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Modern Morality as Explained by Taylor Swift

September 23, AD2016

girl in painWhen I first heard the song “Girl at Home” by Taylor Swift, I thought it was somewhat inappropriate.  However, I liked the melody, and because of that I eventually decided that it was not a bad listening choice for most adults and older teenagers.

One day when I was listening to the song, I realized that, instead of being indecent, the lyrics actually reveal some interesting aspects of her perspective on dating culture. It may not seem as though Taylor Swift will be a pioneer for the commitment revolution, but people can still learn a surprising lesson from her.

How so? Well, a closer look at the lyrics is the best explanation.

Don’t look at me, you got a girl at home and everybody knows that, everybody knows that.

As seen here, the basic premise of the song is that some guy is “checking Taylor out,” the problem being that he is very blatant about having a girlfriend already. This guy seems to have few qualms about not only “cheating on his girl,” but letting the world know it. This could allow for multiple different scenarios for Taylor, such as that she is trying to be nice to some other girl for no reason, or possibly not let herself be had by a jerk.

I don’t even know her, but I feel a responsibility to do what’s upstanding and right.  It’s kind of like a code, yeah.

Now here is something of uncommon interest: Taylor’s conscience is telling her that to accept his advances would be wrong. She does not appear to have a particular reason for thinking that yet; she only knows she ought to obey her conscience. She clearly has some concept of objective morality outside of religion. I personally think that is somewhat remarkable for this day and age.

And it would be a fine proposition, if I was a stupid girl.  But honey I am no one’s exception, this I have previously learned.

Again, a positive decision—Taylor is showing that she puts the dictates of her conscience first, before the guy she might not even know. Furthermore, she understands that her conscience is final and does not change “in special circumstances.” That ethical idea is not only accepted by many, but it goes all the way back to Aristotle.

I just want to make sure you understand perfectly you’re the kind of man that [sic] makes me sad.  While she waits up, you chase down the newest thing and take for granted what you have.

Now, Taylor is saddened by this guy’s lack of a conscience.  If I had to guess, I would say she is also saddened by how lightly he takes cheating in the first place, since he talks about his girlfriend so openly.

And it would be a fine proposition, if I was a stupid girl.  And yeah I might go with it, if I hadn’t once been just like her.

Another twist: the reason Taylor’s moral code tells her that to let a guy cheat on his girlfriend with her is bad is mostly if not entirely because once she was the “girl at home.” That makes another interesting point, not about morality, but about the human condition.

Evil and the Human Condition

Most people can better understand what is evil and what is good once they have been on the receiving end of the evil. It is too bad for Taylor that she did not seem to know the evil before experiencing it herself, since as Gaudium et Spes 16 says, “man has a law on his heart inscribed by God.”

Conversely, though, it is a point in her favor that she remembers her own suffering and allows it to affect her choice, rather than pretending to forget the pain. Additionally, she does not even consider the possibility of concealing the encounter from the girlfriend, as some would.

Finally, one more point of note: up to this I have analyzed the song from a perspective of natural morality, not a chiefly Catholic one. That being said, what Taylor may not realize is that the whole problem she condemns, of one person pretending to make a commitment to another and going back on it, is caused by the very thing in which she participated herself. That is unmarried cohabitation, together with the pretense that cohabitation is as strong a commitment as marriage.

The big difference between the two lifestyles is that when only living together there is nothing really holding the two people together, not even a ring, just a vague idea that, “Babe, you’re not supposed to cheat,” which has now changed into “not supposed to get caught.” After all, the worst that could happen to the guy from the song is that he could “lose his girl,” and because she matters so little to him that does not seem too horrific.

Being Faithful to God and Oneself

The real heart of the problem about which Taylor sings is not being faithful to one’s “significant other” anyway, but being faithful to God and oneself, since St. Paul said of sexual sin in 1 Corinthians 6, “Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?”

Logically, then, the only concrete way to solve Taylor’s problem would be for everyone to stop acting as though living with someone were the final step to full union, and then restore the respect to marriage that it deserves. This solution can never be fully implemented until our society realizes the error of its ways,  but Taylor’s mere recognition of evil here is a step in the right direction.

Though Taylor has lived with boyfriends (hardly an example of moral behavior), in this instance she followed what was good.  Furthermore, it is good that she, in spite of temptation, had no wish to hurt an innocent third party with her actions. Hopefully this is a sign that our culture still has some remnants of its founding on universal morality.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Cecily G. Lowe received her B.A. in History in 2016 from a faithful Catholic college, which she credits as having a great impact on her faith. (Her least favorite thing about her college career was that it ended after four years.) She now has hopes of one day earning an M.A. if God wills. She began at CS in 2015, and greatly appreciates the opportunity it has given her. Though having been physically disabled from birth, she does not let that limit her, and counts interpretative dance among her hobbies along with singing, reading, and maintaining a mental encyclopedia of eclectic quotes.

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  • “the whole problem she condemns, of one person pretending to make a commitment to another and going back on it”. I have always thought the word, adultery, was rather opaque. The word, avowatry, used by Chaucer, is so much more apparent in meaning.

  • james

    “Experience teaches you to recognize a mistake once you make it again.” Anonymous

    Adam and Eve believed the apple was forbidden but needed the experience to know it as a reality.

    ” .. unmarried cohabitation, together with the pretense that cohabitation is as strong a commitment as marriage.

    Not accurate in most all cases. Cohabitation is nothing more than adults ‘playing house’. Yes, the idea that
    this could lead to a permanent choice plays out but the parties involved intentionally and with firm resolve are clearly not at the junction of making their arrangement a legal formality. And the anomaly that Matt 21:29-31 presents : how those who ie: marry then divorce have said ‘yes’ but don’t follow through while those who say ‘no’ to marriage but do follow through is enough to make one pause. Ironically it is secular society that has raised the conscience of both men and women by focusing on the indignity of letting someone use you for their own pleasure. Very well presented, Cecily.