“Dating discourse” periodically flares up on Catholic Twitter. Usually, when some brave soul ventures into the void with an explanation of why dating can be so awful and awkward. I am not a keen follower of this discourse, but it seems that it normally reaches the same conclusion every time: dating sucks because men are no longer good men and women are no longer good women. Both are in some way childish, inconstant, superficial, and probably addicted to base vices of some kind or other. “Gender” and “gender roles,” or whatever we want to call the moral and cultural qualities properly associated in society with men and women as such, are painfully absent, making everything more difficult to navigate. For whatever reason — the discourse continues — people no longer know how to acquire those qualities, and increasingly don’t even know what they are or why they are valuable. And this is what makes dating awful.
Whatever the (limited) merits of dating discourse, it seems obviously true to me that “gender” and “gender roles,” understood in this sense, have largely been lost. The question is why. I would argue that the answer, or part of it, is that matrimony itself, on which those roles are built, has been lost.Continue reading