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Fathers Of Girls = More Conservative

That’s what a new study indicates, according to Ross Douthat [1], who makes an argument for why this may be true (if it is true). He says it can be found implicitly in the Anne Waldman novel, The Love Affairs Of Nathaniel P. [2], which is about the romantic life of a young Brooklyn swain. He is an attractive guy, a published writer, and gets all the sex and female attention he wants. But he just won’t commit, and is therefore the cause of endless frustration among the women in his life. Nota bene: he is not a cad. Author Waldman says of her character:

He was not the kind of guy who disappeared after sleeping with a woman—and certainly not after the condom broke. On the contrary: Nathaniel Piven was a product of a postfeminist 1980s childhood and politically correct, 1990s college education. He had learned all about male privilege. Moreover, he was in possession of a functional and frankly rather clamorous conscience.

Which would appear to be a contemporary gloss on caddishness: hiding your selfishness from yourself by pulling a long face and clouding your mind with theory.

Anyway, Douthat says the existence of Nathan P. gives a hint as to why fathers of girls would skew conservative:

One obvious solution to the Nathaniel P. problem is a romantic culture in which more is required of young men before the women in their lives will sleep with them.

To the extent that parents tend to see the next generation’s world through their children’s eyes, that’s an insight that’s more immediately available through daughters than through sons.

And no matter what the next study says about your likelihood of actually turning into a Republican, once you’ve flirted with that insight, you’ve tiptoed a little closer to something that might be described as social conservatism.

He’s right. Frankly, I worry about the romantic culture that awaits all three of my children, but I especially worry about the kind of men who will court my daughter, given the pornification of our culture. Will they respect her? Do they even know what it means to respect a woman? Will my daughter have friends who will support her in upholding the high standards with which she was raised, or will they pressure her to succumb to the goatishness of young men, because everybody does it.

Julie and I are unapologetically antique, raising our boys to be what was once quaintly called “gentlemen,” which is to say, they are being taught what it means to be faithfully Christian and honorable in their relationships with young women. (Granted, the oldest is only 14, but you don’t wait till they get to be teenagers before you begin training them.) I don’t suppose it was ever easy to raise boys to behave this way, but it seems that the entire culture is against you today, in a way it wasn’t prior to the 1960s. The point to make here is that one big reason that we have such high standards for our sons is that we have a daughter. It is important to us that our sons grow up to be the kind of decent men that we would be pleased for our daughter to marry — and that our daughter grows up with high expectations of the men in her romantic life. A socially conservative cultural milieu makes achieving that mission easier.

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73 Comments To "Fathers Of Girls = More Conservative"

#1 Comment By CK On December 16, 2013 @ 4:55 pm

“Henry Kissinger was right about sex in Washington: ‘Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.'”

Take. the. red. pill.

“‘Granada’s Archbishop Francisco Javier Martinez, who chose to publish the book [on being a submissive wife] has defended its content and insists that the furore surrounding it is ‘ridiculous and hypocritical’ in a society that allows abortion, which he argues is a much clearer example of violence against women.’

“The Fifth Wave Feminist: Keep hacking at those fetal limbs but zero tolerance for awkward nerds committing microaggressions by telling dongle jokes.

“The present condition of Western elite thought is unsustainable.”


#2 Comment By Turmarion On December 16, 2013 @ 4:58 pm

Sam M. @ 4:24 PM for the win!

The women’s lib movement might have been taken over by a bunch of lefty yahoos, I guess. But come on. It happened for a reason. This isn’t ancient history. I have uncles who were born before women hhad the right to vote. And I am only 41.

This. This is exactly what I mean when I say that the vast majority of us here, even those who call themselves social conservatives are in fact feminists by any reasonable definition of that word up until the early 70’s. That “lefty yahoos” took over a lot of the discourse, and that right-wingers used that as an excuse to demonize a perfectly good word doesn’t change that. Those of us men who cook, help clean, take college education and careers (for those who want them) for women for granted, who encourage our daughters to have goal beyond just finding Mr. Right, and who’d never, ever consider hitting a woman OK, in movies or in life–such as we are would have been totally unintelligible fifty years ago or so. We’d have been looked at as eccentric at best or p****-whipped at worst.

I’d take now over the 50’s any day.

#3 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On December 16, 2013 @ 5:57 pm

Re: If a woman has considered herself a Christian while having premarital sex, one has to wonder just how serious she was (and is) about her faith and about chastity.

The large majority of *Christians* in this country (and overseas) do have premarital sex. Your version of Christianity isn’t shared by everyone who considers themselves a Christian.

#4 Comment By CAB On December 16, 2013 @ 6:39 pm

I have no problem with virginal men who prefer virgins for their own partners (though I do have a problem with non-virginal men who expect a higher standard than they uphold themselves)–who you date and marry is entirely your own business.

My concern is with the more public celebrations of virginity–and the corresponding denigrations of non-virgins.

Fair enough. There’s definitely a lot of weirdness out there re: virginity vs. chastity.


The large majority of *Christians* in this country (and overseas) do have premarital sex. Your version of Christianity isn’t shared by everyone who considers themselves a Christian.

Sure, but those who believe fornication is not sinful are not lowercase-“o” orthodox Christians. And yes, even plenty of orthodox Christians still end up having premarital sex. If Christians could perfectly obey God, we wouldn’t need Christ.

Still, premarital sex doesn’t just “happen”, and orthodox Christians should know better than to spend time alone in private with members of the opposite sex with whom they share mutual attraction.

[NFR: Not fair enough. Is the problem with our culture really that we make too much of purity and virginity? Really? — RD]

#5 Comment By dominic1955 On December 16, 2013 @ 7:10 pm

“I have no problem with virginal men who prefer virgins for their own partners (though I do have a problem with non-virginal men who expect a higher standard than they uphold themselves)–who you date and marry is entirely your own business.”

Well, then leave it at that. If who you date and marry is entirely your own business, who cares if the non-virginal man goes for a virgin? If he finds one that is fine with that, why do you care?

“My concern is with the more public celebrations of virginity–and the corresponding denigrations of non-virgins.”

Well, customs that arose from the faint mists of time are not going to just *poof* disappear.

“Of course, such a lack of forgiveness is frequently found in other areas as well–God may well forgive the repentant thief, but once he has a record he’ll have a hard time getting any job involving custody of valuable assets.”

Here you are getting closer to answering your own question. The nature of the sin in question is what dictates the public forgiveness or acceptance of the penitent. As a culture expects less of women maintaining their virginity, it does not become such a staunch violation. To one that does, there isn’t much to do aside from becoming a nun or a hermitess (or some cultural variant thereof).

Most sins are of a purely private nature. Let’s say you stole 100s of dollars worth of things from your family or friends (or even strangers), repented and gave restitution as far as you were able and the law was never involved. You can go ahead an live your life as if you had never stolen all that stuff. No so if the law got involved, at least probably not. If nothing else, you have an offense that must be reported on a job application.

Now, apply that same idea to about anything else that a society, culture, or individual might find odious. As long as there is some way to prove or show that a person committed some offense, sin or crime, they can be possibly excluded from normal life.

As much as I’d love to wave a wand and make it so that anyone who has seen the error or their ways no longer has any repercussions of any sort, be it for one grevious infraction, a rapsheet of smaller things or whatever, I don’t think its going to happen any time soon.

“But celebration of (female) virginity is something that repeatedly rears its head. Even today in Asia, “artificial hymen” surgeries are not uncommon; and rituals such as the public display of bloody bedsheets (to “prove” that the bride’s hymen was duly ruptured on the night of the wedding) are still commonplace.”

Well, why is that? Why do you think such importance was given to female purity for so long? It would seem that inheritance and family lines had something pretty important to play here, especially for those who had something to pass on. They understood where babies came from and you cannot have your family line potentially soiled by being cuckolded.

Also, whether it is entirely accurate or not, certainly we can see how people came to the idea that a woman is “used” when she’s had sex (especially many times or with many different partners). Folks balk at the idea of buying even drycleaned used underwear or cleaned shoes, is it any wonder people thought the same of people? Folks also like to be unique, especially when it comes to their domestic life. If you are the last in a long line that’s “been there”, life experience has taught our species that you may (as well as might and/or probably will) not be the last.

“Of practical matter, a key objection many of us liberals have to a whole lot of this–is that these customs invariably fall upon women and not men. Men don’t have hymens and can’t get pregnant, so there’s no reliable (or even semi-reliable) way to know if a man has previously had intercourse or not.”

There are an awful lot of folks above who characterize the “liberal” response as the one that faces reality while the “conservative” response is pining for what they think should be. This is one example where its the conservative response that really does try to match up with our experience-over the long haul.

Yes, the whole purity expectation does fall heavier on women world wide, but that’s an accident of their physiology. Had the way men worked also had some sort of physical aftermath to the perfect sexual act, it probably wouldn’t be quite the same. But it isn’t that way, is it?

Even with people becoming less traditionally concerned with female purity, I do not think it is something that is a mere barnacle left over from prudish Victorian times, or somesuch. I think it is imbeded much deeper in human nature, to the point where it will never be ousted. As such, the only sure-fire and real defense against any and all forms of societal, cultural, familial, or potential-marital outcasting is to avoid sexual congress until confined to the institution (marriage) it is honorably made use of.

#6 Comment By Sam M On December 16, 2013 @ 7:15 pm

PS: I meant I have uncles born before women had the right to VOTE.

#7 Comment By Rombald On December 16, 2013 @ 7:27 pm

Several points have to be seen together:

1. Outside some conservative subcultures, female unchastity, even extreme promiscuity, incurs few penalties.

2. Humans exist on a spectrum of sexual attractiveness, in terms of looks, money, charm, etc. This is partly, though not completely, objective.

3. Most men have a lower threshold of attractiveness for a woman they will have sex with than for a woman they will marry or commit to.

4. It is diffficult for most people to have careers properly established before about 30, when women are already starting to run out of time for childbirth.

5. Divorce inflicts massive harm on men, but is often at least financially beneficial for women.

If you put these together, they result in a pattern of women sleeping with dozens, or hundreds, of men, from their early teens. Some of these are men who would only marry much more attractive women, whereas others are “bad boys” who provide drama and excitement.

Then, when a woman is about 30, she decides she needs marriage and children, but the only man prepared to marry her is less attractive than any of the men she has ever had sex with, and/or is more respectable and responsible. In addition, the man probably has very little sexual experience, because the most attractive 1/4 of men have been having sex with the most attractive 3/4 of women, leaving him out. Therefore, the woman feels disappointed, and the man may be bitter about her promiscuous past. This soon results in infidelity and divorce, financially ruining the man, separating him from his children, and leaving the woman to return to promiscuity, but, due to aging, having to settle for less attractive men, many of whom may sexually abuse her children.

#8 Comment By hattio On December 16, 2013 @ 7:39 pm

Rod Asks

NFR: Did the culture encourage men to hit their wives and to deny them education? Were there TV shows and films dedicated to promoting the idea that wife-beating and anti-intellectualism were social goods? — RD

To the moon Alice, to the moon. Was it being treated as a joke? Yes. Is hyper-sexuality today treated as a joke? Yes. You can say that the old sit-coms were not actively encouraging wife-beating, but they did treat it as a background cultural norm…just as the sit-coms today treat lots of pre-marital sex as the norm.

#9 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On December 16, 2013 @ 7:58 pm

Turmarion said:

Am I the only one here who thinks it’s really weird that Douthat spends so much of his column making his argument based on the behavior of a fictional character?!

Op eds and the Style section don’t seem to be held to the same standards as other sections of the newspaper. I’m not quite sure what is considered acceptable, but I’ve read some equally odd op eds based upon anecdotes or proof by vigorous posturing (I’m looking at you Tom Friedman).

#10 Comment By RB On December 16, 2013 @ 8:29 pm

The large majority of Christians in this country and overseas sin all the time, Hector St. Clare. It’s why we need a Savior, who died for these sins and atoned for us. That Atonement works for both sexual and non-sexual sin. People who break the law of chastity can of course repent and be forgiven, just as those who repent of greed or bearing false witness can repent.

But the presence of lots of people with the same sin doesn’t mean it’s no longer a sin. God’s not grading any of us on a curve, or telling us to be just a little better than the people around us, or excusing a sin so long as lots of His children are committing it.

We’re meant to be better than who we were yesterday. We’re blessed when we hunger and thirst after righteousness, and chastity is not only possible, it’s preferable.

I can’t remember which commenter on the thread said something about elaborate moral codes. It’s not complicated–you are in control of your body; it’s not in control of you. You wait till you get married, and the. you’re faithful to your spouse. Very simple.

Contrast that with the ever-changing algorithims of “what is okay”–when a child should have sex, which contraception, what to do when the contraception fails, ages of consent, consent vs. duress, social pressure, hooking up vs. relationships. And on and on.

“Respect other people” as a creed fails to cover the many potentially disastrous consequences, and that’s aside from the fact that, from a conservatively Christian perspective, helping someone sin is an unloving, disrespectful thing to do to another. “Respect yourself” is far better, but still lacking in a moral true north. Respect yourself…and don’t put out even when pressured to? Or respect yourself, and your gonads, more than the welfare of your date?

#11 Comment By Jesse Ewiak On December 16, 2013 @ 8:43 pm

“The large majority of *Christians* in this country (and overseas) do have premarital sex. Your version of Christianity isn’t shared by everyone who considers themselves a Christian.”

Yup, at the end of the day, just about everybody is a Cafeteria Christian of one sort or the other. And that’s been the way it has since probably the day after Jesus gave his first sermon. The only difference is which menu they’re deciding to ignore.

#12 Comment By CAB On December 16, 2013 @ 10:33 pm

[NFR: Not fair enough. Is the problem with our culture really that we make too much of purity and virginity? Really? — RD]

That’s not what I meant. I was agreeing that the popularity of hymen reconstruction surgery, and the focus on technical virginity (allowing plenty of sexual acts, just not that one) rather than chastity that some cultures and religions have, is rather bizarre.

#13 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On December 16, 2013 @ 11:05 pm


‘Orthodox’ is necessarily a subjective term, but I’m fine with you defining me that way. there are a lot of other issues where I’d probably disagree with you, and with Rod, and the world is big enough for Christians to come down on different sides of these issues. Your remark about men and women who are attracted to each other ‘not spending time alone’ though, is a *perfect* example of how I think the ‘abstinence until marriage’ ideology massively distorts human nature, and why I could *never* sign on to it myself. If you can only preserve premarital abstinence by drastically curtailing how you socialize and live your life, then maybe premarital abstinence is not particularly a good that we should be striving for.


I also disagree with you, and I don’t think that premarital sex (or homosexuality, or contraception) is a sin that needs to be repented of. It’s true that ‘wait until marriage’ is simple, but then, who ever told us that moral reasoning was going to be simple?

I think we’d be better off thinking about sex in the same way we think about other aspects of morality, in terms of love, care, and genuinely looking out for the good of our neighbor. The issues you point out- social pressure, casual sex vs relationships, contraception, etc.- are *exactly* the issues that I think people should take into account when trying to make decisions about sex.

#14 Comment By VikingLS On December 17, 2013 @ 10:19 am

@Hector Orthodox with a capital O is not a subjective term, it refers to a specific religion with formally established dogmas.

While in a congregational system the laity have the freedom to make up their own dogma. An Orthodox Christian or a Roman Catholic who have premarital sex aren’t practicing a different version of Christianity, they’re sinning. The do NOT NOT EVER have the freedom to invent their own morality and then claim they’re practicing Orthodox Christianity or Roman Catholicism.

@Rod this is what I’m getting at with asking you if you’d be concerned about your child getting involved with an Evangelical even if they were a serious Christian.

I have known some Orthodox Christians who married non-Orthodox Christians and seen the spouse become as or more committed to the faith than the spouse. However I’ve also seen some that never really jettisoned Calvinist thinking.

A woman I go to church with is married to a former pentecostal who was baptized Orthodox. He still insists on believers baptism for his children because he says he can’t find evidence for infant baptism in the Bible and won’t discuss it with a priest. Do you see a problem there? I bet you do. Do you think most Americans would see a problem? I don’t think they would.

I converted when I was 21. After a couple of years I noticed that the nones and the Evangelicals seemed equally alien to me in their cosmology and that I really didn’t want to get involved with a non-Orthodox and hope they’d come around. Living in Kentucky and West Virginia this meant most people around were not people I could, or even much wanted to pursue.

When I was living in Russia this was less of an issue and I eventually married a Russian who was herself an adult convert.

Raising a child in the USA I will have to get through this conundrum with my child (assuming she doesn’t want to be a nun) but like many things here, I think as Orthodox Christians we’re going to have to stop pretending like this isn’t a problem and talk about it directly and that many of the Culture’s solutions (no if an Orthodox marries a Baptist becoming Lutherans isn’t a compromise, it’s a dual apostasy).

The reason I bring this up now is that as an Orthodox Christian everything you wrote makes perfect sense, but as you can see from the comboxes, a lot of people don’t just disagree with you, they don’t even understand your point.

#15 Comment By Turmarion On December 17, 2013 @ 11:24 am

Shorter Rombald: All those slutty women are screwing things up for everybody, especially those poor, poor men.

#16 Comment By MH – It’s a fez, I wear a fez now, fezzes are cool On December 17, 2013 @ 3:57 pm

VikingLS said:

Do you see a problem there? I bet you do. Do you think most Americans would see a problem? I don’t think they would.

Is the problem that he’s not accepting the priests interpretation of when baptism is required and falling back on sola scriptura?

#17 Comment By The Wet One On December 17, 2013 @ 4:10 pm


I meant to ask what does “know[ing] what it means to respect a woman?” mean?

I.e. what is respecting a woman?

I am curious as to what that is believed to be in these parts. I’d love to know. Reason being, I’m not entirely sure how whatever it is that “respecting women” represents can be threatened by pornofication. I’m not saying it can’t be threatened, I’m just curious about the thinking of how one leads to the other.

I’m also kind of curious about how it is that women weren’t, according to feminists, much respected in the past, but somehow they’re going to not be respected again in the future. I wonder what exactly that all means. It’s far from clear to me.

#18 Comment By The Wet One On December 17, 2013 @ 6:22 pm

Also, just to beat a different horse (not sure if it’s dead yet) that’s been raised here, as I understand it, back in the good ‘ol days, when Christianity was more supreme in society, it was perfectly legal for a man to have sex with his wife against her will (i.e. he could rape her).

That’s not the case today (as I understand it) and this only changed sometime in the 80’s.

Was that an example of how things were really better back in the day as compared to the present? I’m guessing not, but just in case, I raise it for your consideration. It was, at least legally speaking, a pretty traditional idea.

#19 Comment By Peter H On December 17, 2013 @ 7:42 pm

I followed the links to the Pew site, and there the study results were presented as “parents of daughters” and not “fathers of daughters.” Not sure if that makes much of a difference.

Another factor — the data is 19 years old. I can’t help but wonder if the study results would hold up when (or if) this gets repeated.

One other thing about families with daughters: I seem to recall studies showing that divorce is more likely to happen when there are only daughters in a family and less likely to happen when there are sons. I forget exactly how she did it, and I’m not able to find it, but Elizabeth Marquardt (of the Family Scholars blog) connected that to studies that show that most divorce is initiated by wives.

So I gotta wonder if the data in this study came exclusively from intact families, or did it come from studying responses of all parents — married, divorced, and single.

#20 Comment By KC On December 17, 2013 @ 10:04 pm

Pornification of the culture has its roots in objectifying women. In a much, much more limited way, some men are being objectified too. No one deserves to be treated as a piece of meat.

The love & respect between the parents has a powerful influence on the children. I always believed I could have a loving respectful relationship & never thought that all men were predators after 1 thing. My faith stemmed from my father, brother & male cousins who don’t objectify women & who treat them with respect. Long happy marriages for all of them-no divorces!

I highly approve of raising sons to be the kind of men you’d want your daughter to marry & vice versa.

#21 Comment By JonF On December 18, 2013 @ 6:16 am

Over on the Atlantic I found this, pointing out that this correlation really only holds (held) for the upper classes, not the middle class or those lower down:

#22 Comment By JonF On December 18, 2013 @ 6:20 am

Your statement that women benefit financially from divorce is a howling absurdity, contradicted by every study on the subject. Both men and women suffer financial loss from divorce, but women generally suffer more.

Also, your general depiction of the relationships of men and women bears no relationship to what I observe in people around me, and I have to wonder if you have been living without human contact for decades. I have seen any number of marriages fail, but never for any of the reasons you postulate. The most common causes are, still, the three A’s: abuse, addiction and adultery.

#23 Comment By Marie Henrie On December 18, 2013 @ 11:08 am

As a mother of daughters I know the dating ones are looking at the prescription drugs the young adult males are taking too.
The ‘metrosexual” young man today is very concerned about his hair. Aside from Rogaine they are also taking Propecia
( fenseteride)to prevent balding.
One of my daughter’s suiters told her he may not be able to produce children. God forbid if he would and gets his wife to be impregnanted while on this drug!
Propecia blocks testosterone and although he may retain his hair, he certainly is losing the ability to retain his lean muscle mass over the past year, which is another unigue quality of that the male hormone contributes to that he has chose to block. He may just succumb to gynecomastia ( male breasts) the longer he is on it too!
Then there are the “real” men . Daughter’s describe these as the young men who are shorter stockier and live for their beer and wings and a extra large television to sit in front of and to watch football with their buddies.
Speaking of shorter young men, my daughter’s have pointed out that the males who were once diagnosed as ADD and ADHD and medicated on stimulants have delayed maturation and stunted growth. This is true according to the medical literature as are the thirty some odd STDs that are way more prevalent than ever in today’s young swains.
So for the young single woman the search for a suitable male for marriage has become increasingly difficult. She has to deal with a plethora of homosexual ,bisexual and metrosexual men, along with those that the former wife initiated divorce of, who are now financially depleted, not to mention the all attentive junk food beer addicted football enthusiasts.
To add to this limited variety in choice ,let’s not forget the economy which has made it all the more difficult for young men including the debt ridden college grads, to seriously date with the thought of starting their own families.