by Madison Avenue and Hollywood? Artists defensively claim that "art imitates life" whenever the messages inherent in their work is called into question. I think that society has, for the most part, swallowed this lie; at the very least, the opposite can be said to be true as well - "Life imitates art," especially when it's been hammered into us from every angle since puberty.

As much as Dowd protests, she's a part of the problem she laments - her identification of abortion as "a woman's right" leads the feminist movement toward yet another dismal end. Unless more women open their eyes and take a cue from groups like Feminists For Life, things may conceivably be a lot worse for the women of 2030 than the bleak domestic servitude Dowd forecasts.

Whew - I realize that this may have come out somewhat rambly and incoherent. It's late here and this all sort of tumbled out of me at once. I apologize if there are a lot of unconnected ideas in this post.