Friday, July 27, 2018

Debt-free virgins

Recently, a Christian blogger named Lori Alexander did a click-baity post that went viral:

It's actually a running commentary on what another woman said, much of which she agrees with. 

On a positive note, I appreciate the attitude which she and her friend exhibit. Many women would do well to emulate their spirit. However, the post suffered from many hasty generalizations.

1. College

i) Some women are not in debt from a college education. Some women have wealthy parents to foot the bill. Some women attend college on a scholarship. Some women graduate with a marketable degree and have a lucrative job which enables them to pay off their student loan bills. 

ii) It's true that secular college can have a malign influence on female students. But that's one-sided. By the same token, secular college can have a malign influence on male students. Yet the post leaves the impression that it's okay for a husband to have a college education. 

iii) There are Christian colleges. Admittedly, nominally Christian colleges are Trojan horses that can be more harmful than secular colleges.

iv) As a rule, I think it's good for husband and wife to be roughly intellectually matched. To have overlapping interests. To be able to have intelligent conversations with each other. Either both spouses should be college educated or neither should.

v) Not all college degrees are marketable degrees. Some men go into debt by getting a degree that doesn't give them a competitive edge in the marketplace. 

vi) Gifted women can benefit from a college education. But it depends on the college and the major. 

vii) I assume Lori is a proponent of homeschooling. But a mother can only educate her kids up to her own level of education. In fairness, you can be an autodidact if you have the intellectual aptitude. 

2. Tattoos

I seriously doubt many men care whether a women has tattoos. And guys with tattoos might be attracted to gals with tattoos. 

A pretty girl will be pretty with or without tattoos. A girl with a winsome personality will be winesome with or without tattoos. I doubt tattoos have much to do with what men find attractive in a girl, one way or the other. 

3. Virginity

i) Is the post talking about men in general? Unbelievers as well as believers? What kind of Christian men? Hipsters? Christian men who take their faith seriously?

ii) I expect many men actually prefer a women with sexual experience. They will view the woman as sexually uninhibited. A better sex partner.

I'm not saying men ought to prefer women with sexual experience. I'm just responding to Lori's blanket statement on its own grounds. I doubt it's factually accurate. Perhaps she thinks men ought to prefer virgins, but that's a different issue. Is she making an ethical claim or empirical claim? 

In our secularized culture, there's no presumption that a woman will be a virgin. Many men engage in premarital sex, and they expect the woman they marry may have a sexual history as well. Indeed, many men engage in premarital sex with the woman they eventually marry. So it's unclear who Lori is referring too. 

iii) Historically, I don't think most men cared whether a woman was a virgin per se. The value of virginity was tied to maternity, legitimacy, and inheritance. 

Once again, I'm not endorsing that perspective. I'm just scrutinizing Lori's sweeping claim. 

iv) In terms of Christian ethics, a Christian couple ought to be virgins on their wedding night. That applies to men as well as women. That's another one-sided deficiency of Lori's post.

v) The double standard is long gone in the general culture. Mind you, a double standard can be reduced to a single standard in either of two opposing directions: to make it more consistently moral or more consistently immoral. 

vi) Islam has an especially perverse double standard. 

vii) Some Christian couples are adult converts. They were promiscuous prior to conversion. So they make allowance for their spouse having a sexual history. 

4. Living with parents

i) Lori and her friend think bachelorettes should live with their parents until they get married. I don't know for sure where they get that idea, since I don't move in those circles. I'm guessing they get that idea from the fact that in ancient Israel, bachelorettes lived with their parents until they got married. 

ii) If that's the standard of comparison, it's fallacious. For one thing, females in ancient Israel customarily married in their early teens. So naturally they lived at home. They were too young to live on their own, and had no means of support. That's hardly comparable to a twenty-something bachelorette who is financially independent.

iii) It fails to distinguish between descriptive and prescriptive (or proscriptive) passages of Scripture. The fact that Scripture documents ancient Jewish customs doesn't ipso facto make them normative. By the same token, the fact that Judges documents atrocities doesn't make that an example to emulate. We need to be more discriminating. 

iv) If they have the financial wherewithal, I think it's good for some couples to marry young.

v) That said, I think it's good for some women to have a period of independence in-between living at home and getting married. Having had a taste of freedom, they know when they're ready for marriage. They're tired of being single. But they won't suffer from the nagging regret or resentment that they missed out on something, that they were cheating out of the opportunity to test life as an adult, living on their own. That's useful for men as well as women. That prepares them to settle down, when they've had their fill of freedom. When they get tired of being alone. 

vi) Many third-world cultures have three generations living under the same roof. The nuclear family is something of a historical aberration. You don't necessarily move when when you get married. Or you might move in with your in-laws. 

5. Cooking/gardening

If the husband is the primary breadwinner, then it makes sense for a stay-at-home mom to be the primary chef. However, many guys like to garden and/or fire up the BBQ. 

6. Children

In general, there's nothing more important or as important than to share the gift of life with the next generation. To give kids a happy childhood, which gets them off to a good start in life. 

At the same time, family is a panacea. Some kids turn out to be a grave disappointment. You can invest your life in kids who break your heart. And it's better to be single and lonely than stuck in a miserable marriage. 

Another woman, Brooke Ventura, at Modern Reformation/White Horse Inn responded:

1. She quoted 1 Cor 7:34-35. That's important to counterbalance an overemphasis on marriage. However, Paul admits that that's unrealistic–indeed, morally hazardous–for most men and women. 

2. She also said:

 “You don’t need to be married. You’re not waiting for some higher-level Christian experience as a wife and mother—you’re a fully-formed member of the body of Christ right now. Jesus is your husband and federal head; these little children whom you care for are your spiritual children. If you want to be a wife and a mother, you want a good and noble thing—pray for that. But you are not incomplete or unfulfilled as a single woman.”

i) That's pious nonsense. Jesus is a figurative husband for the church. He's not a substitute for romantic physical and psychological needs. A spinster will typically be emotionally unfulfilled. Same with lifelong bachelors.  

ii) In addition, women are generally less eligible with the passage of time than men. Opportunities dry up. Not to mention menopause. If a woman waits too long to find out what she really wants out of life, it's often too late to make up for lost opportunities. Maybe that's unfair, but that's the harsh, unyielding reality. 

3. Once again, the fact that this was published by Modern Reformation illustrates the token complementarianism we often find in nominally Reformed organizations. Surrendering the culture wars.    

4. When I see young women walking three dogs (give or take), I wonder to myself: do they have dogs because they're single, or are they single because they have dogs? How many eligible men want to compete with her dogs for her affection? Where does a man stand on the pecking order? Does she care more about the husband/boyfriend or the dogs? Why many guys want to walk her dogs? How many guys want to share her with her dogs? How many bachelorettes even think about that? 

You have to have priorities. You have to make choices. Decide what you want out of life and make the necessary sacrifices. I suspect some women have dogs because they're lonely, and they're lonely because they're single, and they're single because they have dogs, which is a turnoff for men. A vicious cycle. 

4. Finally, here's a trenchant satire: 


  1. Helpful, prudent advice.

    I'd add if a woman or man wants to go to college, but likes something with poor job prospects, it might be wise double major in what they enjoy and what's employable. It's typically only an extra year at the undergraduate level.

    Also, given most women have a shorter time period than most men before their eligibility for marriage runs out, i.e. their 20s, it might not necessarily be prudent to pursue a field like medicine which can be extremely time consuming and in fact eat up all of one's 20s and often even one's early to mid 30s. Sometimes even later. There are many female physicians (especially surgeons who require longer training to master surgical procedures) who find themselves at the top of a professional career, but single and with few if any decent prospects for marriage let alone a family of their own. Perhaps they're content if they didn't want a family, but it seems to me most women do want a family eventually.

    ARTs like IVF aren't a panacea either. Plenty of women trying to freeze their eggs for later use and so on who find they're no longer any good. Don't always believe what fertility specialists tell you. Of course, Christians likewise have to be aware of the ethical issues involved.

    Similar things apply to other fields like PhDs. At best, one has to hope to find love during a doctoral program. Some might get lucky, but I've seen a lot more who are single.

    I'm not implying women shouldn't pursue their career goals, but I'm saying there are costs involved that women should weigh before they dive in headfirst. The biggest cost is potentially not having a family or at least not having as good prospects for a family as one could have had earlier in life.

    Fairly or not, the same doesn't really apply to men. At least not with the same force.

    1. As Feynman once said, albeit about a completely different topic, but it's relevant here: reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.

    2. Currently I believe there are some excellent scholarships for women interested in computer science and engineering. That's primarily because women are underrepresented in these fields.

      In addition, computer science and engineering have fairly good employment prospects in comparison to most other majors. A woman in computer science or engineering should get more bites from employers who want to hire more women.

      It's a four year degree too, so women can finish by age 22.

      And a woman in computer science or engineering is likely going to have a lot prospects for marriage since she'll be surrounded by guys most of the time. So long as she's fine with geeky or nerdy guys.

    3. The book Date-onomics relates the following:

      In "Date-onomics: How Dating Became a Lopsided Numbers Game," out today, Birger, a former writer for Fortune and Money magazines, crunched demographic, census and other data to show that it really is historically rough out there for the ladies.

      After noticing that his single gal pals were always complaining that “guys were ignoring them or were toying with them,” Birger decided to investigate. Based on his research, here are eight reasons why women can’t find a man — and strategies for increasing their odds.

      You’re looking in Manhattan

      The island is great for, say, watching a cheesy musical or spending $300 on a bottle of vodka. But for dating? Not so much.

      “Because women have been graduating from college in 30-plus percent greater numbers than men for years, there are now four women for every three men nationally in the marriage-age, college-educated dating market,” Birger says.

      In Manhattan, the numbers are even more dire, with 38 percent more young female college grads than male. Birger says the imbalance is also exacerbated by New York’s large population of gay males. Some 9 to 12 percent of men in Manhattan are gay, according to Gary Gates, a demographics expert at UCLA’s Williams Institute.

      Other cities especially brutal for single women are Houston; Providence, RI; and Raleigh, NC. Better options include Silicon Valley, San Francisco, San Diego and Columbus, Ohio. The Bay Area, for example, attracts programmers, computer scientists and engineers — fields that are disproportionately male.

      Presumably the reverse is the case for single men, i.e., single men are more likely to find love in places like NYC, Houston, Providence, and Raleigh.

      The rest of the article is worth a quick skim.

      Of course, all this is very secular. However, I think there are grains of truth that might be helpful for some Christians to glean.

  2. I had a small amount of exchange about this on Facebook. It was kind of unintentionally amusing. At first this one young lady who was supporting the post tried to say that there was no double standard being articulated. But I pointed out that the author definitely seems to be using the debt argument as a *particular* argument against *women's* going to college, but this has to be a double standard since male debt would be just as much of a drain on family finances later on as female debt. (I mean, it's not like female college debt has a higher interest rate or something like that.) So if it's a purely economic argument against college, it's an argument against male college as well. The author must have a tacit "debt double standard."

    Well at that point the young lady who was defending it *did* articulate a double standard on this point. She said that it's "more important" for women to be debt-free than for men to be debt-free, because women "can have babies" and should be wisely trying to maximize the probability that they can stay home with their children.

    The economic blindness there was kind of stunning. I'm a complementarian as well, who believes in women staying home, and it's just completely obvious that a man's leftover college debt has to be *paid* out of the family coffers and hence will make it harder for the woman to stay at home just as much as leftover female college debt. If either member of a married couple has debt and hence monthly debt payments, that makes it that much harder to live on one income, period. It doesn't make any difference which one of them incurred the debt in the first place. So from a complementarian point of view, there is nothing "worse" economically about female college debt.

    This was so obvious, but she didn't seem to see it. It was really weird. I mean, if we're talking to young women about maximizing the probability that they afford to have babies and stay home with them, why not advise them not only to minimize their own debt but also to look for debt-free men to marry?

    It strikes me that the author of the post was trying to be deliberately provocative with a fairly blatant double standard in order to be countercultural. But we complementarians who face real-world situations with our kids can't afford to be so countercultural that we are economically stupid. Parents of a debt-free virgin without tattoos have to think next about future sons-in-law.

  3. i) That's pious nonsense. Jesus is a figurative husband for the church. He's not a substitute for romantic physical and psychological needs. A spinster will typically be emotionally unfulfilled. Same with lifelong bachelors.

    Union with Christ doesn't have emotional or psychological benefits that will at least alleviate these same unfullfilments?

    1. To be a Christian has emotional compensations, even if you're single. However, it doesn't erase the sex drive, it doesn't erase loneliness, it doesn't erase the need for physical affection, or two-way communication, or the natural longing to have kids. It was never meant to be a substitute for that.

  4. On tattoos - it depends on the kind and how big they are. The big ones that cover the whole arm and are black - IMO - they are ugly and detracts from attractive femininity- but if small and tasteful - no problem.

    1. Agreed.

      However, this was another example of the one-sided defect of the post. If tattoos disfigure a woman's body, what about a man's body? Yet the post only talks about what men find attractive, not women.