The Corner

Sex in Berkeley

An e-mail in response to my Sex in the City review:

What worries me — as a husband, the father of three girls (one 20-something) and 3 boys (one getting married next week), and the pastor of about 100 college students — is this:

No question that they want true love, marriage and children, but not knowing any other way — and thinking this is the way to get there — they are tempted to go the route of Carrie et al., to get there.

And my real worry: they don’t realize that this pattern and practice, as a practical matter, goes a long way toward preventing the outcome they desire. I think it’s fair to say that guys sense a Carrie when they see one. They try to avoid getting entangled with them – not as a matter of sexism, but as self-preservation.

I don’t know what the answer is, for young women, in the age of Carrie and her pals. Goodness knows we all rejoice when a couple magically forms, and marriage and children follow. No question but it’s very, very difficult.

One final example: my daughter’s Yale classmates wouldn’t have been unhappy to marry one of their classmates, but had no way of knowing that these guys, with their families and hearts set on higher things, had no intention of making any commitments while in New Haven. So the hook-up culture, the shared floors, shared bathrooms (with their illusion of domestic intimacy) and the rest, led to almost zero marriages, then or in the next few years. “Chloe Does Yale” is a particulary sad description of how things played out.

If anybody out there is writing about solutions, hope I learn about it.

Part of the solution: I think Carrie herself can have an impact. Even if Sex isn’t explicitly trying to get a message out, the unavoidable reality is compelling to anyone who reflects a little: the Carrie approach brings needless pain. Now, if you’re a twentysomething and you realize that, what do you do? That’s where this pastor’s responsibility comes in. This is where churches, families, the married, friends, and even schools have responsibilities to help people build the foundations of our society — new families through love and marriage and children.

As for writing — Jennifer Marshall has written thoughtfully about single life, helping single people feel confident without giving up. Jennifer Roback Morse has written with some authority and experience on why the Carrie approach isn’t the right one. Leon and Amy Kass have put together a great collection on courtship I like to give young people — how many young people have ever thought about that word? Kate O’Beirne has written about what feminism has wrought, which is really a big reason why we’re where we are — why Carrie and the girls have been so darned unhappy. Michael and Harriet McManus do a good job of presenting the practical drawbacks of cohabitation — and urge churches to take the lead in helping singles wait. Kay Hymowitz reminds us about how the inner-city truly suffers without marriage. And Kathleen Parker embraces men and rejects feminist hostility toward them in her new book, which really is a healthy cleansing — and one I wish Carrie and the girls could have had a long time ago.

In short, now that I’ve plugged a few trillion books: We all have a role to play in cultural renewal. Even Sarah Jessica Parker, even if she doesn’t know it. And if we’re concerned, like the pastor in Berkeley, we’re already on the road to making a difference in the lives of those we know.

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