We live in a time when the truth of much of this is playing out in real time. Let us begin with one side of the equation, which would be the current climate on college campuses created by various certified buttercups, which wants to define rape culture as a giant edifice built out of, among other things, microaggressions, mansplaining, and manspreading. We are rapidly getting to the point where rape culture is any culture with men in it. That drives us in the direction of “everything is rape.”
But what about the “nothing is” part? This is the world where young Muslim men can grope women ad libitum, and the women are the ones blamed, where glorified rape fantasies like 50 Shades sell a kabillion copies to ostensibly liberated women, and where any attractive woman, regardless how modest, every day has to navigate a world catechized by porn.
Now Christians should always want to live counter-culturally, but especially in times like ours. Those who share this desire often come together as Christians, in Christian families, in Christian churches, which then develop into what might be called Christian subcultures. In these subcultures, customs develop. As with all customs, some people understand the reason for the custom while other just go along with the custom thoughtlessly. This same reality is true in subcultures where a recovery of courtship has taken root.
It is the conviction of many of us here in conservative Christian circles that the principal threat to women is men. Taken as a general rule, women need to be protected from men. But because of the superior strength and higher levels of aggressiveness in men — and I know I run the risk of heavy fines and internment in sensitivity camp for saying it — what we must have in order to protect women from men is . . . men. Men are the principal danger, and so men must be the principal defense against that danger. You can complain about this if you like, and you may get your representative to introduce legislation about it, but it remains the fact that something that is 200 pounds weighs more than something that is 130 pounds.
In the older order, the principal responsibility for doing this fell on the men of a particular woman’s acquaintance — her father, her brothers, her husband, her sons. This was not a matter of law imposed from above, but rather a matter of internalized custom. It took us a long time to get there, but it is not taking us nearly that same amount of time to leave. It was not the kind of rule that civilizations make, but it was rather the kind of civilization that kind of rule made.
So then, what do we do? Christian men have an obligation to protect the women in their lives. This is one of the permanent things. It one of the foundation stones in the natural order of things. God created Adam to protect and provide. Those are the two central duties of men. It is what men are for.
So what follows is a short summary of what I have taught in this realm for many years.
The first duty that a man has is a variation on the Hippocratic Oath, where it says, first, do no harm. If a man’s task is to protect “the womenfolk” — and yes, I know I sound like a troglodyte and, also like a troglodyte, do not care — then his first order of business is to make sure he is not the one she principally needs protection from. Included in that is the common error of protecting others stupidly, which usually winds up being no protection at all.
Second, when you have a community of like-minded people, you have to learn how to function within the customs that have developed. You are not dealing with the Sinaitic code, but rather with manners and mores. Let us say, for just one example, that a young NSA freshman has been flirting his head off with a particular girl for a couple weeks. His roommate takes him aside and says, “Have you talked to her dad?” Now out of 100 instances of this kind of “intervention” in our circles, I am quite prepared to grant that a certain number of these incidents are legalistic, fussy, unnecessary, officious, or just plain jealous. Great, and let’s take that as an encouragement to not be that guy. But now let’s take a trip across town to the other college, the land where nobody would ever dream of asking such a stooopid question. We are talking about the land of abortion, STDs, serial crack-ups, and lots of therapy for mangled daughters. We are talking about the land that fathers forgot — and it is truly a miserable land.
Now I do understand why someone might argue that I am an over-protective throwback. I disagree, but at least it is a coherent criticism. But when I insist on the duty of Christian men to be a wall of protection for the women in their lives, and I lament the fact that many women have abandoned any such protection, how is it possible for Rachel Held Evans to think that I say that unsubmissive women deserve to be raped? Mark her use of that word deserve.
Say a woman — for some egalitarian and very foolish reason, declines to have her dinner date walk her back to her car in some urban center after dark. Let us say she is raped and murdered. According to what RHE says, my response is going to be some variant of “served her right.” Now you would have to be a fool not to see the connection between her refusal of an escort and what happened to her, but you would also have to be pretty vile to say that walking to your car deserves the penalty of rape and murder. You would also have to be pretty high up among Obama’s advisers to falsely accuse someone of being that vile.
One consequence of rejecting the protection of good men is that you are opening yourself up to the predations of bad men. I fully acknowledge that this is not what such women think they are doing. They think they are rejecting the patriarchy, or some other icky thing, but when they have walked away from the protections of fathers and brothers, what it amounts to is a tacit (implicit, in principle, not overt) acceptance of the propriety of rape.
Does this mean they deserve to be wronged? Of course not. Does John Piper deserve to be mugged because he won’t carry a gun? Do I deserve to have my truck stolen because I left it unlocked? Did the oysters in The Walrus and the Carpenter deserve to be eaten because they were so stupid?
Third, when you are a member of a subculture that follows the courtship pattern, there are two things you need to make sure you are doing. The first one is that you must have buy-in from everybody involved. If you don’t have that buy-in, it would be far better simply to work with whatever buy-in you already have. I have taught parents repeatedly that their job is not to get the kids to conform to the standard, but rather to get them to love the standard. If they don’t love the standard, then lower the standard and work from there.
The second one is this: you often have to translate the principle you are following and you have to translate it into the language/s and customs of the surrounding culture. I have also taught for years that we are to honor the principle and use the methods — while holding them loosely. I have two daughters and one son. One time years ago, Nate said something like this to me — “my sisters are a home game. I’m an away game.” Sons leave, and daughters are given, and this requires us not to be too rigid in our methods.
One method would be something like a daughter remaining in her father’s house until marriage. As it happened, that is what occurred with my daughters, but we had no expectation that this was something we “had to” do. It wasn’t a rule or anything. And if I remember rightly, one of the girls was actually planning on getting an apartment the next year when marriage intervened. So let us say that one or both of our girls had moved out before marriage, and let us also say that a couple years passed before the right guy came around. When he came around, would they still “have to” do it the courtship way? Well, that would depend. Would they still have a dad whose opinion of men they respected, and who still loved them?
Or should I rather say, “Sorry, kid. You are paying your own utilities now.”