A Good Old-fashioned Prenup

I had the greatest idea the other day: get a prenuptial agreement!  (As it doesn’t look like I’ll wed soon, this plan may take a while to go into effect.)  “Why,” you might ask, “would somebody so virtuous and chaste want to get a prenup?”  Well, let me tell you!  Since I don’t accept the possibility of divorce, my prenup will be designed specifically to make divorce as painful and awful as possible.  All assets will be seized by the state.  I will own my husband’s right arm, left leg, and right ear, and he will own mine.  Because of this, divorce would necessarily entail a sundering of limbs.  And let’s face it, if we really took marriage seriously, we would understand divorce to be a similarly violent affair.

As it currently stands, the law takes a rather libertarian stance on marriage, and I would love to see private individuals gracefully respond to this with their own creative measures.  Ideally my plan would become a popular fad, because really, who doesn’t want to vow true permanence when they marry?  Somehow, it just seems more sincere to say “’till death do us part” when you know that breaking that vow would result in amputation.

The Perfect Affair (Part II)

In my last post, I proposed a philosophy of extreme prudishness in response to my fondness for affairs. In this post, I would like to explain why this is a reasonable response.

As I said, I enjoy (reading about) affairs when their forbidden nature proves their passion. Given the value I place on that passion, I would like to construct my life in such a way that I have a chance at finding a similar degree of it. Modern American society does little to help in this regard: given how easy and socially inexpensive it is to pursue any sort of romantic involvement, it is difficult to know that doing so is more than just a whim. Even if you think that you would risk life and limb for someone, you can’t really be sure unless being with them actually constitutes some risk.
A friend of mine recently suggested that bachelor parties should inflict pain upon the groom, to ensure that he only marries if he really loves the woman in question. I agree with this, and believe we should extend the same attitude to dating and falling in love. Although these things are all good, they would be much better if they were more socially expensive, because we would not then pursue them so frivolously.
The affairs in Madame Bovary are not exciting, precisely because the characters are sticking to the script rather than stepping outside of it for their love. In the same way, our permissive and risk-averse hookup culture strips all romantic significance from our actions.
In writing this post I invite everyone to mock me mercilessly if I ever demonstrate mushy sentiments, appear to be in love, or marry. This is not a declaration that I will never do these things, or that if I do, I will do them in a more sincere or passionate way than anyone else; however, I do hope that this minor social cost will discourage me from cultivating mediocre romances merely out of loneliness or boredom. I’m sure I will regret this invitation, but hopefully, it will at least prove an interesting social experiment.

Continue reading The Perfect Affair (Part II)

The Perfect Affair: Lessons from Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary (Part I)

Despite being a total prude, I will readily admit to seeing the appeal of a steamy (literary) extramarital affair. Don’t get me wrong – this is not to say that I think cheating is permissible or that I plan to have an affair; rather, I simply acknowledge that something about an illicit affair is conducive to a good love story. (And based on all of trash literature, it seems that a sizable niche agrees with me.) What’s more, I believe that by examining the appeal of an affair, it’s possible to discover how to better conduct our own lives.

In the typical story, a rule-abiding protagonist is trapped in a loveless marriage or relationship, and finds an escape from it in some forbidden love. This situation clearly attests to the passion which drives the affair, for the conscientious protagonist would not engage in such an ill-advised venture without an overwhelming emotion motivating it. Alternatively, if the affair itself isn’t particularly noteworthy, it can be a testament to the horror of the relationship the protagonist is trying to escape. Although we never envy the protagonist’s hopeless situation, (Anna Karenina, anyone?) the affair’s appeal accentuates our desire for sincere passion, and our aversion to settling for boring, passionless relationships.

Although counterintuitive, I believe that extreme prudishness provides the best chance at finding a passionate and lasting relationship whilst avoiding the horrors either of passionless entrapment or of an illicit affair. Here, by extreme prudishness, I do not mean fear of sex, unwillingness to discuss sex, or any other form of “ladylike” behavior. Instead, I propose a form of restraint which, instead of aimed at sexiness, is designed to oppose the physical and emotional cultivation of romance.

This does not entail any specific rules such as “no premarital kissing” or “thou shalt not declare thy love before the 7th date.” It would, however, oppose these things when done for the sake of cultivating romance. So if I suspect that a particular action, for instance kissing, would dramatically increase my fondness for someone, I should try to avoid such behavior.

(To be continued…)
Continue reading The Perfect Affair: Lessons from Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary (Part I)

The Trouble with GoodCrush

“Finally caught you for a moment’s conversation with the help of a friend. You had just handed in your thesis. Player or not, I’d love to get to know you before you graduate.”

Go to “Princeton GoodCrush”: http://princeton.goodcrush.com/ and you’ll immediately find dozens of entries like this. According to the “about”:http://princeton.goodcrush.com/about section of its website, Princeton GoodCrush “eliminates potential awkwardness and shyness from romantic interactions by offering simple, fun, and exciting ways to turn your crush into a GoodCrush – a match.” Princeton students can post anonymous public entries (like the one above,) or they can “crush” up to 5 people. If any of these people have crushed them back, they both receive a notification indicating that it’s a match.

Although GoodCrush provides a fun way to peer into other people’s lives, the “crushfinder” component of it indicates something deeply depressing about the Princeton social scene – namely, that we don’t want to invest time in hanging out unless we think something will come of it. While asking someone out can be intimidating, it isn’t the only alternative to goodcrush. After all, if you can make time to go out with someone, presumably you can also make time to hang out with them.

Sadly, as GoodCrush demonstrates, many Princetonians don’t consider it worth their time to hang out unless there’s a reasonable chance of relationship success. This attitude is, of course, tragically un-romantic, not to mention completely age inappropriate. These are our college years, and we should be throwing pebbles and going on adventures, not arranging “mature” risk-free relationships over the internet!

At a more pragmatic level, using GoodCrush is a poor strategy if you’re hoping to end up in a happy relationship. Starting a relationship via the crushfinder is a form of settling – after all, neither person is interested enough to pursue a relationship in real life. And by choosing to settle in such a fashion, you not only decrease the chances of having a successful relationship, but by taking yourself off the market, you also decrease the odds that you’ll fall for another person who might suit you better.

In fact, GoodCrush presents many of the same problems as hooking up. Neither requires much courage or commitment, and they are both easy and impersonal ways to drift into a relationship without making much of a conscious choice. So although conventional dating requires you to risk awkwardness and rejection, the decision to take that risk requires deliberation, and thus provides a greater degree of agency and freedom.

Note: At this time, the Anscombe Society does not take an official position on GoodCrush.
Continue reading The Trouble with GoodCrush

Maturity, Chastity, and Freedom

Here’s an excerpt from a note written by one of my friends (posted with permission):

People tell me that wanting to live in my house with my family until I get married is immature. That checking in with my mom every day is immature. That being direct about what I think is immature, because someone mature should be able to tolerate everyone. Firstly, maturity means different things in different cultures, I’ll give you that. But the (largely American) idea that maturity is simply knowing about and experiencing all those things that were taboo for you as a child is an idea that I vehemently disagree with and think is responsible for the failure of today’s youth to become compassionate members of society. [emphasis mine.]

This identifies one of the most common reasons people choose to lose their virginity: as a rite of passage. Having sex is seen as proof of maturity and a declaration of freedom. As teenagers and adults, we have a great deal of freedom, and our society encourages the false belief that we are only truly free if we choose to do everything that we have the power to. But freedom doesn’t actually lie in trying everything; rather, it lies in our ability to freely choose whether or not to do something. Thus, underage drinking is not an expression of freedom if done under peer pressure, and sexual liberation is not an expression of liberation if done merely to prove that you’re not a child. It is true that, even under pressure, drinking frees you from certain stresses, just as sex liberates you from sexual restraint; but in the same way, even when under pressure, chastity helps to liberate you from the strength of your passions. What’s more, when chosen freely, chastity is both an expression of freedom and of maturity, for it is an active decision to do what is most conducive to your long term happiness, as well as the happiness of others.

It is also important to ask ourselves what the value of freedom is. I am free to not brush my teeth, but there wouldn’t be much value in that decision. Yet if I were forced to brush my teeth, there would be less value in that than if I freely chose to brush my teeth, precisely because I chose it. Thus, freedom adds value to the pursuit of excellence, and the cost of freedom is the opportunity to stray from that path. The truest way to celebrate freedom, then, is to determine for yourself what is the best path, not the most radical or the most widely accepted. And by making and following our own rational decisions aimed at excellence, we have the opportunity to achieve a much greater good than if we were simply forced to do the right thing.

Yet the pressure remains to add meaning and drama to our lives by having sex. We are young, shouldn’t we be experiencing more? It’s easy to feel that life is boring if we’re simply being good, that we’re wasting our youth away unless we’re experiencing passion, drama, and excitement. Yet that sort of attachment to passion is not real freedom, nor is it even a greater human experience. Reason, after all, is certainly as central to humanity as passion is.

It’s also easy to feel that, unless we’ve tried something at least once, we can’t truly make a fair decision about it, because we don’t know what it’s like. Yet the reverse is equally true. I might think that porn is corrupting, yet I don’t watch porn, so how can I know? But if I did watch porn, and I did find it corrupting but also appealing, I might find myself thinking that I shouldn’t watch porn, but also wanting to. That knowledge would not provide me with freedom, but with greater difficulty in acting as I desire. In the same way, although my virginity prevents me from being able to say I enjoy sex precisely X amount, and thus my decision to abstain from it lies in a careful cost-benefit analysis, I would gain nothing from that knowledge. I believe people when they tell me that sex is enjoyable (and my decision to abstain is independent from how enjoyable sex is). Experiencing sex would not help me to make a more well informed decision; rather, it would just make it harder for me to make the decision which I know to be the wisest.

Finally, I would like to add that, while I believe it’s probably easier to be abstinent when you’re a virgin, there’s no reason that losing your virginity should in any way affect your decision to pursue a chaste life. My primary concern in this article is that people lose their virginity under the false impression that they are doing it to increase their freedom. The fact that someone has lost their virginity does not detract from any future decisions they make regarding abstinence. In fact, non-virgins who pursue a chaste lifestyle are perhaps better advocates for chastity, because they can be more readily trusted by everyone who’s had sex. So I would encourage those of you who consider yourself sexually liberated to aim for an even greater freedom: liberation from premarital sex.

Twilight’s Abstinence Advertising

*SPOILER ALERT*: At the risk of stripping all legitimacy from this blog, I am discussing Twilight in this post. Since I allude to the plot, you shouldn’t read this post if you plan on reading Twilight.

Despite the many flaws of the Twilight series, it clearly has some quality which has caused millions of women (myself included) to consume it voraciously. The writing may be mediocre, the adverb smolderingly may be severely overused, but Edward Cullen is just so appealing. And although Stephanie Meyer mentions Edward’s physical perfection an excessive number of times, his primary appeal actually lies in the depth and sincerity of his love for Bella. This love is proven throughout the story by Edward’s restraint: he doesn’t kill Bella, despite his strong physical desire to do so. (Wait, isn’t that sort of like people who abstain from having sex, even when they really want it? Oh yeah…) In this way, Twilight seems like an obvious advertisement for how romantic abstinence can be.

At the same time, there are a number of ways in which Twilight’s message undermines the advantages of abstinence. One of my favorite things about abstinence (and yes, there are many) is the freedom it provides from unnecessary emotional turmoil. By exercising physical restraint, it is easier to maintain more perspective, and thus to better analyze how well you and your partner actually suit one another. The same principle applies to how you speak to your partner. In this arena, Bella and Edward are clearly going all the way. Saying things like You are my life now, and I will destroy myself if you leave me, must have a similar binding effect to great physical intimacy (at least third base) and is equally unwise for 17-year-olds. This is compounded by the fact that Twilight reminds its readers of how wonderful it is to be in love, inadvertently urging them to seek love everywhere they go. (That cute boy who sits next to me in chem class? I might die without him!)

Another issue with the abstinence advertising in Twilight is that the lessons it provides just don’t seem that applicable. Sex has a higher survival rate than having all of your blood sucked out, and it’s unlikely that a given reader is dating a vampire. By promoting temptation and restraint as the key ingredients to a great romance, Stephanie Meyer encourages her readers to cultivate their own desires; when the consequences of succumbing to those desires don’t seem so terrible, real life is likely to lose the constraint which makes Twilight itself such a great story.