Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Perfect Storm of Nasty

Over at HitCoffee, Sheila asked me:

If you were in fact around very religious people in high school and college … then it’s religious women who gave you so much trouble. Perhaps you shouldn’t blame secular society for their shallow traits.

Arguably, I have no basis by which to make a comparison.  I have no experience with the dating world in “secular society” the way she means it.  I only went to bars and clubs in the company of women I took with me, never expecting to meet women there.  The nature of my work is such that it creates a predominately when not exclusively male environment, so there were seldom any women around with whom I might strike up a relationship.  And . . . well, frankly, I don’t really know in what other venues “secular” people meet potential romantic partners.

But that said, I don’t have any experience with rural or small-town Baptist or Fundamentalist churches either, at least not in my twenties.  As I explained to Sheila, most of my church-going experience was in large, urban, mainline denominations who drew their members from middle and upper-middle class, college-educated backgrounds.

Christian young women from such backgrounds share many of the same values as their non-Christian counterparts.  They are busy establishing themselves in interesting careers.  Unless they live in New York or DC, their earnings provide them with economic independence.  They are largely free from any economic, social, or family pressure to get married early, so they think of marriage in, as Megan McArdle put it, “self-actualizing” rather than “prosaic” terms.

However, they are still subject to the Seventh Commandment:  broadly, no sex outside of marriage.  Now, I know for a fact that this rule is not universally followed, not even close.  But I can say with moderate confidence that such fornicating in which Christian women do indulge is not “casual”; rather, it is with men that they think or hope will marry them eventually.  But whatever the flexibility in a Christian woman’s definition of chastity, the effect is the same:  their approach to relations with men are heavily front-loaded with high expectations, expectations that in practice can be quite difficult to meet.

While I am wary of generalizing about secular society, I think it would be safe to say that non-Christian women do not have this problem.  Sheila, for example, has written that she once cast a fairly wide net in her associations with men.  It should come as little surprise that I do not approve of her, um, “relaxed” attitude towards sex:  for example, it carried the potential for heavy downside to herself and significant externality for the rest of us, and I am guessing that her “husband-to-partner” ratio is pretty low.  But I am prepared to admit the possibility that it made her and women like her pretty fun people to be around.

Likewise, I am also prepared to admit the possibility that the mix of “Christian” and “Secular” values that characterized the ethos of the women among whom I sought a mate combined to create a perfect storm of nasty:  careerist women in no hurry to compromise, “settle”, or train on the one hand, and on the other wary of having anything more than a nodding acquaintance with men who didn’t instantly meet their criteria for an ideal husband.

Again, I don’t have the background to assert this hypothesis dogmatically, but I wanted to throw it out for consideration.


Anonymous said...

I am about to embark on a three hour drive to learn how to drive around for the Census Bureau, so I'll have to keep this short. As if I am capable.

I believe that one of the things that sort of colors your experiences is exactly what you describe as your church-going experience and your more-or-less baseline experience.

The type of women you describe, the type of women I was raised with and went to school with and went to church with, are exceptionally pecking-order-oriented. I had never heard the Alpha-Beta Theory coming out of high school, but it's no accident that I developed my own theory that has significant overlap during that period.

After I graduated high school and got into college and then beyond college, though, I discovered that preferences weren't nearly so linear and that the girls I grew up with were much more likely to have a more uniform totem pole of requirements. Some of that is because the girls grew up (high school girls are intrinsically different from 20-somethings), but some of that I think was because of the type of women I had access to at each stage.

Novaseeker said...

I think what Trumwill wrote is correct.

I also think there are other factors at play as well.

Location, for instance, matters a lot. The behaviors of young women in Manhattan or DC or Miami or Los Angeles are going to be different, typically, than the ones in Pittsburgh, Des Moines and Omaha. Most of the alphabet soup type bloggers and so on are based in megacities like NY, DC, Toronto (Mystery0, LA (Style) and so on. There's a reason for that.

That same idea also applies to college. if you attend a highly competitive college, you're going to be surrounded by highly competitive women who are also highly sensitive to status and pecking order -- their own as well as that of men. Many of these young women will graduate and move on to LA and DC and NYC and so on, so the demographics overlap quite a bit.

I grew up in NYC, went to a top 5 college and then law school and then ended up working in NY, London and DC. So I've been around that "high sighted pool" my entire life.

In my experience, the Christian/non-Christian divide is not as wide as some might think it is. Regardless of secular/religious, very few women will not have had sex before marriage, and sex with someone other than the man they are marrying. That's just a given today. There are exceptions, but they are, well, exceptional. Beyond that, I do agree with Phi that most regular church attendee women in conservative churches in their 20s tend not to be promiscuous -- meaning that they tend to not engage much in one night deals, or other very casual sexual arrangements like FWBs and the like. And so in general I think Phi is correct in stating that the religious women in the high-powered urban centers are engaging in sex with serious boyfriends, but not casual sex like the seculars are, and are, in any case, just as interested as the seculars are in marriage as self actualization -- I think the latter is just the main way marriage is viewed in contemporary culture, across the board.

I will say, though, that I did not find my peer-education level women in NY or London or even here in DC to be more free and easy about mate selection than similarly-educated religious women were. They *were* freer and easier about casual sex situations, at least in many cases. But when it came/comes to mate selection, the criteria are still sky high, whether the woman is secular or religious.

Thursday said...

Dating smart, attractive religious women can be hell. The problem is that they not only want you to have some game, but also want you to meet all the criteria (financial, personal, doctrinal) in their long bullet point list of qualities they want in a husband. And with their financial independence, many of them are prepared to wait for a real long time to get what they want. I guess it's just hardest to date those with the highest standards.

On the other hand, with secular women you generally just have to make them horny. You have to make them comfortable enough to have sex with you, but they don't usually have too arduous standards even for that.

I don't know as chastity is as rare as Nova makes out. A full 25% of women are virgins, have only had sex within marriage, or only had sex before marriage with the man they married. My experience is that there is a whole lot of celibacy going on for both men and women in these communities.

Sheila Tone said...

"Sheila, for example, has written that she once cast a fairly wide net in her associations with men. It should come as little surprise that I do not approve of her, um, “relaxed” attitude towards sex:"

Hey. When I said "wide net," (not sure if I ever actually used that phrase, but it sounds like something I would say) I meant I pursued relationships with a lot of what you'd call beta males. No fair casting my egalitarianism as sluttiness.

Being "beta" has no bearing on a man's sexual ethics. That's probably the point I was trying to make when I said whatever influenced your views above. I don't know where people get the idea that these guys are so eager to get married with any decent-looking woman who'll have them.

My attitude was probably more "relaxed" than yours, since I was not religious. That doesn't mean I wasn't looking for a relationship with guys I got together with.

The problem is that nowadays (and thenadays), women are expected to be intimate with the guy *first* and the relationship is just supposed to develop, or not. A woman is considered clingy and backward if she demands a verbalized commitment first. There was really no tactful way to bring up the subect that I knew of at the time. It would be unacceptable to actually say, "This means you're my boyfriend, right?" This is what a lot of so-called "beta" types around here are really looking for: They want more women to "try out" for a relationship with them.

That didn't mean I didn't think it, and it doesn't mean I didn't get really, really pissed off if the guy tried to weasel out of it with a "We didn't discuss a relationship."

That lack of discussion did allow me to do some weaseling of my own once or twice. As in: "You never said we were in a committed relationship, so I figured you didn't want one. It's your fault."

Overall, though, it worked more to my detriment.

A lot of my "experience" is simply due to accrual. I didn't get married until I was 33, so I had more time on the market than you did.

But you're right, after my teen years I certainly didn't think sex had to lead to marriage. I did have that idea in high school. But being a logical person, I realized that was not a workable requirement in my world. No functional prospect operated like that. Even the so-called nerdy types had had sex with 5 or 6 women by the end of college. One they were in their 20s, they really started racking them up, because the more unsuccessful minor relationships you have the more partners you have.

I slept with my future husband on the third date or so, while I was living with another guy, and I doubt we'd be married today if I'd had a "religious" attitude about sex.

I wish I'd had nearly as much sex, or the quality of sex, as some of the men in this blogosphere think women like me have. One commenter on Half Sigma described female journalists as "riding a carousel of cock" in their 20s. I could have set him straight, but I liked the misconception too much. If it was a carousel, well .. I spent a lot of time on those lousy little stationary benches they have for the grandparents.

Φ said...

Dear Sheila: it appears that we are in rare agreement. "Wide net" was my phrase, and I intended it exactly as you would have used it. But I hypothesized its connection to sexual ethics in a way that goes something like this: among people with "relaxed" standards, the stakes are much lower at any given level of social and/or physical intimacy. So, hypothetically, a beta enjoys a greater chance of being "tried out" himself. Strict standards, meanwhile, raise the stakes of interaction, and therefore women screen out betas much earlier, all other things being equal.

This may not have been your thought process in this regard, or anyone else's, which is why I hedged my hypothesis as I did.

I agree that "betatude" is no guarantee of sexual ethics, and indeed I have always disclaimed any sympathy for those betas whose only complaint about today's sexual market is their own buying power within it. OTOH, I'm sure you recognize that if marriage were truly the gateway to sex that it once was, then the urgency, so to speak, of marriage would go up for alphas and betas alike.

Which explains . . . me, I guess. My values and venue were mutually reinforcing. My commitment to no-sex-before-marriage meant that I would have had a difficult time in a sex-first-relationship-later environment; my alternative environment likewise reinforced my prior commitment. Notwithstanding the difficulties I faced there, I don't see how I could have avoided them.