The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected.
–G. K. Chesterton
Nearly all Traditional Conservatives are deeply invested in the narrative of men as uncivilized and immoral brutes who need to be tamed by morally superior women. We see this with Glenn Stanton’s delight in the movie As Good As It Gets, and his assertion to parents that their daughters will naturally grow up to be good so long as society doesn’t trip them up. We also see this in Pastor Driscoll’s famous line:
Men are like trucks: they drive straighter with a weighted load.
This narrative is in fact part of the rationale for women’s sacred path to marriage. Once the woman has had sex with a suitable variety of men, the man she hands the man up card to has the duty to marry her not only as a reward to her for having done the work of having sex with many men, but as a duty to himself to submit to her moral superiority so she can make him a better man.
Traditional Conservatives are making two key mistakes to come to this frame of mind. The first is a misunderstanding of why men in a culture which supports traditional marriage behave so differently than men in a culture which discourages it. Civilization was built by men, specifically by beta men who were motivated by the possibility of having and leading a family. Men are willing to work harder and make sacrifices when they either have a family or perceive the possibility of having one. Trad Cons have misunderstood this effect, and instead misattributed productive and civilized behavior among men to an effect of women being present.
The second mistake is Trad Cons having forgotten what they were conserving in the first place. As I’ve mentioned before, Trad Cons act much like a drift sock; they aren’t anchored to a fixed position so they simply act as a drag against whatever the current direction of change is.
If Trad Cons were anchored to a fixed position it would be the Bible. The Old Testament is filled with cautionary stories about men who let their wives lead them instead of the other way around, and the New Testament is also clear on this issue. Outside of the Bible, folk tales and Shakespeare teach the opposite of the modern Trad Con narrative, with tales of husbands taming their shrewish wives. However the Bible should either way be the primary anchor when conserving western thought on this issue, and this should be the case whether one is Christian or simply conserving the Judeo-Christian tradition.
But most Trad Con Christians aren’t anchored in the Bible. In fact, the Bible is an obstacle they need to overcome on a regular basis. Fortunately for them they have become quite good at this. Consider Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He explains the problem of pornography in marriage in his article The Seduction of Pornography and the Integrity of Christian Marriage, Part 2 (H/T Kaehu, and don’t miss Ballista74’s excellent post).
According to Dr. Mohler, the problem with pornography in Christian marriage is that it threatens the natural order of things by weakening the wife’s control over her husband (emphasis mine):
The emotional aspect of sex cannot be divorced from the physical dimension of the sex act. Though men are often tempted to forget this, women possess more and less gentle means of making that need clear.
Consider the fact that a woman has every right to expect that her husband will earn access to the marriage bed.
He explains that God wants wives to withhold sex in order to control their husbands, and in this way the wife can lead and purify her husband. While a husband’s desire for sex with his wife is physical and therefore shameful, she purifies the act of sex by ensuring that it is more abstract and emotional. He makes this argument by citing from 1 Corinthians 7, which states that neither spouse is to deny sex to the other because it creates temptation for sexual sin (like pornography). He reads this through the lens of Ephesians 5 which states that the husband is to lead his wife and to wash her with the water of the Word, and she is to submit to him. Where Scripture says “up”, Dr. Mohler explains that it secretly means “down”.
While Paul states in 1 Corinthians 7 that unmarried men are focused on pleasing the Lord and married men tend to fall into the trap of focusing on things of the world (pleasing their wives), Dr. Mohler knows that the opposite is true:
I am confident that God’s glory is seen in the fact that a married man, faithful to his wife, who loves her genuinely, will wake up in the morning driven by ambition and passion in order to make his wife proud, confident, and assured in her devotion to her husband.
Dr. Mohler explains that this occurs through the moral wisdom of a woman’s tingle:
Put most bluntly, I believe that God means for a man to be civilized, directed, and stimulated toward marital faithfulness by the fact that his wife will freely give herself to him sexually only when he presents himself as worthy of her attention and desire.
This he explains is the fundamental problem with pornography; it weakens the power the wife holds over her husband in the form of withheld sex, interfering with her ability to civilize him. He illustrates this by offering a contrast. First he describes a married man:
The first picture is of a man who has set himself toward a commitment to sexual purity, and is living in sexual integrity with his wife. In order to fulfill his wife’s rightful expectations and to maximize their mutual pleasure in the marriage bed, he is careful to live, to talk, to lead, and to love in such a way that his wife finds her fulfillment in giving herself to him in love.
He contrasts this to the untamed brutes men will naturally become if not lead by a wife:
This man need not be concerned with his physical appearance, his personal hygiene, or his moral character in the eyes of a wife. Without this structure and accountability, he is free to take his sexual pleasure without regard for his unshaved face, his slothfulness, his halitosis, his body odor, and his physical appearance.