Ross Douthat has an interesting column on the subject which, if nothing else, grapples with the psycological versus sociological paradigms for public policy that CF discussed earlier and the dilemmas conservatives face in seeking to defend traditions and norms, a trending subject lately in these parts. I would not necessarily agree with all of it, but it is refreshing to read someone approach the subject with some degree of level-headedness.
Andrew, in a characteristic fit of obtuseness, misses the point and proceeds to mischaracterize Douthat’s argument as precisely opposite to what it is arguing:
What I find unpersuasive is Ross’s dichotomy. There’s either pre-marital monogamy or everything else: “casual and promiscuous, or just premature and ill considered.” In real human lives, isn’t this a spectrum rather than a binary choice? Many men especially, to my mind, should be wary of marrying the first person they fall for or have sex with. Experience in relationships, and sex, and the tangled mashups of both, is surely salient for getting the marital choice right. This can end in tears, of course, but so can premature monogamy.
Unless I completely misread things, Douthat never once endorses the notion that people should marry the first person they involve themselves with. Indeed, he argues against that position repeatedly, like here:
Not, it should be emphasized, because it suggests the dawn of some sort of traditionalist utopia, where the only sex is married sex. No such society has ever existed, or ever could: not in 1950s America (where, as the feminist writer Dana Goldstein noted last week, the vast majority of men and women had sex before they married), and not even in Mormon Utah (where Brigham Young University recently suspended a star basketball player for sleeping with his girlfriend).
Instead, he emphasizes that sex is best kept in the context of a monogamous relationship which could potentially lead to marriage. While the widespread feasibility of this outcome is highly doubtful (which even Douthat admits to), I would assume most people across the political spectrum would agree with this preference and encourage the sustainance of norms to support it. It is especially jarring to see Andrew Sullivan, who wrote extensively about the potential salutory effects of marriage on the gay community, especially as an endgame around which to orient relationships, come out so negatively towards others pushing an analogous argument.
Or perhaps the whole thing simply is, on all sides, just a giant coded debate on abortion, in which case I give up.