I said that this would be a blog about solutions, not analysis, which you can get in great abundance elsewhere. Having considered all the analysis for some time, I have come to some conclusions; or, solutions. Basically, I find that the solution, or at least my solution, is: courtship.
By “courtship” I do not mean the process by which a man and a woman may become married, whatever that may be. I mean something specific:
- A young woman does not have sex before marriage; and also, does not commit herself to a man before marriage, except as a kind of engagement. There is no “going steady” or “boyfriends”; only “husbands” and “fiances.”
- A young woman typically lives at her father’s house until marriage.
- A woman moves from her father’s house to her husband’s house after marriage.
This is a stringent program. A young horny girl is not going to want to be locked up in her father’s house for all that long; nor would a father want such a thing for his daughter. A young woman would be “debuted to society” (officially declared marriageable; come and get her boys!) around age 16, or even 15. Ideally, women would be married around age 18. But, since reality intrudes, somewhere between age 18 and 24 is best, with a practical median around age 21. Age 16 is not too young (it was the age of Saint Mary when she wedded Saint Joseph; Jesus was born when Mary was 17.)
No “season of singleness” here. You pair those girls up and get them out of the house.
The median and average tends to be higher than the mode (the most common age), because women don’t get married much before age 16, but can be delayed until 35.
A median of age 21 may seem young today, but it is a full five years of husband-hunting after a girl’s debut. It is actually not so far from the norm today, where a girl finally decides to find a husband around age 28, and gets married around 33.
This was the basic pattern of marriage for about 1500 years, from the end of the Roman era and the rise of the Christian era, to about 1920. Obviously, it did not hold in all circumstances. But, it was broadly embraced, by kings and commoners alike. It was the “norm,” which one either followed or deviated from. Probably, in all times, there were a lot of marriages where a baby followed about six months later.
But, even then, those who had strayed from this pattern did what they could to get back on it; and the results usually worked pretty well. Before 1950, among White Americans, 2% or less of children were born out of wedlock. (It was common for illegitimate children to be transferred to the household of a married relative, thus giving the child an adequate household in which to grow up, and preserving the fallen woman’s future marriageability. But here too, in failure the norms were upheld.)
We know that this pattern works. It is sustainable. It was sustained for centuries. We have not developed anything else that is sustainable (everything since 1920 has been a long process of crumbling), or that produces better results, even in theory let alone practice.
“Dating” did not exist in the past. Read the novels of Jane Austen, for example, and you will find no “dating.” Young people did spend time together, but these were usually either at the woman’s father’s house, or at public events such as dances or picnics. “Dating,” and all that has followed from it, emerged in the 1920s. (One book about this is Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating (2017), by Moira Weigel.) In the 1920s, as farming was mechanized, young men that grew up in the country moved to cities to find factory work. Young women, finding no young men in their neighborhood, also moved to the cities to find husbands. To support themselves, since they were no longer living at their father’s home or working at their father’s farm or business, they found jobs too. Thus “dating” arose from the single working girl, living alone without her father’s supervision, far from home in the big city. From this it is not too hard to extend forward to our present situation today.
It would take a lot of explication to describe why I think this is a functional solution to our difficulties today; and why other solutions won’t work, just as no other solution from the 1920s onward has worked, but has instead constituted a slow deterioration into chaos. That explication will be the subject of many more items to come.