Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Christian Dating Advice Industry

Making the rounds is this article from Christianity Today:  “The Good Christian Girl: A Fable”, by Gina R. Dalfonzo.  The fable provides a useful summary of the varied and often conflicting advice that “Christian Dating” experts give to young people:  show interest – let the guy take initiative; don’t be too picky – don’t compromise your standards; etc.

I think the writers and speakers should start by being candid:  life is hard.  And to paraphrase John Wayne, life is exponentially harder if you’re fat, or ugly, or stupid, or – for men – short, or poor, or aspergery, or worst of all inexperienced.  None of the options such people face will likely be good; no amount of macro-level strategizing is going to make selling a low SMV especially easy.

I would push back against this comment though:

I have this suspicion that men think that if they see a woman and think she’s attractive, the woman somehow automatically knows and it counts toward her inner mental count of male interest.  For many women, however, short of a definitive action such as being asked for her number or out on a date, the woman will never know.

Okay, but I can’t personally conjure, even in hindsight, some unexploited trove of females to whom I was attracted who would have looked favorably on my romantic attention.  It’s true that I didn’t ask girls out absent a reasonable expectation of an affirmative response; it is also true that I have no actual evidence my threshold for that expectation was other than where it should have been.

On a related note, an otherwise sound article by Mark Regnerus has this:

Evangelicals make much of avoiding being unequally yoked, but the fact that there are far more spiritually mature young women out there than men makes this bit of advice difficult to follow. No congregational program or men’s retreat in the Rocky Mountains will solve this. If she decides to marry, one in three women has no choice but to marry down in terms of Christian maturity.

One in three?  Really?  Defined how?  More importantly, measured how?  Because absent rigor, “spiritual maturity” can become an empty vessel into which women pour whatever alpha qualities they expect but don’t think they’re getting, providing a socially acceptable basis on which to run down the single men in their Sunday School class.

19 comments:

Elusive Wapiti said...

"Because absent rigor, “spiritual maturity” can become an empty vessel into which women pour whatever alpha qualities they expect but don’t think they’re getting"

Quite right.

Let's flip the script for a moment. What does a spiritually mature woman look like? More importantly, what does a spiritually mature woman do...and not do?

I am speaking of divorce and other non-submissive (oops, there's that word...ouch it burns!) behaviors on the part of putatively Christian women.

I realize my metric lacks rigor as well, but perhaps 'spiritual maturity' is like art or porn...one knows it when they see it.

I am so tired of Christian men throwing other/younger Christian men under the bus for their 'immaturity'. In doing so, they give tacit support for Christian women to think themselves so much better than the men in their midst, when the data (the divorce rate in the Evangelical community) speaks otherwise.

Φ said...

Funny, but just yesterday, in the context of a discussion over at HitCoffee, I posted a link to the search results for the s-word to demonstrate that it had never appeared on my blog in the context of women.

Now, thanks to your comment, it does.

Justin said...

Grrr, Regnerus's comment makes me grind my teeth. "More spiritually mature young women", wtf.

Well, data point 6514 proving that there is always a huge market catering to women's narcissism.

Do you think he is saying spiritually mature as a stand in for "comes to church"?

Φ said...

Justin: I don't think Regnerus says, but in practice I suspect that he's just taken at face value the socially acceptable reason Christian women have found for whining.

Jehu said...

If you're a Christian man and you're looking for a wife, here are my suggestions to improve your odds.
1) Pick a woman who has both parents still married, and whose parents you like. Note in particular whether her mother treasts her father respectfully. That is the way to bet insofar as you will be treated if you marry her.
2) Pick a woman with a sterling credit rating. If she doesn't spend more than she makes, she'll be unlikely to make money problems for you into the future.
3) Pick a woman for whom Christianity is a serious loyalty. You have to make do with the correlates here as you can't know her heart with full confidence. The best correlate though is specified in the Bible---where her treasure is, her heart is there also. That is, if she tithes (the average Christian does far less), she's almost certainly serious about her faith. You need her to have a strong commitment beyond the rational level if you want reasonable assurance that she'll not use divorce laws heavily tilted in her favor against you.
3) If you can, get a woman with either no or few previous sexual partners. This is also an indicator of (2), but more importantly, it is a strong signal of her ability to bond to you, especially if she's a virgin. Even guys have frequent fantasies of their 'firsts'.
4) If you can, get a woman who likes children, wants children, and wants to homeschool them. Homeschool moms are the best lovers.

Φ said...

Jehu: well said. But for a lot of guys, the lament is less the difficulty of finding the right person than it is the difficulty of being the "right person" in a woman's estimation.

Novaseeker said...

I'm very skeptical of the idea that attractive women don't know when men find them attractive. Women notice very much when men look at them. In fact, when they stop being looked at, it causes them a good deal of angst in a self-esteem sense. And most women can pretty quickly discern "that kind of look" from a man.

However, in the context of churches and so on I think it's much more likely that the guys are specifically avoiding looking at the women "in that way", given the context, and that this leads women to be confused about who may be attracted to them. In other contexts, it's usually not so disguised, and therefore not so mysterious to the woman.

Mind you, that's still different from a guy wanting to date a woman -- he may find her attractive but not be interested in dating her for any number of reasons, really, which would preclude making an approach, or he may just think she's out of his league, which can also preclude an approach.

Φ said...

Novaseeker: But women will simultaneously make the opposite complaint: that men (by which they mean the wrong kind of men) will take too much notice of them.

It's basically a detection problem. Women have to set their personal threshold of approachability at a level that trades off keeping the Pd high while minimizing the Pfa. Yet too often they complain about the shape of the ROC curve.

trumwill said...

I would imagine that church participation can be used as a proxy for "spiritual maturity". From what I understand, church participation does skew female to some extent or another. I don't know that it's a 3-to-2 ratio, though I don't think it would surprise me.

In the Episcopal Church I grew up in, there was the interesting tendency among parents to make sure their daughters participated but let their sons slide. As a result, our youth group was skewed something like 5-to-1 (this sounds more advantageous than it turned out to be - it kind of becomes a girls' group and the guys just get locked out altogether).

When I attended after college, there was a dearth of 20-somethings altogether. Those I married that had children either didn't attend or decided en masse to one of the local mega-churches.

Not trying to prove anything with my anecdote. TEC is a different bird from a lot of other denominations. But it's not inconsistent with what I have heard elsewhere.

Jehu said...

Phi,
Making your prospective mate want you is, IMO, a far easier problem in contemporary society than finding a woman that is a good bet for marriage. There are only a couple of other women in my church besides my wife that would have met those criteria, and they're all presently happily married. Nationally, I suspect less than 5 or 10% of the female unmarried population meets them.
However, my criteria are at least largely orthogonal to the conventional attractiveness metrics used by men in our society, so in practice you shouldn't have to trade too much in the marriage marketplace to get these qualities. As to what works with this subset of women...basically, act like a patriarch---think Old Testament. Don't walk on eggshells worrying about offending them. Advance lots of your opinions and positions that are orthodox with respect to Christianity but deeply heretical to the zeitgeist of the time. This will make you 'exciting' if you can carry it off without projecting too much of your anger into it, in much the same way as a 'bad boy' appeals.

Elusive Wapiti said...

Well at least you can blame it on someone else, Φ. :)

Professor Hale said...

Do you think he is saying spiritually mature as a stand in for "comes to church"?

Bingo. Since no other aspect of spiritual maturity can be measured in any meaningful way. This reaslly comes down to full and reliable participation in the church and its programs

Φ said...

Prof Hale: I agree that 90% of spiritual maturity is showing up. But, contra Trumwill, my experience was not that young women were overrepresented among the 20-something cohort.

Then again, I would be much more likely to notice the opposite. So there's a bias to consider.

trumwill said...

There are probably some statistics available. Looking around, I can find statistics based on age (older are more likely to attend) and based on gender (women are more likely to attend), but I can't find anything that incorporates both.

The closest I can find, which I do consider to probably be relevant to the discussion, are statistics on family structure and weekly attendance (PDF). According to this report, the single-no-children category actually does skew about 3-to-2 (23% to 15%) and unmarried parents slightly moreso (25% to 15%).

A lot of the statistics seem to be around 3:2. The only area where it's noticeably closer is "married with children." It becomes closer when there are infants involved.

Anyhow, that's what I got. I tried to get the little GSS thingie to work, but I keep getting an error. I'm actually kind of curious on this, so if anybody finds better statistics that more specifically take age into account, let me know.

Φ said...

Trumwill: Please double check the PDF link; it doesn't seem to work for me.

I've never played with the GSS tools. It would be interesting to see the actual stats, especially among college-educated urban-dwellers. My initial experience with Christian youth groups was at boarding school, where the guys slightly outnumbered the girls (a fact of which I was painfully reminded every time the girls picked partners for "couples soccer" in PE class). After that, it was off to engineering school, and you know what the demographics of our IVCF chapter looked like.

trumwill said...

Oops, I forgot to put the http:// in there and so it "corrected" the link for me by adding blogger.com. Anyway, this should work.

white and nerdy said...

Let's flip the script for a moment. What does a spiritually mature woman look like? More importantly, what does a spiritually mature woman do...and not do?

No one knows. There are no spiritually mature women around anymore. There haven't been any in decades if they ever existed.

I would imagine that church participation can be used as a proxy for "spiritual maturity".

No it can't because church is just another place that caters to female narcissism like almost everyplace else in the world.

Topher said...

"Jehu: well said. But for a lot of guys, the lament is less the difficulty of finding the right person than it is the difficulty of being the "right person" in a woman's estimation."

I agree that this phenomenon exists. As much as women bitch about "settling," I see just as many men

Because of the 80-20 Rule, too many (beta) men go through their early sexual life unattractive to women, and resort to supplicating and begging for sex and attention. Their minds are warped such that they feel they are lucky to get whatever they catch, and so they have to put up with her BS and can't afford to screen for things like financial responsibility, practice of faith, treats her man well, etc.

Guys need to be told they don't have to do this - no roll in the hay is worth being dehumanized or mistreated.

This is why one of the fundamental tactics of PUAs is "flipping the script" - putting on a show such that you are the prize and YOU are choosing from among THEM and not the other way around.

"It's basically a detection problem. Women have to set their personal threshold of approachability at a level that trades off keeping the Pd high while minimizing the Pfa. Yet too often they complain about the shape of the ROC curve."

This blog is definitely written by an engineer.

"I would imagine that church participation can be used as a proxy for "spiritual maturity". From what I understand, church participation does skew female to some extent or another. I don't know that it's a 3-to-2 ratio, though I don't think it would surprise me."

I don't buy this. While I leave the door open for the idea that more women than men are religiously devout, there are other factors that blur the correlation.

-Church is fundamentally a social activity, which predisposes it to the female proclivity for interpersonal relationship activity. It starts with worship and moves on into bake sales, charity walks, carnivals, support groups, soup kitchening, etc etc. This is naturally more attractive to women, so the congregation will probably be more female.

-Let's face it, more women than men want to get married, so more young women are likely to go hunting for a spouse at their church than men.

-Don't want to upset the proprietors or sound new-age, but
plenty of people can be serious Christians without being an active member of a church.

-Likewise, plenty of people in the pews are faking it, for whatever reason - force of habit, social pressure to fit in (let's not forget the real reason John Proctor was executed in Salem was because he criticized the authorities carrying out the witch hunt), family forces, free food after the service, something to fill time.

My overall point: due to the factors I've outlined let's not confuse church attendance with spiritual maturity carte blanche. It's like the people who say women mature faster than men because they are interested in marriage and "settling down" at an earlier age than men.

Now, in young anonymous urban environs, attendance appears to be majority female for legitimately spiritual reasons, which I think simply reflects that today's American church doesn't have a lot to offer young men, especially when they see the Girls Gone Wild club scene and then the next morning hear about how much fallen men need wives to restrain them.

Joe said...

Being a single Christian can be tough, especially if you are surrounded by people who are not Christian and may have different desires than you. The best experience that I have had is using Christian dating websites, because there you can encounter people that you may not encounter in your day-to-day life.