The Suitor and His Porn

In these times of ubiquitous porn, one of the unfortunate results is that young women and their parents have to sort out what it all means. In raising this question, I do not mean to imply that young women can’t have a porn problem — some do, but it is not as common, and usually represents a different set of challenges. More on that another time. But suppose a young woman’s father asks the kind of questions he ought to, and the results come back positive. The young man in question has struggled with porn — but what does that mean? It means different things, and so the first thing it means is that the father should follow things up with more questions — not questions about the porn itself, but about other character issues that might be related to it.

This is because the porn use might be a symptom of disqualification or, on the other hand, it might be the chief sign of his qualification for marriage. In the former instance, marriage won’t fix anything for him, and will likely just make things worse. In the latter instance, the young man’s sexual temptations are largely going to be resolved in a very old-fashioned way.

But here are some things that a young lady and her parents should be wary of. If porn use is flagging these sorts of things, then the best solution is to drop the whole enterprise as a bad business.

Misogyny: if a young man has a hostile or contemptuous attitude toward women, then his porn use is a means of justifying his degrading view of them. His hostility would also come out in his attitudes toward his mother, his sisters, and toward women generally. That hostility might be decked out with theological justifications, and might seem to some that he is into uber-headship, and is really “conservative.” In reality, such a man is conserving nothing but his own hatreds. This kind of man wants others to treat him as a head — and insists upon it loudly, jabbing at the text with his finger — but the one person that doesn’t have to treat him as a head is himself. If he did that, then he would know that headship always bleeds for others. Take special note that the theological justification might include the phrase “bleeds for others.”

Laziness: real sex takes real effort. Sometimes it requires two or more jobs — because the children must be fed. If the only effort for the young man’s sexual gratification is the effort his parents put out in getting a wireless connection down to the basement, then the chances are good that he will have come to believe that sexual release is low-hanging fruit, because in his lazy world, it has been. Marriage won’t fix sexual laziness because marriage won’t fix laziness. Marriage often makes laziness worse. But laziness as a character deficiency can be publicly identified. Marriage spurs the right kind of man to work hard, and encourages the wrong kind of man to slack off.

Entitlement: if the young man in question has a sense of entitlement about things generally — grades, employment, standard of living, and so on — it should not be surprising that he is the kind of person who will just “expect” what is his due. If for some reason that drifts away from him, he will still feel entitled. The most common way this happens in marriage is that a man does not treat his wife right, they start to quarrel and drift apart, and this naturally includes their sex life, and he feels just as entitled as he ever did. And the computer is right there. If she is going to take away x, then I will compensate with y — and she can’t complain, because its really her fault. Like laziness, the root problem is abdication of responsibility. Identifying this as a possible problem beforehand should take the form of looking for a young man who seeks out and accepts responsibility, and who doesn’t make excuses.

Habit: sexual identity is far more plastic than people today want to admit. We want to believe, for various reasons, that our sexual proclivities are “hard-wired,” and that is just the way it is. Part of the reason we think this way is because of the full court press that the homosexual movement has been running on us. Many have wanted — and not just homosexuals — to use the “hard-wire” metaphor as a way of rationalizing their behavior. But we are much more affected and shaped by our experiences than we want to admit. This means that fifteen years of daily porn use is a very different thing in a suitor than “three months of temptation, and then a fall, and then back to the struggle.”

But the most common sin, when it comes to premarital porn, is the sin of marrying too late in a corrupt world. In 1970, five years before I married, the average age for men when they married was 23. In 2010, it was 28. That trend is a really bad one, and is one I want to do everything in my power to reverse. Fathers, mothers, and daughters should not reject out of hand a good man who clearly needs a good woman to make love to. They should reject, and promptly, men who despise women, men who are lazy, men who feel entitled, and men who are habituated to two-dimensional sex. Marriage is no help for that kind of problem, and might well prove to be a hindrance.

Share on Facebook45Tweet about this on Twitter7Share on Google+0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, off-topic, or semi-Pelagian.

42 thoughts on “The Suitor and His Porn

  1. One of my first questions for a potential son in law for my daughter is what filtering system they use on all of their computers and mobile devices.

  2. I think you may have missed missed one serious reason for porn and that is men who were sexually abused as children. The church really doesn’t address that very much. Girls yes, boys no. That Pennsylvania pastor you linked said that most porn women were sexually abused as kids. How will that affect boys, who usually get no help, because they don’t know to ask for it, as they get older. I don’t know how you can address this in a blog format, but I think that this is worth mentioning.

  3. Wonderful! And very encouraging.

    But I’m conflicted. I don’t know whether I am more delighted with the sweet encouragement and wisdom here, or if I am simply more delighted that this single article successfully incinerates the entire strawman-regiment that is constantly being marched into battle by Doug Wilson’s thought-foes in discussions on human sexuality.

    Yes, Doug Wilson believes that human sexual identity is plastic. But it also must be held to fixed standards of righteousness.

    He might as well say that plants and animals evolve- but they can never unmake their created nature. He might as well say that the man is the head of the house- but that his headship is realized in dying and serving and putting himself beneath even the littlest member of the house!

    But wait! Doug Wilson does say all of those things, because he is taking his lessons from the one who made it all, and really understands how it all works! In other words, because he is orthodox.

    This is what I love about Orthodoxy. It confounds and affronts both the decadently worldly and the piously worldly.

  4. On the one hand, you advocate early marriage. But on the other hand, you advocate a system (“courtship”) wherein the father imposes an additional filter that serves to block potential marriages. Most men want to date a woman, not her dad.

  5. Drew, you clearly missed the point and should carefully examine the potentially rebellious attitude in your own heart. Any godly father who has committed his life to the nurture of his daughters is not going to simply roll over because a potential suitor is annoyed by that father’s reasonable and responsible investigation of the young man’s character.

  6. DrewJ,

    Early marriage is not incompatible with thoughtful courtship and counselling. And the father’s involvement (filter) need not involve significant delay – we’re talking months, not years. You sound like you want the woman without her family. Remember, you may date the woman, but you marry into her family. To want the one without the other is one of the early marks of the abuser.

  7. Drew, are you really suggesting that the courtship model, father-involvement and all, delays marriage more than the typical system of dating around for X years and then dating one person for maybe a couple more years before considering marriage?

    In the courtship-based marriages I’ve known, as often as not the father’s role has, among other things, involved sitting the young man down and asking when he’s going to get to the point, not stringing things out with a series of hoops and tests.

  8. Jane’s right. A young woman’s father will push the courtship to an abbreviated end, whether it be the alter or the door. Btw Doug, you should consider an article on courtship and widows/single parents.

  9. Drew,
    Using the same reasoning, you should rail against the two-pedal model of driving. After all, we get into our cars to go somewhere, not to stop along the way. No brake pedals necessary.

    How does Doug’s point of marrying early conflict with a father helping a daughter not marry an inappropriate suitor early?

    (“Two pedal” is a nod to the waning of the manual transmission. At least in my life.)

  10. DrewJ’s point is somewhat valid if we consider the broader culture of courtship within the uber-conservative church. Pastor Wilson’s approach to courtship is very balanced and healthy, but there are sections of the conservative church where you seriously can’t get married until you’re 40 because some Laban-esqe father is abusing his authority. If that is DrewJ’s background then it is completely understandable why he would push back.

  11. If that is DrewJ’s background then it is completely understandable why he would push back.

    Only if we don’t grant him the respect of expecting him to address Doug Wilson as Doug Wilson, by familiarizing himself with what Doug Wilson actually advocates on the topic, and not as some icon of every possible variant of courtship there is.

  12. Drew says that the “the father imposes an additional filter”. In addition to what?

    Encouraging early marriage is not a filter, it is advocating removing arbitrary restrictions to the premise of marriage. It is increasing the flow, not filtering it.

    Because of that distinction, I am unsure of why Drew would not want the father’s protection of his daughter. Does it frighten the potential suitor?

    If so, why? A potential suitor with that response should question his true motives.

    If a suitor is going to ask a father for his daughter, and he intends to be her lifelong protector and provider, is it unreasonable to require him to use his man voice to do so?

  13. Pastor Wilson, there is a version of this post awaiting moderation because I inadvertently signed in with my email address. Would you kind remove that version.

    Thank you.
    *****************************************

    Drew says that the “the father imposes an additional filter”. In addition to what?

    Encouraging early marriage is not a filter, it is advocating removing arbitrary restrictions to the premise of marriage. It is increasing the flow, not filtering it.

    Because of that distinction, I am unsure of why Drew would not want the father’s protection of his daughter. Does it frighten the potential suitor?

    If so, why? A potential suitor with that response should question his true motives.
    If a suitor is going to ask a father for his daughter, and he intends to be her lifelong protector and provider, is it unreasonable to require him to use his man voice to do so?

  14. The additional filter serves as an addition to the wishes of the girl. It is hard enough to get a meeting of two minds. Three is harder. The solution to getting marriage to occur earlier is simply to encourage girls to get married. They should stop focusing on careers, advanced education, fornication, etc. Most fathers are at fault for encouraging alternatives to marriage. They aren’t at fault for failing to interview men about their thought life. Very few girls that I’ve come across have ever indicated any desire to get married quickly. How is putting an extra hoop in a man’s way going to speed things up?

  15. Drew, your comments come across as being those of someone who’d rather not be subject to someone else’s authority. Perhaps that’s not the case, and I hope to be gracious, but as someone whose father-in-law did require a courtship (which was and is my desire, as well), I can say that having someone more Christlike, knowledgeable, experienced, and wiser than myself was nothing but an aid in getting TO marriage, as the father can make sure that the suitor is not some man-child who refuses to take initiative and responsibility.

  16. I should mentioned that we were married exactly 22 months after I asked her to lunch for the first time, were engaged for 4 months, she was 20 and I was 23. I admit that we certainly had the uncommon advantage of his being a Calvinist SBC pastor, but I hope that having men of Reformed theology who love Jesus and understand the purpose of marriage directing their daughters and their daughters’ suitors in holiness and righteousness becomes much, much more common.

  17. “…it should not be surprising that he is the kind of person who will just “expect” what is his due. If for some reason that drifts away from him, he will still feel entitled. The most common way this happens in marriage is that a man does not treat his wife right, they start to quarrel and drift apart, and this naturally includes their sex life, and he feels just as entitled as he ever did.”
    So wives, if you husband has failed to treat you right (feel free to define that however you wish) or if you have “drifted apart” feel free to withhold sex until you husband meets your standards of behavior. The bible has addressed when you may withhold sex and this does not jive with scripture.

  18. “So wives, if you husband has failed to treat you right (feel free to define that however you wish) or if you have “drifted apart” feel free to withhold sex until you husband meets your standards of behavior. The bible has addressed when you may withhold sex and this does not jive with scripture.”

    Unfortunately, this seems to happen frequently.

    In addition, men who struggle with porn are often viewed as “gross perverts” who need to keep their distance, while a single mothers with out-of-wedlock children are “ministry opportunities” who should be welcomed with open arms.

    I’m not necessarily talking about the CREC, but about evangelical churches in general. The Fireproof/Courageous flicks haven’t helped, either.

  19. I can say that having someone more Christlike, knowledgeable, experienced, and wiser than myself was nothing but an aid in getting TO marriage, as the father can make sure that the suitor is not some man-child who refuses to take initiative and responsibility.

    That may well have been your experience, but on what data are you drawing to suggest that this is in any way the norm? Remember, “courtship” is currently limited to a small, highly motivated subset of the population. But if it is to become a general model, it’s going to have to be applied by the trailer park denizens as well. One thing any system will be judged on is its potential for abuse, and courtship leaves the door wide open.

    Besides, for all the hate directed his way, Drew is just pointing out the obvious truth. No one wants to fight their future in-laws to marry someone, and while it may not be so bad if they are agreeable, that would be because then the situation is not materially different than if they weren’t involved at all. In general, it’s wise to listen to your parents when they give advice, but even 23 year olds can make their own decisions, and giving the parents veto power is just too much.

    As for early marriage, while I don’t really see what’s so wonderful about it–I was married at 23 and divorced a year later–the reason it has died off is largely because of two things. One is ubiquitous contraception, giving women freedom to have sex without having children. The other is women working, giving them financial independence. Good luck taking either of those away.

  20. “but even 23 year olds can make their own decisions, and giving the parents veto power is just too much.”

    As for early marriage, while I don’t really see what’s so wonderful about it–I was married at 23 and divorced a year later–the reason it has died off is largely because of two things

  21. Generous supplies of wisdom, grace, and Christlikeness is never a bad thing to have poured into the relationship of two people considering marriage. The fact that there are sinful people who do not understand or live this out does not negate that fact.

    I also admitted that my case was perhaps uncommon, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fix that.

  22. Barnabas, I have sympathy with your complaint but I don’t think it is warranted here.

    If it is the case that difficulties in marriage often seem to affect the bedroom (especially for the woman) then it is fine to acknowledge this. Further it is not misplaced to ask a man what he may be doing wrong that is contributing to his wife feeling (and acting) the way she does, and asking him to address this; and at the same time saying to the wife that she is not to base her behaviour solely on her feelings nor hold their sex life to ransom.

  23. Generous supplies of wisdom, grace, and Christlikeness is never a bad thing to have poured into the relationship of two people considering marriage.

    Sure, but you don’t need some new model of “courtship” to have this, and it happens all the time in the modern world of dating and all that. There has never been a shortage of people wanting to share their opinions of their childrens’ actions.

  24. It seems to me that many of the objections being posted consist of experiential failure. “We must stay away from those infernal flying machines…lots of crashes happen with those things, I was in one and its a long way down, because…gravity.”

    Some are opposed in view of their own personal failures, some are opposed for “don’t like some man possibly getting between me and what I want”, and also a side-issue of “not fair!” claims, but I do not see principled logic being used as a reason why the premise, in and of itself, is wrong or ill-advised.

  25. Matt said:

    One thing any system will be judged on is its potential for abuse, and courtship leaves the door wide open.

    Yeah, especially since the current popular system is to sleep around for or five years, then sleep together for a couple years, live together for five or six more, finally marry and then wonder why they have trouble having children. That system is giving really outstanding results with hardly any potential for abuse. (sarcasm)

  26. “Courtship” is basically an arranged marriage, except without the dad making any effort to do any actual arranging. The dad doesn’t foster anything. At best, he serves no purpose. At worst, he is an obstacle. There is nothing biblical about it. If your daughter is sleeping around for five years then excommunicate her, disown her, etc.

  27. “The dad doesn’t foster anything. At best, he serves no purpose.”

    That is a steep and unsupported assertion.

    “At worst, he is an obstacle.”

    So is a personal protection detail guarding someone of great importance. You say that as if it were a bad thing.

  28. I don’t agree that courtship equals arranged marriage but an arranged marriage is actually the most biblical model for marriage that we have. It is also statistically much more successful than marriage based on the modern concept of romance.

  29. Barnabas, your link is not what Doug is doing here (nor what I suggested). I think Mohler is probably wrong here, but the point is not that the wife should tell the husband to get his act together by her bedroom antics, rather that someone else is speaking into the husbands life. It matters who is doing the speaking and to whom.

    The basic problem is that we read other people’s mail. A command is given to someone and the other person reads the command and deems more than is being said. A command to obey is not a command to make someone obey. A command to love is not a command to make someone love you.

    Relating this my earlier point, wives are told to respect their husbands. I agree that they are to do so whether the wife deems that they are worthy of respect. They are not to obey them into sin, but they are to act respectfully and they do not get to say my husband has not earned my respect.

    However, if the husband is acting in a way that is not conducive to respect it would be reasonable for a pastor to tell the man to pull his socks up. And it would be sensible for the man to listen to this advice.

  30. Certainly my criticism is of one section of a rather short blog post and it would be easy to read to much into it. I am sensitive, however, to common Evangelical errors based on ideas that men are inherently evil and women are inherently good or that at worst women lack moral agency and if they are in sin then somewhere there is a man responsible for it. I think that Doug Wilson is generally a more able critical thinker than the pastors mentioned in that link.

  31. “Courtship” is basically an arranged marriage, except without the dad making any effort to do any actual arranging. The dad doesn’t foster anything. At best, he serves no purpose.

    As an absolute, that set of statements is false.

    As a general description of anything applicable to what Doug Wilson is talking about when he talks about courtship, it is also false. He has been explicit about this. Your failure to understand (or possibly even read?) what he advocates does not constitute advocacy of something harmful on his part.

  32. With regards to Matt’s comment, it would seem that he needs to read “Her Hand in Marriage.” Now where could he get a copy of this book…….?

    Seriously, even if the father were “at worst an obstacle”, have we not all seen marriages that fell apart due to spectacular misbehavior on the part of the husband, and wondered why no father, friend, or brother went to the young lady to express concerns about the husband-to-be before it was too late? Nothing wrong with being an obstacle to a bad relationship in my view.

    But that said, in a true courtship model, the father is involved in “pre-screening” the young men, and part of the purpose is that a mature man will see things in young men that a young lady is not likely to see. Put bluntly, I lead the youth group at my church, and while I know, serve, and love the young men there, I’m not going to recommend any of them to my oldest daughter. On the flip side, there are a couple of young men from other churches that we know through homeschooling circles who might get a shot–they’ve shown some very real character and real faith.

  33. You can recommend anyone you want to your daughter now, you don’t need a special “courtship” model to do it. You can also presently discourage her from doing anything. It happens literally all the time in the decadent modern world. The kicker seems to be that right now, she doesn’t actually have to listen to you and you can’t veto her decisions.

    I say good, let people make their own decisions, and their own mistakes. There’s a lot about the dating game that makes no sense to me, but at least it gives people the freedom to make their own way. Women are not wards to be signed over from one man to another.

  34. Matt, is your point that you have no objection to the advice Wilson is giving, as long as none dare call it courtship, or write books about it, lest anyone think that the ideas are new? Is that really a point that is important to make?

  35. No my point is that all of the purported benefits of “courtship” that have been proposed so far are all regularly-invoked features of the modern dating model, and that adults shouldn’t have to obtain consent from an authority figure to have a relationship or marry. I can’t think of any problem that’s being solved here, but I can think of several that are being created.

  36. I understand Drew and Matt’s points here, and I have a few thoughts.

    First, to state that any model for anything is Biblical primarily because it occurs in the Bible is very dangerous. I am sure that many Christians will agree that certain certain commands found in the Bible were for a specific time period or context, such as, for example, the New Testament command for women to wear head coverings during worship–a command which many, if not most, Christian women do not follow. In addition, every person and ever situation in life is unique, even if there are similar aspects that we can relate to other individuals or situations. Therefore, I think we should be cautious about making statements which imply absolutism in areas that are in reality more subjective.

    Secondly, I have seen many of my friends marry over the past decade using a variety of different methods to get there, and while I would not say that experience should be the primary motivator, I also do not believe that it should be entirely ignored, either. Sadly, I have observed as many or more problems with the courtship initiated marriages than with the marriages initiated by dating. After considerable deliberation, I believe that although the marriage does indeed unite two families, because the primary relationship is between the husband and the wife, they should have the primary responsibility in the decision to marry or not marry, as well as in what sins to overlook and what sins to view as red flags. This is not to say that advice from more mature Christians such as parents should not be heeded, however, to allow the father to have total veto power in the decision is to imply that the daughter lacks the maturity to make the decision on her own. And if that is the case, then I personally would question wether she is mature enough to be entering into marriage yet, anyway.

    My “ideal” model, at least as I view it at this particular point in my life, would be to avoid the confines and potential dangers of any specific, set in stone, model and to be constantly open to the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit in all decisions in life. Not so opend minded that we ignore Scripture or the absolutes that do indeed exist, but at the same time not so narrow minded that we place a set of supposed rules into a higher position than our relationship with the Author of those rules.

    I hope that I have in no way come across as rude or implied that I believe courship to be evil, because that is not my point. Rather, I merely hope to point out that I, like Drew and Matt, see the limitations of courtship and am concerned by its sometimes blanketly applied applicability and the, unfortunately, all too common ignorance reguarding its potential to be abused when used by fallen human beings. Courtship is, in my eyes, like many things, a tool, not a truth, and we stumble upon dangerous ground when we forget that.

  37. Grace,

    Two questions:

    “…be constantly open to the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit…”

    Are you suggesting that there is a place to find “guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit” outside of the Word of God?

    “…then I personally would question wether she is mature enough to be entering into marriage yet, anyway.”

    Well then, who should be the protector in such a case if it is not the father?

  38. RFB,

    Here are my answers to your questions:

    1. Yes, I do believe God reveals himself to us in other ways that are in addition to, though never contrary to, His written Word. I will try to explain myself on this, though I understand that I believe contrary to some so I apologize in advance if my explanation causes more confusion than clarification. Simply put, I have seen and heard too many examples of God revealing Himself through dreams, signs, promptings, and the like, both in scripture and throughout history for me to discount His ability to get through to us in this way, though I will repeat again that I do not believe any revelation will be contradictory to what He has revealed in His written Word. I believe, therefore, that we should pray about decisions and be in-tune to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in whatever form it takes. I hope that answers your question without causing too much confusion or digressing too far off topic.

    2. I am sorry for my lack of clarity on this. My point was not that someone else should serve as protector, but rather that perhaps the focus should be more on raising mature children who can think for themselves than on setting up models or rules to protect them later in life because they are not mature enough to make the decisions they are faced with. I do not mean that in a critical or judgemental way, but merely in a matter of fact manner. If we think that we raised our kids to be mature, strong adults, the we should treat them as such. And if we are having to step in and save them from potentially disastrous marriages, then perhaps we need to reevaluate the way that we raised them and what might have caused them to think such a marriage would even be a good idea. The justification for courtship should never be to alleviate the symptom of what is, in fact, a more serious underlying problem. Again, I hope that answers your question.

Comments are closed.