Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A bad time for lovers

There has been a bit of Net buzz lately over Kay Hymowitz's two articles about the marriage and dating scene, published this year in City Journal.

Hymowitz first looked at the scene from the point view of women's complaints in the Winter 2008 issue, Child-Man in the Promised Land here: http://www.city-journal.org/2008/18_1_single_young_men.html

"Now meet the twenty-first-century you, also 26. You’ve finished college and work in a cubicle in a large Chicago financial-services firm. You live in an apartment with a few single guy friends. In your spare time, you play basketball with your buddies, download the latest indie songs from iTunes, have some fun with the Xbox 360, take a leisurely shower, massage some product into your hair and face—and then it’s off to bars and parties, where you meet, and often bed, girls of widely varied hues and sizes. They come from everywhere: California, Tokyo, Alaska, Australia. Wife? Kids? House? Are you kidding?

Not so long ago, the average mid-twentysomething had achieved most of adulthood’s milestones—high school degree, financial independence, marriage, and children. These days, he lingers—happily—in a new hybrid state of semi-hormonal adolescence and responsible self-reliance. Decades in unfolding, this limbo may not seem like news to many, but in fact it is to the early twenty-first century what adolescence was to the early twentieth: a momentous sociological development of profound economic and cultural import. Some call this new period “emerging adulthood,” others “extended adolescence.”

Then evidently she received a deluge of mail from angry, resentful men, and had another look - from the point of view of twenty-something men, in the Autumn, 2008 issue, Love in the Time of Darwinism, see here: http://www.city-journal.org/2008/18_4_darwinist_dating.html

"It would be easy enough to hold up some of the callow ranting that the piece inspired as proof positive of the child-man’s existence. But the truth is that my correspondents’ objections gave me pause. Their argument, in effect, was that the SYM (Single Young Male) is putting off traditional markers of adulthood—one wife, two kids, three bathrooms—not because he’s immature but because he’s angry. He’s angry because he thinks that young women are dishonest, self-involved, slutty, manipulative, shallow, controlling, and gold-digging. He’s angry because he thinks that the culture disses all things male. He’s angry because he thinks that marriage these days is a raw deal for men.

Here’s Jeff from Middleburg, Florida: “I am not going to hitch my wagon to a woman . . . who is more into her abs, thighs, triceps, and plastic surgery. A woman who seems to have forgotten that she did graduate high school and that it’s time to act accordingly.” Jeff, meet another of my respondents, Alex: “Maybe we turn to video games not because we are trying to run away from the responsibilities of a ‘grown-up life’ but because they are a better companion than some disease-ridden bar tramp who is only after money and a free ride.” Care for one more? This is from Dean in California: “Men are finally waking up to the ever-present fact that traditional marriage, or a committed relationship, with its accompanying socially imposed requirements of being wallets with legs for women, is an empty and meaningless drudgery.” You can find the same themes posted throughout websites like AmericanWomenSuck, NoMarriage, MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way), and Eternal Bachelor (“Give modern women the husband they deserve. None”).

I have to say, I think it's admirable of Hymowitz to turn around and consider that there is, after all, another side to the problem.

Perhaps I'm not well-qualified to speak to this issue. For one, I haven't dated an American woman in about twenty years. For another, I've been married for eight years - a new personal best in relationship longevity for me.

When I was last single in America, my experience was not good. I wrote in a previous post, 'Have some free relationship advice' here: http://rantsand.blogspot.com/2006/12/have-some-free-relationship-advice.html

I'm a survivor of two really bad long-term relationships. I won't go into the details because, 1) they're really not relevant, and 2) in spite of the Oprah-age, let-it-all-hang-out culture we live in, I think it's vulgar. Suffice it to say, together they consumed a total of ten years of my life and had repercussions that echo to this day.

It wasn't until the end of the second disaster (nice word that, it means "evil star"), that I realized I had made the same mistake as the first. The first was excusable, I was young and new to the serious relationship scene. The second time, I thought I'd hooked up with a partner who was different in every way from the first - physically, intellectually and personality-wise.

What I realized too late was that they had both had something in common that overrode all their basic differences - they were unhappy people.

I have had no personal contact with either of these former partners for many years. I have heard of them though, and the evidence would seem to indicate they are both still unhappy people. (One is married with two grown children and still cruises bars, less and less successfully as she ages. The other had divorced husband number five when I last heard of her. That game isn't going to get easier as she approaches 60 either.)

Slightly better were relationships with single mothers raising children with zero help from the fathers, financial or otherwise. Yes they wanted a meal ticket, but at least showed evidence of being willing to show gratitude for it.

In that whole period of my life, the best relationship I had before I left for Poland was a purely utilitarian one. I was working on finishing my Master's, she was in the middle of a divorce and neither of us had time for complications. We were introduced by mutual friends, and used to meet for conversation and physical release, no strings attached.

Understand, I liked her just fine, she was good company. And she probably liked me too. But we walked away without a backward glance, in spite of some good times together. I remember her quite fondly, but I probably think of her least often - and I suspect the same is true of her.

It would be easy for a man to blame this on American women - and some do. (See: http://www.americanwomensuck.com/)

I recently had a conversation with a friend in Texas who is getting his doctorate in Mathematics, so his income prospects are pretty good. He's good-looking, well-travelled, cultured - and single.

He told me, "If a woman expresses an interest, about half the time I've found she's setting you up for humiliation."

If I'd had time though, there are a couple of women I could have introduced him to. Both in their 30s, intelligent, great personalities (I've known both of them since they were kids), real lookers - and single.

I could even have introduced him to another academic (not American), who is highly intelligent and goddam gorgeous. You'd think she'd have to beat off potential suitors with a club.

I've never seen her at a social function with a date.

What the heck is going on?

Well, women are delaying marriage for career reasons. This is actually not new, Thomas Sowell pointed out that this was actually more common in the early 20th century than it became in the 1950s - so perhaps this is the upswing of another one of those cycle things.

And yet something is different this time around. A woman may have married later back then, but she was expected to arrive without the baggage of kids with no father in sight (unless she was a respectable widow), and any sexual history was supposed to be discretely buried.

Some conservatives blame the Sexual Revolution and Women's Liberation.

Well, the Sexual Revolution deserves a re-thinking for sure. Birth control, and antibiotics, delivered us (for a while at least) from our biology - but not from our nature.

“Sexual liberation ought logically to have brought in a time of ‘naturalness,’ ease, and candor between men and women. It has, on the contrary, filled the country with sexual self-consciousness, uncertainty, and fear.” - Wendell Berry

People who sleep together regularly, tend to fall in love, get possessive, sexually jealous and all that old-fashioned stuff. Unless they are emotionally retarded, or deliberately, by a conscious act of will, shut off a part of themselves from their partners.

(Or unless they are sleeping with someone they are at least adequately attracted to - and don't like. And believe me, there is something enormously liberating about that -in a thoroughly soul-corrupting sort of way.)

And what we kept running into was, young girls who become sexually active, on a level below rational thought, want to get pregnant. It's one of those basic biological drives that extreme environmentalists (like Marxists) don't want to believe in.

Can there be any other explanation for the combination of readily available, effective birth control and the skyrocketing rate of out-of-wedlock births?

For nearly two generations, newly-discovered antibiotics could handle nearly all common STDs. Then our vacation from history was over with, first herpes - then AIDS. In essence, we were thrown back to our grandparents' world of incurable STDs. AIDS, was the new syphilis.

Women's lib started as a righteous demand for women to be let into the work force and judged on their competence like anyone else, and for men to stop patronizing them.

Watch some of those TV commercials from the '50s and early '60s if you don't think that last was a valid complaint. They are absolutely cringe-making in the patronizing attitudes towards women they display.

Then it got hijacked by lunatics. Now whatever it's about, it's not equality. The Larry Summers affair at Harvard demonstrates that with certainty. Women on colleges across the country demanded the right to punish a man - not even for an opinion, but for a tentative speculation based on a demonstrable truth. For Thoughtcrime in fact.

But who started this? Anthropologist Lionel Tiger (what a wonderful name!) speculated that Women's Lib was a response to men abandoning their responsibilities of support for partners and children. Which for women is scary enough to drive them pretty crazy.

My generation's contribution to Men's Lib, "Like wow, this fatherhood trip isn't my thing. See ya."

Tiger speculated the implicit message of Women's Lib was, "If you won't support us, then give us your damn jobs!"

I could speculate forever, but won't here, yet. I'm getting too far from what I'm really sure of.

I will venture one guess, two things are different from previous times of great social change.

One is that while previous codes of morality and behavior may have been harsh, they were at least based on a generally good understanding of what human nature is, and formulated rules accordingly to control the excesses of behavior that we are prone to by nature.

They didn't know about evolutionary biology, back in Old Testament times, but they had what I call a "pre-scientific intuition" of its consequences.

In these times, the lingering legacy of the extreme environmentalist position has it that there is no fixed human nature, or that "human nature is infinitely plastic" (Sir Arthur C. Clarke, who really ought to know better) and can be molded to whatever form we desire.


The other piece of philosophical lunacy is that there is no fixed reality and that truth can always be redefined contextually.

The consequences of this are far-reaching and show up in unexpected places. One of which I suspect may be the youth suicide rate. The notion that there is no place to plant your feet is terrifying for young people.

What all this adds up to is, here and now, it's a bad time for lovers.


  • At 8:31 PM, Blogger Galt-in-Da-Box said…

    Not a small contributing factor - one that rips a jagged, ugly rift right down the center of the intergender relationship - is the subtle transfer of our society from one built on individual responsibility, to "collective responsibility", or more accurately, where one is taught, almost from cradle to grave, that one's well-being and happiness are the responsibility of another, or others.
    Eighty years of disconnected, no accountability required handouts for altruistic excuses have given rise to the entitlement("Ah gatz mah RIGHTS!!!") mentality, with which we are about to become more familiar than we ever wished.
    Money/resources without any merit on the part of the recipient does not engender gratitude. At best, it encourages dependence. Most generally, it causes degeneracy.

  • At 7:02 AM, Blogger Libertarian_Libertine said…

    All very insightful comments. I think it will take at least another generation before the Sexual Revolution's consequences are fully stablized. Okay, that sentence didn't quite make sense, but I think you know what I mean. It will take time for individuals and society to be able to properly cope it the new dynamic.

  • At 3:09 PM, Blogger Joseph Sixpack said…

    Those were some odd letters from the disgrunteld men. Each seems to decry the slutiness of women, but also seems to have no hesitation to go out in pursuit of them. That's like setting your money on fire and then complaining that you're broke.

    I gave up. Single woman that I've met in numerous cities up and down the east coast and in two graduate schools are immoral, weak-minded, naive, and immature. A girl in my apartment building was recently offended that I would not have casual sex with her. WTF? We never even went on a date! The last few dates that I went on, each just seemed to expect that we were going to have sex. I was only walking them to their doors out of common courtesy after enduring a night with someone who, after about 5 minutes, I could tell was a slut in a sane girl's disguise, hoping to find a guy who does not treat her like a slab of meat. But, in the end, each one reverted to what she knew and offered to flop down on her back for a relative stranger. I hope that each one does find a decent guy someday, but it's not going to be me.

  • At 6:05 PM, Blogger Steve said…

    Well Six, what I did was get out of the country.

    For 13 years literally all the Eastern Europeans I dated were women I could see myself married to.

    In most cases, our lives were going in different directions - and that mostly had to do with my own delayed adolescence, from which I'm still playing catch-up.

    (One former GF is running PR for a major foreign corporation, another is chief researcher in a neuroscience lab, another a geneticist. And all of them knockouts BTW.)

    But I finally found a lady who wanted to have my children, was willing to go wherever I needed to go, and not afraid of the age difference, with all that implies.

    Some of that has to do with her interests lying in literature and the humanities - which are fields that can be pursued anywhere, and have longevity. In business and much of hard science and math, you have to do your best work young.

    But a lot has to do with the intangibles - i.e. love. And as her people say, "Serca nie sluga," - "the heart is not a servant."

  • At 8:17 AM, Blogger Ken S said…

    Sixpack, could you give me those girls numbers? Just kidding. I wouldn't say I've given up, but I'm not looking real hard. Seems these days a lot of people want a relationship but they think it should be easy. The minute there's some work to be done they split for the green grass on the other side of the fence.

    I've actually seemed to do well with the Eastern European women I've met. And by that I just mean it seemed like there was a lot of potential. Only problem is when I've met them it's been on trips with no opportunity for a lot of dating leading to a serious relationship. Maybe one day I'll meet one here in the midwest and we'll see what really happens.

  • At 4:41 PM, Blogger The Playful Walrus said…

    "People who sleep together regularly, tend to fall in love, get possessive, sexually jealous and all that old-fashioned stuff. Unless they are emotionally retarded, or deliberately, by a conscious act of will, shut off a part of themselves from their partners."

    Your whole blog entry was good, but everything from that point on was especially refreshing, as I have checked around for comments on Hymowitz's pieces.

    Things have definitely changed over the years, and it is a number of factors, from men still being expected to be the primary breadwinner while competing against women (in addition to men) for compensation, to the no-strings-attached easy sex man women provide, to laws, courts, academia, media, workplaces, and even churches alligning to the sensitivities and tendencies of women while denigrating natural male tendencies and traits.

    If there ever was a true patriarchy, then we men have our own gender to blame for letting things get this way, as much as any of us complain about the other gender taking advantage of the situation.

    What I Wrote on Hymowitz's Piece

  • At 4:47 AM, Blogger Joseph Sixpack said…

    I guess, in hindsight, I'm more in line with Ken's comment. I'm just not looking all that much. The thought of having kids is a neat idea, but it's not something that I take so casually as to just rush into it with a woman who is naive, weak-minded, and immature. A woman who thinks that she has nothing more to offer than her body and who demands nothing of a guy that she dates is not ready for the responsibility of raising a dog, let alone a child.

    The guys quoted in the article who wrote letters of complaint about women who are sluts out in search of money have no one to blame but themselves. I can see a gold-digging slut from a mile away - and common sense tells you that if you're hanging out in a pickup bar in a large city then that is all that you're going to find. Now if those guys were complaining that their dating pool sucks even at their church, school, workplace, et cetera, THEN maybe I would have some sympathy for them. But if you go fishing for whores, then you shouldn't be frustrated when you hook one.


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