In a certain sense we see today an age of lost innocence. Gone are the days of idealistic young men and women venturing out to find a spouse, excited at the prospect of marriage, family, and future. Now, because of divorce rates unimaginable fifty years ago, idealism has been replaced by cynicism. And with the explosion of easily accessible pornography, sexual innocence is lost very, very early. Almost no young people these days think ahead to a blissful wedding night and having their first experience of sexual intimacy there.
Yes, it is an age of lost innocence. The word “innocence” is from the Latin in (not) + nocens (harmful or noxious). Thus in seeing someone as innocent, we presume that they mean no harm. But in cynical and jaded times like these, fewer and fewer people presume innocence on the part of anyone. A young man can barely take notice of a woman’s beauty, let alone tell her she’s beautiful, without being suspected of predatory sexual advances. He might even get sued or lose his job if he does so in the workplace. A woman cannot be even subtly flirtatious without fearing significant pressure to go very far, very fast with someone she might just like to get to know slowly.
Almost no one presumes innocence anymore and to do so is scoffed at as naïve. So cynical and jaded have we become, that we even ridicule the notion that there ever was an innocent time when men and women generally observed chastity, and within those safer boundaries, were able to speak more freely of their interest in one another and relate at more subtle levels than all-or-nothing sex.Share
The loss of innocence and the rise of cynicism have rendered the relationships between men and women hostile, fearful, and fraught with posturing and negotiation.
To be fair, men and women have struggled to get along since the time of the book of Genesis. Many women are in fact very different from most men. Men think differently, often have different priorities, and behave rather differently. But, Holy Matrimony had traditionally been an important way that we bridged the wide gap between men and women, getting them to focus on a shared vision of family and children. The differences might well remain, but with a common goal those differences could become a diversity that added strength to the shared work of family.
In terms of continuing the discussion on the disappearance of dating and on the tension between the sexes, I’d like to share the insights of Anthony Esolen, who has made some very poignant observations. I would encourage you to read his book Defending Marriage: Twelve Arguments for Sanity, which is one of the finest analyses of the demise of marriage that I have seen. (Read more.)