Ruth Speaks Out

This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.


Why Not Take Her for a Test Drive?

I originally wrote this article, back when Love and Economics first came out. It has been reprinted more than anything I have ever written. I publish it here, for the benefit of new readers, who have never visited my old website. You can also download this as a pdf. I hereby give permission to reprint this, anywhere and everywhere that it will be helpful! Research shows that cohabitation is correlated with unhappiness and domestic violence. Cohabiting couples report lower levels of satisfaction in the relationship than married couples. Women are more likely to be abused by a cohabiting boyfriend than a husband. Children are more likely to abused by their mothers’ boyfriends than by her husband, even if the boyfriend is their biological father. If a cohabiting couple ultimately marries, they have a higher propensity to divorce. Most of the recent reports and commentaries on cohabitation report these difficulties, and at the same time, tend to downplay them. Living together before marriage seems to resemble taking a car for a test drive. The “trial period” gives people a chance to discover whether they are compatible. “You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive, now would you?” Here’s the problem with the car analogy: the car doesn’t have hurt feelings if the driver dumps it back at the used car lot and decides not to buy it. The analogy works great if you picture yourself as the driver. It stinks if you picture yourself as the car. Yet this is the implication of the “test drive” metaphor. I am going to drive you around the block a few times, withholding judgement and commitment until I have satisfied myself about you. Pay no attention to my indecision, or my periodic evaluations of your performance. Try to act as if we were married, so I can get a clear picture of what you’re likely to be like as a spouse. You just pretend to be married; I’ll just pretend to be shopping. The contract analogy doesn’t help much either. Living together is fine as long as both people agree to it. The agreement amounts to this: “I am willing to let you use me as if I were a commodity, as long as you allow me to treat you as if you were a commodity.” But this is a bogus agreement. We can say at the outset that we agree to be the “man of steel”, but no one can credibly promise to have no feelings of remorse if the relationship fails. There is an essential difference between sexual activity and other forms of activity. The sexual act is by its nature, a gift of oneself to another person. We all have a deep longing to be cherished by the person we have sex with. That longing is not fooled by our pretensions to sophistication. Here is a better analogy: Suppose I ask you to give me a blank check, signed and ready to cash. All I have to do is fill in the amount. Most people would be unlikely to do this. You might do it, if you snuck out and drained the money out of your account before you gave me the check. Or, you could give me the check and be scared about what I might do. But what do you have in your checking account that is more valuable than what you give to a sexual partner? When people live together, and sleep together, without marriage, they put themselves in a position that is similar to the person being asked to give a blank check. They either hold back on their partner by not giving the full self in the sexual act and in their shared lives together. Or, they feel scared a lot of the time, wondering whether their partner will somehow take advantage of their vulnerability. No one can simulate self-giving. Half a commitment is no commitment. Cohabiting couples have one foot out the door, throughout the relationship. They rehearse not trusting. The social scientists that gather the data do not have an easy way to measure this kind of dynamic inside the relationship. In my view, this accounts for the disappointing results of cohabitation. I am sorry to say that I learned this from experience. My husband and I lived together before we were married. It took us a long time to unlearn the habits of the heart that we built up during those cohabiting years. The sexual revolution promised a humane and realistic approach to human sexuality. Ironically, the uncommitted-sex mentality has proven to underestimate both the value and the power of sexual activity. Lifelong, committed relationships are difficult, no doubt about it. But self-giving loving relationships still have the best chance of making us happy.   COHABITATION FAST FACTS • Cohabitors are more likely to be depressed than married couples. • The presence of children exacerbates depression among cohabitors, but not among married couples. • Cohabiting couples perceive their relationships as less stable. • Cohabitors report poorer relationship quality than married couples. • Cohabiting women are more likely to have “secondary sex partners” than are married women. • Cohabitors have lower commitment to the relationship, lower levels of happiness and worse relationships with their parents than married couples. • Cohabiting couples have higher rates of assault, and the violence is more severe, than among dating or married couples. • Cohabitors tend to be more socially isolated and this partially explains their heightened levels of domestic violence. • Prior cohabitants had a higher rate of pre-marital aggression than couples who did not live together. • According to a study of British child abuse registries, a cohabiting boyfriend is the most serious risk factor for child abuse. Children are safest living with their natural parents, married to each other, next safest living with their mother and her new husband, next safest living with their natural mother alone, still less safe with two natural parents cohabiting and the least safe with their mother and a cohabiting, but unrelated boyfriend. • Married couples whose marriages are preceded by cohabitation are more likely to get divorced and to report lower quality marriages. • The increased probability of divorce cannot be accounted for by systematic differences between those who choose to get married and those who choose to cohabit.

Accountability is the Key

One of the keys to sexual integrity, is accountability.  Small groups of like-minded men, keep each other honest, in their efforts to remain chaste. Here is how it works at the University of Maryland:
Fasting trains the person to deny his body something it wants so that the desires of the body are controlled by the will — and not the other way around. In the University of Maryland group, for instance, each member of the group forgoes dinner every time any member of the group “falls.” A fall is defined as viewing pornography, masturbating or engaging in sexual activity. These falls are discussed as part of the second pillar of purity groups, which is dialogue. As with a traditional 12-step group, open dialogue with people facing the same challenges is a huge source of help and support. Many groups sign confidentiality promises so that nothing short of criminal acts will ever be discussed outside of the group. In this community of trust, men are able to discuss challenges to their chastity and ways to face them.

Opting Out of Hooking Up

That's the title of this article in the National Catholic Register. With a special emphasis on men staying chaste in college, this article is of interest to the Ruth Institute. We are always worried about becoming a "chick outfit" with too many women. (Isn't that odd: the New Women's Movement is the Sexual Counter-revolution: pro-life, pro-marriage and pro-chastity?)  Anyhow, we are always on the look-out for cool guys to hang around with!
Marcel LeJeune, assistant director of campus ministry at St. Mary Catholic Center at Texas A&M University, points out that these groups are not designed for actual sex or pornography addicts, who are directed to counseling and 12-step programs. They are, instead, accountability groups designed to help young men face the challenges of chastity. “It brings the problem into the light,” said LeJeune. “One of the biggest issues that we see with young men is that 80% to 90% of them are using pornography regularly. It’s accepted by the culture, but not by their faith, and it leads to guilt, shame, self-image problems, and finally to rationalizations for sinful behavior. A lot of them beat it down and suppress it. Instead of dealing with it in a healthy way — through confession, prayer and frequent use of all the sacraments — they indulge in pornography and impure actions. They know that it’s incompatible with what they’ve been taught, so they start to slip away from the Church. If they continue to do it, they feel they can’t be part of the Church anymore.”

Marriage "Equality" and real Equality

Over at No Left Turns blog, Julie Ponzi takes aim at the equality argument for same sex marriage. This is a very significant argument, because in a very real sense, this is the only argument the marriage radicals have. Think about it: "it's not fair; you're being mean to us."  That is all they have. The Equal Protection argument the lawyers like to bring up is just a gussied-up version of "it's not fair."   So, being able to explain why we think the equality argument is inapplicable is a slam dunk. If we win that, we win, because equality is quite literally, all they have. Julie  starts by noticing that the only way anybody wins anything in American politics is by appealing to our American Founding ideals in some form or fashion. "The argument on behalf of homosexual marriage, if it means to be successful, has to be one suggesting that homosexual marriage is a fulfillment of rather than a turning away from America's promise in its Founding.  Every success of big "L" Liberalism (or Progressivism) in this country (up to and including Barack Obama's) can be traced back to public argument that embraced--or seemed to embrace--America's purpose and foundations."  But, she goes on, there is an inherent tension in their position. The principles of natural rights in the American Founding are principles of universal, pre-existing rights, given by God, by nature, or by nature's God, depending on the interpreter. The Progressive vision is actually quite different, even while it evokes the image of pre-existing natural right. The Progressive notion is that rights "evolve,"  that rights somehow flow from the common opinions of society. But, as Julie points out, these two views contradict each other: "It sees no necessary limit to the good that can come of an expansion of the meaning of equality and it appeals to our generosity of spirit.  But in seeking to expand the meaning of equality, the truth is that we actually deny it.  We cannot make equality, however much we may wish it, to include things not encompassed within the natural meaning of equality." This leads her to a very telling insight into one of the most perplexing political facts surrounding the politics of same sex marriage: the fact that African Americans so stubbornly resist following their customary allies down this particular path. I've been observing this for over a year: during the Prop 8 campaign, and its aftermath, it has been perfectly obvious to me that many blacks are deeply offended by the comparison of the gay lobby's agitation for redefining marriage with their own struggle for basic human rights.  Here is Julie's explanation:
I have to think that this, at least in part, helps to explain the natural revulsion to the idea of homosexual marriage on the part of black voters--who, of course, were a driving force in the passage of California's Prop. 8 last fall.  Left wing whispering, revealingly, would have you believe that black opposition to homosexual marriage is nothing more than a kind of retrograde or backward prejudice on the part of too many blacks. This is at once patronizing and reflective of some remarkably stupid thinking.  The majority of black voters who oppose homosexual marriage rightly sense--when they don't vividly understand--that the suggestion of a symbiotic relationship between the struggles of blacks and the struggles of the homosexual lobby in this country is an insult to their struggles and our shared American history and accomplishments on behalf of genuine equality.  It is a kind of righteous indignation--obviously felt more keenly by blacks--at the notion that the elimination of slavery and the struggle for equality before the law for black Americans is anything akin to an extension of a right to marry to homosexuals.  That was a struggle to make America live up to its stated principle, not a demand that we expand it.  Slavery was wrong from the start . . . not because we eventually grew into that opinion.  To suggest otherwise is to demean those efforts by implying that it, like this current struggle, was a mere power struggle or numbers game without any transcending universal principle of right.
Read Julie's whole piece here.

What does it all mean for Obama?

America loved and still loves the idea of having a black president. However, they don't much care for this particular president and his policies. More than that, there are black Americans who love the idea of natural marriage and respecting life in the womb and protecting young people from premature sexualizing. They are less enthused about the Idea of  a Black President than they used to be. This is the sign of growing political maturity in our country.  As long as we can talk about issues, and not descend to mudslinging, we can create a new coalition for a more humane social order.

11:53 EST ME Update

71 % of precincts reporting. Yes on 1 51.83% --- No on 1, 48.17%. Please notice: this is coming close to the margin of victory in CA. We won with 52% of the vote. As it happens, exactly the same percentage by which Obama was annointed. Our election, however, was considered close.

ME Update: 11:14 EST

Yes on 1 is at 51.29% with 58% of precincts reporting. I so remember a year ago: the Prop 8 election coverage in the Golden Hall. My teenaged kids came down with us. My daughter came with a bunch of her friends, all high school students at a very orthodox Catholic school. They all wanted to do some counter-chanting, and demonstrating in opposition to the No on 4 people, as well as the No on 8 people. There were several ugly confrontations. I was scared for teh kids. If it had just been me, I wouldn't have cared. But I was really scared about my teenaged daughter getting attacked. So, at one point, she was up on a chair, holding a sign and chanting with a bunch of other people. A No on 4 person was pretty much right in her face.  For some reason, my daughter looked down at her, and said, "Cute shoes." The girl said, thanks, and told her where she got them.  That little moment actually defused a lot of tension. In any case, I was glad my husband was there.

ME Update: 10:21 EST

Bangor is now reporting that Yes on 1 is slightly ahead. this is SOOOO much like Prop 8. I will never forget it. We all went down to a hotel in SanDiego to watch the election returns. The only election any of us really cared about was Prop 8. We knew Obama would win nationwide, and woudl certainly carry CA.  We left the hotel and went to a place called the Golden Hall downtown, where all the media outlets were reporting the returns. I remember watching each and every little update and seeing the trend in favor of Prop 8. All our hard work might finally pay off. And I remember the truly toxic atmosphere in the hall as the Left began to come in, in organized teams, to chant against Prop 8, and especially against Pro 4, which was the Parental Notification for Abortion measure. The pro-aborts came in, wearing matching t-shirts, and chanting, in well-organized straight lines. It was creepy, and would have been creepy, no matter what they were chanting for. Ah, political memories!

ME Update 9:59 EST

The Bangor Daily News is doing soemthing squirrly: they reverted to their returns at 5% reporting. Now they are showing a server error, with no results at all. Ballotpedia is reporting the Yes vote up to 49.3% as of 5 minutes ago, 9:54 PM EST.  Watch this to see if it is a real trend. Everyone, keep an eye on the Bangor Daily News for election hanky panky. There is no reason for their server to go down, just as the Yes on 1 votes are going up....

Maine Update 9:42 EST

With 17% of the precints reporting, the count is now 48.7% Yes on 1, and 51.3% No. There is a trend in the direction of natural marriage winning this election. This is how it was during election night for Prop 8. The whole country was ga-ga over Obama, and we were just watching the Prop 8 numbers. They slowly tilted toward the Prop 8 victory that eventually shook the nation.

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