Almost a dozen years ago I posted a story about a New York woman named Juliet Jeske. She was 38-years-old at the time and felt cheated of the chance to become a mother by her divorce (her ex-husband had come out as homosexual).
She herself noted the discrepancy between her left-liberal politics and her more traditional attitude to family:
My politics are liberal, but my personal life is extremely conservative...Which is sort of why the divorce has been so difficult. My marriage gave me support, stability, a companion that I loved very deeply and most importantly a sense of calm.
My one comment on her situation was that it was a pity that her politics did not match what she considered to be important goods in her own personal life:
I've watched a few videos of Juliet Jeske doing stand up comedy. She adopts the mocking tone of the radical leftist and she poses as a sexual radical. She wants to shock and to tear down and to dissolve standards and yet at the same time she wants the very traditional goods of a stable marriage, a hard working husband who will provide material security and motherhood.
Unusually for this website, she popped up in the comments thread and complained that "making personal attacks on me is just pathetic." I replied,
I'm not sure if it's the real Juliet Jeske posting comments here.
If it is I'd encourage her to engage with the main argument. Is it really right to complain about sexual mores if you belong to a political movement which has brought about those mores?
Out of curiosity I recently looked her up to see how she was going. Unfortunately, she never did manage to marry and have children. She now describes herself as a cat lady and says that she spends 15 to 30 hours a week monitoring Fox News.
She had previously written a series of articles on the difficulty of dating in New York. These articles are honest and insightful and worth reading. For instance, she wrote one about the difficulties of dating in your late 30s:
When I was in my twenties, dating seemed so much easier. Men and women didn’t have such exact standards, long-term compatibility issues weren’t discussed and everyone seemed so much charmed by each other. I see it now in my friends who are about 10 years younger than me. There is a look of hope and optimism in their eyes that is rare in most of us pushing 40. Even if they have had major heartache, a younger person is less likely to have had the soul crushing experience of a divorce. And very few 25 year olds have had long-term relationships, most are simply too young to have had dated anyone for 10 years or more. People in their twenties are generally more innocent and less jaded, so they are willing to take more risks and have greater hope in another person...When I go out with age appropriate men I find that for some of them, everything becomes a deal breaker.
By her mid 40s things had gotten worse. She wrote a post describing her dating life which included the following topics:
1. If your date actually shows up you are halfway there – It’s next to impossible to get a man to actually agree to a date. Expect nothing.
5. Learn to love spontaneity – Like planning more than a day in advance? Have an unusual schedule that can be difficult to plan around? Well then you’re never dating anyone. If you won’t jump up at a moment’s notice and meet some guy you barely know in a dive bar in the Lower East Side, you’re never getting laid again. Get used to meeting up with men when they’re already half drunk.
8. Find the right slut balance – The Madonna/Whore complex runs deep in the urban male. Men will expect and hope that you will have sex with them minutes after you meet them. If you decide to take the plunge too early you’ll be branded a worthless slut and discarded accordingly. If you try to hold out for a second or third date you might be considered a sexless puritanical old maid.
But the post I want to focus on is her original one complaining about hook up culture:
But the most distressing behavior that I really can’t justify or figure out in New York is the casual sex hook up mating habits that I frankly have no desire to engage in. Yes, I know I get on stage and joke and tell a blue streak of obscenities and adult themed humor, but in my personal life I am a committed relationship type of gal. I make no illusions to being anything but this, and I do not judge others for their behavior. If a polyamorous life of multiple lovers works for a person, then I say go for it. Or if a string of emotionally detached one-night stands with perfect strangers is what makes a person happy then great.
...It is just sort of expected by many that you start the physical part of the relationship first, and then see if either partner wants to continue after you have had sex...Or what I like to call how to be treated like something in between a booty call and a girlfriend. And as a person who doesn’t like being treated poorly, these setups are not usually to my liking. The guy will call or text when he wants to hookup but that is about it.
Not exactly what I call fun, but again everyone is different and for some people this situation is ideal.
- You are supposed to be on call to wait for the opportunity and then run to see him
- Don’t reveal too much about yourself, but listen to him complain about his trials and tribulations
- Don’t expect commitment, or exclusivity
- Don’t expect any emotional bonding
- Don’t expect much effort on his part to impress you, or make you feel like you are important in his life.
I know there a plenty of men and women who are frustrated like myself out there. I hear it all the time from my friends, sometimes they think the fast life of hookups and one-night stands...is working for them. But they soon grow tired of it and want something steady with one person. But what are we supposed to do when everyone around us seems to be whoring it up? If a guy can so easily get no-strings attached sex, and then never see the woman again if he chooses, then why would they try for anything else? And when a man is tired of the hook-ups himself, how does he then make the transition to getting to know a woman when he has been hooking-up for years?
In theory liberalism is about maximising individual choice. We are supposed to be able to choose in any direction, as long as we don't discriminate against or negatively judge the choices of others. Juliet Jeske clearly wants to be seen to be following this principle, as she nearly always follows up a statement of her own preference with a disclaimer that she is fine if other people choose differently.
But it didn't work for her. She did not get her preference, not even something as basic as being courted, getting married and having children. And there is a reason she did not get her preference: the liberal model does not take into account that many of our deepest aims require other people to act in certain ways. In other words, our own good depends on what other people choose to do.
Juliet Jeske describes the dilemma well. People come to realise that a lifestyle based on casual sex is unfulfilling. However, it is difficult for one person to stand alone against a culture that is already set in place and to defy expectations. She understands that if all women were to be more modest that it would change the culture, but the woman who does this alone is likely to be passed over. And so she feels pressure to be someone she is not and to engage in a dating culture that she knows won't make her happy. There is no "maximum preference satisfaction" for her.
Nor does she help things by running down traditional sexual mores in her comedy routines and by emphasising the idea that goods are merely subjective.
The traditional approach was to recognise that there is a common good to be upheld. This does not mean sacrificing your own good for that of the collective. It means that your own good is only realised in common with others. The good has to be upheld together within a community. You cannot, after all, marry yourself. And your chances of a good marriage increase or decrease according to the cultural supports, or lack of them, for marriage and family formation that exist within your society.