Presidential Politics and Romance Novels: A Treatise on Virtue

I’m not really on the ball.  If I were, I would have written days (weeks!) ago about the kerfuffle that erupted when an important donor for one of the presidential candidates joked about the good ol’ days when women would rely on an aspirin held between their knees for contraception.  All of the gory details can be found here.  Yes, we are still going round and round about this outrageous and offensive federal mandate for free contraception for everybody, no matter what.  Of course, the comment that raised so many eyebrows is about a long-lost period when women relied on self-control and virtue instead of pharmaceuticals or surgical procedures to avoid unplanned pregnancy.

One of my new-found favorite bloggers, Hyacinth Girl, had a wonderful analysis of the dust-up:

I’ve been listening to the coverage of Santorum’s big donor’s Aspirin statement. Since when has it been controversial to suggest that women used to value chastity? I mean, we don’t have a universal human right to be whores. Or do we? I can never remember. I’m not calling sexually active women whores, by the way. It just isn’t a big deal that Foster Friess makes a reference to the days when sexual promiscuity wasn’t celebrated or considered inevitable…Maybe we should take an honest look at where our society has gone with all this “progress” and how empty we’ve all become. I see a lot of sad, lonely, joyless people who have everything, including anyone they desire, and it’s not a pretty sight.

Once upon a time, Western civilization used to strive toward virtue: that is, moral excellence or traits which promote moral or ethical uprightness.  In the modern era, virtue is mocked, and morality is rationalized down to nothing.  “What’s right for me may not be right for you.”  It certainly does leave a person empty.

Rush Limbaugh had some very interesting remarks about the aspirin situation:

You boil it all down, what you end up with is something very simple.  Liberals want life without consequences.  Fail at your job, no consequences, doesn’t matter, there’s all kinds of government help.  Fail at being a father, no problem, there’s no consequences.  Sex, whenever you want it, no matter the outcome, no problem, we’ve got abortion, we got birth control pills, we got condoms, ah, no consequences.  And without consequences, there’s no virtue.  And that’s all Foster Friess was talking about.  Simply talking about women with virtue, pure and simple.  And the fact that so few people understand that is shocking.  Sad, but shocking.

So, as I mentioned in a recent post, I’ve been reading historical romance novels.  This is in part, I think, a reaction to the incredibly depressing, gritty high-brow fiction out there.   As a break from all of that, I’ve consumed perhaps a dozen simple, breezy romance novels.  Most of them were mediocre at best; a couple were just awful.  A handful, though, were quite compelling with characters one becomes attached to.  (I have a strong feeling at least one post about the merits of historical romance novels for intelligent women is in the making.)

Aside from some easy entertainment, the novels do leave the reader thinking about virtue, believe it or not: justice, temperance, and fortitude.  With their settings in the extreme confines of Victorian morality, the novels cast a harsh spotlight on just how far we have “progressed” from even the palest sense of virtue.  Considering the fact that the government will sacrifice Constitutional liberties so that every woman in America can have free love without consequences, I wonder how we will ever claw our way back to virtue.  Where would we start?

Here’s a crazy thought: how about with the concept of intimacy and courtship?  In the olden days, using someone’s given name (certainly can’t use the archaic term “Christian name”!), was a sign of great intimacy.  In 2 of my favorites of the fluff novels, when the heroine finally uses the hero’s name rather than his title or a polite form of address, it is a turning point in their relationship.  As an aside, the Christian names in those 2 cases were Jude and Adrian.  Sigh.  Moving on.  If you need confirmation from a more respectable source for the appropriate use of names, look to Jane Austen.  (Regency, not Victorian, I know.)  You know, “Mr. Knightley” and “Mr. Darcy.”

Such a small thing, but it really caught my attention.  You see, it really vexes me when complete strangers use my first name.  For instance, where does a sales clerk or waiter get off calling me by my name when he or she hands me back my credit card?  Once when I was driving on to my local military base, the sentry at the gate checked my ID, reading the name I suppose, and then waved me on with a, “Have a nice day, (my name inserted here.)”  A simple “ma’am” would do very nicely.  I do not want to be “Miss Suzy” or “Miss Lori” to the children in my neighborhood.  It’s Mrs., thank you very much.  I want to be the one to allow that familiarity that comes with using my name.  I want there to be a clear distinction between acquaintanceship and intimacy.

Of course, it might be awkward for a Miss Woodhouse to hook up ever-so-casually with a Mr. Knightley.

The idea is that women (and men) might consider holding something back so the other will have to work to deserve that intimacy.  Barbaric, I know, denying instant gratification.  And yet, that little bit of self-discipline doesn’t cost taxpayers anything–unlike the contraceptives the government insists are a “right.”

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1 Comment

Filed under etiquette, life in America

One response to “Presidential Politics and Romance Novels: A Treatise on Virtue

  1. Great post! I like being called “Mrs.” too. It really bugs me when salesmen use my first name.

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