Dalrock, whom I’d characterize as a Christian MRA (Men’s Rights Activist), has made the observation that:
From Dalrock’s post “Lovestruck” (April 15, 2013):
“There is a new sexual morality which modern Christians and non Christians alike have embraced in the place of biblical marriage, and it isn’t centered around overt hedonism. The new sexual morality is centered around romantic love.
This transformational shift has been so complete and so insidious that unless you have actively considered the idea you almost certainly have at least partially adopted the new mindframe yourself. Consider for example Roissy’s claim that he loves many of the women he has sex with. Does this offend you? Do you interpret this as Roissy pretending that his sexual exploits have a purity, a morality which you are certain they lack?
If so, why do you feel this way? Roissy certainly doesn’t suffer under a delusion that love makes sex moral. Roissy understands a simple truth; sex is more enjoyable when he experiences it both physically and emotionally. He has sex with romantic love for the same reason one might have sprinkles on their ice cream; he likes it better that way.
So where does this outrage come from? It isn’t biblical. From a biblical perspective Roissy is misusing both sex and romantic love. But how many modern Christians can even understand that?
What nearly all modern Christians have done is place romantic love above marriage. Instead of seeing marriage as the moral context to pursue romantic love and sex, romantic love is now seen as the moral place to experience sex and marriage. This inversion is subtle enough that no one seems to have noticed, but if you look for it you will see it everywhere.”
This is an interesting observation on Dalrock’s part concerning modern feminist culture. In today’s society marriage and sex are subordinated to romantic love; romantic love being the umbrella which legitimizes marriage and sex as long marriage and sex is within or under romantic love. This means sex is OK and legitimate as long as the man and woman (or even the man and man or woman and woman) love each other. Likewise a marriage is legitimate and considered valuable on the basis that the man and woman love each other with the implication being that if one or the other spouse “fall out of love” with the other then the marriage is no longer viable or legitimate as the marriage would then no longer be based on mutual love.
Something is wrong with this picture, something is wrong with this construction of things. I think the operating assumption is that strong durable romantic love makes sex moral and makes commitment moral; that “being in love” itself is considered to be a moral state so that whatever one does while in a state of “being in love” must be moral by extension. “Meaningless sex” is bad but sex with someone you love is good, the sex then being an expression of your love for the other person. Being married to someone you don’t love or that you no longer love is corrupt, it is manipulative and dishonest, it is keeping you from experiencing “true love” and a “healthy relationship” with another person, it has to be psychologically harmful to both the person who is not in love and also the person who is not receiving the love they should be receiving. Better to divorce in such a scenario so that each person can find a new spouse whom they love and will be loved by. If you’re having sex with someone or are married to someone then you “should” love that other person meaning if you are in love as you should be then the situation is good and moral; if not, if you are not in love, then the sex or marriage is bad.
The alternative view puts marriage at the top of the hierarchy. Sex is good when it takes place within marriage; romantic love is good when it takes place within marriage. Marriage is what legitimizes and directs towards a moral purpose romantic love and sex. Sex outside of marriage is then bad and disordered whether the two people having sex love each other or not. Likewise romantic love outside of marriage is problematic and should be discouraged. If you love someone you should either marry the person or no longer pursue the relationship; that you should not fan the flames of love or persist in a state of being in love with someone outside of marriage indefinitely.
It makes a lot more sense to put marriage at the top of the hierarchy with sex and love subordinate to marriage and legitimized by marriage rather than to put love at the top of the hierarchy and making the claim that love is what makes sex and marriage legitimate. Marriage is a lifetime commitment of support and loyalty to ones spouse. Romantic love is a feeling; a feeling that may strengthen or weaken due to a number of factors. Romantic love motivates positive behaviors and intentions towards ones beloved but romantic love by itself doesn’t do anything concrete or specific to benefit the beloved. Romantic love tends to inspire or motivate moral behavior but romantic love is not moral in its own right just by itself. A lifetime commitment to support and be loyal to another person on the other hand, what marriage is, is a much better and more reliable and more trustworthy vehicle to direct love and sex in a positive direction towards a moral purpose. When commitment is in place then sex leads to good outcomes and then romantic love serves as the glue and emotional reward system of the marital partnership.
A marriage is moral in its own right or intrinsically moral because to pledge to commit to support someone and be loyal to that other person for the rest of your life is itself to promise to serve the other person and take moral action to concretely and practically improve that other person’s life and in that way add to and be a part of the other person’s moral identity and moral purpose in service to others. Romantic love and sex then serve the marriage where the expression of romantic love becomes moral due to its role in promoting the moral purpose of the marriage and sex likewise becomes moral due to the role of sex in strengthening the spouses’ commitment to each other and in that way promoting the moral purpose of the marriage. In this way the moral value of the marriage is what makes romantic love and sex moral based on romantic love and sex supporting the marriage.
If you change things around and place romantic love at the top of the hierarchy you will have problems because the mere feeling of “being in love” doesn’t have moral purpose or moral direction in its own right. Romantic love feels good but just because romantic love feels good that doesn’t mean it IS good. Also to put mere feelings in charge of whether a commitment to serve is moral or not is crazy; the commitment to serve through marriage having moral value intrinsically whether such commitment is accompanied by an active feeling of passionate romantic love or not. Furthermore sex definitely cannot be justified by romantic love alone as sex creates the possibility of children who need to be born into a committed marriage in order to be given the best chance to succeed and be happy in life.
The practical problems of having sex outside of marriage are pretty obvious; children being born outside of marriage and sexually transmitted diseases; but one should also keep in mind the emotional problems that come from having sex outside of marriage, in particular the weakening of ones capacity to effectively romantically bond as a result of prior sexual promiscuity. For more on this I highly recommend “The Harmful Effects of Early Sexual Activity and Multiple Sexual Partners among Women: A Book of Charts.”
Romantic love outside of marriage is also problematic because romantic love doesn’t serve much of a useful purpose without marriage to direct the moral impulses created by romantic love towards a practical positive result in service to others. More seriously falling in love multiple times to people you never end up marrying harms your ability to romantically bond with whomever it is you will ultimately end up marrying. In other words prior loves in a partner’s past tend to take away from their current relationship with you as people have only a limited ability to romantically bond with someone new; a person’s prior loves will “take up space” in their brains and their hearts diminishing their capacity to strongly love someone new if their prior history with others is extensive.
Related to this a romantic bond once formed is permanent. The loves a person had prior to them falling in love with you is harmful to you but the loves a person had after falling in love with you don’t matter as whatever romantic bond you formed with a person at the time will remain fixed and permanent. This is relevant if you have a relationship with someone “out of order” where you may revisit a prior love or a lost love. In general early loves or first loves are the best and the strongest because they were formed at an early age where you and the other person were not only young but also where you and the other person didn’t have many loves in their past taking up space in their minds and hearts.
There is a difference however between premarital sex and premarital romantic love; that is that sex can be completely forbidden before marriage and outside of marriage while “falling in love” with someone before marriage is advisable and strongly to be encouraged. There is no doubt that you will desire to have sex with someone you are already deeply and passionately in love with. If you don’t love someone already however before getting married to them then getting married to them is a very bad idea as a fundamental motivation to stay with the person and serve the person as your spouse will be missing. So definitely fall in love before getting married; however actively pursuing love without the intention of getting married to the person you are in the process of falling in love with is a bad idea and continuing in a relationship where there is strong love but without a prospect of marriage anytime soon is a bad idea. It is a bad idea because you don’t want to burn through your ability to form strong and deep romantic attachments to another person without capitalizing on a particularly strong and good romantic bond you were able to form through marriage. Also love without marriage is just self-indulgence; it doesn’t serve a higher moral purpose like marriage combined with love does.
I would also like to draw a distinction here between infatuation and love. Infatuation is not something to base a marriage upon; love is something to base a marriage upon. The difference between infatuation and love is that infatuation is short term while love is long term. Infatuation is at the surface while love is deep down. Starting out with infatuation is good and fine but the infatuation needs to go on long enough and be sustainable enough to develop into love. You want love for the other person to be hardwired into your brain before you marry them so that your love for the other person will last and be secure. If infatuation never progresses to love then your feelings for the other person will just vanish after time or after some difficulties in the relationship surface and you will wonder what you were thinking in your earlier period of obsession with them. For more on the difference between love and infatuation I recommend “Infatuation vs. Love” and the accompanying video “How to tell the difference between love and infatuation.”
So first you become infatuated with someone new, then over a period of time (say about a year) with sustained positive interaction with the other person you fall in love with the other person and form a permanent romantic bond with the other person. Then you marry your beloved. Then you have sex with your beloved. This is the right way to do things. First comes infatuation. Second the formation of a permanent romantic bond of love towards the other person. Third then is marriage. Fourth is sex. If infatuation doesn’t progress to love then so what. You are over your former crush and life goes on. If love doesn’t progress to marriage that is a more serious issue. You then have “unfinished business” with the person you love but didn’t marry. This then will weaken your ability to form new romantic attachments with new people in the future and it will lead to a “lost love” situation where if you encounter your prior love later in life you will have a strong desire to marry them to “make things right” and join your already existing love for the other person with an actual real marriage to them. This is fine and good if both of you are single at the time of your reunion but it is not good if either one of you is married when you “discover” each other again. If marriage doesn’t progress to sex then something is seriously wrong; this strongly implying that a love bond was not actually formed before the marriage took place.
In the proper understanding of things marriage is at the top of the moral hierarchy; marriage then legitimizing both sex and romantic love. Romantic love is the servant of marriage and the moral value of romantic love is derivative of the moral value of marriage. Romantic love that persists and lingers outside of marriage is not a good thing.
Also, let’s not forget here what marriage actually is. Marriage is the man providing for and protecting the woman to enable the woman to make her feminine contribution to the family, to the children, and to the society and community at large. Marriage is how men’s masculinity is joined with women’s femininity to form a greater good where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; so that the man and woman can work together cooperatively each relying upon the strengths and specialty of the other that they themselves don’t possess. Marriage is the transfer of resources and investment from men to women and then from women to children.
Ultimately the purpose of marriage, love, and sex is service to others. Marriage, love and sex bring great joy to those in the loving sexual marriage but the joy is the reward or the incentive, it is not the purpose or the higher moral value. Marriage is the idealistic moral purpose; love and sex being what motivates us to enter into the higher calling and sacrificial commitment of marriage.
Related Article at Dalrock:
Denying that marriage has moral meaning is the new virtue