This is Part 2 of my Market Failure Series. Part 1 can be found here (I suggest reading it first).
Undercutting the Market
Something that has become a real problem for chaste women who are looking to get married is the effect that unchaste women have on the MMP. Marriage is costly, for both men and women, but right now the cost to men is greater. It is natural for humans to not want to have to pay for something if they can help it, so if they are given a chance to get products for free they will do so. Unfortunately for women, the product they are trying to sell is primarily sex (in the form of access, fidelity and the fruits of sex-children). And when other women offer it at discount prices (as in outside of marriage), then of course many men will leap at the opportunity. Mind you, those of us who understand how the current SMP works know that many of the men who fall for the lie of sexual liberation won’t really benefit from it. They may get some sex along the way, but in the grand scheme of things not as much as they would if the market was healthy and they “bought” the product. The net effect of these men leaving the market is to make matters much worse for the women who stay inside, because they are left with a far smaller pool of potential buyers. Were all women required to behave in a chaste manner or be forced out of civilized society, then men (driven by their omnipresent and powerful sex drive) would be forced to participate in the marriage market in order to satiate their desires.
Also, even those men who are still in the market for marriage might still expect to have sex with their prospective wives before getting married. When faced with a woman who wishes to maintain her virtue, they will probably simply move on. Their acclimatization at the hands of unchaste women and a licentious culture has left them unable to appreciate the value of a virtuous, chaste woman as a marriage partner.
One of the more significant problems for a chaste man or woman trying to find a spouse is the complete breakdown of the old social networks. By social network I don’t mean Facebook, I mean the vast interconnected links of friendships and family ties that used to exist when our society was healthier. A century ago you could trust your family and friends to help you find a marriage partner. And if they couldn’t find you someone, then someone they knew would find you someone, and so on. Church was a place you went to be encouraged to marry, and you could find a good spouse there. In short, the whole community was effectively on your side if you wanted to get married. Of course, that assumes that you had a reputation in your community that was positive. Someone with a negative reputation would find themselves locked out of this system, and discouraged from participating. While this could be abused, more often than not it served to keep away men and women who were up to no good.
This is all gone now. The old networks are gone, and aren’t likely to be rebuilt anytime soon. People are more spread out and disconnected than ever, and the odds that family or friends will be able to find you a suitable mate are dismally low. It does still happen, but is the exception rather than the rule now. In market terms, think of this networking as a form of buyer recommendations. They helped to direct buyers and sellers towards interested parties that were thought to be a good match. Is it possible to find a mate without this? Yes… but it is that more difficult. Think of what Amazon would be like if it didn’t have features to recommend products bought by those with similar tastes or purchasing patterns. You could still get what you want, but it takes a lot more time and effort to get it. The same applies to the MMP.
So Close and Yet so Far…
Not too long ago I met a Christian woman who was quite a bit younger than me (although still an adult). Although we met in a professional setting, it was somewhat relaxed, and so we got to know more about one another. Both as a measure of respect and to preserve anonymity, I will simply describe her as an attractive young lady who was thin but in a healthy way. Not a bombshell, but clearly on the right side of the distribution curve of female attractiveness. After talking with her for a while I discovered that she was a very devout Christian. And I mean Christian, not a Churchian. She took scripture very seriously, and believed in following that teaching in everyday life. I never asked, and she never mentioned, if she was chaste, but for her I considered the question unnecessary. Her actions and demeanor spoke for her on that accord. Also, when the subject of sexual sins came up in one of our theology discussions, she was quite vehement in her agreement that sexual sins were especially damaging.
When it came to matters outside of faith, we had a lot in common. We enjoyed many of the same TV shows and movies, and many of the same subjects fascinated us. Our personalities seemed to mesh well, and it quickly became clear to me that she enjoyed my presence a lot. Enough that I soon surmised that she was attracted to me, even as I was attracted to her. Now most of you are probably asking why the hell I am writing this and not actively pursuing her. The reason: She was a Protestant and held views which were often the polar opposite of Catholic teaching and doctrine. And she was very sincere and serious about her beliefs; I wasn’t going to be able to simply get her to change her mind. Sadly, it just wasn’t going to work out between us.
This story highlights one of the major difficulties that Christians face in the current MMP. We are called to not be unequally yoked, and at the same time we find ourselves hopelessly divided against one another. Two Christians can find one another only to discover they are from different faith traditions. I have written before how Church Shopping encourages bad teaching. Church shopping is possible only because the Church is divided; were we still one body in Christ that wouldn’t be possible. Unfortunately, that disunity also has the effect of impairing the ability of young Christians marrying by throwing yet another obstacle in their way by effectively lowering the pool of potential mates that much more.
Angels versus Sluts
No, that isn’t the title of the newest Made For SyFy movie (if it was, the word shark would be in there somewhere). Rather, this is to discuss another signal of sexual dysfunction which is occurring in parts of the West. Specifically, the situation where married men will only sleep with their wives for the purpose of having children, and turn towards prostitutes and porn to satisfy their lusts/passions. This is not common in the United States, but in some European countries which were until recently more traditional it is not unheard of. In such cases, married women (especially Christian married women) are seen as angels who are “pure” and shouldn’t be corrupted by carnal desires. This notion of not sleeping with your wife (even if she is attractive) seems crazy to us here in the US and in other Western countries, but it does exist. Similar practices occurred in the past in the UK and US during Victorian times, when married men in some circles would often visit prostitutes for sex, because sex with your wife was something done for procreation only. Now, that practice has died out here, but it did exist and still does exist elsewhere.
So how did it come about, and what does it mean? Well, it is my belief that it is an alternate response to the old saw that women are pure, good and sugar and spice and all things nice. When exposed to this falsehood, men develop unhealthy ideas about women. They adopt a binary pattern, where they assign women to two different categories:
Angels- pure and innocent women who shouldn’t be the subject of carnal desire. If you have sex with them, it should only be for procreation. They are pedestalized and treated well (most of the time).
Sluts- sinful and broken women who have rejected their purity and innocence, in essence, their “true” feminine nature. With such women sex for pleasure is not only alright, it is all that they are good for. These women are not respected and are treated badly.
When you think about it, this makes a certain sense. It is an attempt to rationalize and explain the true nature of women while still maintaining an overall mode of thought that leaves women as innately good. Think of it as an attempt to fit observable facts about how women behave with blue pill thinking. There are the “true” women, the Angels, and then there are the “false” women, the Sluts.
This is an awful mode of thought for men and women, because it prevents the development of a truly healthy marriage. Men who would otherwise want their wives are taught that they shouldn’t direct such thoughts to women, and instead are directed towards porn and prostitution. Women, on the other hand, who in many cases would desire to be desired, are denied the full measure of their husbands masculine power. The end result is massive amounts of sin and unhealthy marriages. Yet another sign of a Market Failure.
Lastly, this brings us to the topic of pornography. This subject seemed to generate the most discussion last time around, and I have no doubt that it will do so again. Before I delve into this more deeply, I wish to make the point that I am not exploring the moral, ethical or religious implications of porn. That will be for another post in a few days. Instead, I am examining how pornography impacts the MMP.
As I begin, I think it important to distinguish pornography from its rough female equivalent: the romance novel (specifically, the bodice-ripper or sub/dom type). Both of them serve as a sort of release, although they do it in different ways and satisfy different needs. For women, the romance novel satisfies the emotional high which comes from experiencing the true measure of a dominantly masculine man. For women, the physical need and release of sex seems to be (based on observation and testimony) less important or meaningful than the emotional high which accompanies the act when it is with an attractive man. Meanwhile, pornography (and the subsequent accompanying act) accomplishes the goal of satisfying or sating the male sex drive. For men the physical Need of sex is more important (or at least more pressing) than the emotional connectivity of the sex act. Something they both have in common is that they can be addictive, and can cause lasting damage. For men the damage is physical for certain, and possibly emotional, while for women the damage seems to be purely emotional, in that it can impair their ability to experience an emotional high from sex.
So how does this impact the MMP? As I explained earlier, the primary product that women sell in the MMP is sex, while the primary product of men is commitment. The romance novel might provide women with an emotional high, but it cannot satisfy the female need for male commitment (and yes, it is a need). Therefore the participation of women in the MMP will not be greatly affected, except indirectly. That indirect effect is that they are more likely to divorce their husbands, because they are less likely to experience an emotional thrill as a result of having sex with their husband. The situation is quite different for men though. Pornography can sate (however poorly) the male sex drive, which is the primary commodity that women bring to the MMP. In a way, it acts as a substitute product, allowing men look outside of women to meet their market needs. I would say that it is an inferior product, but there are men in this day and age who would disagree. They would point out the various flaws in women, and explain that “the real thing” isn’t much or any better in most cases. While for some women this would seem to be the case, I think most men would agree that on the whole this isn’t true. What might be true, on the other hand, is that on a cost/benefit analysis porn might be better than many women (at least when it comes to satisfying the Need, the Void is another matter) in the current MMP.
Another reason for porn’s prevalence these days has to do with the delaying of marriage. In the United States the median age of marriage for men was 28.2 in 2010. It is almost certainly higher than that now. Women have jumped up to 26.1 as of 2010. Remember that the primary male reason for joining the MMP is sex, a drive nearly as powerful as that of hunger and thirst. Most men do not have the discipline to suppress their sex drive until they are 28, and in truth most men probably could never achieve that level of discipline. They will look for a release to meet the Need. With marriage delayed for so long, and with prostitution expensive and risky, porn is the cheaper and safer alternative. While it is not the only force in play here, the fact that women are delaying marriage (at least in the US) is a major reason for the uptick in porn use. [And yes, if you are wondering if I am saying what you think I am saying, I am. Women are the cause of a lot (not all) of porn use by men.]
In the long run, the effects of porn will be to persuade many men to drop out of the MMP. Given the currency that they have to offer, and what they can buy with it, pornography seems like a better deal. For the women in the MMP, this has a similar effect to unchaste women, it dilutes their effective value. Unfortunately for women, they cannot do nearly as much to improve their MMV as men can.
Whether they are symptoms of the greater problem or they are causes of that problem, all of the subjects that I have covered detail the overall Market Failure that we are experiencing now. Marriage is a broken mess in the West and there are no signs of it getting better any time soon. As much as many of us would like to fix the institution, it is unlikely we will be able to do so. Why? First off, there are many who refuse to acknowledge that the institution is broken to begin with. Even then, among those who do recognize there is a problem, few are able to perceive what the cause of this dysfunction is. Lastly, and most importantly, even if the cause was universally acknowledged, it is doubtful that the will exists to do what must be done to solve the problem.
Update: I have decided to write a relatively brief Part 3 to include a few other ideas which I haven’t explored yet. Hopefully it should be out later today.