18 Responses

  1. sunshinemary

    “This perspective would presumably see the trend towards serial monogamy being broadly morally endorsed as a manifestation of the latter rather than the former, but that is a topic I would like to address more fully in a subsequent note.”

    Great, I would really like to hear what you have to say about that. I got so much crap for my posts on this that it left a bad taste in my mouth, but I’m still really interested in these concepts.

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  3. nightsky

    I have to go with “feminist imperative.” “Feminine” suggests it’s something that serves being a woman. “Feminist” suggests trying to tilt everything to serve women.

    Being the science geek that I am, I picture it like the Einsteinian view of gravity. A bowling ball on a mattress makes a depression, and a marble rolling along the mattress follow the curvature as if attracted to the bowling ball. A gravity well, such as a black hole, curves space to such a degree that it bends, or even sucks in, light. It can’t be observed directly, and its existence can only be deduced by observing its effects on the environment around it.

    Replace “black hole” with “feminist imperative” and “light” with “society.”

  4. Escoffier

    The more I think about it, the more I think that “serial monogamy” is just no-fault divorce without court enforced property settlements. (And, as/if the definition of “common law wife” expands, that distinction may disappear.)

    Susan Walsh and others like to say that LTRs are good “training” for marriage. I don’t think so. Devlin (her bete noir) makes the point that what LTRs really do is inculcate the expectation that love and all relationships are impermanent, to be ended at any time by one party for any reason. They nurture a kind of cynicism and defensiveness. Then along comes marriage, with the dress, the ceremony and the piece of paper and that’s supposed to override all this at a stroke.

    But, borrowing from Madison, it’s just a “parchment barrier.” People’s outlook and expectations have already been set, even if only subconsciously.

    I pointed this out to Susan once (without mentioning Sauron) and she admitted it was a danger but then went right back to selling LTRs as “training” for marriage.

  5. Escoffier

    Well, this may be inconsistent, if so, so be it, I may talk myself out of it later but …

    In certain respects I agree with Susan over Dalrock. That is, I think D takes a very hard line that N>1=slut, which seems very harsh to me. It makes sense for him because he wants to hold to a strict “Biblical frame” as he calls it. For myself, coming at it from a different perspective, agree that N=1 ought to be the norm for society and we were a lot better off when it was. But even then, you had lots of women who failed to meet the standard who turned out to be very fine wives. Just as today the % of wedding day virgins in the UMC approaches zero, yet they have the most successful marriages and lowest divorce rate of any socio-economic class.

    The problem with deviating from the standard is that such “little” deviations from strict morality will always work out better for those who are more intelligent, more educated and just generally have better upbringing and impulse control. For everyone else, it leads to disaster. So, since Susan’s focus is almost exclusively on the UMC, she is not so concerned about a small number of LTRs prior to marriage. It works out for the girls she knows.

    However, to your point, she is willing to say that marriage 2.0 is unjust and should be reformed. She will not, however, say that the LTR (plus one or two “mistakes”) mating script needs any reform. In fact, she bristles at the suggestion on the ground that moralizing will turn away her intended audience.

    What I have tried to say is, OK, maybe that’s true, but couldn’t the UMC at least revert to hypocrisy? Preach traditional marriage even as they discretely fail to live up to its standards in their 20s. This is what they used to do. In a way, it’s what certain kids still do, when they conscientiously decline to rub mom & dad’s nose in the fact that they are having sex with their SOs. (Funny how the UMC will not be “judgmental” about sex but neither do they want to imagine what their own kids are up to. They demand at a minimum behavior that maintains plausible deniability.)

    Anyway, it’s ironic that this is at once one of society’s easiest and most difficult problems to solve. It’s easy because, on an individual level, all one has to do is not indulge oneself. Just stop. The solution is within every person’s power. The fatalistic attitude prevalent today implicitly assumes that we are animals lacking free will, which is bunk. But it’s hard because when you have to think of ways to get the majority of people to start thinking and acting this way, everyone comes up blank.

    1. Cail Corishev

      That’s a good point that it works for “the girls she knows.” I think a lot of older people — even if they know better — tend to think of LTRs the way it was when they grew up. As you say, many women didn’t come pure to their wedding night in the past. But in the 50s, say, she might have gone too far in the back seat that one time, or even several times with a couple different boyfriends, if her parents were out of town a lot. Then she gets married — maybe to the guy she gave it up to — and moves out of her parents’ house, and now it’s a completely different thing, because they can have sex whenever they want and present themselves as man and wife to society.

      That’s very different from today’s serial-LTR paradigm. Now she has a series of boyfriends, never going without one for long, and most of the relationships involve sex. This goes on through college and her 20s, so she has her own place and no need to sneak around. In most families, she can even shack up with a guy and bring him home for Christmas, and no one complains too much. So with each guy, she can have all the sex she wants — no more furtive quickies in the back seat — and they can experiment, wake up together, spend time with each other’s families, watch porn together, whatever. The bonding that happens is bound to go a lot deeper, and likewise the jadedness that develops after a few of these.

      So it’s not just that yesterday’s N=1 is today’s N=5, but that most of those 5 were like short marriages and divorces, with most of the same emotional ups and downs and resulting baggage. That seems to me what a lot of people like Susan are missing in this. I understand why she doesn’t want to say N>1=slut, and I tend to agree, because then what do we call N>20? But I do think it’s fair to differentiate between the girl who made a mistake (or a couple of mistakes) and realized it and tried to do better, versus the ones who have been pseudo-married for several years.

  6. Escoffier

    Well, I wonder if serial monogamy is such a lopsided benefit to women. Seems to me that either party can benefit, and what that means in practice is that whoever is least invested “wins.” Is that the woman in the majority of cases? Not sure, but I have never thought it through.

    Perhaps I come at this from a skewed perspective having never having been “dumped” per se. The two longest relationships I had before marriage I walked away from because I knew in both cases she was not “the one.” Then as now, the culture said there was nothing wrong with what I had done. In fact, I told one of the stories at HUS in order to illustrate the danger to women. My college GF absolutely wanted to get married and I wanted to go to grad school, move around to various jobs, get to NY/DC, etc. She was quite upset about the ending.

    Susan did not interpret that story the way I intended. To her, as long as no lies were told, nothing was “wrong.” My point was, this regime does not always work out well for young women. To be brutally blunt, I got what I wanted out of the situation and the GF didn’t. The “system” failed her. As did all her family and friends who were perfectly fine with the situation while it lasted.

    I sort of disagree with your point about SM being training for marriage 2.0, in that I still think that when people get married, they think “this time it’s different.” This is a REAL commitment. We’ve formalized everything so there’s no just “breaking up.”

    Now, in many cases they are deluding themselves. Plus, they don’t realize that they’ve already been trained by SM to take marriage less seriously. They think that by going through with all the solemnization rituals they have somehow fundamentally changed the nature of what they are doing. But what they haven’t changed is themselves.

    On a side note, I wonder how many of the UMC marriages are either unhappy or drab. All the ones I can observe, which is a lot, seem very good from the outside.

  7. Escoffier

    I am probably not that good at spotting the fault lines. Not on Facebook either, last person alive who isn’t.

    I definetely agree that the vast majority of women vastly prefer LTRs to ONSs. In that sense it is the “female’s prefered form of promiscuity.” However, I still think that LTRs/SM basically benefit whoever is least interested. I don’t know how that breaks down, men v. women, and I really don’t even have a guess.

    Yes, I meant “training” as in “preparing to succeed,” which is how Susan means it in this context.

  8. Escoffier

    Regarding peer opinion and reputation, I think it breaks down this way:

    Men: mostly get validation/kudos from their friends for ONSs. LTRs are tolerated or better, except if the girl is particulary unattractive and/or the guy’s peer group is a bunch of players.

    Women: get lots of validation from girlfriends for LTRs. Mostly are stigmatized for ONSs, unless they mostly hang out with other sluts.

    So, women have much to lose from ONSs in a way that men don’t have much to lose from LTRs. Women definitely gain more validation for LTRs than men do, but do they gain more validation from LTRs than men gain from ONSs? Not sure about that.

  9. Escoffier

    B, are you saying that it’s easier for a guy today to get a ONS than a LTR? I’m not saying you’re wrong–I honestly have no idea–but if that is correct, it’s 180 degrees different than what I remember and experienced. The world has changed a lot in a very short time.

    I suppose you’re write that in a man-centric system the focus would be more on ONSs. That just puts me on the left tail, though, because I think whatever “system” I lived under I would still prefer LTRs. Then again, until one is presented with realistic possiblities, one never knows how one will respond.

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