Wherefore Romance?

Like the seemingly inextinguishable California wildfires, the aptly named ‘Pervnado’ continues its own incineration of the careers of various media and political types, all of them males, almost all of them white. Curiously, so far, sports and music figures, whose proclivities in these domains are notorious, have been rather immune, but their time may come. There are the bizarre and brazen actions of some of the more prominent, so eloquently described by our own Rex Murphy, but there is nothing new about this under the Sun.  Powerful and privileged men have always misused vulnerable and nubile women, with varying degrees of complicity.

Yet even cads deserve due process, for the ‘every women believed’ principle would undermine the rule of law, and one false accusation can ruin a man forever. To paraphrase Thomas More, without law, custom and proper evidence, who would then stand when the winds doth blow?

The more pertinent question, to my mind, is how all this will affect the average man’s day-to-day interactions with members of the fairer sex, now more fraught than ever.

There used to be customs for the reciprocal interaction of men and women, and for good reason. God created us ‘for’ each other, ‘bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh’, with a natural, built-in attraction, which may even develop into infatuations, which in turn tend to diminish one’s rational capacities, and, as I have witnessed more times than I care to count, often lead to that most insane of adventures we call marriage.

At least, so it used to go.  Now, alas, it just leads more often than not to desultory sex, more burdensome on the woman than the man, with lingering after-effects of a most unpleasant variety.

Hence, we had the custom not spending long periods of time alone with a woman who is not your wife, or whom you are not considering making your wife, and that does not just include moonlit romantic walks by the lake, but also any work, leisure, play, study.  Vice-President Mike Pence was roundly mocked for recounting in a 2002 article in the Atlantic that he never has luncheons or dinners alone with women; but he is rather to be lauded, even for the sake of optics and, as we now discover, wise advice, for one never knows what one’s fellow gourmand might recollect of the evening. As a wise priest once said to me, ‘propinquity is the greatest aphrodisiac’. One would think this rather obvious, but apparently not to some.

Besides the other pearls of wisdom in his landmark encyclical Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII also warns against a ‘mixing of the sexes’ in factories and other workplaces, which must be avoided along with ‘other occasions of evil’.  Now even good Catholics now sort of smile benignly at such an apparently mediaeval and outmoded concept.

But is it?  Most people don’t believe in original sin, but Cardinal Newman thought it one of the more obvious mysteries of the faith:  That we are born with a ‘disposition of a complex nature’ inclining us toward evil, as Saint Thomas put it, to follow our ‘concupiscence’, our selfish, disordered passions, the path of least resistance, straight into deeds described in the various levels of Dante’s Inferno, depending upon one’s proclivities and how far it all goes.

Add to this our own personal sins, which disorder our passions, not least in the realm of sex, at least in the privacy of one’s thoughts. Trying to ‘chastise’ such thoughts and desires is seen as unhealthy, repressive. After all, we think, what is the harm?  Soon our intellect becomes corrupt, thinking, well, a few jolly adventures make life a lot more interesting. Chastity, that great and noble virtue, is now seen fit only for the weak and middling, for cramped and scrupulous monks. No life for an ubermensch, like, say,  Nietzsche, whose trysts with prostitutes and lustful excesses had him end up in an asylum talking over his nihilistic philosophy with the cows.

So, behold the sexual revolution devouring itself, the inevitable end-point of sin, as what has been done in darkness, metaphorical or otherwise, is now being proclaimed in the light.

Men and women now eye each other with highly suspicious and litigious minds. Just this morning, one female senator, a certain Celina Caesar-Cevannes, warned against men’s ‘microaggressions, (barely discernible to the rational, sane perceiver, of  course) which, as she went on, feels like ‘death by a thousand cuts’.  No man is now apparently safe from such a gimlet eye, even if he thinks himself so.

How are we now to interact in any sane and healthy manner?  An errant glance, a look a fraction of a second too long, a brief brush of an elbow, a word out of place, leaning over the photocopier with one’s posterior a little too prominently positioned. Who’s to know what constitutes a ‘microaggresion’ or a sexually charged act?  The rigours that are now imposed on men, and to some degree on women, would make the most Jansenistic of casuistic moral manuals pale in comparison.

Where is courtship and marriage to go in all of this?  Imagine even asking woman out:

“So, would you accompany me to dinner?”

“Dinner?  Why?”

“Well, so we can get to know each other…”

“In what sense?”

“Ha, ha…well I don’t mean in the Biblical sense, although one never knows…”

Call the HRC. The poor guy would already be looking at the unemployment line, if not a prison sentence. Declaring one’s attraction for another, even it subtle ways, is sure to make the workplace ‘toxic’.

Need I even mention the holiday mistletoe? I vaguely recall such halcyonic days, but now even a hug or peck on the check requires a lawyer and a medical record.

Part of the difficulty in all of this is that men and women no longer ‘need’ each other, in that whole complementarity that is the basis of sexual attraction.  I don’t necessarily mean ‘need’ in the pioneer, old west sense, with the man building, hunting, and hauling the plow, and the woman cooking, keeping house and raising children, although those fresh-air days may return someday, Deo volente.

Rather, ‘need’ at least in the sense of cultivating the virtues proper to ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’, so that each does what is proper to each sex, a custom now regarded as obsolete and sexist, particularly for femininity. All that is left is some vague erotic residue, now almost unhinged from true sex, a genderless mingling, hardly a basis for courtship, to say nothing of marriage.

A panel I heard the other night wondered why girls and boys still play with ‘gender specific’ toys, with the conclusion that it was the fault of advertisers and media, especially Disney and their ‘princess’ motif.  Yet the more obvious conclusion is that Disney and Barbie and toy Monster Trucks are simply responding to a reality that is already there, that girls will be girls, and boys, boys, unless, that is, it is brainwashed out of them. So we raise an androgynous cohort of millennials, fearful even to look at each other, except in a vicarious way on screens, secretly, subterranean, and, if we do not stop the road we are on, in the end, satanic.

It is going to be a long difficult road back to sanity and normality, but to return for now to the point with which we began, the current revulsion of men’s misuse of sex is a step in the right direction, if seen in the bigger picture of virtue, chastity, chivalry, of all those manners that which maketh the man, of holding doors for women, laying down one’s cloak, and even one’s life; of custody of one’s eyes and imagination; of a proper sense of decency and dress, of decorum in word and deed.  It is just sad that so arduous a road must now be trod to where we already were before.

Like all that is good and true, this must all come from the heart, for love is far too intimate, beautiful and delicate a thing for the blunt and brutal instrument of law and those dreaded, ring-bound ‘policy’ manuals.

In the end, it is all rather simple, as all truth is:  esto vir, and esto femina, be a man, and be a woman, and we will get along rather well, I would think.

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