Character isn’t very important in our dating scene anymore. It used to be you would know the girls a guy dated before he approached you. You would hear the stories of how he treated them. You would know if he’s worked since he was ten or if he plays basketball for hours every day after school. Our dating market has somehow managed to isolate dating from character.
Jenny may not have realized it, but she has hit on something of considerable significance. To use software engineer’s parlance, what she has discovered is a feature, not a bug. Only instead of being an excuse, this really is a feature. The “dating market” replaced the “marriage market” in large part so this very phenomenon could take place.
You see, under a courtship system or market there was a certain amount of knowledge that was known and expected about everyone involved. A man wouldn’t have found it easy to court a woman as an unknown factor- her family wouldn’t have tolerated it. Instead, he had to introduce himself, to build history and rapport with her family or be backed up by trusted individuals who vouched for him. Or even better, he was a known factor because he grew up in the same community and his history was known to all involved. On the flip side, a man who courted a woman would also have access to a lot of information about her. Perhaps he grew up with her in the same community. If not, he could observe her family and talk with them. In addition, he could talk with members of the community who knew her well.
The point being that under a courtship model no one could really be an unknown. Everyone had history. Which leads to this statement by Jenny:
The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior
She is absolutely correct in this. Past behavior does give us a strong idea on what someone will do in the future. And that was a problem for a lot of people. For some their past behavior haunted them and acted as a huge handicap in the courtship/marriage market. For others it served as an obstacle, limiting what they could get away with. Yet others disliked marriage in general. All of them worked together to undermine the courtship model and to bring about something altogether new: The “dating scene”, which is in reality a sexual marketplace (“SMP”), because sex, not marriage, is the main goal now of most of its members. This new SMP has as its cornerstones mobility (provided through changes to the economy as well as new technology) and a lack of connectivity and history, which might perhaps be labeled “system memory.”
The first cornerstone, mobility, is all about the ability to move about to new locations, to new “markets.” If one particular area dries up, or you build a bad reputation there, you can always move to a new, fresh location. In other words, you can escape your past behavior.
The second cornerstone, a lack of history and connectivity, means that most people in the dating scene don’t really know each other. Perhaps they have some similar friends or connections (otherwise how would they meet?), but those connections are far more tenuous than they would have been in the past. Outside of these potential sparse connections, those in the dating scene have little in the way of methods to learn about someone, apart from what that person reveals themselves.
Taken together, these two core components of the “dating scene” mean that you can always “start over.” This is especially easy if you are wise enough to avoid social media, and not let yourself build up an online presence (ironically the internet and social media in particular undermine this new system, hence the push to allow people to erase their internet history). Just move to a new location and you can begin anew. It is the perfect system for cads and harlots to ply their trade and largely escape the consequences of it.
This didn’t all happen overnight though. It took time for the SMP to replace the Marriage Marketplace. But as Jenny has realized, that transformation is now complete. What little bit was left of the old courtship or marriage market is now gone. All that remains is “dating”, with all of its ugliness still intact. Again, this was not accident. It didn’t “just happen.” Isolating “dating from character” is the whole point of dating in the first place. If character still really mattered we wouldn’t even be talking about dating, we would be talking about courting. Boyfriend and Girlfriend wouldn’t exist as words, instead we would still use suitor. If you are lamenting how the “dating scene” looks now, understand this: what you are seeing now is not failure. It is success.
[Cross-posted at The Courtship Pledge]