Fifth and final instalment of what Douglas Adams would call "the increasingly misnamed trilogy" on emotional chastity. Parts One, Two, Three and Four.
What we're doing: It's not working.
The rules of dating, both among Catholics and non-Catholics, all seem to be aimed towards being less loyal, less honest with others and ourselves, less in pursuit of an end goal and more in favor of an instantaneous payoff with very little risk or time investment. This goes beyond emotional chastity, which is a term I never even heard of until a couple years ago. The cognitive dissonance in dating and courtship is so loud we can no longer hear ourselves think.
Probably writing out a complicated theory on a blog doesn't do much to help, but at the very least I think it's time to start thinking about the mixed messages we're being given and to stop acting on them. I've followed a lot of this guidance myself, and not allow did I find that it allowed others to treat me with disrespect, but I also didn't like the person I started to become.
Mixed messages like refusing to let young people interact with each other and then telling them to get married young, for starters. I got told as a teenager that I "wasn't allowed to talk to boys." I knew that was crazy, and I talked to them anyway, but I was also kept at home and told negative, frightening things far more than I was allowed to interact with friends, and at the age of eighteen my dad asked me why I wanted to go to college. "Don't you want to get married?" he asked. I was floored. Was I supposed to produce a husband out of thin air?
Catholic women are being told not to judge a man's character. We're not allowed to complain about being mistreated or disrespected; when I've pointed out double standards or hypocrisy, I've been called a feminist and a man-basher. I've been told that no one would ever marry me if I didn't flatter the egos of every man I met and put on a perennial cheerful demeanor regardless of the circumstances. And yet, according to emotional chastity, if I allow myself to fall in love with a man who treats me badly, I'm at fault and should have known better. How can I make that judgement if I'm not allowed to make that judgement? How can I make that judgement and then look the other way when I see something wrong?
Femininity is branded as a quality that makes no waves. My ex fell in love with me because he thought I was the best of both worlds: to all appearances, a traditional young lady who could teach my future homeschooled children Latin and who also knew how to cook, but an independent thinker and a good conversationalist as well. He liked it right up until my independent thinking caused me to disagree with him and point out some inconsistencies in the standards for gender roles among conservatives. He didn't like that at all, and he didn't find that it lined up with his idea of a feminine woman. But my ability to see those inconsistencies was the same one that allowed me go through a secular university without compromising my faith or morals because when I looked at what was offered, it seemed like a poor deal to me. It was the same one that I had been taught in religion class; strength of will, rational thought and how to recognize and counter a falsehood. It was the same one that kept me going to Mass every Sunday and Confession every two weeks, even when I was too old to be forced to do any of these things. It was what kept me faithful. But it was very inconvenient to a man who thought women were supposed to bend their wills and follow blindly.
There are other inconsistent expectations. I've heard enough complaints from looking Catholic men that the women they meet are too sheltered, too cautious, too naive, too cold, too frightened of them and everything else. "Homeschooled" is not usually a compliment. I've talked to guys in their early twenties who want to get married--pretty young by modern standards--who complain that girls their age are emotionally immature. And yet a decent proportion of these men intend to raise their future daughters in the exact same way that the young women they're complaining about were raised. The ones who don't are simply bewildered by the whole thing and either don't get married or marry protestants. The system is totally broken. It's short-sighted and simplistic, and it doesn't work.
I've seen many of the guys I grew up with given similar mixed messages. They were told that the only way they would find happiness was to marry a girl who was incapable of having her own thoughts and opinions, regardless of how dull that was for them or what a poor mother and wife such a woman would make. They were told that it was their job to be leaders of their future families but that a university education or the "world" would zap them of their willpower if they got anywhere near them. They were told that being angry and judgemental made them good Catholic men, and when nobody wanted to date them, they were told it was the fault of feminism.
So let's all start ignoring it, okay? Failed experiment. It's time to call it a day and start over.
Women have the ability to safeguard relationships of all kinds; we have strong tendencies towards loyalty, selflessness, and intuition Complicated emotional problems don't faze us. Remembering small details about who said or did what when, where and why is like breathing. I'm not saying men are incapable of doing these things, but women are best at applying them to the people we know and see in everyday life. Why, then, are women so eager to embrace the message that we should keep our opinions and desires to ourselves, go out of our way to be uncaring, and take a totally passive role in relationships? "Don't nag, and don't stick around if I don't want you." That's the message, and it's not working.
So if some girl on a first or second or third date seems like she's getting emotionally involved, how about we respect that? How about a man who goes out with a million different girls and hurts their feelings gets asked, "What are you doing? Aren't you capable of loving any of these women, and if not, why are you dating? Do you know what love means? It's not just a useless bi-product of you having a fun evening, and if you think so, you might be a shallow twit."
Maybe if we did this, women might see that their own hearts and emotions are valuable and not something to be given to just anyone. Maybe all of those exhortations from the EC side about inappropriate crushes or too much daydreaming or exploitative romantic comedies would be unnecessary because women's hearts would be too busy doing what they were meant to do in the first place.