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.
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.