Is Courtship Really Dead?

 

In last weekend’s Style section, The New York Times ran a piece titled “The End of Courtship?” focusing on how the “hook-up culture” and electronic media have changed the ways young people meet and become acquainted.

From what I’ve heard, there is some truth to the piece. But I found it profoundly depressing — who’d want to be told that she can “hang” with some guy who’s only willing to “hang” with her if she’s willing to join in on what he’s already doing? Judging from the depressing “Girls,” modern romance is a pretty dismal proposition — that is, if women settle for this kind of man-child-dominated “hanging out” described in the piece.

If there was a moral to the Times story, it came at the end: 

Even in an era of ingrained ambivalence about gender roles, however, some women keep the old dating traditions alive by refusing to accept anything less.

Cheryl Yeoh, a tech entrepreneur in San Francisco, said that she has been on many formal dates of late — plays, fancy restaurants. One suitor even presented her with red roses. For her, the old traditions are alive simply because she refuses to put up with anything less. She generally refuses to go on any date that is not set up a week in advance, involving a degree of forethought.

“If he really wants you,” Ms. Yeoh, 29, said, “he has to put in some effort.”

Despite The Times‘ subtle efforts to influence readers against this approach by (wrongly) suggesting that “formal dating” must require substantial expenditure (plays, fancy restaurants, red roses), I suspect that many women found this version of dating far more appealing than the “hook-up, hang out” version popularized (and often celebrated) by mass media. Frankly, Cheryl Yeoh is obviously a smart, insightful woman — not because she demands expensive, fancy dates (if, indeed, she does), but because she obviously has standards for herself and for men.

After all, if the purpose of courtship is to find someone with character that’s conducive to a long-term, happy marriage, it’s intelligent to hold out for a man who is, actually, willing to put in some effort. And I firmly believe that there are at least some young men out there who are not only willing — but eager — to (as Mr. Darcy put it) “please a woman worthy of being pleased.”

The juxtaposition of the “modern” Lena-Dunham-type women in the article with Cheryl Yeoh at the end made me wonder: Rather than there being an “end to courtship” (as the Times posits), could there now simply be an increasing separation of more- and less-traditional young people (analogous to Charles Murray’s argument about the increasing separation of the residents of Belmont and Fishtown)?

Isn’t it obvious that the traditional/Yeoh model is more likely to yield strong, happy lifetime partnerships (with all their attendant personal and social benefits)? And given that fact, why would anyone (a girl, especially) go along with the new, “courtship free” regime described in the Times piece?

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Members have made 49 comments.

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  1. Profile photo of John Murdoch Member

    The teen girls who buy this? They’re called “baby mamas.”

    The twenty-somethings who buy this? (Cough…Sandra Fluck…Cough) They’re called–well, it’s not really polite to say.

    And the thirty-somethings who still haven’t figured this out? Does anybody remember that dodgy exercise in comparative statistics that concluded that a 35-year-old woman had a better chance of being murdered by a terrorist than of ever marrying?

    The girls who don’t buy this? They’re married.

    • #1
    • January 15, 2013 at 9:07 am
  2. Profile photo of katievs Inactive

    And given that fact, why would anyone (a girl, especially) go along with the new, “courtship free” regime described in the Times piece?

    Seems to me a combination of two things:

    1) not knowing there’s another possibility

    2) despair

    It’s one more ghastly outcome of the sexual revolution and the “dictatorship of relativism”.

    Did anyone else catch the NY Post article Jonah commented on in the Corner this morning? More and more college girls are arranging to have sugar daddies pay their tuition.

    The good news is that the uglier things get in the “dating scene” of the world, the more luminously attractive the alternative becomes.

    • #2
    • January 15, 2013 at 9:20 am
  3. Profile photo of Mollie Hemingway Contributor
    Carol Platt Liebau:

    After all, if the purpose of courtship is to find someone with character that’s conducive to a long-term, happy marriage, it’s intelligent to hold out for a man whois, actually, willing to put in some effort. And I firmly believe that there are at least some young men out there who are not only willing — but eager — to (as Mr. Darcy put it) “please a woman worthy of being pleased.”

    I had a ton of fun dating — most of it formal but some of it informal. I was never, ever one for anything too expensive. It made me feel uncomfortable. But I found that a small bit of forethought was great for both my date and me.

    Dating can be confusing and there are all these questions about expectations. Even just a little bit of structure goes a long way to making both parties feel more comfortable (and I’m speaking, here, of something as simple as asking a bit in advance if you want to go see a particular movie or hit a particular dive bar, and at what time that would happen).

    • #3
    • January 15, 2013 at 9:21 am
  4. Profile photo of Michael Lukehart Thatcher

    Looking at it from your (our?) perspective, it appears pretty dismal for a young lady. However, let us also remember that a lot of the young women out there are not ladies, and they seem to like it as it is. And, truth be told, that is just what a lot of young men want.

    • #4
    • January 15, 2013 at 9:27 am
  5. Profile photo of Pseudodionysius Inactive

    At Ricochet we pay to play because if it were free the comments section would be a cesspool. The dating scene obeys the same laws of nature: if you give it away for free, there’s no telling what you’ll pick up.

    • #5
    • January 15, 2013 at 9:29 am
  6. Profile photo of John Murdoch Member
    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.

    Even just a little bit of structure goes a long way to making both parties feel more comfortable….

    Ours was an illicit romance, so every “date” wasn’t just planned–it had to include maskirovka worthy of Vladimir Putin. (She was a campus ministry staff worker–I a young, impressionable, entranced student.) We didn’t so much date as conspire–which had the practical effect of moving us through that awkward “well, is this serious?” phase fairly quickly.

    • #6
    • January 15, 2013 at 9:33 am
  7. Profile photo of Nathaniel Wright Inactive

    Each working year, I encounter a non-random sample of approximately 1,500 high school age students. Among these populations, “courting” and “dating” are very much alive and Good Luck Charlie is viewed far more often than Girls.

    • #7
    • January 15, 2013 at 9:36 am
  8. Profile photo of kidCoder Member

    Disclaimer: As a teenager, I only have looked at all this, not actually been in the middle.

    However, as it seems from down here, Courtship is something done either in the 18th century or by people who want responsibility for their own actions.

    Am I entirely off my rocker with this?

    • #8
    • January 15, 2013 at 9:48 am
  9. Profile photo of Michael Lukehart Thatcher

    A distinction has to be made. There is a huge difference between courtship and dating. Courtship is goal oriented towards marriage. Dating is recreation. Hooking up is just a debased form of dating.

    • #9
    • January 15, 2013 at 10:18 am
  10. Profile photo of Blitter Inactive

    Yeoh has spent her prime years pursuing an intensive career that (if I may read between the lines here) likely leaves little time for finding and building a serious relationship. But she feels entitled to expensive dates (on the man’s tab, no doubt). I’ve run into such women. They tend to be less attractive than they imagine. I’m not convinced from the article that she is that smart or insightful. Perhaps, but I’m unconvinced.

    Recently I’ve been motivated to make first dates a “come along and join me for something I was doing anyway” because if she flakes out at the last minute I don’t have to care. And flaking out comes with the territory when dealing with 20-something career minded women with overpacked schedules, at least in DC. Besides, there’s something to be said for group activities and watching her in that environment. If she’s not a flake then she’s worth my time to “put in some effort.”

    Screwed up? Yeah, but this is what a lot of us men are facing out there.

    • #10
    • January 15, 2013 at 11:01 am
  11. Profile photo of Miffed White Male Member

    Ms Yeoh sounds like a real pain. There has to be a happy medium between the hook-up culture and “You have to set it up a week in advance and spend lots of money”. What’s wrong with calling someone up and saying “let’s go to a movie tomorrow night”?

    • #11
    • January 15, 2013 at 11:37 am
  12. Profile photo of Ed G. Inactive
    katievs:And given that fact, why would anyone (a girl, especially) go along with the new, “courtship free” regime described in the Times piece?

    Seems to me a combination of two things:

    1) not knowing there’s another possibility

    2) despair

    …..

    Katie, don’t forget the genuine allure of decadence, self-centeredness, and the pursuit of immediate pleasure that are possible (even if illusory or temporary) as a childless free agent. If sin and ruin were unpleasant then there wouldn’t be much need for the confessional.

    • #12
    • January 16, 2013 at 1:12 am
  13. Profile photo of Ed G. Inactive
    Michael Lukehart: A distinction has to be made. There is a huge difference between courtship and dating. Courtship is goal oriented towards marriage. Dating is recreation. Hooking up is just a debased form of dating. · 2 hours ago

    Edited 2 hours ago

    I don’t know that I’d distinguish between dating and courtship this way. In the absence of arranged marriage or more formal ways of meeting and interacting with people, I view dating as goal oriented towards courtship rather than strictly recreational. If it’s only recreational then it’s either not dating (eg friendship) or hooking up.

    • #13
    • January 16, 2013 at 1:24 am
  14. Profile photo of katievs Inactive
    Ed G.

    Katie, don’t forget the genuine allure of decadence, self-centeredness, and the pursuit of immediate pleasure that are possible (even if illusory or temporary) as a childless free agent. If sin and ruin were unpleasant then there wouldn’t be much need for the confessional. 

    Perfectly right, Ed. Only, I’d qualify that I think, on the whole, girls and young women really want love and romance-leading-to-marriage more than they want “immediate pleasure”.

    And I can’t count the number of stories I hear of young girls especially doing stuff and acting ways they don’t like but see as the only way to get attention from guys.

    • #14
    • January 16, 2013 at 1:44 am
  15. Profile photo of Darin Johnson Member

    It wasn’t men who wanted the dating culture to change. It was women. Specifically feminist women who wanted their sister so pursue a career and postpone thoughts of marriage and family. They got what they asked for — good and hard. The sense of entitlement practically drips from Ms Yeoh’s words — just as it does from the typical profile of a 35-year-old never married woman on Match.com.

    • #15
    • January 16, 2013 at 2:06 am
  16. Profile photo of katievs Inactive
    Darin Johnson: It wasn’t men who wanted the dating culture to change. It was women. Specifically feminist women who wanted their sister so pursue a career and postpone thoughts of marriage and family. They got what they asked for — good and hard. The sense of entitlement practically drips from Ms Yeoh’s words — just as it does from the typical profile of a 35-year-old never married woman on Match.com. · 39 minutes ago

    This is too simplistic, surely. Or do you want to deny that radical feminism and the sexual revolution have victimized women as well as men?

    • #16
    • January 16, 2013 at 2:47 am
  17. Profile photo of Rightfromthestart Thatcher

    If women would not put up with it, it wouldn’t be. They have the control hand. If it was made clear to men that a three day growth of beard, wrinkled shirt, a baseball cap and jeans isn’t going to fly, men would shape up. Like everything else that’s wrong, it started in the left’s favorite decade ,the rotten 60’s, with college people (I refuse to call them KIDS, I was a serviceMAN at 17) dressing like bums during class and not being admonished, now they dress like that all the time. Someone has to say, ‘smarten up, you look like a bum!’

    • #17
    • January 16, 2013 at 2:48 am
  18. Profile photo of katievs Inactive

    Another point: Even many women who, having grown up “breathing the air of feminism,” once endorsed it wholesale, end up regretting the harm it’s done to them and/or their daughters, and wishing things were different.

    Lori Gottlieb, who is 40-something and still single, wrote a highly engaging book called, Marry Him, about her regrets about her approach to dating during her 20s and 30s. She has a chapter called “Feminism [code of conduct]ed up my love life.”

    She would do things very differently, knowing what she knows now. 

    • #18
    • January 16, 2013 at 3:00 am
  19. Profile photo of Darin Johnson Member

    Who said women haven’t been victimized? Certainly not me. It’s much worse for women, who benefit less from hook-ups and want stable families more. But those most at fault for the current situation are women.

    • #19
    • January 16, 2013 at 3:13 am
  20. Profile photo of EThompson Inactive
    Courting aside; what about the good old-fashioned custom of dating?Chalk it up to having a southern mother, but I wasn’t allowed to :

    1) Accept a date for Saturday night if plans hadn’t been made by Wednesday.

    2) Run out to the car if my date hadn’t come to the front door to meet me.

    3) Call boys first.

    This turned out to be excellent advice that was later documented in The Rules | The Rules is a way of dating that really works!

    • #20
    • January 16, 2013 at 3:19 am
  21. Profile photo of katievs Inactive
    EThompson: Courting aside; what about the good old-fashioned custom of dating?Chalk it up to having a southern mother, but I wasn’t allowed to :

    1) Accept a date for Saturday night if plans hadn’t been made by Wednesday.

    2) Run out to the car if my date hadn’t come to the front door to meet me.

    3) Call boys first.

    This turned out to be excellent advice that was later documented in The Rules | The Rules is a way of dating that really works! · 0 minutes ago

    Ever since I read it, I’ve wanted to write a critique: “What’s Wrong with The Rules and why they work.” 🙂

    • #21
    • January 16, 2013 at 3:21 am
  22. Profile photo of katievs Inactive
    Darin Johnson: Who said women haven’t been victimized? Certainly not me. It’s much worse for women, who benefit less from hook-ups and want stable families more. But those most at fault for the current situation are women. · 8 minutes ago

    “They got what they asked for” doesn’t come across as particularly sympathetic to the plight of women and girls, does it?

    Further, I think blaming women as “most at fault” is worse than not-helpful. It only adds to the tension and recriminations between the sexes.

    Who can say who’s “most at fault” for such large and complicated social trends? And what good does it do?

    • #22
    • January 16, 2013 at 3:33 am
  23. Profile photo of EThompson Inactive
    katievs
    EThompson: Courting aside; what about the good old-fashioned custom of dating?Chalk it up to having a southern mother, but I wasn’t allowed to :

    1) Accept a date for Saturday night if plans hadn’t been made by Wednesday.

    2) Run out to the car if my date hadn’t come to the front door to meet me.

    3) Call boys first.

    This turned out to be excellent advice that was later documented in The Rules | The Rules is a way of dating that really works! · 0 minutes ago

    Ever since I read it, I’ve wanted to write a critique: “What’s Wrong with The Rules and why they work.” 🙂

    The Rules require an enormous amount of concentration and (admittedly) “game-playing,” but as you mentioned, it does reap some solid results!

    Well worth the effort.

    • #23
    • January 16, 2013 at 3:41 am
  24. Profile photo of Darin Johnson Member

    What good does accurately defining the cause of a disastrous social change do? Well… it’s an antidote to those such as Bill Bennett and Charles Murray (both of whom I respect greatly) who assign the blame to men who won’t “man up.”

    I have young sons, and I struggle with how to describe to them the terrible risks of the traditional dating-then-marriage path. How can I recommend marriage when the odds of divorce — resulting in loss of their children, their assets, and their future earnings — are so high? Would you take that risk as a man? Maybe playing Xbox (and the field) is the least-bad option.

    • #24
    • January 16, 2013 at 4:04 am
  25. Profile photo of katievs Inactive
    Darin Johnson: What good does accurately defining the cause of a disastrous social change do? Well… it’s an antidote to those such as Bill Bennett and Charles Murray (both of whom I respect greatly) who assign the blame to men who won’t “man up.”

    I don’t mind at all hearing radical feminism and feminists critiqued. I don’t mind at all women being blamed for our share of the problem (e.g. for demanding the benefits of chivalry while eschewing the demands it puts on us).

    I do mind bald, unjustified assertions that women bear most of the blame.

    It’s an utterly empty empty claim. Not only is it impossible for anyone but God to determine whether it’s true, saying it—especially a man saying—can only add fuel to the fire of mistrust and recriminations between the sexes.

    • #25
    • January 16, 2013 at 4:21 am
  26. Profile photo of katievs Inactive

    The way my husband and I train our young sons (ages 18, 15 and 9) is by

    1. Forming them in our Faith and talking to them often about the beauty and greatness of the Catholic vision of spousal love and marriage.

    2. Loving and honoring each other.

    3. Frequently expressing our sorrow and dismay over the loss of esteem for marriage and morality in our society

    4. Exposing them to lots of happy, beautiful marriages, including by watching good movies together.

    5. Talking with them about responsible and irresponsible uses of sexuality….

    Both our daughters have found husbands who believe in marriage and fidelity, and who come from parents who did the same.

    I wouldn’t dream of discouraging my sons from marrying. But I do try to impress on them the importance of finding a woman of true character.

    • #26
    • January 16, 2013 at 4:32 am
  27. Profile photo of EThompson Inactive
    Darin Johnson:

    I have young sons, and I struggle with how to describe to them the terrible risks of the traditional dating-then-marriage path. 

    Take some more advice from my mother who was 32 years old when she married (shockingly old for a beauty pageant contestant of her generation) – date, date, date and only make a decision about marriage after you’ve met your soul mate.

    • #27
    • January 16, 2013 at 5:08 am
  28. Profile photo of Carol Platt Liebau Contributor
    Carol Platt Liebau Post author

    Thank you for all the food for thought in the comments. Just a few notes as I read through:

    1. Dating vs. courtship: Courtship is geared toward marriage; dating should, in essence, be seen as pre-courtship — a time to meet and become acquainted with a variety of interesting people. In my view, “dating” has more in common with “courtship” than it does with “hanging out” or “hooking up” (the latter two require no planning or commitment whatsoever).

    2. Cheryl Yeoh: It’s not clear whether she’s one of those unfortunate women who are either hung up on “rules” for dating or obsessed with money — or whether The Times is simply portraying her that way. The point is that women should have enough self-respect to insist on some minimum standards.

    3. If we are going to play the “blame game,” there is plenty to go around. IFor every pathetic, selfish man-child who wants nothing but sex, there is a selfish self-obsessed woman who wears her resentment of men on her sleeve. In fairness to Bill Bennett and Charles Murray, they may well be focusing on the need to “man up” because they are men themselves.

    • #28
    • January 16, 2013 at 5:52 am
  29. Profile photo of Darin Johnson Member

    Okay, fair point. My intent isn’t to assign blame. I do agree that most women are as much victims of the current situation as most men are. I guess what I’m saying is that no amount of “manning up” will motivate men the way traditional marriage and family do.

    • #29
    • January 16, 2013 at 6:23 am
  30. Profile photo of Black Prince Member
    Rightfromthestart: If women would not put up with it, it wouldn’t be. They have the control hand.

    Women don’t control me.

    • #30
    • January 16, 2013 at 6:34 am
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