March 25, 2007

A Biblical Critique of Debbie Maken's Book "Getting Serious about Getting Married" (part 14)

PART XIV: Chapter 13 - "Enlisting Agency" (And Playing Hard to Get)

In my review of Chapter 12 of Debbie Maken's book Getting Serious about Getting Married, I noted that Mrs. Maken rejects common approaches to dating. In Chapter 13 of her book, however, she proposes an alternative system of courtship (or dating) via enlisted agency. Specifically, Mrs. Maken wants parents to be more actively involved in finding a spouse for their daughters and in warding off undesirable suitors. Mrs. Maken believes enlisted agency will cause men to be more accountable to women; increase the likelihood of women meeting quality men; and reduce the heartbreak of failed relationships. There are, unsurprisingly, many assumptions put forth in Chapter 13 of Mrs. Maken's book that deserve a good measure of scrutiny.

Israelites in Love

There is a fad among many Evangelicals to push a "pattern" of "biblical dating" (i.e., courtship) which supposedly has support in the Scriptures. Mrs. Maken is no exception in this regard. Like many other pundits, she goes back to the Old Testament and presumes that it furnishes a suitable model for how Christians should find their spouses today. I find it ironic that Mrs. Maken and others can find no clear examples or commandments from the New Testament, the spiritual covenant to which Christians are bound (Heb. 8:1-13), for supporting their model of courtship. They cannot even find enough commandments given by God to the Israelites. Rather, their model of courtship essentially rests on incidental biblical narratives and certain exegetical penumbras (including fanciful inferences drawn from figurative language).

Consider Mrs. Maken's treatment of Abraham as a case in point:
"In Isaac's story, the Bible makes it clear that in his grief over Sarah's death, Abraham had somehow neglected his duty to help Isaac find a godly wife (Genesis 24). When Abraham realized it was time to take action, Isaac was forty years old. Abraham didn't wait on the Lord to provide a wife for his son; he didn't wonder whether it was God's will for Isaac to marry; he didn't worry that Isaac's marrying might convey that he was not fulfilled in God alone or that Abraham himself didn't trust God. No, Abraham realized that Isaac was lonely and needed a wife. So he set about planning thoughtful actions to find a wife for his son." (pp. 157-158)
The text doesn't say Abraham was neglectful in getting Isaac a wife. That is Mrs. Maken's addition to the passage. Moreover, the text doesn't say Abraham felt pity because of Isaac's loneliness or that Abraham was some firm believer in the "marriage mandate," per se. We need not conjecture about Abraham's motives. The Scriptures already furnish us with a valid reason for Abraham's attempt to find a wife from his home country for Isaac:
"The LORD God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my family, and who spoke to me and swore to me, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land,’ He will send His angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there." (Gen. 24:7, NKJV; see also Gen. 17: 15-21)
In other words, Abraham wanted to make sure God's promise through Isaac would come to pass. Here is something else to note about this narrative: It proves the courtship advocates to be inconsistent in their use of the Scriptures. They often insist that a male suitor must initiate a relationship with a female, but Isaac didn't do this. A wife was brought to him by a servant. On top of this, Isaac was forty-years old when he married (Gen. 25:20). Nothing in the Scriptures indicates God's displeasure either with Isaac or with Abraham about such a late marriage; on the contrary, God seems to be been quite pleased with the way Abraham comported himself (Gen. 24: 1b). This flies in the face of those such as Mrs. Maken who would shame young men into seeking marriage. Indeed, how does the phrase "wife of thy youth" apply to Isaac?

Debbie Maken's exegesis also fails to acknowledge the historical and culture milieu of the scriptures she cites. Mrs. Maken says, "Rebekah was under the protective covering of her parents, uncle, or clan. They were the ones making sure she was entering into a safe union" (p. 158). I grant that many Old Testament fathers probably felt protective towards their daughters. Yet we must also remember that in the nomadic societies of that time, women were considered to be subject to the authority of their fathers or any older male siblings in forming a marriage contract (Victor H. Matthews, Manners and Customs in the Bible (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991), 21). We see this clearly in Laban's involvement in the negotiations for his sister's marriage (Gen. 24:28-61).

Mrs. Maken also says, "Abraham's agent knew he had to prove Isaac's worthiness and success to get Rebekah's family to agree to the match. Thus the flashy caravan and costly gifts" (p. 159). In actuality, the servant proved the worth of the household into which Rebekah would enter. Keep in mind that the goods shown to Rebekah ultimately came from Abraham's wealth, not Isaac's. It should not surprise us to see Abraham acting on Isaac's behalf, because unlike many modern households, the Old Testament patriarchs lived in extended families (Joel F. Drinkard, "An Understanding of Family in the Old Testament: Maybe Not as Different from Us as We Usually Think," Review and Expositor 98 (Fall 2001): 486-493). Mrs. Maken asserts, "The Genesis model of marriage intimates that the perfect pattern is for both the man and woman to leave their respective homes to make a new home together" (p. 163), but we see that such is not necessarily the case in the Bible.

The gifts to Rebekahs' family were not just to prove the worth of Abraham's household, either; they constituted a price that had to be paid to the bride's family. Such was the costume of the times. A woman was given to a male suitor in exchange for goods or services. This also explains Jacob agreeing to work seven years for Laban in return for obtaining Rachel as a wife (Gen. 29:18), an arrangement in which Jacob was considered to be part of Laban's household (Gen. 31:41) (David Noel Freedman, ed., The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 4 (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 560-562).

Mrs. Maken misses the mark on the story of Ruth, as well:
"The Bible does include stories of women who didn't have a family agency working on their side, showing the vulnerability of flying solo. The story of Ruth demonstrates what happens to women who don't have a father figure to speak on their behalf. Ruth's mother-in-law, Naomi, an elderly women herself, hardly qualifies as an adequate covering with bargaining power because her idea of sending Ruth to the threshing room floor in the middle of the night was fraught with danger, physical harm, and costs to Ruth's reputation. There must have been a better way to remove the dibs of any other kinsman-redeemer than sneaking around in the dark, unguarded and vulnerable." (p. 160)
With respect to what Ruth did, we may question the wisdom of her coming to Boaz in the middle of the night, but there is one thing that Debbie Maken and other modern courtship advocates cannot do: question Ruth's initiative as a woman. Boaz did not say to Ruth, "Your proposing marriage to me is unladylike!" No, he extols her as a righteous woman with a reasonable request even after what she did (Ruth 3:10-11). The Scriptures do not condemn Ruth's behavior or any "passivity" or "lack of leadership" on the part of Boaz. We cannot but conclude that in the absence of familial authority, women are not obligated to be passive in dating and courtship.

This brings me to my next point: The way Debbie Maken and so many commentators treat the Scriptures reminds me of the Sunday crowds in family-style buffet restaurants. The restaurant crowds pick up a plate, mosey up to the pans filled with various foodstuffs, and pick whatever they want. If they don't like broccoli or spinach salad, they can move on and pile their plates full of fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Likewise, some warm up to the idea of a family member acting as a dating agency for them; men having to take initiative in approaching women; men not being able to interact with women unless they want to court for marriage; and men having to bestow gifts and make demonstrations of their financial success before they can spend any time with a woman. They may gleefully point to the Scriptures to make these things imperative. What many of these same individuals won't do is champion the notion of women being stripped of legal rights or social mobility; grown women having to answer to a father, much less a male sibling; or women having to live in extended families with in-laws. Yet these latter details are just as much a part of the Biblical narrative as the other ones.

Mrs. Maken can wax eloquent all day long abut how, in former times, familial agency limited the access men had to women, but she fails to acknowledge that it worked the other way as well--women's access to men was limited by their families. Family agency doesn't sound so wonderful when your relatives ward off someone you want to marry. And it doesn't sound appealing if you're an adult woman who cannot make decisions about your life because you are forced to live at home with your parents, even though Mrs. Maken recommends women do this very thing (p. 163). In the past, there were plenty of stories about women who married or even eloped just to get out of their parent's house and who ended up jumping from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. Let's not kid ourselves and look at days gone by through rose-colored lenses.

There also some things about the Old Testament that are an outright embarrassment to modern courtship advocates. In the Patriarchal age, marriage was about the consolidation of property. Bloodlines had to be established and a man had to ensure that his children were indeed related to him; male heirs were of primary importance (Matthews, 24). As for women, a great deal of emphasis was placed on their reproductive capacities. For instance, we see in the Old Testament narratives that when women were barren, they gave their handmaids to their husbands by which to sire children (Gen. 16:1-3; Gen. 30:1-13). We also see that much is said about a woman's virginity in the Old Testament, but nothing regarding the virginity of a man, who could have multiple wives, concubines, etc. and still be declared righteous in God's sight.

I am certain modern courtship advocates can find plenty of scriptural reasons to explain away polygamy and the looser sexual mores of the Old Testament. However, they will have some difficulty explaining away levirate marriages as a requirement (Gen. 38:8; Deut. 25:5); the treatment of women's sexuality as family property that can bartered away, even in cases of rape (Deut. 22:28-29); or endogamy (Gen. 24: 4) which would be required in some instances (Num. 36:1-13). Of course, such things present no problem to the rest of us who don't waste time trying to salvage Old Testament customs as a pattern for how Christians should date and marry (Heb. 8:1-13).

Other Exegetical Mishaps by Courtship Advocates

Courtship advocates also misuse other scriptures to justify their pattern of "biblical dating," especially to insist that men must take initiative in finding a spouse. For instance, many of them argue that men must initiate a relationship with a woman because Christ did the same for the Church. In Part 10 of my critique, I briefly touched upon the egregious error commentators make in assuming a one-for-one correspondence between a literal human marriage and the figurative marriage between God and his people. The matrimonial language used in the Bible to describe God and his people is metaphorical, not typological. Such language has a limited context and therefore a limited application. Indeed, I don't see too many courtship advocates affirming the right of a man to take vengeance on a woman who rejects him the way God will take vengeance on those who reject their Creator. Nor do I see people arguing that Christ is dependent upon the Church as a "helpmeet" the way some think men need women. Let's suppose I am wrong and that Christ's relationship with the Church represents an all-encompassing pattern for how men are to relate to women. Even so, we would still have to grapple with those scriptures that admonish people to initiate a relationship with God, not the other way around (Psalm 119:2; Heb. 11:6; Acts 17:24-27).

Apart from misusing figurative language in the Bible, courtship advocates often use Prov. 18:22 as a key proof-text: "He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord" (NJKV). Many assume this passage requires a man to do all the legwork in establishing a relationship with a woman. However, the passage is not a commandment but a general statement that one will be blessed through a wife, a promise which is not guaranteed in all cases (Prov. 12:4b). Moreover, the verb in this passage is "to find," not "to seek"; clearly, the stress is laid on the happenstance of obtaining a good thing, not in the effort expended to pursue it (Francis Brown et al., A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (London: Oxford, 1968), 592). Finally, there is no reason to limit the application of this passage to just one sex. I note that courtship advocates do not restrict the application of passages like Matt. 5:27-30 and Matt. 19:9 just to men. If women can be guilty of mental adultery like men, or if they can divorce and remarry for scriptural reasons like men, then surely they can blessed in finding husbands just as men can be blessed in finding wives.

Sometimes courtship advocates go to hilarious extremes in their misapplication of the Scriptures. Consider this example from the website:
"Maybe the most often overlooked example of this is in the very first relationship, Adam and Eve. Genesis 2:22 tells us that after God made Eve, he brought her to Adam. Now what we might have expected next was for God to say something: explain the purpose of marriage, assure Adam that after all the disappointment of not finding a suitable helper (2:19-20), here she was, encourage him about her willingness to marry. But God doesn't do any of that. He simply brings her to Adam and says nothing. The silence is deafening. The next move is all up to him.

"What does Adam do? He doesn't flirt with her. He doesn't ask her if she likes him. Instead, he shoulders the risk, steps up to the plate, and declares his intentions for the relationship. When Adam says in Genesis 2:23, 'This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh,' he's not just describing where she came from. And he's certainly not flirting, or putting out feelers. He's laying it on the line and declaring his intentions for marriage.
" (Michael Lawrence, "Real Men Risk Rejection," February 8, 2007, Accessed from
Don't make me laugh. The story of Adam and Eve is anything but an example of a relationship that many marriage mandators and courtship advocates promote. Adam did not decide one day that he was getting up in the years and had to "get serious about finding a wife." He did not look high and low to find a spouse. He did not ask God's permission to court Eve. He did not go through some silly process of "defining the relationship" (a concept bandied about by many courtship advocates). In fact, the relationship was already defined by the Almighty: "I will make him a helper comparable to him" (Gen. 2:18, NKJV). What was left for Adam to do? The only thing he could do was acknowledge Eve as his wife ("bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh"). If anything is to be carried away from this story, it is how far humanity has drifted in what it expects of men who would marry.

Most of our current expectations of men, no matter how Biblical they are, are at best remedial; they do not reflect the ideal of Eden. In fact, many expectations are not even Biblical at all, but cultural. We do well if we realize our expectations for what they are. We may balk at the idea of women asking men out for dates, but it was not too long ago that many balked at the idea of women wearing slacks or working in jobs traditionally held by men. Gender roles are not as static as we like to think they are. Many of us no longer live in nomadic societies or even agrarian ones. While the Bible is a necessary guide in how men and women should act, we need to avoid the kind of exegetical train wrecks in slow motion that seem to occur in the camp of the neo-traditionalists. Let's not misuse the Bible to justify our social and cultural biases.

A Covering for Women or Just a Cover-Up?

One recurrent theme throughout Chapter 13 of Debbie Maken's book is that women are especially vulnerable in the arena of dating and courtship and are in need of a "covering." Mrs. Maken says that "every culture before ours understood that women are vulnerable in the marriage-making process. As a result, past practices shielded and protected women" (p. 160). I suppose such protection made sense when women's opportunities were limited. But now women insist on being thought of as men's equals in so many endeavors. From what, therefore, do women need protection? Is it the consequences of their actions? If women are not adult enough to handle these consequences, then why should we allow women a place of prominence in society or maintain that they have a right to the same opportunities as men? Mrs. Maken recommends using a "strong agent" such as a father to act as a mediator in the courtship process. But if a woman needs a father to vet calls from male suitors, does she also need one to vet calls from male employers or colleagues? Part of adulthood is realizing that privileges come with responsibilities. Many women to need grow up in that regard and stop asking for preferential treatment when it suits their fancy.

To be honest, the only thing I think we are protecting is the inflated ego a woman might have. On page 169, Mrs. Maken notes, "The number one complaint of women in college today is that men no longer ask them out for dates." Why don't these women take a little initiative themselves? I suppose the prospect of asking a man out is unappealing to them because they fear rejection. In this regard, they seem more than happy to turn the matter over men. Suddenly, all the bravado about "grrl power," "breaking through glass ceilings," "beating the boys," etc. flies out the window and we find women tying themselves to the railroad tracks, crying out for Dudley Do-right. If no man asks a woman out, she can reason that men don't have a proper respect for their "Biblical mandate to lead" or that men are "not serious about marriage." If she asks a man out and gets rejected, she comes face-to-face with the reality that Madison Avenue, Hollywood, and the family bookstore haven't been exactly truthful about today's woman being smart, beautiful, and God's gift to men.

Rapunzel in a Six-Foot High Tower

Let's go further and ask ourselves just what problems is enlisted agency supposed to solve for women? Mrs. Maken's says the following:
"Because access to women is virtually unlimited today, men do not see the progression of time as a threat or even a reminder to make wise decisions sooner rather than later. Men have little incentive to marry. Every function normally associated with a wife has been fragmented: food comes from take-out, sex comes from just about anywhere (for those who disregard God's moral prohibitions), and companionship comes from friends and coworkers. All of this kills the sense of aloneness in young men and reduces us to a pattern of fellowshipping with one another until death do we part." (p. 164)
Later she remarks:
"This is the core of protracted singleness: Some men who should have been trusted the least now bear the responsibility for making marriage transpire. We must take back responsibility and encourage fathers to take the initiative to find suitable husbands for their daughters." (p. 166)
So how does asking your father to play the rottweiler on the front porch mitigate against men enjoying take-out food and the company of friends and coworkers? In other words, what compels a single man to give up the comforts of bachelorhood to face the drama of courting someone who props up the value of her own company through artificial scarcity? Consider this quote:
"Alas, when people complain of men not marrying (even they who are able), they forget how little women offer in exchange for all they get by marriage. Girls are so seldom taught to be of any use whatever to a man that I am only astonished at the numbers of men who do marry! Many girls do not even try to be agreeable to look at, much less to live with. They forget how numerous they are, and the small absolute need men have of wives; but, nevertheless, men do still marry, and would oftener marry could they find mates--women who are either helpful to them, or amusing, or pleasing to their eye." (Mary Haweis, The Art of Beauty (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1878), 262-263)
Was this penned by some cranky bachelor on the Internet? No. This is an excerpt of a self-improvement book written by a woman for women in 1878! I cannot but infer that men have been reticent to marry even in an age of courtship and strict sexual mores. If men weren't necessarily dying to tie the knot with women in 1878, it's certainly not surprising men are even more hesitant to marry today in the wake of feminism, gynocentrism in popular culture, and technologies which liberate men from needing someone to do domestic chores.

Apart from what men did in bygone days of courtship, what shall we say about the current practice of dating? What inferences can we draw from Debbie Maken's assertion on page 161 that our modern dating system came from the 1920s? Surely if the current practice of dating has been a problem, then we should have seen a precipitous decline of marriages in the 192os or a few decades afterwards. But we don't see that when we look at the numbers. In actuality, apart from the Depression Era, the rate of women marrying rose until the 1940s and declined sharply in the 1970s (Patricia H. Shiono and Linda Sandham Quinn, "Epidemiology of Divorce," The Future of Children 4, no. 1 (1994): 16). Mrs. Maken has overstated her case in pointing the finger at modern dating as the cause of the single woman's woes. A more likely explanation for the decline in marriage is a shrinking middle class (Blaine Harden, "Numbers Drop for the Married With Children," March 4, 2007, Accessed from and the disruption of traditional gender roles.

At any rate, I believe Mrs. Maken reveals something about the mind of the typical contemporary woman:
"If a woman wants to be a lawyer, she can go to law school, take the Bar Exam, send out resumés to employers, and practice law. If a woman wants to run for office, she can put her name in the hat, run a good election campaign, and win the race. If a woman wants to travel to Australia, she can buy airline tickets, pack her bags, and go. In other words, she can do something to accomplish her goals. But if she wants to get married, she's told to sit like a bump on a log until the right Christian man finds her. I don't think so." (p. 165)
I have to admire Mrs. Maken for encouraging initiative in women, but how does using parental intermediaries address the problem of Christian women sitting like bumps on the log? Apparently, some women think they can push a button and make their dream husband appear the way they push buttons on a microwave, TV remote, cell phone, or iPod and get results. In the wake of expanded opportunities for women, it may be quite a shock for some of them to realize a man can actually deny them an opportunity and get away with it. No government program or grassroots movement can force men to love women. So before Mrs. Maken and her fans talk about "enlisting agency," maybe they should discuss how to get men to be interested in the first place.

From page 166 to 167 of her book, Debbie Maken discuss how using agency worked for her. In her own case, she employed the services of an Indian website:
"Through this agency, I first met my future mother-in-law. She was searching for a wife for her son, who also had a legal background. Once again, the Indian culture more closely resembles how culture in America and Europe used to be: Mothers are actively involved in finding mates for their children. Even though the custom would have been for my parents to write to them, I wrote to her myself, and she and my future father-in-law were so impressed that they asked their son to correspond with me. And the rest is history." (p. 167)
I am quite amused by this account of Mrs. Maken's courtship. Throughout her book she takes a firm stance on male leadership, and as we have noted in the chapter under consideration, she calls for "father figures" to acts as agents in behalf of marriageable women. However, we see that Mrs. Maken's own guidelines don't seem apply to her marriage. The very example of her own personal situation does not support her case, but undermines it. What we have instead is an example of two women taking initiative: one in behalf of her son, and one in finding a husband. What has "worked" for Mrs. Maken is dropping the trappings of female passivity, at least in the search for a spouse. This leads me back to Mrs. Maken's remark about women being able to find jobs, hold positions of power, be mobile, etc. and yet not being able to find a husband. Agency may work some in ferreting out irresponsible men, but to find the committed ones, women may have to get off their sofas and seek out Prince Charming--just as Mrs. Maken did.

One Size Doesn't Fit All

Courtship guidelines are like designer jeans--one size doesn't fit all. We can all congratulate Mrs. Maken for her success in finding a spouse. I certainly wish the best for her marriage. All the same, what has worked for her may not work for someone else. She ignores the serious challenges that face men and women in the courtship game, challenges that are not remedied by adding rules and referees.

In my review of Chapter 12, I mentioned women who complain about lost time spent on men who won't commit. In response to these women, I would counter that condemning single Christian men as heartless players who jump from one girlfriend to the next is neither an honest nor helpful approach. There are other reasons why a relationship with a man may not pan out for a woman. Here are a few that come to mind:

1. Christian women are dating non-Christian men and making themselves vulnerable. They then blame all men for the behaviors of those with whom they had no business being seen.

2. One party in a relationship may presume too much about where the relationship is headed and may not be straightforward about his or her expectations of the other party.

3. The man is not afraid of commitment but is intimidated by the high expectations a woman may have of him. He may turn his back on a given relationship to find someone else who is more realistic about what a relationship should entail.

4. The man senses that he is not really appreciated for who he is and that he is just a tool for the ambitions of the woman he is dating or courting.

5. The initial attraction faded and now there is no commonality between the parties in a relationship. Both parties did not bother to form a friendship before dating or courting, so they are left with the awkward remains of a fizzled romance.

6. One party realized after a while that the other party was simply not right for him or her in some other way.

Debbie Maken's model of courtship will not make these problems go away or keep a woman's time from being "wasted" on a relationship that doesn't lead to marriage.

Mrs. Maken's suggested schedule for moving a couple towards marriage is not helpful either. She says on page 175, "Personally, I think two dates are more than enough to scratch someone off the list, and I would suggest three months is ample time to elicit a proposal." Where did she come up with this hard and fast rule? What premarital counseling experts did she consult? I do not believe three months is a long enough time to get a sense for who a person really is. This is especially the case if one's access to the other party is limited by distance, schedules ... or courtship rules.

Another troublesome matter is Mrs. Maken's reference to 1 Cor. 7:36 as proof that fathers "are required to actively seek a marriage estate for their daughters" (p. 164). She earlier asserts on page 41 that the following verse (v. 37) applies to unmarried people. Both verses, in actuality, are addressed to the same individuals. If we follow Mrs. Maken view on v. 36, then we are forced to conclude from v. 37 that fathers have a right to forbid their daughters from marrying. I don't think Mrs. Maken would take that position, but she nonetheless shoots herself in the foot by failing to think through her arguments carefully enough. It is simply not wise to take scriptures out of context to make a requirement about enlisted agency.

Playing Hardball by Playing Hard to Get

I have touched upon how the use of enlisted agency does not guarantee the kind of successful outcomes that Debbie Maken promises, but I want to make some additional comments about Mr. Maken's notion that the access men have to women should be limited. Consider what she writes at the outset of Chapter 13:
"'Are you talking about arranged marriages? Are you crazy?', you ask. Stick with me here. That's not exactly what I'm proposing. I am proposing that limited and guarded access to women produces responsible, wise, and efficient decision-making from men, while unlimited and unchecked access produces complacency and generally unwise behavior--exactly where we are today. Anything that is too widely available is generally thought of as invaluable [sic]. Think about fashion trends. The latest things sported by celebrities is only popular when it's hard to get. Once everyone has one, no one wants it anymore." (p. 157) [emphasis orig.]
What a revealing quote. Why should women play hard to get? Because they want to protect their purity or because they are judicious in their choice of suitors? Well, Mrs. Maken says that a woman should do so because it inflates her value. Would this explain the manipulative behavior of many women? Do they have such a poor image of themselves that they believe the only way they can find a mate is by pretending that they are unapproachable? I wonder how much security and trust these women can have in their marriages when their husbands see them for what they truly are on a daily basis. Or maybe they don't care what their husbands think. I thought the way to increase one's desirability as a wife was by being a woman that demonstrates affection, interest, concern, and respect for a man. But apparently, Mrs. Maken feels that acting guarded and aloof is the way to a man's heart:
"If we want men to pursue us, they must feel alone and use that loneliness as an impetus to seek us out. When access to women is limited, men have the glory of having accomplished something by fighting for it or working for it. Their very nature and desire for conquest resists having someone who came too easily." (p. 170)
Mrs. Maken does not know men as well as she think she does. Most men I know hate drama and head games. Women don't do men any favors by being difficult to approach, and any barriers a woman places in the way of a relationship really only serves her agenda. Besides that, why should we presume that Mrs. Maken's advice is going to make much difference when many men already have their access to women limited in other ways? It is limited by feminism and its attendant attitude of androphobia which it engenders in women. It is limited by women snubbing decent men left and right in a chase after the banal and superficial things of this life. It is limited by women with ridiculous, unrealistic standards for whom they will marry. It is limited by women being so self-absorbed that they never stop to consider the existence of male human beings around them.

Mrs. Maken wants men to "feel alone" but some men find that even marriage doesn't change that feeling. There are married men who live in emotional isolation because their wives won't allow them to be open about their desires, dreams, fears, doubts, vulnerabilities, and human quirks. They are sadly confined to live up to some cardboard ideal of manhood that their wives have embraced. As for single men, more than enough of them have had plenty of time to adjust to the feeling of being alone. In fact, once these men discover that being single won't kill them and that they can live fulfilling lives without a wedding band on their finger, they no longer behave in a desperate manner around women. Not all single men come to this form of contentment, but those that don't are prisoners of their own device.

As it is, if women can limit the access men have to them, then perhaps men should do the same to women. Mrs. Maken says the following about her courtship guidelines: "I'm not fighting against romance; I am fighting against what I call reckless romanticism, the kind of romanticism where we think we will be overjoyed with spontaneous surprises, one after the other" (p. 169). Since she is a pragmatist, then neither she nor her fans should fault me for being too pragmatic or unromantic in my advice to men:

1. "Limit access" to your wallet: Men should not be obligated to pay for dates, especially at the beginning of a relationship. Some women may think that a man demonstrates his ability "to provide" by picking up the tab on dates. But how does a woman demonstrate her ability to be a wife and mother? Surely it isn't done by just coming to the front door looking pretty. If a man pays for a date on Friday, does his girlfriend cook for him on Saturday--or clean his apartment? Why should a man be constantly spending cash on a woman to whom he is neither engaged nor married? Indeed, given the attitude of many women, there is very little difference between dating them and hiring an escort for a social event. There is nothing wrong with splitting expenses or asking for separate checks on a date. Women should be open to the possibility, or at least they should demonstrate in some other tangible way that they know how to be giving individuals.

2. Determine if her "intentions are honorable": A man should probe the motivations of the woman in which he interested. Is she the kind of the person who will take him for better or for worse, in sickness or in health, and for richer or for poorer? Or is she just looking for a walking ATM--a male cardboard prop to fit in her dollhouse life of white picket fences, oversized vehicles, and pretty children?

3. Determine if she is "serious about marriage": Since women are notorious for initiating no-fault divorces, a man might want to consider a prenuptial contract. I understand that the some find this idea to be in poor taste, but if a woman has a right to protect herself from being defrauded before a marriage, a man has a right to the same after a marriage. At the very least, a couple should look into the possibility of a "covenant marriage." Someone might counter that men are the ones who to need to face danger and take risks. The Bible, however, does not counsel men to take risks with unscrupulous women (Prov. 21:19; Eccles. 7:26). A man has a right to throw out the bad apples the way women have. In short, when it comes to issues of trust, whatever measure a woman may use against men should be measured back to her. Fairness demands no less (Matt. 7:1-2).

More of the Same

I conclude my review of Chapter 13 by noting that, like previous chapters, it contains some sexist assumptions about men that truly need to be challenged. For instance, Mrs. Maken opines that her courtship system will "tame men to behave like men" (p. 143). This assertion reminds me of George Gilder and other socially conservative pundits who advance the idea that women have a civilizing effect on men. It's a spurious notion that was aptly branded and exposed as the "Gilder Fallacy" by Daniel Amneus in his book, The Garbage Generation, years ago. Amneus made this observation: "The key issue is not, as Gilder imagines, whether men can be induced to accept the Sexual Constitution which he imagines women try to impose, but whether women themselves can be induced to accept it" (Daniel Amneus, The Garbage Generation (Alhambra, CA: Primrose Press, 1990), 121). Despite what Debbie Maken might think, women need to tame themselves before thinking about taming men.

Mrs. Maken's sexist assumptions also include some double-standards. In one statement in Chapter 13, she mentions men who "cannot (or will not) make up their mind" about women on online dating sites (p. 172). She, of course, fails to acknowledge women who are also guilty in this regard, especially in light of their attention-seeking behaviors. Then there is this elitist remark from Mrs. Maken: "We often silently wonder, How did he get her? when we see an average, ho-hum kind of man with an outstanding woman. Rarely do we question how she got him. There aren't that many cocktail waitresses married to brain surgeons" (p. 173) [emphasis orig.]. I suspect, however, that the reason people don't wonder about how women get lucky is because they take the hypergamous behavior of women for granted, cocktail waitresses or no cocktail waitresses. I think this also explains Mrs. Maken dig at men "delivering pizzas at thirty-eight" (Ibid.).

In essence, whatever positives that could be gleaned from Chapter 13 of Mrs. Maken's book are outweighed by wrong-headed assumptions about women, men, courtship, and the Bible itself. I will also note that as bad as this chapter is in its treatment of men, the last full chapter of her book is even worse. It is to that part of her book that I will next turn my attention.