The way to rebuild our nation is to do what all good men
have always done: raise their sons to be great husbands and fathers.
As his newborn son is placed in his father’s arms for the
first time, the young father (even if he cannot formulate the words) says to
give you my heart always and give you my time early in your life— to bind you to me with affection (when it is
easy to do). On this foundation we will
build the rest. Nothing else compares to this, not a successful business, nor
great honors —-nothing else — except loving your mother.
greatest task is to make a great husband and great father of you.
I will teach you what paths to walk so that you will desire to be good.
In your growing years I will be your guardian and protector.
I will protect you from sexual abuse.
I will teach you how to protect yourself from sexual abuse.
I will protect you from pornography within our home.
I will teach you how to protect yourself from pornography anywhere you come
I will teach you how to treat your own body.
I will teach you how to regard the bodies of women.
I will teach you how to listen carefully to women and hear what they
I will teach you how to treat
all women, so they will know you are a man of good intentions.
I will teach you how to spot and win the sexual battles that will take
place inside your head and your heart.
I will teach you why you should not masturbate. (Your wife will thank
me — without ever telling me).
I will teach you how to have the sexual control you will need for your
I will teach you how to date well, and how to select and court a great
wife from among all the beautiful women you will meet.
My little one, because of all of this you are going to make a great man
As men put this into practice, by taking sex-ed out of the
schools and back into the home where it belongs, all of society will adapt
around this strategic shift. By exercising
this basic natural right, every father will cause society to rearrange itself around
his actions — in ways that restore social order.
The solution is simple though taxing: Fathers raise their
boys to be great husbands and great fathers.
To do a good job in raising their sons, modern fathers have to dig deeper into the nature of fatherhood, deeper than fathers ever had to in all of human history because of the Marxist feminist assault on “patriarchy”,amplified by technological shocks (the pill, internet pornography, etc.). Because the enemy dug deep so as to understand how to deconstruct society and family(see Shulamith Firestone’s seminal influence on 1970’s feminism: The Dialectic of Sex), men today have to dig deeper still. This may well turn out to be a great blessing because here after, men can pass this deeper knowledge on to their sons and in the process become better men themselves while forming their boys to be even better. While the father will make the boy, the boy will also make the father. As Seneca said: “While we teach, we learn.” Understanding fatherhood better, men will live it better.
What ironic justice if “man, fully alive” develops as an unintended consequence of feminism.
During the different stages of his son’s growth into
manhood, the father will touch on fives themes repeatedly, going deeper each
time, as he judges what his son needs to know and what he is ready to absorb:
About the physical and
biological facts of sexuality (male and female) that his son will need to know
during the next phase he is entering. It is best the son get this information
from his father first — not on the playground from other boys nor on the
screen from strangers.
About the differences
between men and women. This is remote preparation for understanding and
accepting the very different modes of seeing and experiencing things that are
the ways of his mother, sisters and future wife.
About how to choose a
good wife. Prudently prepared and
lightly delivered, these nuggets of wisdom will affect his choice of a good
About the inner moral
struggle that all boys and men have to engage in, deep in their own hearts, on
their way to manhood. This is a key point of identity between a father and son:
unique male way of battling to live well. This aspect is the core of a father’s
formation of his son.
Sadly, about the
dangers of abuse and pornography, which will have to be introduced early in a
boy’s formation because of their pervasiveness.
First Phase: Early Childhood
Well begun is half done.
The relational foundation of a boy’s sexuality is his
earliest relationship with his father. If this is warm, affectionate and
enjoyable the journey is off to a great start.
The demand on the father is one of time and possibly of temperament. Giving
his time to his son is his greatest gift, always. The more and the earlier the better. As the child reacts with joy and laughter the
father is naturally encouraged and rewarded.
The embrace and horseplay that father and child engage in develops his
son’s trust and confidence.
The task is friendship, the method is play: Anything and all
that the son enjoys with his father. It can be tiddlywinks or football, drawing
or singing, reading or baseball, fishing or hiking. Whatever brings joy to the
Also, this early stage is the time that deep friendship is
most easily formed. It will yield fruit
in mid-childhood and adolescence when that friendship will be tested by the
strains of that phase.
With such a friendship in place the later phases will be
handled with much great ease.
The total population of North, Central, and South America is less than a billion. Europe’s population is much less. Africa’s population is about one billion.
In the last 100 years the world has eliminated one billion childrenthrough abortion. In other words, whole continents. World War II was a walk in the park compared to this. The US alone has aborted 58 million infants (the total population of the US as it came into the twentieth century, and almost the same as the total populations killed in World War II, the bloodiest war in human history. The “body-count” in the Holocaust pales in comparison to this, US-only “body count”. Clearly, we “do sex” wrong. Humankind has never, ever, “done it” so wrong.
In the US, for children who survive pregnancy and make it to birth, most of their parents cannot stand each other enough to live their lives together and raise their children to adulthood. Slavery has returned to the US—in the form of sex trafficking. Pornography addiction (to some degree or other) is almost universal among young men. Cohabitation is the majority’s choice despite the widespread knowledge of its bad effects. STDs are “through the roof” and are now mega epidemics — having been epidemic for decades. Motherhood is frowned upon in the academic world and most business put up with mothers only because they are forced to if they want female workers. The list could go on and on— and that is without going near what is being taught and not taught in churches— of all denominations!
As a society we have really lost our way. Leaders in all institutions have lost their way or their courage. There are some who know how to “do it” but most don’t, or are afraid, and public schools and academia are not only totally lost, they lead down the wrong and debilitating path — even in the face of overwhelming data. Proof? Just look around you.
Where do we start to rebuild?
This rebuilding starts with men — with fathers in particular.
The fundamental correction involves all fathers taking back from everyone else the sexual education of their sons. Mothers need to do the same for their daughters. However, the sine qua non is that fathers become the sexual tutors of their sons, because, given the nature of males, men have much greater and difficult task to achiever bringing their sexual impulses under total control.
The program is simple: Every father worthy of the title, wants his son to end up happily married to the girl of his dreams and wants to show him the way to pull that off. This is what fathers do: make men out of their boys.
Now that presents a difficulty because most fathers, today, have not achieved that status or have lost it: they aresingle or married to some other woman. Thus, they are quite handicapped in giving what they do not have. However, let us leave that major difficulty to the side for the time being and focus instead on what has to be achieved: Lifelong marriage of a boy to the girl of his dreams.
As a nation— as a culture— we either go for this or we break apart into factions, because sex — at every level of social organization, from the couple to the polis— either powerfully binds us together or powerfully splits us apart. Those who do not go for the gold of lifelong marriage, ultimately, are prepared that our nation be split into pieces. Too strong a claim? What happens to families after divorce? Multiply that by millions and then by two or three generations and then you have a nation and culture falling apart. The choice is not just and individual choice it is a political one (in the pure sense of the polis).
Feminists and lots of other women are clear on what they don’t want men to do sexually, and they are right! But they are NOT clear on what they want men to DO. And without a clear destination anyone is lost. So, feminists, though correct in their attacks on predation, are totally wrong on the nature of sex. There is only one destination that makes sense of sex: Sex is meant for marriage and procreation— procreation within marriage— both entwined. There are lots of secondary derivative purposes and benefits but these two, procreation within marriage, are non-negotiables if we are to avoid social chaos, and if justice is to be done to every child, and if we are to be a people who want justice for every child.
Maybe the biggest natural barrier to achieving this justice is a universal fact about being male: for every man a huge portion of females are physically attractive to him— and will remain so throughout his life, no matter his marital status. Men see, and immediately register, the beauty and attractiveness of every female before they know anything else about her. And if a man permits himself to pursue that attraction to its logical end (intercourse) he can be in big trouble for the rest of his life, and worse still, he will have caused chaos in the lives of the woman, her extended family, his own extended family, and in particular, and most disastrously, will have severely damaged the children that result from that intercourse (either eliminating them in abortion or leaving them with split parents for the rest of their lives – and the grandchildren’s lives.
The only way that sexual attraction can be properly handled is by channeling it towards one person only — the future bride. Finding her is a long and delicate process for which a good father is the best guide, by far.
The journey to the bride starts in childhood. It used to start in adolescence for most of human history but now, with pornography being universally and aggressively obtrusive, it starts for boys around age seven or eight, because with his first exposure to it he is beginning to go down the right path or the wrong path.
(By the way – I am all for the death penalty for pornographers. The human suffering unleashed by pornography is so large it is beyond comprehension.)
Back to the task: fathers now have to begin tutoring early if they are not to be too late. By age 7 or 8 it is already urgent and assumes a good level of affection between father and son for this next phase to be successful.
The good father lets his boy know (despite his son not yet being interested in girls) that he wants him to end up as a great young man with a beautiful young wife who will be his companion and best friend for life. Even the father who has failed to achieve this for himself can lay this out for his son.
Gradually – and differently for each son – he leads him to understand the fundamental complementarity between male and female; that this complementarity between his mother and father brought him into existence and an even greater complementarity and unity between them is needed to raise him to be a great young man. The father reminds his son that he exists because he, his father, used his sexuality to bring him into existence! (This is a most powerful lesson each modern boy needs to hear from the lips of his father. Without this exchange a father is neglecting the growth of his son). He lets his son know that his father, and he alone, is the one to guide his son in teaching about sexuality and that his son should take it from no one else unless his father says it is OK. He even goes so far as to teach his son how to demand this as his (the son’s) right in the classroom and any other place. He teaches his boy how to be a modern warrior — and gentleman — in these sexually hostile times.
The father paints, repeatedly, the goal of the great woman to be won over – by his son being a great man. He teaches him that in this domain “like attracts like!” He cannot have a great woman without being a great man. It is impossible. (At the same time the boy’s mother is teaching the same lesson to his sister).
The father teaches his son that along the way there are many traps and snares for every man; that there always has been and always will be. The first snare that modern boys confront is pornography — new, modern and powerful in its intrusiveness and alluringness (that is what makes it a snare). The father tells his son (at the appropriate time) how he combats his own temptations to look at pornography. He does it in a way that invites the son to lean on his father for help whenever that struggle is present – and it will be. The father promises to protect him within the home and at school but tells him he has to learn how to protect himself when his father is not around. And he reminds him constantly that all this is for the sake of that wonderful girl he is going to win some day. The purer his heart the stronger it will be and the more easily she will sense it and be attracted by it. And he in turn will be able to recognize a woman with a similarly pure heart – ready to give it to the right man but only to the right man and only to one man!
Anybody with an ounce of sense will agree with the above. Anyone who does not is an enemy of children. Harsh? Yes — but true and fundamental to a just and peaceful society.
In all my years working with couples and families, with data and research, with evaluating programs and trying to figure out how best to help couples and families, I have concluded that nothing is more fundamental in the cycle of life and of nations than that the father be the one to induct a boy into sexuality. No one else. All else is fraud — dressed up no doubt, but fraud.
Given this, I think it is time for another Revolutionary War. This war is not fought with guns (though, if it is not won there will be a war with guns). It is the revolution by which fathers take back from everyone else, no matter who they are (teachers or clergy), the sexual education and formation of their boys.
We all love appropriate battle cries, such as New Hampshire’s “Liver Free or Die”. The one every father needs close to his heart (and on his lips when need be) is “Keep your hands off my son’s sex!”
If we get enough fathers taking “sex ed” (it really is sexual malformation) back out of the schools (public and private, denominational or secular) we can change America. If we don’t we lose it.
Too simple? No, no matter the difficulty of doing it. I see nothing more foundational than this in the cycle of human existence, handed on from one generation to the next.
(By the way, this is the ultimate reform the Catholic Church needs to rectify its own house on sexual ethics for all vocations—for marriage, priesthood, religious celibacy or single lay life. It was the “program” proposed in plenty of time by Pope Pius XII back in the 1950’s. It is a pity of historical proportions that Catholic bishops and religious teaching orders did not take that to heart.)
May fathers take back the formation of their sons’ sexuality from everyone else! It belongs to no one else. If anyone wants to do any “sex ed” let them help fathers and mothers do it — and most of them will need help to do this well. But any other forms of sex ed is only adding to the problem. Proof? Just look around you.
It is already very late. It is time to start this New Revolution.
The most comprehensive overview of the effects of divorce on childrenuntil then was a 2012 synthesis paper I wrote with Aaron Churchill. For this blog I composed a short review of the more recent literature on divorce using the National Institute of Health’s Library and database. The simplified results confirm and extend the findings of the 2012 paper:
When parents divorce, a child’s world is shattered. For some children it is a slow disintegration. For others it is cataclysmic in its suddenness. The depth of the wounds is much the same, though the variety of wounds is myriad and, though patterns abound, each wound is unique and idiosyncratic in its effects on the mind, heart and soul of each child, even when a grown adult.
With divorce, the very center of the child’s universe has imploded. Yes, the child has to pick up the pieces and get on with life, but they are pieces, a poor substitute for a wonderful whole. If the marriage of parents is the rich soil in which children thrive, then divorce leads them to a perpetual depletion diet. The rich nutrition of love and unity is bleached out of their food. Different events — a visit to a friend’s home, a scene in a movie, a line in a song — reminds them all the time that they no longer eat steak every day but rather a thinner soup that they just have to get used to. No matter how much divorced parents try they cannot deny their rejection of each other, nor the wounds that rejection causes: They have made their child’s universe crooked. Granted in many cases it is one parent who did the shattering. Given the effects on his or her children such a person has become evil by doing so great an evil. Hard words? Just read the effects above in the italicized paragraph again (and they are only partial; for the full list read the full paper).
As laws have
shifted away from protecting citizens from harm, by forbidding evils and
punishing wrongs, legislators have turned instead to “policy making”. This shift
really took off with the sexual revolution and the divorce revolution. The more
they aided and abetted the storm (passing no-fault divorce laws), the more
effort they have to put into minimizing the damage: This is much of “social
disheartening to read research articles on the effects of divorce on children.
The vast majority of studies encourage social policy to reduce the damage done
to children by divorce. Virtually
nowhere is there a push for efforts to save couples from divorce, to rebuilding
broken marriages or even (especially) those on the rocks. The mantra instead is
one of conflict reduction… It is better that the children live in a home with
less turmoil. No one talks of a rebuilt
home, a rebuilt marriage.
I know a manwho is one of the great healers of “bad marriages”. He may be the greatest. At one time he was working in a family court (a divorce court) in a large Mid-Western city. After he had demonstrated his skill by resolving some awful relationships the judges gave him access to those waiting for their day in the divorce court. Soon, about half the divorce-seeking couples were going away HAPPILY reconciled. But that cut into the incomes of their divorce lawyers. In response, the divorce lawyers’ lobby got rid of him by having the legislature threaten to significantly cut the family-court’s budget. There is a special place in hell for the lawyers who pulled that off, and also for those behind the no-fault divorce revolution (read Jane Anderson’s 2014 on the effects of divorce if you think that too strong).
Next week I
will delve into the effects (visible in the Add Health data) of divorce on
boys. There is nothing like it anywhere else in the social science literature: The
divorce of parents plus the
worship of God turns boys into sexual predators.
After this delving into the dark side, I feel like a good shower and a good drink, or something even better to revive the heart.
Three phases are foundational to a sense of well-being throughout life: The child’s early experience of his mother, the teenager’s decision about sex and God, and the newly wedded couples agreement on suffering. The first and last involve the two most important persons in his life. The middle- the teenager’s decision -is personal, private and alone, or alone before God. All three phases shape life way into the future by shaping the individual’s capacity for the wellbeing of spouse, children, friends, family, and colleagues at work.
The child who experiences the constant attention and affection of a self-giving mother during the earliest phase of life, is blessed beyond measure. That mother is giving him a great introduction to “reality as a pleasant place to be.” Life is good, life is warm, life is full. Well taken care of, that baby is ready to take life on! Depending on the mother’s capacity, both from within herself and from the environment around her (her own early experience of her own mother, her husband, her home, her support from family and friends), she fills her child’s emotional heart- his relational “cup”- full, half-full or quarter full. Less than full means the child will have a corresponding limp in human relationships for the rest of its life– without realizing it.
In a recent conversation with friends who live in Spain we mulled the mother-child dilemma in that country where almost all married women are expected to return to work four months after the birth of the child. Many fear that moment because of the pain of leaving their child so soon. By any research calculus, four months with mother is way too little as a norm. Spain is undermining the relational capacity of its children and guaranteeing fragile marriages and difficult parenting twenty-five to thirty years from now.
It cannot but be that most Spanish children will limp relationally to some extent, but it will be hard to spot because most other Spaniards will have been similarly affected. For almost all Spanish couples — even the middle class and higher — a culture of shame exists for husbands if their wives do not work. (The poor and the working class can’t afford the luxury of such shame.) Caring full-time for children at home has become rather socially unacceptable. In Spain, the marketplace is more honored than the child. The market now significantly shapes Spanish children’s relational capacities.
The next period to shape life takes place in the inner sanctum of each teenager’s heart. Between the age of fourteen to sixteen most teenagers decide very privately which path they will walk on matters sexual – ‘adventurous’ exploration of sexual relationships, or chaste abstinence until marriage. The other decision, rather interlaced with the first, is whether they will walk with God or without Him. Should they take the both paths the wrong way, they set themselves up for much unhappiness, broken relationships, even broken marriages, thus visiting suffering on their future children and grandchildren. Some learn their mistake before they go too far down the road. Others find chaste abstinence is possible, especially with friends who walk the same path and who go to God frequently in worship. Oh this “it takes a village” helps a lot. Though chastity leads to significant prosperity and happiness in marriage and family for decades to come, most teenagers are not aware of this, nor that, though they are free to choose, they are not free to choose the consequences, that the consequences are hardwired within them.
The third period bridges the year before and after marriage. The most basic wisdom young couples need concerns suffering. Their orientation to it shapes their future. Those who expect life together to involve some suffering and are prepared to back each other up (“for better or for worse”) will survive and thrive. Those who premise marriage only on “happy ever after” (our modernist norm) are in for a quick disillusionment, one that ends many marriages. The best definition I have come across of a great marriage is “a couple with the capacity to solve an emotionally dividing problem”. Stated differently: a couple who can confront the suffering that life throws at them and figure out how to move towards a solution they agree on.
Though all the social science dots are not yet fully connected across the three periods, enough of them are to link the first period to this last. A husband and wife whose mothers “filled their cup” in infancy are much better formed to be great problem solvers together.
Which brings me back to poor Spain! It takes the national wisdom of a child-friendly culture to deal well with family, love, suffering and children. St John of the Cross, who helped reform religious and institutional life in Spain in the late 1500’s and whose writings are explored by believers of all faiths, is one of the great teachers of the connection between love and suffering. Spanish life could do with a re-infusion of his insights. Then the rest of the world would learn from Spain, for many Western nations, and many good couples, struggle, during the first phase of the child’s existence, to solve the dilemma of mother, child and marketplace.
Recently, for a talk in Chicago to parents of high school boys, I had to update my knowledge based on a 2009 review of the effects of pornography. On this issue the world has changed a lot in less than ten years: the use of pornography has escalated and the effects are alarming.
The most telling effect, I think, is the epidemic of erectile dysfunction (ED) among men. For all of human history this was mainly an older man’s problem. As recently as 2002 the rate of ED for men aged 40–80 was about 13% in Europe. By 2011 rates reached 28% for men aged 18–40. As reported above, a 2014 cross-sectional study of active duty, relatively healthy, 21–40 old males in the US military, found that one third (33.2%) suffered from ED.
Unaware of these changes, for the last year or so I had thought that the drop in high school students’ rate of sexual intercourse was good news and that, since 2007, abstinence ideas were winning, but given the above data, all of the causes may not be good news. Increased pornography use among teenage boys, resulting in decreased interest in girls, may be the cause. This also serves to put in context a disturbing experience I had a few weeks ago while driving through a wealthy Washington D.C. suburb during rush hour: I noticed (as must several other drivers waiting for the traffic lights to change) a 12-year-old moving along the sidewalk, intently looking at his smartphone in one hand while his other hand was engaged in self-abuse. I had not yet reviewed the new research on the prevalence of pornography viewing and was quite taken aback. No longer. At age 12 he was already so addicted to porn and had no shame. The average age of a boy’s first viewing of pornography has dropped to 10 years of age. Fathers be aware.
75 percent of porn-watching is done on smart phones. 25 percent of all internet searches are for pornography. Tablets and computers make up the rest, computers being the smallest percentage. The average length of stay on a porn site is about 10 minutes. 70 percent of US college students watch porn — alone, with others, or in couples. 45 percent of women now accept it in their relationships. 10 percent of women refuse to view it themselves but accept it in their husbands or partners.
A decade ago women viewed pornography at about one sixth the rate of men. Today, depending on the country, it varies from only one third the rate of men (US) to one half (the Philippines and Brazil).
Estimates of production range up to 4.2 million websites (12 percent of the total sites worldwide) with 420 million web pages. Every single day, worldwide, there are more than 68 million search engine requests for pornography (which is 25 percent of all search requests).
What are the negative effects for those who become habituated and especially for those who become addicted? Changes in brain size (diminished); the younger boys start the greater the effects on their brain, and the more difficult to overcome the addiction; men see women as sex objects not as persons, have greater interest in pornography than in the company of women or girlfriends; they suffer increasingly from erectile dysfunction, become more aggressive in their relationships with spouses or partners, are more likely to believe the ‘rape myth’ (that women enjoy being sexually abused), and progress to more and more deviant pornography to attain sexual arousal, leading in turn to greater sexual deviancy; teenagers will be more likely to engage in same-sex sexual activities. It is no wonder that American young adults and college students are less and less interested in marriage and may be on the way towards the “Japanese disease” of widespread withdrawal from interest in sexual matters among 30-year-olds.
This is a calamity of monumental proportions. Combined with contraception and abortion, we now have a ‘society-collapsing’ conception and practice of human sexuality.
Given the borderless nature of the internet, pornography is difficult to control. However, there is not a nation on earth for whom its effects are not massively deleterious. This is one public health hazard on which the governments of the world should cooperate. Without that cooperation it cannot be stamped out. And, given the rate at which porn movies are made, the industry would have to be a major source of the sexual exploitation of women, with probable links to sex-trafficking.
In the meantime, savvy parents — and even savvy teenagers — will switch to dumb phones. Giving a teenage boy a smart phone is installing a porn-shop in his pocket… and a very alluring shop it is too: cheap (free) porn, immediately available, and anonymous. In ten minutes a teenage boy can see more and more beautiful undressed women than the greatest sultan harem-owner in history ever saw in a lifetime. Who could resist? Not many.
One father, a friend of mine who took great care in introducing his boys into a gradual and full understanding of male sexuality and its foundational role in marriage, came up with a savvy way of helping his boys avoid pornography: He told them that, if any boy at their school showed porn to them on a smartphone, they had his full permission to grab the phone, smash it on the ground, stomp it into bits, and then tell that classmate to have their father call his father. One can imagine their glee but, so far, they have not had the joy of following through. Their school now forbids smartphones during school hours on school property. Maybe the practice will spread. ‘Dumb phones’ work fine for communicating with parents, family, and friends. The world is different when dumb is smart!
Today’s two findings link the digital world with relational outcomes that no one wants: abortion and unhappiness. The digital world is a two-edged sword. We know its benefits, but increasingly we are getting to know it’s down-sides. Japan, one of the most digitally saturated societies on earth, is experiencing one of technology’s noxious byproducts: hikikomori they call it, the shut-in lifestyle of young people who have withdrawn from society in fear and isolation to live, not socially, but digitally.
Being human, we are deeply relational from the first moments of our existence and thrive on good relationships throughout our lives. We are brought into existence by the most intimate and desirable of relational activities. We come into the world to be nursed and cuddled in an intimacy many of us, subconsciously, seek to recreate throughout life, especially if we did not get enough in infancy. We thrive in families that spend lots of time together, supporting each other in the tasks of life. This is made even easier for us if we live in a close community. Add lots of intact marriages and lots of weekly worship (both deeply relational) and life is pretty good for almost all involved. Children who grow up in these environments are much more likely to thrive in adulthood.
“Life in a Jewish Family” by Edith Stein, describes just such a family life in a close-knit Jewish community. It changed how my wife and I raised our children. Later it led me to frequently suggest to my daughters that, in their turn, they consider living close to each other, if possible, when they married and began their own families because their children would benefit from all the aunts, uncles, and cousins they would have around them. Better still, if they were anchored in a community of worship, and best of all if they had all this and friends close by. What gifts for all the children involved!
Charles Murray of AEI in Coming Apart and Robert Putnam of Harvard in Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis tell pretty much the same story: upper-class parents, by and large, understand the relational needs of their children and that their own marriage is foundational to their children’s future. These parents are well educated and know the research. These upper-class parents also understand and practice the worship of God more than most!
But all this good work can be undone, even for the best of parents, should the digital get a hold on the imagination and habits of their children.
Here too, savvy elites catch on quickly: A few years ago, I gave a presentation to a group of very wealthy and highly educated married couples. The topic was ‘the benefits to children of the time married parents spend with them’. One of the couples recounted their smartphone strategy: every family member, including each parent, puts his smartphone into a big ceramic bowl in the foyer when he arrives home. The phones stay there until after dinner and, on going to bed, are put back there again until after breakfast … which they all have together as their start to the day. They insisted they knew the value of things and that the most valuable of all is time with the most important people in their lives … each other and their children.
Patton argues that colleges harbor a great number of smart men, one only grows older after college, and it is generally a virtue for women to marry young. McGuire disagrees with Patton and uses data collected by The National Marriage Project’s “Knot Yet” Report to prove her point that women should wait until their late 20s and early 30s to get married, because the lower the age at marriage, the higher the risk of divorce.
The research does indeed show that women who get married before the age of 20 face a proposed divorce rate of 52 percent. It drops to 34 percent for women who get married between the ages of 20-23, and even lower to 14 percent for women ages 24-26. Women who get married between the ages of 27-29 have a 20 percent chance of divorce and women who are 30 years or older only have an 8 percent chance of divorce. Just looking at these percentages, one would agree that women should wait until they are approaching 30 to find a life partner.
However when one looks at the level of happiness within marriage another dimension comes forth:
The risk of divorce and the risk of unhappiness may not follow the same trajectory, according to the Knot Yet Report. Of women who marry before the age of 20, only 31 percent say they are very happily married. Forty-six percent of women married between the ages of 20-23 report that they are very happily married, and 49 percent of women married between the ages of 27-29 report the same. Forty-two percent of women who marry at 30 or older report being very happily married. But, remarkably, a significantly higher 66 percent of women who marry between the ages of 24-26 report that they are very happily married. No other age group even breaks 50 percent in the very happily married category.
So how are we to make sense of this data?
Looking at the divorce risk alone gives us the benefit of objective concrete reality. Happiness on the other hand is a subjective and fluid measure.
The benefit of younger marriage is that the couple can mold their characters together rather than individually, while they are still young and flexible. If they work at it, their virtues develop alongside each other and they learn to be more harmonious as they face the formative twenties with each other.
Many questions are left unasked in the Knot Yet report:
How chaste are they (a virtue with a big impact on marital stability); what are their intentions on children (are they family focused or self-focused as they go into marriage)? What is their education attainment and GPA? Hard work is a good indication of responsibility and dedication — qualities needed for a successful marriage.
Developing norms for marriage in our new mobile age is a much needed discourse and both McGuire and Patton contribute to the discussion. The data give us clues to behavior and behavior gives us clues to habits and virtue, but the data is still a fair distance removed from this last point: character. When a young man of great character marries a young woman of great character and they are both working on developing the necessary virtues (good habits) to make the other happy and to make family life better, then the chance of divorce is rather remote. Add in frequent prayer and worship (not addressed by the Knot Yet report) and divorce almost disappears. Add virginity at marriage and you have a totally different ball game. Add natural family planning rather than contraception and the game shifts even more. When were these the norms? What was marital stability like then? For those who choose to build a strong future (as opposed to pining for a distant past) the norms are the same.
Those who marry young will indeed face many hardships as the pieces of their lives continue to come together during their twenties, so the divorce risk makes sense. However, our goal is to encourage intact and happy-healthy marriage in our nation. Perhaps the answer is therefore to encourage young marriage…if four things are present:
1)Both man and woman are educated. Research shows the lower divorce risk for couples who have gone through the stabilizing and enriching experience of higher education (college degree). 2)Both man and woman have the virtue of chastity. Couples who are concerned with chastity—before and during marriage—tend to be dedicated to relational health, intactness, and service. 3)Both are people of regular prayer and worship. 4)The couple talks through, and agrees on, the functions of the five big tasks (institutions)—family, church, school, marketplace, and government. Marriage and parenting will be intertwined with these institutions, and conflict regarding them can quickly destabilize a marriage. 5)The man and woman come from healthy families. Such couples have working models for dealing with hardship and living for a greater good than self. If they don’t have such backgrounds, they must discuss the potential baggage and bad habits (of thought or feeling) that may encumber them.
If these five factors are in place, I suggest a couple should by all means marry young. Life is full of adversity—it is simply about which adversities to take on. The “adversity” of starting young is a natural good. If you have all these things going for you, then “Go for it”. Guys: she may be gone with someone else if you wait. Ladies: the same for you too. If a businessman comes across a really great deal does he wait? The great deal here is character. Does he have it? Does she?
A week and half before their Labor Day music festival, Electric Zoo posted a notice on their blog encouraging their participant “party animals” to “keep the positive party vibes flowing by looking out for each other.” The post advised against illegal drug use but also outlined common signs of drug abuse and included a map of where to find on-site medical facilities. While many attendees may have followed this recommendation and enjoyed their weekend, a few attendees did not. Electric Zoo was forced to cancelthe third and final day of the event due to two tragic overdoses and a number of hospitalized attendees on the first two days.
Fueling the public’s negative reaction to the Labor Day fatalities is the professional history of the Electric Zoo’s founder. One of the founder’s partner clubs in Chelsea, Twilo, was shut down in 2001 following two fatal MDMA overdoses. The fact that both deaths at this year’s Electric Zoo were also reported as MDMA overdoses has certainly made this tragedy a bitter pill to swallow. But where do we draw the line? Can we put all the responsibility on the clubs which organized and repeatedly turned a blind eye to illegal substance abuse? Surely, we cannot ignore the freedom of choice exercised by club and party attendees to partake in the use of illegal substances.
Who is to blame? Society, the clubs, the victims, their parents? The breakdown of the intact married family has many far-reaching effects, including an increased propensity to engage in wrong and damaging behavior, such as illegal drug use. Recent trends indicate that most twelfth graders believe that the availability of, and access to drugs has become easier and easier. And while we all know that drug abusers can come from every background, MARRI Research indicates that children of divorce have a significantly increased risk of crime, as well as drug use. Additionally, research has shown that the more youth who worship weekly exhibit the least hard drug use.
“We must try before we make a commitment.” “Are you sexually compatible?” “How good is he/she in bed?” “Have you had sex yet?”These have become normal questions asked when you meet up with friends, go out to a bar or dinner party…abstinence is not in the vocabulary.
We live in a sexualized society, where life is measured by our emotions, feelings and sexual behavior. You only have to flip through the pages of Cosmopolitan or turn on your TV and watch L.A. Complex or Gossip Girl to understand that sex is what’s expected of you when you go out on a couple dates.
This recently hit me, as I was sharing a drink with this attentive young man I met through a mutual friend. We were sitting at a bar enjoying a casual happy hour, talking about work, hobbies, siblings, aspirations…when as the evening was coming to an end he mentioned, “Where to next, your place or mine? Don’t worry, I’ll let you sleep over afterward.” As if letting me sleep at his house after we had sex was the chivalrous thing to do. The young man was stunned with my polite answer: “No thank you, I don’t do that.” At that very moment I was so thrown off I did not have a solid explanation to why I was not going to have sex with him.
I then understood that a lot of factors went into this assumption he made – it wasn’t that he was some abnormally forward or disrespectful young man. Rather, it is what society, peer pressure or his upbringing has taught him is the normal way of conduct.But he was so stunned he called me for a whole week to try and go out again. He was searching for an answer to my no: Is it that you don’t like me? I am weird? Unattractive? I thought we had a good time? And we truly did.
The only consequences of sleeping around that people dare to mention are unwanted pregnancies and sexual transmitted diseases, like HIV; but those are soon resolved with the notion of “as long as were safe we’ll be fine.” Which means that as long as one uses the pill, condoms or any other contraceptive method, we’re all free to sleep with whomever we desire.
I went on to wonder, besides these more obvious facts, have young people ever thought of our emotional vulnerability or the psychological damages that sleeping around might have? And the advantages of creating a solid long lasting relationship when you wait for marriage?
So today I wanted to skim through a few reasons why we shouldn’t give in to new era of “I had a nice time, let’s have sex” that we may have to deal with as soon as we’re on a date.
First of all, this over sexualized culture backfires as it confuses the true meaning of love with lust. It induces people to marry for the wrong reasons. The emotional bonding that sex brings to the relationship creates a false impression of closeness between strangers and it can blind their judgment, inducing them to believe that this emotional and psychological bonding is caused by their love for one another when it’s mostly induced by their sexual activity.
Once you engage yourself in an active sexual relationship without a strong commitment,it tends to overtake the vast majority of the relationship, which means that you end up learning how to expressyour emotions and feelings through your body and don’t strive to create a personal and intimate friendship which is the solid base of a good marriage. On the contrary, when there is no sexual activity, the couple is forced to spend quality time with one another, learning about their hobbies, desires, aspirations. They also learn how to verbally communicate and express what they are feeling or thinking. This will help them build up the base of their relation and when hard times come, they will not “fix the problem” by sleeping together, but by communicating.
Another reason worth mentioning is that this culture of “fun and sex” reduces the value of our human sexuality, because it uses it as an exchange of products: we exchange our bodies for pleasure. This type of behavior reduces human dignity to a more animal way of acting. This is not the purpose of our sexuality, which is there to express our capacity of love and self-giving.
And finally I wanted to note how by living out abstinence you are loving your future spouse, even if you haven’t met him or her yet, because you’re saving not only your body, which is an expression of yourself, but all that defines you as a person, your unique self being. Once you give yourself to that one special person, the fulfillment will be far greater than expected because it will not only be an act of pleasure but an act of complete surrender, self-giving and spiritual bonding.
So when asked that question again, we could say, “No, I will not sleep with you, as my sexuality is not there to give, just out of mutual understanding, affection or desire. But to preserve for one person who is going to acknowledge it for its final purpose, the surrender and the total self-giving out of love and for love.” This type of surrender reaches its meaning within a profound commitment such as marriage.