Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Brendan, Dalrock and Sluts. (NSFW)


Commentator Brendan is one of the more thoughtful commentators on the internet and I have a great deal of respect for him.  Over at Dalrock's, there has been a discussion going on with regard to what constitutes sluthood and Brendan chimed in with his thoughts on the matter:
On the “what is a slut” issue, the question really isn’t about a numerical cutoff, which is why that’s generally an unfruitful way of looking at the question. A slut is someone who has an instrumental view of sexuality — that is, one who views sex in a hedonistic way for the most part. A person with this mentality towards sex will not link sex with marriage exclusively, because the view of sex is distorted and based on hedonic elements which we all know can well occur outside of marriage as well. That is, sex is about two (or more) human beings collaborating physically to bring each other sexual pleasure, and this is a “good” in and of itself as long as ‘enthusiastic consent’ is present. That is an instrumental/hedonist view of sexuality, and is the sine qua non of being a slut.
While I personally agree with a lot of Brendan's views, I disagree with his reasoning on this one. Now, I do think the number of previous partners does matter, and to be fair to Brendan, he does counsel that men avoid women who have high numbers, but the executive summary of his view seems to be that number does not mater as much as "women who think sex can occur justifiably outside of marriage". I think that this is good practical advice but the problem occurs when we get to the woman who's view of sex has changed and the the real problem is how to deal with the "reformed slut". It's a bit like the reformed alcoholic or drug addict, despite their protestations how do we know they aren't going to lapse into their former ways? Real life experience shows that many do.

The whole "my previous number doesn't matter" argument frequently touted by feminists is premised on the assumption that sexual continence is easy and its just a matter of being a simple choice.

It isn't.

The pleasures of the flesh, like the bottle, are source of temptation to many people. Lot's of good Christian people, who live in fear of the Lord, go to Church regularly and believe that sex is exclusively reserved for marriage, have been caught up in affairs. It's a stock staple for atheists to snicker when some Christian Pastor is caught In flagrante delicto, and attribute to hypocrisy what is in reality an act of weakness.   When it comes to the practice of virtue, philosophy is less important than habit.

This is what I think is the weak point in Brendan's argument, sluthood becomes a philosophical position instead of moniker of actual promiscuity. I mean, take the example of feminist who has only ever slept with one man. Is she is a slut? Her view of sex may be instrumental but common sense would say no. The other problem with Brendan's approach is that is that it tends to de-emphasis the importance of the actual number count, which this blog has shown before to be a far better predictor of both divorce and infidelity.

Now, it is a well known fact that co-habiting couples have higher rates of both infidelity and divorce  should they eventually decided to marry. For years the conventional wisdom was that this fact was attributable to the more liberal philosophy of the co-habitors.  A study done by Teachman, which I have linked to previously, dispelled that theory;
The results presented in this article replicate findings from previous research: Women who cohabit prior to marriage or who have premarital sex have an increased likelihood of marital disruption. Considering the joint effects of premarital cohabitation and premarital sex, as well as histories of premarital relationships, extends previous research. The most salient finding from this analysis is that women whose intimate premarital relationships are limited to their husbands—either premarital sex alone or premarital cohabitation—do not experience an increased risk of divorce. It is only women who have more than one intimate premarital relationship who have an elevated risk of marital disruption. This effect is strongest for women who have multiple premarital coresidental unions. These findings are consistent with the notion that premarital sex and cohabitation have become part of the normal courtship pattern in the United States. They do not indicate selectivity on characteristics linked to the risk of divorce and do not provide couples with experiences that lessen the stability of marriage.
In other words, the risk of divorce did not depend on a person's sexual philosophy, rather, what mattered is the actual number of partners they had. Teachman showed that liberal women who were not slutty were good bets.

Now, common sense would dictate that a woman who embraces a hedonistic philosophy is probably going to be a bad bet compared to woman with a more overtly Christian approach. But this graph below will show you just how little comfort you can take from that line of reasoning.
The data was taken from this paper, The Benefits of Religious Worship, by the Marriage and Religion Research Institute. They didn't do a breakdown of the different denominations in this paper, and so I imagine the conservative Christians are lumped together with the liberal ones. Frankly, I'm surprised that 4.33 is the average for weekly attenders as I thought it would be much less (I imagine the pious divorcees distort the figure). But there you go. Viva La Sexual Revolution!

Having a Christian philosophy helps but it is no guarantee against carousel riding, and even your apparently averagely pious Christian girl has gone for a quick spin. But what is evident though, is the more seriously she takes the faith the lower the partner count.  But Philosophy doesn't matter nearly as much as practice, because the greater the number of partners the greater the risk of divorce. All the studies show that a zero previous partner count is the safest bet. N matters.

The other problem with the "philosophical approach" to the definition of a slut is that it supports the bad theology of what commentator at Darock's blog called "sloppy seconds agape." The idea here is that once a woman professes her love for Jesus and repudiates her wicked past she suddenly becomes a good catch. The "theology" can be briefly summed up as "Because Jesus forgave sinners you should marry them even if they don't appeal to you". Any quite prudent reservations with regard to her marriage worthiness are dismissed as a lack of charity or too much judgement(with all the negative Christian connotations that it brings). The philosophy of Sloppy Seconds Agape conflates forgiveness with imprudence and thrives in the church's where goodness is equated with niceness. The well meaning but naive Christian young man is a sheep amongst wolves in this crowd. All forms of psychological pressure and dubious theological argument will be put on him to "man up". He will be made to feel guilty for having sensible reservations. Scripture will be quoted to make him feel bad. Appeals will be made to his chivalry.

Six years later he'll be paying alimony and seeing the kids every two weeks.

As a Christian, I do realise people change. God's grace is transformative and I don't want to write off men and women who are honestly trying to make a change. I've known many women who have had torrid pasts and did their best to try and escape it by living good lives and being stable partners. I know players who realise that the lifestyle was damaging them and have opted out. People do change. But the habit of virtue is more important than the philosophy of it.  Before a man (or woman) invests their future, and their children's future in a spouse, a degree of prudence  and common sense is required. Actions speak louder than words.

Once again, I've got the highest respect for Brendan but I disagree with him on this one.

26 comments:

Ras Al Ghul said...

Excellent. I always did like your analysis on these numbers.

Simon Grey said...

@SP- You do have to admit, though, that your definition strongly correlates to Brendan's. For example, one who has an instrumental view of sexuality is very likely to have a high partner count. And, the more instrumental one's view of sex is, the higher one's partner count is likely to be.

Now, I'm not saying that Brendan's definition is perfect, but it does account for personal reformation whereas yours is more objective but has less room for personal judgment. Perhaps the best way to define sluthood would be to incorporate both views.

ElectricAngel said...

SP, did you read the book Willpower? It's written by a lapsed Catholic and an atheist, but they reflect that spirit of early-20th-century atheism: they're not hostile to religion, more "angry at God for not existing."

Anyway, they make almost exactly your point, backed up with experimental psych data, that being in a group of people who reflect your values reinforce virtues. Practice does make perfect.

It's worth a read, if you have not yet picked it up. Free Northerner did a guest post for us with this review.

ElectricAngel said...

Oops. "reinforces"

Drew said...

Another good article.

Forgiveness and genuine repentance does not mean that earthly consequences are removed.

Some actions cannot be taken back; some actions have consequences that can never be completely remediated in this life.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Simon

Slut is a pejorative of pretty specific meaning, i.e a woman who has slept around. Brendan attempts to redefine it in such a way that it actually strips it of its main meaning. His approach dilutes the negative associations by branding all women who have an instrumental view of sex as sluts, regardless of the actual number they have slept with. The main beneficiaries of this approach are the high N women who are seen just as risky by implication with the low N women. This is not the case.

I'm all for avoiding women with an instrumental view of sex. But I'm also for avoiding high N women. Each mechanism erodes the bonding process by different means and needs to be recognised as such.

@ElectricaAngel
Thanks for the tip. I'll have a look at the book.

I think it matters more what we do than what we say we are going to do.
The Good Samaritan is a prime example of this. Jesus gave praise to the man with a different philosophy and opprobrium to his own kind who shared his philosophy but did not do good works.

@Drew
Agreed. Not only that, we are not only spiritual beings but fleshy ones at well,and the flesh frequently remains stubborn in its ways despite protestations of the spirit. It's easier to change attitude than habit. Ask any smoker who has tried to quit.

@Ras Al Ghul

Thanks.

JMSmith said...

As I understand it, repentance has two parts. First the sinner acknowledges that his former sin was, indeed, a sin. Second he resolves to resist temptations to that sin in future. The first is an act of intellect that results in renunciation. The second is an act of will that results in abstention. The difference is that the act of intellect can be almost instantaneous, as when an alcoholic suddenly "sees" that his life is sordid, degrading, and destructive, where the act of will is protracted, difficult, and subject to failure. Brendan's definition of slut, for all its subtlety, places too much weight on the first, intellectual part of repentance, and makes the slut who has "seen the error of her ways" a fully repentant slut.

There are two big problems with this, both connected to the fact that the sin of promiscuity is one in which the benefits are heavily front-loaded. The first is that some "repenting" sluts do not view their former selves with disgust, but simply register the steeply diminishing marginal returns of additional years of slutty behavior. They haven't repudiated the game (i.e. changed their minds about promiscuity); they have simply recognized that the game is over for them. In cases like this repentance is really sour grapes. (By the way, spent players often become stern moralists for the same reason.)

The second big problem is that, among those who actually do renounce slutty behavior, it takes a long time to demonstrate the success of the will to abstain. I'm don't know just how long, but suspect it is a matter of years of chastity, not months. Of course this would have to be voluntary chastity, not the enforced chastity of a woman with plummeting sexual appeal.

No matter what, as a previous commenter wrote, forgiveness of sin does not erase the temporal consequences of sin.

thewomanandthedragon said...

As the person who asked the original question "What is a slut?" which precipitated the various definitions at Dalrock, I have to say I am glad that people are generally defining it as N > 1. This should be the standard definition that we all use. I think it clears up a lot of confusion. After we have established that, we can talk about the instrumental versus sacramental view, which is fundamentally an attitude of the heart and so is relevant.

JMSmith said...

@ The Woman and the Dragon
The data do suggest that the negative consequences of promiscuity appear at N=2, but I don't think we should pull out the word "slut" until the number is considerably higher. If a girl with an N of 2 is called a "slut," she's likely to think of the old saying that "one might as well be hung for a sheep as hung for a lamb." Gradations are important in terms of social censure because they give less-than-perfect people an incentive not to let themselves go and become really, really bad. N=2 has forfeited the title of "virgin." It seems to me that is sufficient punishment. I suppose the polite way to say this is that "she has had a 'boyfriend'." Such a woman still has an incentive to keep her B count as close to 1 as she can. By the way, Dalrock has convinced me that we should stop treating "boyfriends" and LTR's as respectable.

The Social Pathologist said...

@JMSmith

They're pretty much my thoughts as well. Burned out carousel riders are the main beneficiaries of the slut=attitude approach, whilst actual virgins are the biggest losers. More importantly, this approach conditions society to idea that actual numbers don't matter. The statistical data refutes this.

You know, I initially put up these statistical posts as a bit of a lark, but as time has gone I am asking myself, "What's actually going on here?" And average woman's number count increasing over time, are we facing some sort of impending social catastrophe? Living through a divorce is one of the worst things that can happen to a kid. Ray Sawhill linked to a post showing that the expectancy is of children from divorce is 5 years less than average. And it's not only that. Children from divorce do badly on so many social metrics and go onto to generate a huge amount of societal dysfunction.

Taking a big picture view of all this, I can't but form the conclusion that marriage isn't just a "personal" arrangement, but it is a personal arrangement with common good implications to society.

@thewoman

I agree with JMSmith on this one as well. Most women, like most men are not saints. Furthermore, women suffer far more social pressure than men do. You've got no idea how many young girls have told me that they felt pressured to have sex with boys by other more "experienced" girls. If these experienced girls are popular, then the pressure on them is very high.

I'd define a slut as a woman who has had more than average. In the U.S, I think the average is about 3 or 4.

The way I look at it, women should be divided into three "Rates":

1st Rate: Virgins, lowest risk of divorce.
2nd Rate: Average, average risk of divorce. May be a good catch with certain provisos.
3rd Rate: Sluts. Avoid.

It's only when virginity becomes a status marker respected by the alpha males that women will endeavour to stay on the straight and narrow. The sluts now have all the status. I mean, look at Carla Bruni. Not just slutty, but vulgar.

JMSmith said...

@ Social Pathologist
I read the first few paragraphs of the article you linked about Carla Bruni. The author takes the usual tack, saying in effect: "for heaven's sake, it's the twenty-first century, not 1955." She assumes that sex has no meaning or consequences apart from those society chooses to give it, so that a woman (or man) who has had many partners has nothing to fear but the social censure of narrow-minded people. It's an example of the magic thinking that pervades liberal society. Liberals believe we can change reality simply by changing our minds. Before I'd first encountered discussions of the effects of promiscuity on your blog, I'd noticed that people who had had a lot of sex reminded me of people who had taken a lot of drugs. They were distant, detached, a little bit dazed. As you say, the downstream social effects are not attractive.

thewomanandthedragon said...

@ SP and JMS
I understand what you are saying, and pragmatically it makes sense. I should explain, however, that the question when I posed it at Dalrock was motivated by my desire to influence Christian girls to maintain their chastity. For that reason, I'm inclined to go with any number greater than one; as I said there, if I steal just one necklace from the jewelry store, I am still a thief.

But from the point of view of a man looking to marry, your 3-tier system makes sense, especially in light of the fact that there are not enough virgins to go around.

- sunshinemary

The Social Pathologist said...

@JMSmith.

I think the author's permissiveness is probably due to the fact that her (the author's) number is approximately the same. In the article she alludes to her multiple partner count. For most women a slut is another woman who has more partners than she has. It's all solipsistically relative.

@thewoman.

But from the point of view of a man looking to marry, your 3-tier system makes sense, especially in light of the fact that there are not enough virgins to go around.


Nope, there aren't.

Martian Bachelor said...

> But from the point of view of a man looking to
> marry, your 3-tier system makes sense, especially
> in light of the fact that there are not enough
> virgins to go around.

BS.

Not looking to marry here, but as a practical matter women don't have reliable odometers, and there's no Lemon Law to protect consumers from outright fraud. Buyer beware,

All the incentives are on women to lie if they think it'll will bring them a higher price. They'll just flood the market with massive roll-backs and fake virgins.

IOW, the best thing to do, from the putative wife hunter's point of view, is to fight this tendency by pretending to despise virgins. But you'd have to give yourself away as a complete hypocrite sooner or later.

The closest thing to a simon-pure virgin one is gonna find in real life, short of one that's been locked away somewhere since before puberty (and only you have the key), is a woman without a kid.

Epistemologically speaking, that's all a guy can say with certainty these days. Everything else is a gamble.

Conclusions based on population wide data regarding N may be interesting in the abstract, but at the level of individuals in that population they're next to useless.

This is a process by which all women in the market suffer a reputation loss among men for having the right to do whatever they want, even if only a few really avail themselves much of all the fabulous opportunities it provides. A guy pretty much has to assume the worst case (high N) scenario because the risks of under-estimating N, from giving women the benefit of the doubt, can be so high.

mdavid said...

JMSmith, As I understand it, repentance has two parts. First the sinner acknowledges that his former sin was, indeed, a sin. Second he resolves to resist temptations to that sin in future.

I (and Tradition) would add a third part: doing penance for the sin. If I throw a rock through your window, I might be truly sorry and plan to never break it again. But you won't believe anything til you see me pony up for a new window.

The penance for a slut is...merely not finding a mate.

GK Chesterton said...

Wonderful post but I disagree with your "average" posted here in the comments. Sunshine/Lady is mostly right.

The number is N>1 if and only if "1" is your husband or where "N" is influenced by direct sex crimes.

Now, there is no sense in branding these people forever if they reform. But the "general sense of society" should be "N>1"...or we've already lost.

mdavid said...

JMSmith, It's an example of the magic thinking that pervades liberal society. Liberals believe we can change reality simply by changing our minds. Before I'd first encountered discussions of the effects of promiscuity on your blog, I'd noticed that people who had had a lot of sex reminded me of people who had taken a lot of drugs. They were distant, detached, a little bit dazed. As you say, the downstream social effects are not attractive.

What a great line. I have nothing to add, I just wanted to see that in bold

Mike T said...

The number of partners is quite useful for determining whether or not someone takes an "instrumental view of sex." A woman who has a dozen partners or more is not likely to have a non-instrumental view of sex unless she has gone through a period of repentance where one can see actual change in the form of deliberate celibacy. Numbers matter because they are a direct indicator in most cases on how connected the philosophy and will actually are.

Anonymous said...

I am confused as to how this is considered a Christian blog? Everything is centered on WOMEN and what WOMEN need to do. If men want lesser numbers of partners in women, if men want VIRGIN WOMEN, it starts with MEN. It is men who are pressuring women to sex, and it is slutty men who encourage slutty behavior in women. And women follow suit. This is why Christian marriages are failing. Even so-called high ranking faculties are hypocrites and misinterpret the Word for their own selfish reasons. God didn't assign you to be the head so you could lean back and force women to do all the hard work. God compared your role in the home to that of CHRIST. It is YOU who should be doing most if not all of the heavy lifting. Asking women to be chaste enough for the both of you (herself and men in general) is not going to cut it.

How can you out of one side of your mouth the demand the submission of wives to their husband, while advocating wives be the ones to do all the leading? If you want a more pure society, it is up to MEN to be chaste and make it that way. A woman will find virginity highly desirable for herself when a man finds virginity highly desirable for himself.

van Rooinek said...

Anonymous: ..if men want VIRGIN WOMEN, it starts with MEN. It is men who are pressuring women to sex.

A small number of Alpha "players" are running wild with most of the women. The readers of this blog are mainly the chaste guys on the sidelines -- the ones who are doing it RIGHT -- and who are finding a severe shortage of marriagable women


it is up to MEN to be chaste and make it that way.

No, it's up to both sexes. And as noted above, it only takes a few promiscuous men, to ruin a large number of women. Women must adopt by choice, the chastity which is the default position of most men.

A woman will find virginity highly desirable for herself when a man finds virginity highly desirable for himself.

As a man who never went all the way til my wedding night, I have to say that I was DISREPECTED by women.. "Christian" women.. for still being a virgin.

Women will find virginity desireable for themselves, when the social incentives line up that way. They at best do not care what men do, and at worst, as noted above, disdain the righteous.

Hendrick said...

I agree with Van Rooinek. First, nobody forces a woman to sleep around, and they should be taking responsibility for their own actions, not blaming men for it.
Second, as a thirty six year old man who was waiting my whole adult life for marriage to have sex, I had to do allot of grieving when I realized that I was not going too get rewarded for all my waiting. The last virgin girl I knew who claimed to be a Christian was almost compulsively chasing after the men who were dogs. My morals and convictions must have been a turn off to her
Still for me, I never wanted to disrespect another mans future wife. My first girlfriend was a virgin too, but she pressured me to have sex but I refused. Eventually she got sick of waiting and she meet a Co worker at a bar and that was the end of that.
I also dated a girl for three years and never had sex, but she wasn't a virgin, so the whole time i told her to find someone else. She wouldn't, so eventually I had to end it with her.
My life has been allot of pain. I always thought I'd get married the right way. I'm still sticking by my convictions. The Enemy is not going to win. I will be celibate for life rather than marry a woman who has slept with a man. I don't think this is fair. But this is just earth, not heaven. Hopefully my sacrifice may make some difference for the next generation of Christian boys growing up. Perhaps the next generation of Christian girls will be capable of loving.

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Anonymous said...

lol........ after that one guy posted about being a virgin for 36 years, all conversation on this blog just stopped.... that guy has EVERYBODY beat with his dedication! he put all you men to shame, he is actually living up to the morals that you are all so busy talking out of the sides of your mouths about, while meanwhile, how many "whores" have you guys used for sexual pleasure with no real intention of commitment? hmmm....

as a woman I can tell you, females have a sex drive too, and especially when they are teenagers/young adults and the hormones are raging, and there is peer pressure, absent parenting or no guidance from parents, poor role modles/main strea media... it's really a rarity to see a girl stay a virgin for long. blaming women for this problem is ridiculous. who makes up the other half of the population, who also contributes to morals, to soceity? most importantly of all, who is supposed to be there to protect the "weaker sex"? MEN... shame on you for blaming women. Man up and take some responsibility in this as well

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