I picked up Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park for the first time last month, and since finishing it, I’ve had a nagging thought at the back of my mind concerning male-female relationships. But a little background before I mention that nagging thought.

For those unfamiliar with Mansfield Park, one of the main plot threads finds Henry Crawford falling head over heels for kind, principled Fanny Price rather than her flirtatious cousins. Crawford, a flirt himself, suddenly finds that Fanny’s womanly ways make her far more attractive as a marriage partner than the women who regularly fawn over him.

I’ve seen such a theme regularly hinted at in literature and movies over the years. Probably one of the most clear-cut statements of this idea is made in the 1950 version of Cheaper By the Dozen, when the eldest daughter’s boyfriend earnestly tells her:

“Believe me, if I ever have a daughter, I’m sure going to watch after her. You’re not going to catch me letting her run around by herself with a bunch of guys, all trying to act funny. You wouldn’t catch me marrying anybody whose folks let her act like that either. … A fellow likes to run around with them maybe, oh, you know, just for a good time before he gets married, but when it comes to settling down, none of these flappers for me. I want a girl I can respect!”

So here’s the nagging thought: Do you think this idea – that most men truly admire, respect, and value the women who don’t chase after or toy with them – is disappearing in today’s culture? Or, do men still secretly hold this view?

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