Haley’s Halo has a fascinating piece on the bad marriage advice given to Evanglical Christian women titled The importance of having chemistry. She references advice given to a woman from boundless.org, a part of Focus on the Family. The woman’s problem was that after two years of dating a man, she still didn’t have “chemistry” (sexual attraction) with him. The man is preparing to propose to her and she wanted advice on what to do. Haley pointed out that the reply was to essentially shame the woman into marrying the man even though on the sexual attraction scale the man was (Haley’s words) “Not In A Million Years”. I’m entirely with Haley on this. This is in my opinion just another example of the church loving weddings more than it hates divorce. In my last blog post advising men on marriage, I started with the assumption that the couple was head over heels in love with each other, and had great chemistry. Shaming people into marriage when the marriage isn’t likely to be successful is short sighted and neglects the risks both to the spouses themselves as well as their future children.
However, what struck me more than the bad advice being dispensed was how unbelievably cliché the woman’s predicament was. She was torn (in her mind) between an old boyfriend (badboy rocker who dropped out of college to join a commune) and her new one (pre med dutiful beta). At this point I found myself strangely compelled to clutch the monitor to my bosom, sigh wistfully, and sip some chamomile tea while musing ahhhh, which to choose….
Ok, I admit I made that last part up. But flashbacks of being forced to read tripe literature from the Bronte sisters in High School did sear my brain, as well as this image:
But even more surprising than how profoundly cliché her situation was, is the fact that I’m evidently the only person to see this. This is one of the most common themes in entertainment targeted to women. The theme is so powerful a woman Senator recently felt compelled to ask the current supreme court nominee which Twilight love interest she would choose.
My wife thankfully can’t stand chick flicks or romance novels, but has noted the common theme in many Danielle Steel novels/movies where the woman moves to a new exciting place after becoming a widow, only to fall in love again (where’s my chamomile tea?). She’s troubled by the fantasy being sold to women of having their spouse die so they can re choose another love of their life. I agree, but I’m convinced they only sell this because there is such a willing audience. If men fantasized about their wives dying and meeting an exciting new woman in some exotic locale, you can bet that Spike TV would be showing male equivalents of these Lifetime movies.
But the idea of the choice frozen in time, the re-choosing after choosing, reconnecting with an ex, and replaying the choice in an endless loop are strictly female entertainment themes. Occasionally you may see this theme altered such that the man is the one choosing, but even here the target audience is women (just like the recent trend to insert wedding scenes into superhero movies).
The male equivalent to this female instinct is to have multiple women at the same time. This you will see played out on Spike, porn, you name it. So here’s an easy rule of thumb. If the central conflict of the story is which twin to choose, this is aimed at women. If the central conflict is how to get with both twins at once, this is aimed at men.
But there is another difference. Men’s instinct to be with multiple women is acknowledged by society and curbs are placed against this instinct. Obviously this is an instinct which doesn’t fit well with marriage. However, women’s instinct to endlessly re-choose is continuously fed at a fantasy level while denied as being real at a societal level. Women who fantasize about their husband’s death so they can choose another man aren’t shamed the way that men are shamed for wanting to build their own private harem.
Moreover, for all of the shaming directed at men for objectifying women with pornography, women don’t get called out on this. In the example of the christian woman who had constructed her own personal twilight fantasy, there is no shaming for her mistreatment of pre med man. No one called her on her behaving as if he was a character in her own private play and not a real human being. Her only hesitation against marrying him was her own dissatisfaction; it never occurred to her that he deserved to find a woman who honestly loved him.