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.