Saturday, November 19, 2022

Dating & disorder

I've read a few posts by a young English writer for Vogue magazine by the name of Annie Lord. She writes on relationships and gives some insights into the state of dating culture among young people in the UK.

Much of what she describes is familiar. Annie Lord wants to date hot guys, but these men tend to trifle with her and so she ends up disappointed. She has occasional casual hook ups; is worried at the age of 27 about hitting the wall; and is starting to feel jaded with the whole dating scene.

To her credit, she does take some accountability. She understands that she too is undermining the culture by dismissing men on the most trivial and unreasonable grounds. It is also a positive that she acknowledges that there is something wrong with the way dating culture works today, i.e. that things are disordered.

Annie Lord

In theory, liberalism does not order human goods. For liberals, in asserting that some goods are to be preferred to others, we limit what people might choose to do or to be, i.e. we discriminate or exclude. It is therefore the case that some liberal moderns would not acknowledge a state of disorder, because they have no ordering principle, so they cannot distinguish between order and disorder.

In practice, liberals do rank goods. The highest ranked good for many liberals is individual autonomy, understood to mean having the power to act as a free agent and to enact whatever arbitrary choice one wishes to make.

Ever since the very first wave of feminism, Western women have had to choose between this good of individual autonomy and that of love and family. This has put young women in a difficult position, because the instinct toward love and family is a strong one, but it is pitted against an equally strong ideological commitment to autonomy. 

You get a picture of the ensuing internal division in Annie Lord's writing. She clearly would like to find her man, at times to the point of obsession, but she also belongs to a culture which she describes this way: 

Nowadays, for many people I know, love is the last priority. The idea of putting a relationship over your friend or career is presented like the craziest thing you could ever do. “Don’t do that for a man!” friends say because now you must do everything for yourself. And that’s what I’ve been doing.
This is a nice description of the "non serviam" attitude I discussed in my last post, in which women reject the idea of ever doing things for a spouse. Interestingly Annie Lord goes against the usual script by adding the following thought:
But what if doing something for a man is doing something for yourself?

This is interesting as it is a rejection of the zero sum game attitude to relationships, in which it is thought that if one sex gains the other must lose. It suggests, correctly I think, that we develop through what we give as men or as women to family life.

My social milieu is dominated by the most left-liberal of women, so I have some understanding of their approach to relationships. Listening to them can be disheartening. They tend to believe that women should be able to follow any passion or prompting and that men should just fall into line. For instance, if a wife suddenly decides she would like to live in Finland, there should be no barriers to her carrying through with this and that it is her husband's role to follow along. 

Oddly, they see this as a movement toward equality between men and women, because they have persuaded themselves that men are already empowered to do whatever they have a mind to do. The reality is that their concept of equality gives absolute supremacy to the arbitrary will of women; it is like a version of The Handmaid's Tale but with the sexes swapped around.

Unsurprisingly, the relationship success rate amongst these women hovers close to zero percent. 

We do need to order goods. This does not mean claiming that one good is always and in every respect a blessing, and others always evil. It is "ordering" - making a decision about what is the higher good and what is the lower. And it is not just individuals who need to order in this way. As Annie Lord's writings make clear, it doesn't work for just one individual to order rightly if the entire culture has become disordered. There are certain aspects of life that we cannot succeed in alone and that need to be ordered at the communal level.

The focus on individual autonomy has one other negative effect. It encourages a highly individualistic mindset, in which the only unit of society is the individual. Within this mindset, the concept of a spousal union is entirely lost - it no longer registers. A husband and a wife no longer act together for a common purpose, with united interests. For my left-liberal female acquaintances, if a husband acquires anything, this is considered to be to the detriment of his wife. He has gained something, therefore she has lost out. It is assumed that he will put this resource to the purpose of empowering himself, for his benefit, leading to her disempowerment and loss of control and standing. Again, this is in the most striking of ways a zero sum game approach to relationships.

How did we get to this state of affairs? It goes all the way back to metaphysics. We have inherited an understanding of man and the world from a variety of sources, much of it from the early modern period. You can recognise, for instance, the influence of Hobbes in some of this. Hobbes was very strongly materialistic and thought that everything we did was materially determined. Even so, he believed in a certain kind of freedom, namely that of having the power to enact our own individual passions rather than others having the power to have us enact theirs. 

If you accept such an Hobbesian framework, then relationships do necessarily become a zero sum game. It is no longer the case that men and women, as social creatures, fulfil their telos - their ends or purposes - in relationship with each other, as a common good. Instead, what matters is my individual "empowerment" in enacting whatever materially determined passions or desires happen to arise within my will.

The metaphysics needs to be reset.


  1. Feminism and the resulting female attitudes exhibited by Miss Lord and as you described of your acquaintances are, in my opinion, the foremost example of the Liberal Contradiction: namely that if everyone is free to do as he wishes then everyone is free to treat you differently for your choices. Sane, virtuous people would naturally shun and exclude or pressure and entice people making disordered choices, and thus limit them, but even degenerate people such as modern men are unlikely to enable women to do whatever they want at their own expense. Hence the current dating scene as lamented by Miss Lord. So you wind up at the contradiction of limiting some people’s behavior in order to enable the unrestricted choice of others.

    IMHO, that’s the reason modern feminism — when it isn’t making naked demands for power or submission (e.g. “We need more female voices,” “Shut up and let XYZ speak,” “We need more women [feminists] in charge,” etc.) — is primarily concerned with controlling male behavior to enable female choice. Men need to be punished and strictly controlled to minimize the risk of rape in order that women are free to dress as they wish, become as intoxicated and vulnerable as they wish, and go wherever they wish whenever they wish in whatever state they wish without having to fear negative consequences that might limit those choices. Men need to live in fear of imprisonment and social ruin so that women can have exactly the kind of sex they want when they want it. Men need to be educated not to care about a woman’s sexual history in order that she is free to sleep around when she wishes and get married when she wishes (and then divorce when she wishes and remarry when she wishes). Men should be educated and pressured not to care how women dress or behave. Men shouldn’t care about how much you weigh or how much you style yourself. Men shouldn’t care about how attractive you are.

    The fly in the ointment with most modern female choices is that men simply don’t want to be around them (or marry them) as a result, and feminists haven’t yet found a way for a woman to experience the married life she wants without a man to propose to and provide for her.

    All liberalism suffers from this because it’s an inherent and intractable problem (and an exacerbated one when naked self-interest is promoted), but feminism is, I think, the best and most common (and most easily understood) example of it.

    1. The pain is the point. the women are the intended victims of feminism.

  2. Another issue with "non serviam" is not only do women reject the idea of doing anything for a man, but they cannot recognize anything he does as being of service to her. That is why so many women believe "men do nothing when they come home".

    Those women who believe that "he will put this resource to the purpose of empowering himself, for his benefit" are engaging in confession through projection. They believe of men that because that's exactly what they would do.

  3. Another example of how this mentality comes out in the language feminists--- and even women who don't think they're involved with this worldview-- is the number of women I see refering to the FATHER of their children as....

    "the father of my son" is such and such.

    This language is very stained and somehow dishonest. I always do a double take and think to myself..'wait, your son, father... that means he was either YOUR husband or YOUR partner.' Yet this abtruse and strained language. There's something very wrong with accepting this type of manipulative word play.

  4. I wrote a comment for this article the day it came out, but it was too long to post. So instead I decided to write a whole blog post about it instead. I finally finished it:


  5. The disorder is something baked into modern dating, even beyond the feminist elements.

    Annie Lord, like most modern women and men, approaches dating as a means of getting emotional (and physical) pleasure. Though no one will quite put it this crassly, it is precisely how the entire enterprise is viewed, and modern culture pushes for this at multiple levels, all the way down to the Disney movies.

    The dream Annie Lord (and many others) are pursuing is this: she will fall in love with someone who is also in love with her, and by love in this context she means a particular pleasant emotion. If the dream goes well, the feeling will persist, mutually, forever, and under its influence she and her man will always be happy. The development of virtue will be largely unnecessary because “love” will do all the work.

    Marriage will come about when she believes she’s finally found the one who will make the feeling last forever.

    Children will be had if and only if they both decide that they would “enrich” their lives—that they would be a source of pleasure. (It should be noted that premoderns did not always enter marriage with high-minded thoughts of sacrificing themselves for their children, but since children were not a “choice,” this did not have the destructive consequences it does today. Indeed being funnelled into family life by mere biology may have even turned a few hedonists around).

    It at some point the feeling should wain, or if they encounter a problem serious enough to make their life together unpleasant for any extended period of time, or essentially if the marriage/relationship should ever become an occasion of sacrifice and the cross more than it is an occasion of pleasure and comfort, then that will just prove that the two were not right for each other after all. Divorce. Then, let the search for “true love” (the one who will make the pleasant emotion permanent) resume.

    Sacrifice? Virtue? Vocation? Family as a duty rather than an accessory? None of these things fit in with dating as a means of having a good time.

    Of course people who approach marriage as a vocation can (must?) still find their spouse through modern dating. I did. But it becomes very clear that the rules for modern dating are not designed by people who want what we want.

    1. Cameron, that is exceptionally well put. I have always put it in my own mind that being a husband or a wife is an "office" through which we fulfil part of our telos of being a man or a woman, so that you would seek to successfully complete this office even if it were an arduous undertaking. We still do this, mostly at least, when it comes to the "offices" of being a father or a mother. Even when we are tested, we don't abandon our posts, but we seek the good of our children, wanting them to have the chance to reach adulthood successfully. The only caveat I would place on all this is that it does not mean that there are no emotions attached to these offices. There does exist a marital love, just as there does a paternal and maternal love. It is a human good to experience these. Being a husband or a wife is a vocation in a special sense, in that it is likely to connect us over time closely and intimately with another person in a spousal union. If both spouses were to faithfully fulfil this vocation, you would imagine that a type of pair bonding would take place over the course of a lifetime, as a likely outcome.

    2. Oh absolutely, the romantic feelings are of course very important: you don’t want to make the opposite error. It’s really the same old modern story with everyone else: the only people who actually get the prolonged feelings of deep attachment are the married couples who understand that the feelings are a secondary good, not the be-all and end-all. Those who pursue the feelings to the exclusion of all else don’t even get the feelings, as Annie Lord’s story makes so clear. (I think a similar argument could be made about freedom for nations: In fact, I think you have made such an argument very eloquently in another post, if memory serves.)