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And the battle of the sexes continues...
February 25, 2011 4:35 PM   Subscribe

Sex Is Cheap: Why young men have the upper hand in bed, even when they're failing in life. Remember this thread from last weekend? Here is another interesting take on the dynamics of modern heterosexual relationships.
posted by fernabelle (138 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
every man Jack of them
posted by clavdivs at 4:37 PM on February 25, 2011


Why young men have the upper hand in bed

"And you're gonna need it."
posted by Sys Rq at 4:42 PM on February 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


What lovely GRAR-bait. I take it you couldn't find an article on declawing the obese?
posted by leotrotsky at 4:43 PM on February 25, 2011 [79 favorites]


OKay between this and the pickpocket thread, it is clear, Slate is trolling. I fully expect an "Upsides to slavery" and "Syphilis use to build character" listicle soon.
posted by The Whelk at 4:46 PM on February 25, 2011 [20 favorites]


Wow! You've exposed such an enlightened modern variation on the virginity cult!

I've never understood this assumption that "fewer premarital sexual partners" benefits women.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:49 PM on February 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


FTA: "If women were more fully in charge of how their relationships transpired, we'd be seeing, on average, more impressive wooing efforts, longer relationships, fewer premarital sexual partners, shorter cohabitations, and more marrying going on."

Because, y'know, women (at least the "good" ones) can't actually enjoy sex... And really, how could a woman call her life meaningful without getting married?

Damn... This article counts as quite possible the most unintentionally misogynistic bit of fluff I've ever had the pleasure of reading. Just... Wow.
posted by pla at 4:51 PM on February 25, 2011 [20 favorites]


Remember this thread from last weekend?

Yeah, it's still open in fact.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:51 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


People have sex.
posted by dougrayrankin at 4:51 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Did you read the article? There isn't an assumption that fewer premarital sexual partners benefits women, there was a statement of the fact that data shows that women prefer fewer sexual partners than men do, statistically.
posted by Justinian at 4:52 PM on February 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


Is it my manchild persecution complex, or do these relationship articles seem to operate on the default assumption that all women are shady, Machiavellian gold-diggers?
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 4:52 PM on February 25, 2011 [7 favorites]



What lovely GRAR-bait. I take it you couldn't find an article on declawing the obese?


This. The underlying points in the article are interesting, and much of it is probably quite true (certainly I can see these things playing out in the students I know), but the article is deliberately written to be controversial and provoke reactions.

I'm very unclear, though, about the connection between two points in the article. One, that gender imbalances can cause differences in sexual behavior, which seems straightforward to me. And two, something about the state and failures of men in modern America. But what does the one have to do with the other? Why does a pornalicious and hook-up-centric college culture (assuming it really exists) cause or reflect some broader shift in American sexual values that benefits slacker dudes at the expense of over-achieving young women?
posted by Forktine at 4:53 PM on February 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


Fascinating article.
posted by shivohum at 4:53 PM on February 25, 2011


The underlying points in the article are interesting, and much of it is probably quite true (certainly I can see these things playing out in the students I know), but the article is deliberately written to be controversial and provoke reactions.

I think Forktine sums it up pretty well; the article describes something real and something worth talking about and it does so in the way least likely to lead to talking about it because of how inflammatory the phrasing and word choices are.
posted by Justinian at 4:55 PM on February 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


And two, something about the state and failures of men in modern America. But what does the one have to do with the other? Why does a pornalicious and hook-up-centric college culture (assuming it really exists) cause or reflect some broader shift in American sexual values that benefits slacker dudes at the expense of over-achieving young women?

Just take this bit as a variety of that WSJ 'why there are no good men' article.

Troll de roll.
posted by jaduncan at 4:55 PM on February 25, 2011


This is the kind of needlessly "provocative" journalism that makes me hate everybody forever.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:57 PM on February 25, 2011 [19 favorites]



Did you read the article? There isn't an assumption that fewer premarital sexual partners benefits women, there was a statement of the fact that data shows that women prefer fewer sexual partners than men do, statistically.


What's the cite for that? Her language is unclear. She cites the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to say it isn't happening but her language is unclear on if she is citing it to claim that is what women want.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:57 PM on February 25, 2011


*His.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:57 PM on February 25, 2011


I can't decide whether the sarcastic comment I want to make should be aimed at the lazy stereotyping or whether I should run with the idea that the way to solve the "problem" addressed in the article is clearly to keep raising tuition to keep the supply of sexually available females down.

(also, calling jb to the white historical demography phone, jb to the white courtesy phone.)
posted by immlass at 4:57 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Did you read the article? There isn't an assumption that fewer premarital sexual partners benefits women, there was a statement of the fact that data shows that women prefer fewer sexual partners than men do, statistically.

Or rather, the data show that women say that they prefer fewer sexual partners -- but given the enormous social pressures on women to not portray themselves as Slutty McSluts, there could easily be a recursive loop between the social pressures and the survey answers.

In other words, it's complicated, and I don't like how quick people (like the authors of the article) are to be certain that women can't possibly be happy with porn, casual sex, and other such things.
posted by Forktine at 4:58 PM on February 25, 2011 [15 favorites]


I'm obese and you can have my claws when you pry them from my cold, dead hands.

No, really, when I'm cold and dead you can totally have them.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:59 PM on February 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


The only box I can fit this article into is conservatism; it is, I think, how conservatives are increasingly going to sound. Certainly feminists and Game/men's rights dweebs alike will hate it.
posted by topynate at 4:59 PM on February 25, 2011


dougrayrankin: People have sex
I don't.
posted by hincandenza at 4:59 PM on February 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


Why does a pornalicious and hook-up-centric college culture (assuming it really exists) cause or reflect some broader shift in American sexual values that benefits slacker dudes at the expense of over-achieving young women?

Men turn in to cavemen if they don't have to impress women.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:01 PM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I usually find that I have the upper hand in bed because the women I date are lazy
posted by 2bucksplus at 5:02 PM on February 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Or rather, the data show that women say that they prefer fewer sexual partners -- but given the enormous social pressures on women to not portray themselves as Slutty McSluts, there could easily be a recursive loop between the social pressures and the survey answers.

There is some data to support the statements though, as pointed out in the (stupid) article. When women outnumber men, patterns of sexual activity among young people become closer to the patterns men say they prefer. When men outnumber women, patterns of sexual activity become closer to the patterns women say they prefer. That's a decent bit of evidence that what men and women say is actually what they feel.
posted by Justinian at 5:02 PM on February 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


Thirty or forty years ago George Gilder predicted all this. Just sayin'.

I thought he was nuts at the time. I was wrong.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:03 PM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the data show no such thing as is posited in the shittily written article.

If I were Queen of the World, I'd buy everyone a copy of Proofiness, because, fuck.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:03 PM on February 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


Time to piss on a parade.

Here's an article by this author in Christianity Today: The Case for Early Marriage
How about: The Freedom to Marry Young

Okay, this guy has a Ph.D. BFD. These articles are turds.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 5:05 PM on February 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


The article is full of non sequiturs. He cites comments from three women ages 20, 21, and 22 with boyfriends who aren't interested in getting married as indicative of why the median age of first marriage is getting later; what is the logic in that, seeing as the median age of first marriage in the US has been over 25 for both men and women for the last 15 years?
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:08 PM on February 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Thirty or forty years ago George Gilder predicted all this.

George Gilder predicted that mainstream media outlets would run poorly argued and reasoned articles by people pushing a fairly fringe religious agenda?

Wow, I'm going to have to take another look at that because I must have missed that bit.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:09 PM on February 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


Also, why did you tag this with "feminism"? That's like tagging a barbecue thread with "veganism".
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:10 PM on February 25, 2011 [43 favorites]


I wondered where slate was going to go after "I hate the ipad". Click click.
posted by betweenthebars at 5:10 PM on February 25, 2011


George Gilder, you say, St. Alia?

(*kyrademon looks him up*):

Gilder quotes:

"... [M]en ... are superior in the workplace and in the great creative ventures outside the family circle. This has been true throughout human history and always will be true. The denial of it is perverse and destructive ..."

Ew.

"[A woman's] sexuality determines her long term goals ... [I]f the power of 'choice' is given up, the woman actually ascends to a higher level of sexuality and her body attains an almost mystical power over men."

Um ...

"[Divorce] does spread poverty, and bitterness, and feminism, and other problems."

Feminism and other problems?

"Religion is primary. Unless a culture ... really worships God, it readily worships Satan ... Because I don’t believe in secular culture, I think parochial schools are the only real schools."

Um ...

"What the poor really need is morals ... What they need is Christian teaching from the churches ... We have no poverty problem strictly speaking, we have a desperate problem of family breakdown and moral decay."

Ick.

And he helped found the Discovery Institute and opposes the theory of evolution.

St. Alia, I think he's nuts now. And I don't think I'm wrong.
posted by kyrademon at 5:14 PM on February 25, 2011 [56 favorites]


there was a statement of the fact that data shows that women prefer fewer sexual partners than men do, statistically.

Yeah, that's what I was going to point out too. Because I think the real problem with the article is something else: making sex scarce as a strategy for obtaining commitment is, shall we say, pretty dismal way of looking at things. If you want to wait until you're committed or even married, that's fine with me. You like more casual encounters? OK, I hope you're careful and responsible.

But you want to use sex as an "incentive" to commit? There's a difference between saying "I prefer the kind of relationship where I share my whole life along with my sexiness" and "I think I'll try using my sexiness as a bargaining chip or even bait for a hook."

Mostly I come walk away from the article thinking "thank you, Salon, for reminding me that economics is not the best lense through which to view everything in the universe."

And I say this as somebody who actually appreciates a little ev psych and game theory now and again.
posted by namespan at 5:15 PM on February 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I didn't know who Gilder was either, and St. Alia dropped virtually the same comment in another thread, so I looked him up five minutes ago. And he is quite clearly insane, and therefore his predictions are probably mostly worthless. He also said that Native American cultures were "corrupt" and that is why they "failed."
posted by exlotuseater at 5:17 PM on February 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


From article: "holding the sexual purse strings"

Change purse don't have strings dude

Gawd, this article is full of bullshit truthiness
posted by klangklangston at 5:19 PM on February 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Worth reading.

Stirrin' it up here on metafilter though, eh? I think, ultimately, that whether the data proposed is accurate or not, I don't care a whole hell of a lot. Sex currency? Whatevs, just live your day to day.
posted by killtheliterate at 5:20 PM on February 25, 2011


A friend of mine who posted this on A Social Networking Site earlier today made a crack about how she wouldn't have met her husband of more than 20 years if it hadn't been for a drunken threesome.
posted by rtha at 5:22 PM on February 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


George Gilder

Douchebag. Just sayin'.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:25 PM on February 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


So, here's my reaction to the first line:

We keep hearing that young men are failing to adapt to contemporary life.

I'm failing to adapt because "contemporary life" keeps SHITTING. ON. ME.
posted by hellojed at 5:36 PM on February 25, 2011 [25 favorites]


Yeah, the entire article can summarize down to:

Don't forget your Freud:

Uh, Freud's been pretty much abandoned by any serious scientist. We've been trying to forget Freud for a while now.
posted by effugas at 5:46 PM on February 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


Slate is trolling

You say this like it's news.
posted by chaff at 5:49 PM on February 25, 2011


Apologies to those of you who find this post upsetting. It wasn't intended to stir shit. I posted the article because it discusses a social phenomenon that I'm sincerely perplexed by, and on which I'd love to gain additional perspective.
posted by fernabelle at 5:50 PM on February 25, 2011


Here's something that puzzled me about both this article and the last one.

As a thought experiment, let's assume they're true. Literally true. Correct in every aspect. Scientifically sound. The revealed word of god. Whatever.

Why should I care?

I mean, they basically boil down to kind of semi-interesting sociology without much import. Some heterosexual women are frustrated by their apparent choice of available men? Dating strategies in highly competitive environments seem to differ somewhat by gender?

I mean ... so? Why do the articles seem to think these are important revelations even if they're accurate?
posted by kyrademon at 5:55 PM on February 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


I was referring to the Reader's Digest version of Gilder. What I remember of it is he stated exactly what was referred to in those two articles posted this week. I remember when I first read what he had to say years ago and I thought he was crazy. Society was not that way back then at all and I didn't see where he was going. Now I think he was prophetic.

You may like society today exactly like it is and that is your privilege. I am just saying that Gilder said this was how it would pan out, and it has.

(Yes, he was sexist in some of his writings, but then so was a great majority of the men his age back then. Whoopdedoo.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:56 PM on February 25, 2011


St. Alia, summations of his oft-stated philosophy and thoughts do not make him sound "sexist in some of his writings". They make him sound like an utter misogynistic lunatic, even bearing in mind his age and era. This kind of makes his assessments of relations between the sexes seem suspect.

And frankly, he only was an accurate predictor of modern society if you take these two articles as being accurate ... and as I said, even if they are accurate, their assessment seems pretty banal.
posted by kyrademon at 6:03 PM on February 25, 2011 [20 favorites]


"A social phenomenon that I'm sincerely perplexed by, and on which I'd love to gain additional perspective."

Just curious, which social phenomenon, because he paints broad brushes over quite a few of them?

Relatedly, a great exposition of sex ratios and behavior change is in the first chapter of Tim Harford's Logic of Life; e does a great job of showing how a small difference in sex ratios can result in huge differences of behavior via competition. Here's a writeup by the Economist.
posted by stratastar at 6:03 PM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


St. Alia--

I'm very interested to hear: Is it actually weirder now than it used to be? I've been referring to post-apocalyptic dating for a while -- the rules blew up, and everyone's wandering the shattered landscape -- but I'm curious if it's a "rose colored glasses" thing or if, seriously, things are strange now?
posted by effugas at 6:05 PM on February 25, 2011


In related news, Dan Savage announced plans to relaunch his site spreadingsantorum.com in honor of the senator's expressed interest in a presidential run :

Santorum : The frothy mix of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex.

It appears the neologism's wikipedia article needs help being translated into other languages, currently the senator's entry has way more languages.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:05 PM on February 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm not upset by the article fernabelle, just annoyed. A lot of these "gen Y is different d'oh hoh hoh" articles are written by people that aren't gen Y, so there's a lack of perspective from their end.

To be honest, dating for me right now is complicated because I work evenings, and most weekends I don't go out because it's expensive (and there's no public transit, and all my friends are busy, etc etc). The last relationship I was in sucked up a lot of my time, as did finding that person in the first place. Right now I'm using the resources I spent (mental, time, money) on that relationship I am putting into personal projects related to my career, and I'm finding them a bit more rewarding. Certainly less stressful. If I had a job in my field right after graduation, I could focus more on the whole dating thing a bit more, but that's not the case for many people. Heck, I'm lucky just having a place of my own and not living with my parents.
posted by hellojed at 6:09 PM on February 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


St. Alia--

I'm very interested to hear: Is it actually weirder now than it used to be? I've been referring to post-apocalyptic dating for a while -- the rules blew up, and everyone's wandering the shattered landscape -- but I'm curious if it's a "rose colored glasses" thing or if, seriously, things are strange now?


Well, from my observation things seem to be MUCH different these days between the sexes. Some of that is for the better but quite a bit is not.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:14 PM on February 25, 2011


I liked this point (from my link above): "Then, after crunching the census numbers, they found that a one percentage point increase in the male incarceration rate was associated with a 2.4-point reduction in the proportion of women who ever marry."

Maybe social conservatives who want to end the decline of their oh-so-favorite-must-protect-from-everything-and-everyone-especially-deh-GAAAAAYS institution should go about dismantling the sin/drugs = prison state that they've spent the last 30 years establishing.
posted by stratastar at 6:14 PM on February 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


The whole Gen X/Gen Y thing is a red herring, I assure you. Almost every article I have read about Gen Y, including this one, could sent twenty years into the past and (with incredibly minor modifications) be about Gen X instead. I know you're being told you're special, but really, don't be fooled. We were told that, too, and it was every bit as meaningless. Gen Y is just Gen X with iPhones. People don't change that much.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:17 PM on February 25, 2011 [17 favorites]


"(Yes, he was sexist in some of his writings, but then so was a great majority of the men his age back then. Whoopdedoo.)"

Two things:

First off, whether or not someone is sexist is significant in deciding the credibility that their views on gender should receive, in large part because sexism is an irrational bias. The predictions he made in the Naked Nomad largely have not come true, unless you make some pretty wild leaps (I doubt that the best way of explaining increased gay visibility is a lack of male opportunities for marriage). His predictions on increases in crime and disaffection have not correlated with the variables he predicted (such as increased age of marriage and increased female wages). In reading synopses of his work, it seems far more credible to conclude that yeah, he was crazy and remains crazy.

Second off, waving off Gilder's sexism as emblematic of the time is pure hogwash. He was an extremist then, going out of his way to embrace the title of America's leading anti-feminist. He wasn't working in the '20s, when his views would have been common (if muddled and incorrect), but rather the late '70s and early '80s, when he was outside the mainstream as a reactionary and radical.

It's also worth noting that, aside from championing the internet, it's been remarkable how consistently wrong Gilder has been. He declared racism over in the '70s, cobbled together an insane anti-feminist theory which infantilizes men and subjugates women (power without agency is not power, Mr. Gilder), championed supply-side economics, believes that public schools are Satanic, believes that Native Americans essentially committed suicide by having a degenerate morality, funds specious anti-evolution research, and believes that it is God's promise to Israel that allows them to be second only to the US in technical innovation. With the exception of coining "digerati," which is a dubious honor, the man has consistently been forcefully wrong on every single issue he has contemplated. I would not trust him to order me pancakes at IHOP.
posted by klangklangston at 6:21 PM on February 25, 2011 [37 favorites]


Please can we avoid use of the phrase "sexual economics" in the future unless we're talking about some really specifically-targeted porn featuring the only suit-wearing professor at a liberal arts college getting busy with visiting speakers?
posted by you're a kitty! at 6:27 PM on February 25, 2011 [11 favorites]


"Some heterosexual women are frustrated by their apparent choice of available men? Dating strategies in highly competitive environments seem to differ somewhat by gender? I mean ... so? Why do the articles seem to think these are important revelations even if they're accurate?"

Well, for example, political scientists are well aware that an oversupply of young men between the ages of 15 and 35 who are unable to find mates (or who are unable to find jobs, but that's a different thread) are an EXCELLENT predictor of fundamentalist philosophies, terrorist source material, and domestic political instability. One of the traditional solutions is to send these young men off to war; these days, they are fertile ground for terrorist recruitment. When everyone was still talking about Japan taking over the world, political demographers were looking at the coming youth bump in the Islamic world and saying, "Unless they get these kids married and working, there's going to be trouble there in 20 years."

Such young men are often unable to find mates because of poor employment prospects that prevent them from establishing a household and supporting a spouse. (Not necessarily because there are MORE men than women, but sex-selection (female infanticide/abortion) or polygamy, actually resulting in fewer available women, can have the same effect.) With increasing gender equality, it's an interesting POLITICAL question as to what happens when large numbers of WOMEN are unable to find satisfactory mates. And of course high unemployment among men is never good for domestic stability.

The Economist link is good too.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:31 PM on February 25, 2011 [19 favorites]


Well, that was dumb.
posted by ch1x0r at 6:34 PM on February 25, 2011


Has anyone else noticed that his article is internally inconsistent? He argues that men are growing less relatively successful and thus excluding themselves from the sexual marketplace, which leads to an oversupply of "erotic capital" and thus a drop in its price. But he ends up saying "And yet while young men's failures in life are not penalizing them in the bedroom, their sexual success may, ironically, be hindering their drive to achieve in life." I thought you just said that life's male failures weren't even on women's sexual radar, Mark?
posted by topynate at 6:35 PM on February 25, 2011


"Attractive young researchers separately approached opposite-sex strangers on Florida State University's campus and proposed casual sex. Three-quarters of the men were game, but not one woman said yes. I know: Women love sex too. But research like this consistently demonstrates that men have a greater and far less discriminating appetite for it."

No, this study shows that women are wisely cautious around unknown men, full stop.
posted by user92371 at 6:36 PM on February 25, 2011 [36 favorites]


I usually find that I have the upper hand in bed because the women I date are lazy

For the most part, ladies expect you to move your hand around, not just keep it upper, if you know what I'm saying, and I think you do!

(mockery and dirty jokes are actually the only proper response to any article about sexual relationships published by Slate).
posted by emjaybee at 6:38 PM on February 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


I'm really flattered to have been paged to this thread, though my friend is all pissy bc she's a social scientist and says I'm not really a demographer -- and I'm not, I'm a social historian with a strong interest in historical demography (and who dabbles in the simpler forms).

But I feel like I don't have much to say, as this link is more about psychology, sexuality and relationships -- the demographic side is clearly addressed in the article (gender imbalances). In this case, history is less helpful, because the relationship between women and pre-marital sex has changed so
much since the advent of reliable and accessible birth control. We can't look to history to understand how women "naturally" feel about pre-marital sex, because sex could not be separated from child-bearing, and bearing a child outside of marriage was very financially and socially expensive in pre-modern Western culture. We know they had premarital sex primarily because of those pre-marital babies -- some historians have suggested that those women who had children outside of marriage had been courting, but that for some reason the marriage failed to happen (he died, he lost his job, etc) -- they based this on the fact that the average age of unwed mothers was similar to that of brides/first time wed mothers (sorry for vagueness -- been a while since I read in this area).

Sorry - for someone who didn't have much to say, I've said a lot. But basically, birth control changed the world of sex for women in so many ways.
posted by jb at 6:38 PM on February 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Attractive young researchers separately approached opposite-sex strangers on Florida State University's campus and proposed casual sex. Three-quarters of the men were game, but not one woman said yes. I know: Women love sex too. But research like this consistently demonstrates that men have a greater and far less discriminating appetite for it."

Or you know, are afraid of being raped and killed. Whatever. Chicks, amirite?
posted by emjaybee at 6:39 PM on February 25, 2011 [12 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee, those are interesting thoughts, but I feel I should point out that they were neither raised nor addressed by the articles in question.

As to dating differences ... I have to say, I'm pushing 40, and I haven't noticed any major changes in relations between the sexes. A few interesting technology-driven changes in how people interact, sure, but nothing bizarre or astounding. The idea of economy-driven changes is interesting, but there have been periodic major recessions for decades.

Of course, in terms of what the articles have been talking about ... women have outnumbered men on college campuses for about 25 years now, and have been going to college in significant numbers even longer for an additional decade more than that. Women have generally expected to continue to be in the workforce life-long for at least that long. These are changes that occurred in the 1970's. People who started dating as teenagers when these changes first started occurring are now in their mid-50's. These are not recent changes.

If the people writing these articles are just noticing them, they seem a little slow.
posted by kyrademon at 6:39 PM on February 25, 2011


(On preview -- jb, it's definitely no coincidence that the changes I mentioned in my last post came right along with widely available birth control. That was definitely something that drove real change.)
posted by kyrademon at 6:42 PM on February 25, 2011


Please can we avoid use of the phrase "sexual economics" in the future unless we're talking about some really specifically-targeted porn featuring the only suit-wearing professor at a liberal arts college getting busy with visiting speakers?

No, because every bullshit pop-sci mag author has decided viewing every social science topic through an economic lens is teh sexy ever since Freakonomics made a bajillion bucks, despite the fact that viewing actual economies through the same neo-classical economic lens has fucking wrecked the goddamn world over the past three years.
posted by Diablevert at 6:42 PM on February 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


Or you know, are afraid of being raped and killed. Whatever. Chicks, amirite?

Two people have said basically the same thing now. But I don't really understand the objection. Saying that men are less discriminating when it comes to extremely casual sexual activity is saying nothing one way or another about the reasons. Whether or not that discrimination comes about because men are less afraid of being killed is kind of immaterial.
posted by Justinian at 6:43 PM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Saiselgy actually has an interesting point about the griping over age of marriage that's been thrown about :

"The most recent year the data is reported for is 2007, when it was 27.7 which is indeed a few years older than it was “not so long ago” in 1960 when it was 22.8 years. But in 1920, it was 24.6 years. In 1890, it was 26.1, presumably because everyone was too busy watching Judd Apatow movies. Or maybe this number just bounces around over time and it’s always been the case that some people are sometimes frustrated with some members of the opposite sex."

And here too.
posted by stratastar at 6:48 PM on February 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


Two people have said basically the same thing now. But I don't really understand the objection. Saying that men are less discriminating when it comes to extremely casual sexual activity is saying nothing one way or another about the reasons.

As Baumeister, Vohs, and others have repeatedly shown, on average, men want sex more than women do. Call it sexist, call it whatever you want—the evidence shows it's true. In one frequently cited study, attractive young researchers...
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:49 PM on February 25, 2011


Suppose you wanted to buy a boat, Justinian. Now suppose your perfect boat was available, for $20000 dollars less than anywhere else! - from a Somalian port. To what extent is your willingness to purchase said boat informative about how much you value the boat, and to what extent is it informative about how much you value your safety?
posted by topynate at 6:49 PM on February 25, 2011 [14 favorites]


OKay between this and the pickpocket thread, it is clear, Slate is trolling.

Was Slate ever not trolling?

I was referring to the Reader's Digest version of Gilder.

You know, if you take away the "a" and the "e" and the "r," what do you have? That's right. You have the RED'S DIGEST. Which is just what I'd expect from a communist mag. The real question here is why Alia hates America?
posted by octobersurprise at 6:51 PM on February 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Perhaps I have had unusual experiences, but the experiences of myself and my friends are inconsistent with what this article appears to be saying. In my early 20s (which was in the late '90s), many of the guys I knew and dated were much more interested in settling down than the women I knew (including myself at the time). It's only now, as I'm starting on my 30s, that I'm running into the apocryphal "afraid of commitment" males.

Which is what the article says in one paragraph, "As a result, the sexual decisions of young women look more like those of men than they once did, at least when women are in their twenties." But then goes on to completely ignore. But then, as user92371 points out, reasoned analysis of the available data doesn't seem to be the author's strong suit. For example, societies where women outnumber men also tend to be better about women's rights in general, whereas societies where men outnumber women tend to be more repressive to women, I seem to recall. So down at the end of page 1 where he says, "An oversupply of women, however, tends to lead to a more sexually permissive culture." Well, maybe that's what women want, when they have more power to decide such things? And, OMG, kids these days are having sex within two weeks or a month of starting to date exclusively! The world is falling apart!

Now, this part is indeed worrying: "striking numbers of young women are participating in unwanted sex—either particular acts they dislike or more frequent intercourse than they'd prefer or mimicking porn", but there's another possible explanation for this.

And, omfg, "Women's 'erotic capital,'... can still be traded for... a job...."?!
posted by eviemath at 7:01 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Two people have said basically the same thing now. But I don't really understand the objection. Saying that men are less discriminating when it comes to extremely casual sexual activity is saying nothing one way or another about the reasons. Whether or not that discrimination comes about because men are less afraid of being killed is kind of immaterial.

I keep rereading this, and it keeps not making sense. Reasons for refusing sex are immaterial when the study is about whether women or men will more likely accept freely offered sex? What?
posted by emjaybee at 7:06 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Uh, to be fair your objection doesn't make sense to me either. If the study is about whether women or men are more likely to accept freely offered casual sex from a complete stranger, what difference does it make why women are more likely to refuse? I don't... I can't figure out a way to make it any cleaer.
posted by Justinian at 7:13 PM on February 25, 2011


except possibly to spell "clearer" correctly.
posted by Justinian at 7:13 PM on February 25, 2011


"As Baumeister, Vohs, and others have repeatedly shown, on average, men want sex more than women do."

"Saying that men are less discriminating when it comes to extremely casual sexual activity is saying nothing one way or another about the reasons."
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:15 PM on February 25, 2011


Er, what I understand enjaybee et al to be saying is that one cannot conclude from the description of the Baumeister, Vohs research that men want sex more than women do, merely that men are more willing to accept a proposition from a total stranger than women are. We don't know if maybe the women also want to have sex with the men propositioning them, but turn the offer down for other reasons, for example.
posted by eviemath at 7:22 PM on February 25, 2011


Right, you can't go from women turning down creepy pony-tailed graduate students approaching them out of the blue, to making the claim that studies have repeatedly "shown, on average, men want sex more than women do."
posted by stratastar at 7:23 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


How can you discuss "want" without context, though? The study authors have already addressed context, in fact, by providing what they consider "attractive" proposers of sex. You do not "want" sex without some specificity (not with the non-preferred gender, not with a sibling, not with a parent, not with a sheep).

I would postulate that women's specificity almost always takes into account the possibility of assault or danger, possibly pregnancy, possibly social stigma for being seen as "slutty." Men, not being subject to these pressures, do not have their desires blocked or influenced by them.
posted by emjaybee at 7:23 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


To what extent is your willingness to purchase said boat informative about how much you value the boat, and to what extent is it informative about how much you value your safety?

But that's the same thing. If I turn down a ride in a rickety falling apart airplane, it means I don't value the ride in that airplane very highly.
posted by Justinian at 7:24 PM on February 25, 2011


The study does note in conclusion that fear of assault could be the cause. It is also from experiments conducted in 1978 and 1982 so...yeah great data for a those kids today article.

Interestingly women were just as likely as men to agree to a date with a total stranger.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:25 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree with that emjaybee. But if the data you're looking for is "this fraction of men said yes, this fraction of men said no, this fraction of women said yes, this fraction of women said no", all of those nuances are completely extraneous. They may well be a very interesting basis for a different study but they are not material to the question being asked in that particular experiment.
posted by Justinian at 7:26 PM on February 25, 2011


But that's the same thing. If I turn down a ride in a rickety falling apart airplane, it means I don't value the ride in that airplane very highly.

But if you compare your decision not to buy the airplane with someone else's decision to buy a brand-new Cessna from Steve's Extremely Reputable Airplane Haus, the fact that you bought yours and that other person didn't, well, the two are not comparable in terms of risk.
posted by winna at 7:28 PM on February 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


what difference does it make why women are more likely to refuse? I don't... I can't figure out a way to make it any cleaer.

Justinian, the objection is to the author of the Slate article claiming this data establishes that men want sex more when it doesn't. He claims he knows the why.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:29 PM on February 25, 2011


uhh, flip the purchase decisions in my example.

Basically the risk/reward values are wildly different between men and women when it comes to anonymous sex, so it's difficult to evaluate their willingness to make the decision because the negative outcomes are asymmetric.
posted by winna at 7:31 PM on February 25, 2011


So we've proven that starts from misleading premises and goes from there, can we talk about something interesting?
posted by stratastar at 7:31 PM on February 25, 2011


Clearly, men and women want identical things out of relationships. There are no patterns whatsoever that that imply otherwise.

(Total pablum of an article, but lets not get too silly here.)
posted by effugas at 7:34 PM on February 25, 2011


He claims he knows the why.

Well, I think we can all agree that the article is stupid. That's not the objection I was getting from, for example, this comment since it appears to be objecting to the whole idea that there is a difference in level of discrimination. But if I'm just misreading the objection, hey thats great, we can just go back to talking about how the author of the article is an idiot.
posted by Justinian at 7:35 PM on February 25, 2011


"If the study is about whether women or men are more likely to accept freely offered casual sex from a complete stranger, what difference does it make why women are more likely to refuse? I don't... I can't figure out a way to make it any cleaer."

Whether or not women will have sex with someone who approaches them for sex on the quad is not necessarily a very good proxy for wanting sex.

I understand how you want to rephrase this to take into account the total costs and benefits as a rational decision on transactional value, but transactional value is not necessarily a useful metric for measuring sexual desire.

An inverted critique would be that men's responses don't necessarily represent wanting sex either, in that there's a fair amount of social pressure for men to be up for sexual activity at any time.
posted by klangklangston at 7:37 PM on February 25, 2011 [8 favorites]



Well, I think we can all agree that the article is stupid. That's not the objection I was getting from, for example, this comment since it appears to be objecting to the whole idea that there is a difference in level of discrimination.


That comment clearly is pointing out fear of assault as one of the potential reasons for discrimination.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:38 PM on February 25, 2011


But basically, birth control changed the world of sex for women in so many ways.

That was pretty much the point I was looking for you to make, actually. The entire article rests on a faux evolutionary biological set of operating assumptions about male and female "sexual economics" (sorry, you're a kitty) that, even if they did apply historically, have been rendered irrelevant by birth control. And it's not just the biological technology thats the issue; it's the way that women's life choices have changed based on their ability to reliably plan childbirth even with an active sex life, and how those changes have upended assumptions about marriage and adulthood after two generations.

The article read to my like it was written by an observer who leapt forward in time and dimension from the WSJ's version of the 50s. Now that I think of it, that's a pretty good explanation for George Gilder, too.
posted by immlass at 7:41 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


klang: Yeah I think we're all on the same page now. I still think it's valuable to look at it, as you say, as a rational decision on transactional value if for no other reason but that we can do that easily by simply asking the yes/no question and recording the result. We can get data. Is it perfect? No. But it's better than not getting any data which is what you get otherwise since it's virtually impossible to separate out the societal pressures, etc.
posted by Justinian at 7:41 PM on February 25, 2011


There was an interesting link upthread about sexualization of young women and girls in right-wing Evangelical circles. I have found how immodestly some right-wing women dress, even for church. Public immodesty and 'family values' don't mesh well. Christians of more truely traditional communities, show a lot less flesh at church, whatever their politics might be.
While I do think a good biological arguement can be madevfor early marriage, the economic realities are very much against early marriage right now.
Only a total idiot would want that to see their children married at biological readiness for reproduction.
I wish there were a way to delay
puberty in both sexes, so that the
waiting would be easier.
Right now what I see are a lot of young men who can't afford marriage and a family and a lot of frustrated young women going into total drama mode, because while the young men have been fed porn, the young women have been fed fairy-tales.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:22 PM on February 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Even if all of this is true...so what? Why NOT let men sit around doing nothing? Why do women need commitment, if they are so successful and career-oriented? Can't they just, theoretically, get educated, get a good job, save money, get knocked up via "easy sex with slackers" or a sperm donor, raise the kid on their own and pay for babysitting with their "successful career" earnings? I mean, maybe the kid won't be able to afford fancy summer camps or whatever but...oh well?

Sure, this argument applies when people are young, maybe. But so what? We might as well consider that the 20s are a throw-away time, if no babies are being born and raised. That's the only real long-term affect causing all this worry over sex and culture, no? I mean, that's the bottom line, right? Babies.

So the arugment stops short of the part that actually matters, IE, the tail end of reproductive years and what happens when people get married. It seems to me that the men are the losers there. Their contribution to childcare and marriage has never been about their sexual fidelity. It seems to me that tacitly, throughout history, women are pretty okay with husbands having mistresses as long as the kids get their fancy summer camps. (I know, it's a generalization, but just for the purposes of playing devil's advocate to this stupid article)

Let's assume men and women continue these disparate patterns of sex forever, even after they get married, via sex on the side. Maybe this even causes divorce. Yay, whatever, who cares. At some point, still, they're going to pair into couples who live with each other and make babies and work out lines of inheritence. If men stay bachelors or if men live with women as husband and wife or whatever, it really doesn't make much difference. They still contribute something- money, looks, time spent caring for the child, whatever- and different men still play up different strengths and different women still choose the father of their child based on different strengths.
posted by Nixy at 8:27 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


This article was disturbing because it seems to be advocating for women to trade sex for marriage essentially whoring themselves out for commitment. Moving away from that model would seem like a good thing.

eviemath writes "Perhaps I have had unusual experiences, but the experiences of myself and my friends are inconsistent with what this article appears to be saying. In my early 20s (which was in the late '90s), many of the guys I knew and dated were much more interested in settling down than the women I knew (including myself at the time). It's only now, as I'm starting on my 30s, that I'm running into the apocryphal "afraid of commitment" males."

This would make sense if guys can be divided into commiters and afraid-to-commiters. The guys not afraid to commit are much more likely to have committed leaving disproportionately more afraid to commit men still dating (plus men who weren't afraid to commit, had that commitment crash and burn, thereby converting them to commitment phobes added in).
posted by Mitheral at 8:48 PM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


If women were more fully in charge of how their relationships transpired, we'd be seeing, on average, more impressive wooing efforts, longer relationships, fewer premarital sexual partners, shorter cohabitations, and more marrying going on.

What in the...?

No. Look. Seriously, do you have any evidence for this or are you just talking about this hypothetical super marriage minded bridezilla who sees every relationship's passing as a big deal? Grawr bair, and sexist, unfounded grawr bait that is rude to both genders.

I want to know why this is even tolerated. If you tried half this sort of generalization about ethnicity/race you'd be a presumed Stormfront member, but this sort of thing still lets you call yourself a respectable publication.
posted by Phalene at 9:02 PM on February 25, 2011 [13 favorites]


Interestingly, I read this after a dear friend of mine gave me a whole come-to-Jesus conversation tonight about how I'd been letting a jackass of a guy treat me like a doormat and how I deserved better and if I emailed him tonight she was personally going to somehow sense that in her sleep, wake up, and come and kick my ass. (She's from out of town and is a houseguest right now.)

So the "if women were more in control of their relationships" thing resonated a bit, but to me it's more about THIS woman taking her OWN control of HER relationships, rather than any overall societal pressure.

On the other hand, get enough women willing to say "fuck THAT noise if he won't treat me with respect," and guys may indeed be willing to man up regardless of what the overarching job situation or college demographics may be. So there may be a kernel of truth to this, but I blame a very, very different cause.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:13 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


To be honest, when I was dating my biggest problem was blokes saying - literally - "Oh Alice, stop using big university words". Perchance the issue that is being rather clumsily skirted around in the article - and in this discussion for that matter - is that educated women have always had problems in finding a bloke who respects their intelligence. In western society, women now have access to education in a way they never did before 1920 or so. So finally we have a population of educated women that is equal to the population of educated men... and that new power balance means that new ways of negotiating relationships have evolved. Now THAT would be an interesting topic for an article...
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 9:34 PM on February 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


Uh, Freud's been pretty much abandoned by any serious scientist. We've been trying to forget Freud for a while now.

Nonsense. Plenty of serious psychologists, neuroscientists, and other scientists take Freud and psychodynamic thought plenty seriously.

Certain partisans would like to portray Freud and Freud's thought as dead, though.
posted by shivohum at 9:39 PM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sure, I know women who complain about the lack of good men, and I know men who complain about the lack of good women, and I complain regularly about the lack of anything to eat in my apartment despite there being a fridge full of perfectly edible food that has nothing in particular wrong with it. I'm not really all that hungry, it's just that when it's the conventionally accepted time to eat dinner, I feel like I'm supposed to be eating dinner. If I were actually hungry, I would find that the food available looked just fine.
posted by gracedissolved at 9:42 PM on February 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


I thought guys these days sublimated sex into Internet anger and videogames.
This is a pretty stupid article. Don't think guys have the upper hand. I do know girls who are into casual sex or at least have a higher sex drive than me. Hell I can imagine trading sex for companionship/stability/comfort.
But I'm an outlier and an anecdote isn't data
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:08 PM on February 25, 2011


Sigh. Obviously, women do want sex, and they aren't terribly discriminating, or the slacker dudes wouldn't be getting laid. Sure, we can pretend sex is just like economics, but that is only half the story.
posted by impishoptimist at 10:57 PM on February 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health data offer other glimpses into just how low the cost of sex is for young men ages 18 through 23.

The "cost" of sex, because apparently sex isn't something you do freely with your romantic partner for mutual enjoyment, it is something one acquires with sex credits awarded by fulfilling commitment challenges.

---

Even though I consider this article an abomination and I begrudge the author his employment, I sincerely wish to know: is this situation even remotely real anywhere in America? This business about men who are "failing at life" getting laid, I mean? I know it happens now and again--mostly due to misjudgment, dishonesty, or the influence of drugs and alcohol, from what I've seen--but is this a bona fide phenomenon anywhere?

I have a profound suspicion either that this Regnerus fellow is a fantastic idiot, or that he would recognize a ham sandwich less if it were served to him on a plate than if it presented itself to his intellect in a salable, half-assed, specious theory which might be fancifully supported by misrepresenting the significance of certain statistics. But if he is even partially correct about this, I really want to know.

Because everywhere that I observe undeserving men with enviable access to sex, it is exactly due to the fact that they are WINNING at life, and this obviates their need to prove themselves worthy in any other respect. If somewhere in the land of escalating unemployment there really exists a Shangri-La where the losers, the down-on-their-luck, the unambitious, the Men Who Are Failing at Life (in the most generous sense of the category) can go to silence the constant, frustrating demands of their urgent, ridiculous, vestigial, prehistoric sex drives on the basis of anything but their position in the rat race, for God's sake, identify it. Many decent men will flock there, and the women shall have their pick of the men by character, devotion, appearance, intellect, humor, complaisance, or whatever quality could conceivably please them.
posted by millions at 11:52 PM on February 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Some heterosexual women are frustrated by their apparent choice of available men? Dating strategies in highly competitive environments seem to differ somewhat by gender? I mean ... so? Why do the articles seem to think these are important revelations even if they're accurate?"

Because they are written from the point of view of people who think Something Must Be Done, and in this case the Something is likely empowering women who don't like sex much but want men who do like it to be forced into joyless, sex-free relationships and marriages with them. The only way to do that is to stigmatise and villify women who like sex and don't use it as a honey trap for 2.5 children in the suburbs.

So, basically, it's the groundwork for returning to a culture of profound hostility to female sexuality.

Nonsense. Plenty of serious psychologists, neuroscientists, and other scientists take Freud and psychodynamic thought plenty seriously

I find it difficult to see how anyone can call themselves a scientist and take the theories of a guy who is documented as simly making shit up and faking evidence seriously, unless it's in the same way people who fake evidence for tobacco companies call themselves scientist.
posted by rodgerd at 12:06 AM on February 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


Nonsense. Plenty of serious psychologists, neuroscientists, and other scientists take Freud and psychodynamic thought plenty seriously.

[cite required]
posted by effugas at 12:15 AM on February 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I sincerely wish to know: is this situation even remotely real anywhere in America? This business about men who are "failing at life" getting laid, I mean? I know it happens now and again--mostly due to misjudgment, dishonesty, or the influence of drugs and alcohol, from what I've seen--but is this a bona fide phenomenon anywhere?

I think I figured something out:

The article is claiming that there are MEN who are "failing at life but still getting sex," but it is basing this claim on the actions and behaviors of college students.

However, college students are not "men". They are boys. What's more, they are teenage boys. And the "women" who are letting them sleep with them are teenage girls.

So what this article is seeing is not any sign of a societal trend. What this article is seeing is the exact moment that every teenage girl starts to think about, "hey, maybe I need to start growing a backbone and expecting more of the guys I date." This is usually the age at which it starts happening. That's why so many people don't settle down until later anyway -- it has nothing to do with the current mode of society. It instead has everything to do with what age people are and how much life experience they have.

Including the "sowing the wild oats" phase. These are teenagers sowing their wild oats, for fuck's sake, not "men who are failing at life."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:12 AM on February 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


I sincerely wish to know: is this situation even remotely real anywhere in America? This business about men who are "failing at life" getting laid, I mean? I know it happens now and again--mostly due to misjudgment, dishonesty, or the influence of drugs and alcohol, from what I've seen--but is this a bona fide phenomenon anywhere?

This is purely anecdotal, but I volunteer on and off with a non-profit that works with some of the most "failing at life" guys I have ever met. They are nice guys, but good lord they fail in every material respect, from zero education, to addictions, to imprisonment and ongoing criminal involvement, to semi- and full-homelessness, to permanently unemployable, to serious untreated infectious diseases. Again, really nice guys for the most part, but pretty much the exact opposite of the guy you would hope your daughter brings home.

Almost all of them have a string of women who have their babies, support them financially, bail them out of the county jail when they get picked up on a warrant, loan them cars that they wreck, and otherwise support and enable their total fail status while (based on the babies) providing plenty of sex. I'm not saying that these guys have great lives -- they have a lot of pain, violence, and misery every day -- but access to sex, from women largely living much more together and less strung-out lives, is not an issue.

Again, it's totally anecdotal, and I still don't buy the overall argument of the article at all. I think it has to do with the women in question not feeling that they have better options. If by waiting a little while they got a better offer, they might take a pass on the failure guys. But if waiting just means being lonely and sexless and then having the same crappy choices, why wait?
posted by Forktine at 5:45 AM on February 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


I really, deeply fail to understand how "a non-negligible proportion of men treat women shittily in relationships, and women don't like it but feel they have few other options" is an ANTI-FEMINIST sentiment, or one that's seeking to make sex joyless and re-limited to the confines of marriage.

I mean, yes, plenty of people have plenty of fulfilling, consensual sexual relationships, with or without romantic relationships attached, and plenty of people get married, or don't, and are happy.

But if you've spent any time around young adults lately, you'll know that there are what feels like LEGIONS of deeply miserable young women being treated VERY badly by young men who are inconsiderate and irresponsible not necessarily with their lives (though often that too) but certainly with others feelings and emotions. They are pressured by the society they live in to be things they are not (porn actresses, sexually available, etc.); young people of BOTH sexes are pressured to "have sex like a guy" (without strings or emotional attachment); and expressing desires outside this norm RENDERS ONE UNDATEABLE. Sure, this cools down as one approaches 30, but how many people are willing to spend their whole 20s outside the dating world because what THEY are seeking is a different type of relationship? There is NO ROOM to express one's authentic desires.

I cannot tell you how many young women I've talked to who felt ambivalent about introducing sex so early in the relationship, but didn't feel they COULD say no as long as they thought they MIGHT want to have sex with him later on, because not only would THAT guy dump them, but he'd tell all his friends she wouldn't put out and she would no longer have social access to potential partners. So they put out earlier than they want to, perform acts they aren't interested in, because the alternative is social suicide.

I mean, you want to talk about backwards, THAT IS FULL ON 1950s UP IN THERE. Their value is almost entirely sexual, and if they fail to express themselves sexually in the ways that the male culture demands, they are socially cut off.

It's not universal, no. It was not, generally, my experience of dating. It is avoidable for at least some women (and men). But there's a large enough dysfunctional subculture like this that anyone who spends time counseling college students, young adults in their 20s, OR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS will have plenty of sad, sad stories about this, young men who leave a trail of emotionally shattered women behind them, but are getting lots of sex.

When I do discipline files for the local school district, we get cases where guys pressure their girlfriends into having sex in the lockerroom, say, in front of all his friends, (and they get caught and everyone involved ends up before us on disciplinary charges) where she doesn't really want to be having sex at all but she's very up front, even in her disciplinary hearing, that if she doesn't have sex with him, she will be entirely cut off from her peer social life, because her social value is exclusively sexual. And teachers beg and plead for her to understand that that isn't true, that college is a good goal, that teen pregnancy is a bad outcome, that this guy is a douchebag ... but teenaged social life is a harsh mistress, and how realistic is it to ask a 16-year-old to cut herself off entirely from a social life? But there are ENORMOUS social segments in high school where girls' social value is exclusively in how readily they put out, and how enthusiastically, and what they'll do when they do. And what's really sad is that this objectification and sexualization continues past high school. Maybe we can understand, if not excuse, why immature high school students would buy into such a destructive model of male-female relationships, but it continues in places well into the 20s, even beyond.

These boys forcing their partners to have sex in the locker room are probably the ones who grow up to Forktine's life-failers (and/or the worst of the "frat boy" stereotypes at colleges).

We don't get that many girls up for discipline. I'd say about half are for drugs or fighting -- almost all the fighting is over boys, almost always involving a sexual relationship -- and the other half are for inappropriate sexual behavior on campus, which is not EXACTLY coerced under the legal understanding of the idea ... but is typically socially coerced and the girls feel pressured into it.

This is a lot more rambly than I intended, but it's really frustrating to watch these young people suffer so much and have people say "I don't see what the problem is," or "Saying there's a problem is tantamount to saying sex is bad and we should all be Victorians." GRAR.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:06 AM on February 26, 2011 [27 favorites]


This business about men who are "failing at life" getting laid, I mean?

It's gonna be harder for a guy without a good job, but with plenty of women making a lot of money now they have the luxury of rating that as a less important part of the evaluation process for mates. If a guy is a great stay at home dad but useless at everything else, that isn't failing at life.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:47 AM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


The premise of this article is not surprising to me at all. Look at where there is an extreme imbalance between the sexes: African-American women are much more likely to graduate from college and get a job than are African-American men. Marriage rates for blacks are much lower than amongst whites. 70% of children are born out of wedlock. (Economist article) The number of black female headed households is 20 percentage points higher than that of whites. Black men have gotten the short end of the stick with regards to employment, education and incarceration rates, but black women are getting (figuratively) beaten with it.

The article describes a gender ratio that is much less skewed, but it's not hard for me to see how it negatively impacts women and will continue to do so.
posted by desjardins at 7:30 AM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Attractive young researchers separately approached opposite-sex strangers on Florida State University's campus and proposed casual sex. Three-quarters of the men were game, but not one woman said yes. I know: Women love sex too. But research like this consistently demonstrates that men have a greater and far less discriminating appetite for it."

This study was done in the pretty open sexual environment of the 1970s, and then redone in the 1980s to see if the AIDS scare had an impact on responses (seemingly didn't). It also included other conditions where the people were asked if they'd like to go on a date with the person, to which women did often respond favorably. So it's not as if they were too afraid to go anywhere with this person. The actual sentences were close to "Would you go to bed with me tonight?" or "Would you go on a date with me tonight".
posted by bizzyb at 7:48 AM on February 26, 2011


Desjardins and Eyebrows McGee,

The interesting thing to me about the points you're making is that

per Eyebrows McGee, in high school, this is a situation where the boys have a lot more power than the girls. To me, that's actually pretty traditional. Nowadays they use it for different despicable things than in the past (exploitative sex/rape as opposed to economic blackmail into an early marriage and a life of risky childbirth and economic dependency with a guy who could socially and financially get away with cheating on her whenever he wanted anyway, and it's definitely a problem, but it's a new variation on an old thing.

per desjardins, in her scenario, the women actually have a lot more financial power than the men. They might not be making the choices they wish they had access to, but they're not financially dependent on the men and they're fundamentally choosing to put up with what they put up with in exchange for what they get for it, and they could walk away (at least in terms of economic survival) whenever they wanted.

So that gets back to what someone else was saying upthread - in situations where there are more women than men, the men might get more sex and less responsibility, but the women tend to get a lot more social, economic and political freedom. They might get less marriage and permanent commitment, but on the other hand, what marriage and permanent commitment actually looks like for women in situations where they are the scarce commodity isn't actually very pretty or attractive at all.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:49 AM on February 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Look at where there is an extreme imbalance between the sexes: African-American women are much more likely to graduate from college and get a job than are African-American men...

But we recognize this as an economic and social problem and not a failure of the character of African-American women for wanting love and intimacy, or a moral failure of African-American men for suffering the discrimination that keeps the short end of the stick in their hands. Given the widening income inequality in US society, the instability of jobs, and the increasing cost and decreasing economic value of higher education, it's not surprising that patterns of increased "irresponsible behavior" or men being losers and women--who, by the way, are paid less even when they have equal credentials--who are "better off" in life put up with them. The part that is eliciting so much mockery of the Slate writer, and Hymnowitz in the WSJ, and Gilder is discussing the matter like it's all about slutty girls lowering their moral standards and lazy boys not stepping up (or not being bullied into it by lack of access to sex) without looking at changing economic and social realities.
posted by immlass at 7:49 AM on February 26, 2011


It's the framing of these articles that's so bizarre. If you boil them down, they sort of say:

1) More men are losers today because, now that more women have entered the workforce, it is no longer necessary for men to get a job to impress a mate. As we all know, this is the only reason for a man to get a job, and in fact the only function of men other than providing sperm, so instead of getting jobs they sit around and play videogames all day. Once artificial sperm is invented, men will be killed and eaten.

2) However, since there is no artificial sperm yet, women still need men to provide babies. Therefore, there is increasing competition among women for loser men.

3) This competition plays out by women having sex with losers a lot. Studies show that women are more likely to turn down offers of random sex from complete strangers, which is conclusive proof that women do not like sex. Therefore, there can be no reason for them to be having sex other than in an effort to win the man-having competition.

4) The solution to this clearly apocalyptic problem is simple -- women, quit your jobs and stop putting out, and then men will be forced to get jobs again in increasingly desperate efforts to convince you to have sex with them. Society is saved!

Even putting aside the dubious conclusions, specious logic, and complete waving aside of economic reality -- what the hell?! They read like a straight-faced version of the "Don't Date Robots" PSA from Futurama.
posted by kyrademon at 8:35 AM on February 26, 2011 [14 favorites]


These are guys that would get laid no matter what, there are other metrics one measures a partner by than business acumen. If we accept that women seek out successful men, these men would be getting laid even more than they are now if they were successful.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:45 AM on February 26, 2011


I'm picturing a Cartesian plane. The x-axis signifies success at life—financially stable, educated, and so on. The greater the value of x, the more you have your life together.

Similarly, the y-axis signifies how satisfied you are with your sex-partners (if any), your relationships (if any), and your marriage (if married). The happier you are, the greater the value of y.

In the first quadrant (top right), you have men who are happy with their lives and sex life. In the second quadrant (top left), you have men who are not financial stable and so on, but still have as much sex, as many relationships, and as much of married life to make them happy. In the third quadrant, you have men who have neither access to satisfying relations or financial stability. And in the fourth quadrant, you have men who generally have their lives put together but don't have satisfying relations.

It seems to me that the unstated premises of this article are that

• men in the second quadrant belong in the third quadrant. They don't deserve a satisfying sex life.

• women so prefer men in the second quadrant over men in the fourth quadrant, that it is not even worth mentioning how fourth quadrant men win or loose. All that matters is how this affects all women and only first and second quadrant men.

• third quadrant men deserve nothing.
posted by ifandonlyif at 9:04 AM on February 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Don't forget your Freud: Civilization is built on blocked, redirected, and channeled sexual impulse, because men will work for sex. Today's young men, however, seldom have to

Well, I fucking do.
posted by polymodus at 9:06 AM on February 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think ifandonlyif does a good job of identifying the various types of man in our society -- I mean, everyone really does fall into one quadrant or another. Where the article shits the bed is in identifying why men fall into these quadrants, surely. And that's actually the only issue here that's worth all this energy.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:31 AM on February 26, 2011


By most measures, I'd probably be part of the loser/failing-at-life brigade. But I'm also in a committed long-term relationship, I'm probably gonna get married sometime before I'm 25, we both like playing video games and sex is sex, not some sort of fucking bait.

WHERE IS YOUR GOD NOW MARK REGNERUS? WHERE IS HE NOW?
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:54 AM on February 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


This article's tone and the author's motivation make me doubt everything about it.

But suppose for a second it's true. So what? So what if we're entering a world where women are in charge and men get laid a lot. I'll take something new and interesting any day of the week over some retrograde worldview that looks backward to a time when virginity was prized and women were treated like cattle.

This whole thing is typical conservative blather. It's all about The Good Old Days. Think back to the Good Old Days and how Good they were... except the Good Old Days never existed, and if the past were so great we would have never left it.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:01 AM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


So we have this idea:

But if waiting just means being lonely and sexless and then having the same crappy choices, why wait?

Alright (and thank you, Forktine). And then this also:

I cannot tell you how many young women I've talked to who felt ambivalent about introducing sex so early in the relationship, but didn't feel they COULD say no as long as they thought they MIGHT want to have sex with him later on, because not only would THAT guy dump them, but he'd tell all his friends she wouldn't put out and she would no longer have social access to potential partners. So they put out earlier than they want to, perform acts they aren't interested in, because the alternative is social suicide.

Okay then (thank you as well, e-mg). Then Regnerus must be right on some level? (At least some) women feel they have little alternative but to bed jerks?

What about the breakdown ifandonlyif proposes? There are no quadrant three or quadrant four men whom women are willing to become involved with? That is, men who are financially unstable with no access to satisfying relations, or men who are financially stable who still have no access to satisfying relations: they obviously exist, because there are always men who are not getting any, and this group can be divided into the successful and the unsuccessful. Why is this an untouchable caste, so to speak? Surely the law of averages allows for at least some, if not many, of these men to be excellent romantic partners.

By the way, who, besides the League of Asshole Non-Gentlemen, is creating this social pressure to partner with jerks? Plainly there are many women who ignore whatever social pressure might exist and enter into satisfying relationships. Honestly, why don't more dissatisfied women do that? It cannot be for want of options.
posted by millions at 11:07 AM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: something one acquires with sex credits awarded by fulfilling commitment challenges.
posted by Mitheral at 11:20 AM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


they obviously exist, because there are always men who are not getting any, and this group can be divided into the successful and the unsuccessful. Why is this an untouchable caste, so to speak?

Yes there are men who will get laid whether they are successful or not. There are some men who will not get laid whether successful or not. So there is an X that differentiates these two groups. So that X is more of a deciding factor than success.

If anyone knew what that X was they would bottle it and sell it.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:32 AM on February 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


To be honest, when I was dating my biggest problem was blokes saying - literally - "Oh Alice, stop using big university words".

Holy shit, Alice, I thought it was just me! I STILL laugh about the time a date (college-educated himself, mind you) asked me to "stop using such big words" because I was "making him feel stupid." I have NO IDEA what I'd just said to cause that -- it was just normal conversation. Ai yi.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 11:40 AM on February 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Why is this an untouchable caste, so to speak? Surely the law of averages allows for at least some, if not many, of these men to be excellent romantic partners."

Well, for starters, I'm not sure men fall into quadrants. I don't think humans are quite so easily quantifiable. But dating pools are LIMITED (this is part of my theory of "high school is the world of Jane Austen" ...), and the places you see this kind of behavior the MOST manifest are places where dating pools are particularly bounded and limited: High school, college campuses, impoverished inner cities, etc. It is much less prevalent among privileged, upper-middle-class graduates who have much less limited dating pools. I think the point is perhaps that women (and men) in those situations do, in fact, have very limited choices. Perhaps there ARE no quadrant 1 or quadrant 4 men available (these are the ones with good "life prospects" according to the quadrants above) IN THAT LIMITED DATING POOL. Perhaps all of the quadrant 1 men are taken and the quadrant 4 men are misperceived as quadrant 3 (high school nerds), or perhaps the quadrant 3 guys are fooling themselves into thinking they're quadrant 4. Or perhaps it's so dysfunctional a sub-area of society that men simply HAVE NO OPPORTUNITY AT ALL to enter quadrants 1 or 4, due to, say, high African American male incarceration rates. The Quadrant 4 guys may all be hanging out at Carnegie Mellon in the robotics lab or something, wondering where all the girls are, because they're in a male-heavy environment where women are scarce. Men and women are not equally distributed across all social networks, and success and failure are VERY unequally distributed across social networks.

(And there are studies suggesting that stable, long-term romantic relationships -- which we'll call marriage for the sake of brevity, in whatever flavor that comes -- are increasingly the privilege of the upper middle class, because economic difficulties put stress on marriage, family life without adequate supports puts stress on marriage, etc., and the wealthy and wealthy-ish can BUY their way out of a lot of those stressors. Which, again, reinforces that our social crisis of family instability is also an ECONOMIC crisis. But both pieces have to be there. Making everyone suddenly comfortably well-off wouldn't make them suddenly good at marriage; but the economic situation can, indeed, make it impossible for people to TRY to be good at it. There are both economic and social aspects to it.)

On a slightly different note, there's always a reactive note in these kinds of discussions of "Of COURSE women like sex; imagine that, women have a sexuality too!" Which I do understand as many people grew up in repressive environments where they were told, "If you have sex, you're worthless" and "good girls don't have sex" and "feminine women wait for marriage" and all kinds of messages like that. What I DON'T think people understand, because they're reading through the lens of their own experience, is that a lot of girls today grow up with messages that say, "If you DON'T have sex, you're worthless" and "fun girls have sex right away" and "feminine girls put out, AND HAVE FUN, regardless of who their partner is." It's fully as damaging a set of messages to receive, and it allows just a little room for personal exploration, growth, and actualization. In neither case is the young woman allowed to naturally express her own sexuality and preferences; in BOTH cases her desires are subordinated to a demanding culture that forces her sexuality to fit a particular mold. I wish we could be more sensitive to that, instead of dismissing the pain these girls are suffering by insisting, "Of course women like sex." To them, that reads as, "... and if you're not having it, you're worthless ... if you were a real woman, you'd do it and you'd like it, now, with whoever."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:41 AM on February 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


a lot of girls today grow up with messages that say, "If you DON'T have sex, you're worthless" and "fun girls have sex right away" and "feminine girls put out, AND HAVE FUN, regardless of who their partner is."

These are not new messages, which is probably why people in this thread aren't acting like they're a big cultural change. I'm in my 40s and I was exposed to the same kinds of messages during my teenaged years in the 80s. The same feminists who claimed the ability for women to say 'no' in the 70s and 80s are the supposedly sex-negative feminists whom the sex-positive third-wavers were revolting against.
posted by immlass at 12:20 PM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, for starters, I'm not sure men fall into quadrants. I don't think humans are quite so easily quantifiable.

I think the point of the visualization, just to clarify, isn't to quantify men at the risk of oversimplification. It is plain that a good deal more goes into what makes up a human than the X and Y axes proposed by ifandonlyif; this is merely a tool for framing the discussion.

Given that structure, which for the sake of argument you have responded to, it seems that you suppose that within a given dating pool ("High school, college campuses, impoverished inner cities, etc.") there might be no good options, and women are driven to become involved in bad relationships. That is, as you say, that for instance at a certain college campus (Carnegie Mellon, per your example) women are cut off from potential relationships because the available men are secluded in what you claim is the largely male domain of the robotics lab perhaps.

I find this premise hard to swallow. I have been to some high schools, some colleges, and some impoverished inner cities, and in my experience none of these places were even remotely devoid of available males who seemed to have much to offer as a potential mates. Even if they were not making themselves readily available at bars, within social networks, on dating websites, etc. (they usually were), it would seem that the effort required to discover them should be less than that of suffering a frustrating relationship with a guy who sucks.

Indeed, in my observation not only were there decent men available, they were often rejected wholesale, much to their chagrin, and this was often taken to support the old chestnut that nice men finish last (except of course when, demonstrably, they don't). This would seem to point the adumbrated "X" factor that Ad hominem proposes.

Naturally, that is merely my observation: it is entirely conceivable that there are places where there are either no good men available, or that I have made a too generous assumption regarding the romantic potential of very many available men. Nevertheless, whenever I hear the argument proffered that a good man is hard to find, part of me recoils in disbelief.
posted by millions at 1:23 PM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Part of me asks 'what's the point deconstructing this bilge?', and another part admires you for grinding this article into the gravel because of its cynical untruths.
posted by nj_subgenius at 1:25 PM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


In the immortal words of my old friend Wiley, "Familiar dick is nice".

Women like sex fine, and want it just as often, they just tend to be more discriminating about new partners than men. This might be some leftover evolutionary feature about fearing pregnancy, or it might be that men tend to achieve orgasm faster/easier, and women are trying to weed out men who are selfish. Or both.

I love tacos. They've been my favorite food my entire life. I hate Taco Bell. I don't want any shitty taco, I want GOOD tacos. Even if I'm looking for variety and wanting to try something new, if something looks, smells, and seems like some nasty Taco Bell style bullshit, I'd rather go back to my old standby of El Chapulin than get something disappointing and unsatisfying.
posted by Leta at 2:08 PM on February 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


"That is, as you say, that for instance at a certain college campus (Carnegie Mellon, per your example) women are cut off from potential relationships because the available men are secluded in what you claim is the largely male domain of the robotics lab perhaps."

That was actually not my point, although I see how it could be unclear; CMU has, to my understanding, one of the most male-skewed sex ratios of any co-ed campus, about 60/40 male/female. Most people at CMU (men and women both) will be, for the purposes of our example, fairly Quadrant 4 individuals. So if everyone on campus paired off in a heterosexual binary fashion and we assume the college dating universe to be pretty closed, you've got 20 "Quadrant 4" guys left over. Which are 20 Quadrant 4 guys not available in some OTHER closed dating environment. And 20 "missing" Quadrant 4 women for those guys. Since men and women are NOT evenly distributed across all social networks.

I only suggested the robotics lab because when I think of CMU, I think of robots. :) But a friend of mine studied robots there, that's probably why. They can hang out wondering where the women are in the romance languages section of the library or the dining hall for all I care.

CMU was not my example of women AT CMU cut off from men because men bury themselves in whatever; it was MEN cut off from WOMEN because of a shortage of women in that network/dating pool, while those men were "missing" from some OTHER network that had a female superabundance rather than a male superabundance. I was really just trying to illustrate the point that men and women, success and failure, are not evenly distributed across all social networks, and it's perfectly possible to have GREAT guys out there who can't find mates, while simultaneously bemoaning, in a different community, the total lack of great guys. Those aren't mutually exclusive positions, because dating pools are NOT limitless. If we imagine CMU as a closed (and exclusively heterosexual) campus (where everyone wants to date ... our model needs a lot of restricting), we've got exactly that situation; great guys who can't find mates because there are too many guys (in fact, 1/3 of them are left out!) ... and at some other campus we're "missing" those men and the women are bemoaning the lack of decent guys. Both conditions existing simultaneously.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:23 PM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Perhaps I have had unusual experiences, but the experiences of myself and my friends are inconsistent with what this article appears to be saying. In my early 20s (which was in the late '90s), many of the guys I knew and dated were much more interested in settling down than the women I knew (including myself at the time). It's only now, as I'm starting on my 30s, that I'm running into the apocryphal "afraid of commitment" males.

I am in my late 20s and you have described my experience exactly. In my early-to-mid-20s most of the relationships I observed among my friends were between men who were looking for something fairly serious and women who were looking for something much more casual.

If this is a real effect, and not simply a result of you and I moving in unusual social circles, I wonder if it is an age effect or a cohort effect. The fact that you are seeing a change in this pattern in your 30s seems to indicate the former, but the fact that (older) people writing about contemporary male-female dynamics seem unable to imagine this phenomenon seems to indicate the latter.
posted by enn at 2:23 PM on February 26, 2011


Things are tough all over. You can't force people to be attracted to people they are not attracted to because they are nice. You also can't really force nice but unattractive people to be more attractive.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:01 PM on February 26, 2011


Is Antonio Cromartie (9 offspring by 8 women in 6 states) a loser at life? I would say yes, but my opinion is worth two cents.
posted by bukvich at 3:48 PM on February 26, 2011


To clarify what I was thinking earlier today, I didn't mean it to be reductionist, but just as a way to think about what it is for a man to be a "loser." Is it because he doesn't have a job? Is it because he's an asshole? It seems like we put a lot of qualities under that banner, and I think it's worth unpacking that.
posted by ifandonlyif at 4:46 PM on February 26, 2011


Well that was garbage.
posted by !Jim at 5:55 PM on February 27, 2011


Perhaps energy spent being productive is energy not spent being interesting.
posted by effugas at 7:47 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Reasons for refusing sex are immaterial when the study is about whether women or men will more likely accept freely offered sex? What?

The women do not have constructive knowledge that this is "freely offered sex", they are aware that it is possible they are being offered something with possible hidden costs of some other motivation on the part of the offeror that they have not disclosed.

Women are often assumed (and there may be studies, not trying to look them up just now) to be better than men at discerning emotional states and the like. If we accept that premise, it follows that women would be more likely than men to realize that the attractive stranger before them is hiding something about the supposed "freely offered sex".... and indeed, the researcher IS hiding something... that they are a researcher asking a question as part of a study.

It's also possible that men are more willing to accept the hidden cost of "freely offered sex" including something such as being robbed, more likely to believe they could avoid paying any hidden cost, or have not considered the possibility that there may be a hidden cost involved (perhaps women have more experience with encountering situations in which there was a hidden cost, and in the future avoid situations that they judge likely to encounter them).
posted by yohko at 10:58 PM on February 28, 2011


Discounting the style of the article and the serious logical problems like conflating the small number of men who go to university with the larger number of men who are "failing at life", if I understand correctly we are being offered the theory that the reason why men in recent generations are under motivated is because they used to be motivated by comparatively rare sex and now they don't have to be.

I find this an interesting theory because I have been wondering why the percentage of men going in to post secondary education and the percentage of men being employed is dropping. It doesn't seem to me that the the basic theory is necessarily wrong. Women are having much more sex than they used to before the pill became readily available, having a kid out of wedlock ceased to be a disaster, it became possible for most women to support themselves without being married and a woman's social worth was heavily based on her chastity. They are having a lot more sex. And as a result men are too. So it could be one of the factors that have changed and in turn changed the way men behave.

Once upon a time a hundred or so years ago there was the phrase, "working like a n*****" This meant really, really working hard, likely under bad conditions. And this doesn't come from the slave era but the years after it when African-American men worked harder for lower pay and had to pay higher rent as well. That was what African-American men did. Somewhere along the line that stopped and the stereotype shifted from African-American men work double shifts to support their families to African-American men are unemployed and unmarried. Demographically there is some basis for this stereotype.

And lately it appears that the same changes that have occurred in the African-American population are occurring in other populations in North America too. The guys are drifting...

One of the obvious possibilities to me is that what used to be a winning strategy ceased to be one. In the seventies when I was growing up I had the vague idea that at adulthood one got a job, worked hard and ended up with a house and family and all those nice consumer goods that made life easy, like a vacuum cleaner, a washing machine and even a car. At this point my son is growing up to feel far from certain that working his tail off will get him very far, from looking at his fifty-year-old father who worked hard all his adult life but went from a good union job to a corporate cubicle to minimum wage at a print shop. Papa's history has gone from higher security and increasing wages to not so much security with no prospect of increased wages to you-don't-really-think-YOU-can support-a-family-do-you??

This means that my son looking at all this is wondering where he will end up if he starts with a part time job at McDonalds....

Arguing over if things were better back in the day when men had to get married to get laid because nice girls didn't is irrelevant. My only question is how do we get to the happiest possible result where we are now and a good way to pick a target goal is to understand where we are starting from. It's not like we can turn back the clock and suddenly turn into 50's housewives any more than we can suddenly turn into a femdomme society where only women have the keys to men's cock-cages. (What? You need to pee again??? I swear you must have a bladder the size of a thimble! Alright, come here and I'll undo you but next time you have to go to one of the neighbours. If I have to keep undoing your cockcage every twenty minutes I'll never get this post written!) I expect there would be a few people who would be happier in one or the other of those two unlikely scenarios, and a majority who would not, but we are all going to have to work with the here and now.

It seems to me that human rights often come at the expense of other humans. For example when the baby's rights trump the mother's rights women are the losers. And when men's rights trump women's rights, women are the losers. When one subgroup gets more rights the rights and privileges of another subgroup get eroded. So the ascension of women's rights quite likely would cause a loss of status and privilege for men and for children. I don't want to get into the ethics of that simply because it ends up as a well-I-like-this-better squabble. I'm looking at it as a math equation. And of course having more rights for women can be a good or a bad thing over all for the men and the kids, but again that is just another diversion.

There are now far more competitors for the jobs that only men used to get and the competitors historically are regarded as more docile and willing to work for lower pay. Yep, it's good that women can get work now and support themselves. Nope, it is not good that there are not enough jobs to go around.

It seems to me that women have decoupled the link between "the guy I have sex with" and "the guy who will marry me and be a father to my babies". It's not like the lack of nubile guys will stop her from having sex urges but if she has premarital sex it's now not really going to make any difference in the guy she eventually does wind up with for a husband, if she gets married at all. So if the only guys you can have sex with are guys you wouldn't marry... ah well, he'll do for tonight and hopefully someone better will come around. No point saving it, right?

Once upon a time if a guy failed to launch, lived at home, worked a dead-end job part time and generally just spent his time hanging out most women probably ruled him out straight off. But that's not so automatic a conclusion at the moment. If all the guys in the neighbourhood are doing this, who are you going to shag? And besides, how many of those guys living the midnight shift hunched over a computer doing something on the internet are maybe developing cutting edge software that will start bring in the $$$? He might be actually earning money... or might someday...

It's worth noting that a common female primate breeding strategy is to have as many partners as possible so that she has back up if the primary relationship fails, but keep them very much as secondary compared to the male who has committed to the children. The main partner assumes the kids are his and tolerates them for that reason but the secondary partners tolerate them too on the off chance that they might just be his, or at least that the female won't encourage him to visit any more if he hurts her babies. IMO this is the basic instinctive breeding strategy of women and tends to be what they vaguely aim for, much tempered by the actually availability of the males, her status, when she actually gets pregnant, culture, belief in romance, economic issues, personal paraphilias and a host of other factors.

It seems to me that a host of women are choosing not to get married unless they get a partner who is in the fourth Quadrant. And since there are fewer and fewer guys who are gentle, rich, handsome, healthy, good with babies, well dressed, strong, good at fighting, hard working, intelligent etc. etc. the incentive to get married is not rising. It used to be that marriage was so important that a woman would overlook some of these criterion in her rush to the altar. It also used to be that certain of these options -good at fighting for example, used to be much more important, and others -good with babies, were almost completely ignored. It is a BIG change in society now that the high status professional males are expected to do an equal amount of diaper changing as their partners! "Can he support you?" may not be the first question a girl's parents ask when she reports her engagement, as the realistic answer might turn out to be, "Well, I make more money than he does so we are planning that he will stay home with the babies."

So it is possible that guys are trying less hard to succeed because a good job and a good education are worth a lot less than they used to in terms of landing an alpha partner. It is also possible that a strong back and the ability to work really hard are no longer as important to a woman when she picks her partners. Simple physical strength and dominance are probably still important to guys, but the majority of them compete with each other for alpha status in more indirect ways, such as WOW. If you punch another guy out for saying something about your wife you are more likely to be regarded as in need of anger management counseling than you are as a gallant protector.

Another reason why guys are under performing may be that our definition of success has changed to assume that a successful boy will finish high school, go to university and then get experience in a high paying job. At least, this is what I perceive to be the view of success on TV. Again, some fifty or seventy years ago when young men were not regarded as drifting, only the rare guy was going to do this and the other ones were in no way regarded as dropping out if they got a job out of grade ten in Uncle Joe's mechanic shop. Instead now they are ALL supposed to go to university, even though there are not enough places for all of them and a sizable proportion of the guys that do go to university can't get jobs that will pay off their student loans when they get out.

What would you tell a young guy to do in order to be a success? Work hard in school, stay off drugs, don't get any girl's pregnant, go to university and... then what? Live with your parents and default on your student loans?? So the guys look at their peer group and see what the other guys are doing and perhaps rightly conclude that to earn respect and status, to out-do all the other guys they know they had better get their WOW character higher than level 100.

And now that I have put all my readers to sleep... (what readers?? You all gave up six paragraphs ago.)... I'd like to pull out a half-baked theory of mine. Boys do not like to compete with girls. Traditionally they refuse to. This was very much a sore point with one of my daughters who liked to play boys' games and was good at them. The trouble is that these games were competitive and any boy who competed with her was in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation if they let her play. If she won they lost a huge amount of status because they had been "beaten by a girl" and if she lost they lost a huge amount of status because they had "beaten up a girl" So they all acted like jerks as soon as they figured this out and stopped letting her play. : (

Okay, this was sexism. But sexism is innate and instinctive. If you don't believe me do you think you would get a bigger jolt of adrenalin if you suddenly found a strange woman in your home than a strange man? We do react differently to the other gender without thinking about it and without consciously meaning to oppress anyone. And yes this is tempered by culture. Fifty or seventy years ago when the boys were struggling harder the drop out rate for girls was much, much higher for girls than boys, and the reason given was that girls were just not as smart as boys. Historically and in pretty much every society people divide up into two spheres, one with women's work and one with men's.

Now, let us suppose that we put twenty primitive men and twenty primitive women on an island where the only source of food is a limited supply of berry bushes and plants. It's going to mean that those able to secure food for themselves will survive and those not able to secure food for themselves will starve. Variations of this scenario have been enacted a couple of million times in our evolution. Guys can run faster. Guys can hit harder -on average, of course. So they guys are going to get the lion's share of the berries. This is an unequal situation right up until the women get pregnant and start having a baby in the belly and another one on the hip. At that point the women might just need three times the calories of a guy to stay alive and keep both babies alive.

Sooo... the inevitable result of competition between non-pregnant guys without a baby on the hip and pregnant women with a second baby on the hip is that the women and the babies die. Full stop. Unless of course the group of them come up with a culture so that the alpha males band together to keep their females fed or something. But I can assure you it will be a very sexist culture.

You will note that if by some strange anomaly the women happen to be stronger and more brutal than the men they only need one of the twenty guys to survive to keep them alive and ensure that there are babies to keep alive. But twenty guys cannot all hope to have kids if only one women survives.

So I am wondering if perhaps men have an instinctive problem competing with women. Other men, fine. It's to your advantage to eliminate them from the gene pool. Women? Bad idea. If guys do have this as an instinct to a varying degree, it would make sense that a lot of decent guys would just not have the same drive to get ahead in many fields that they used to when the playing field was too sexist to allow women to compete.

tl:dr I think there are a lot of reasons why young men are under-motivated lately, and not having to work as hard for sex could be one of them.
posted by Jane the Brown at 11:39 AM on March 3, 2011


Justinian: They may well be a very interesting basis for a different study

...fortunately, somebody has done that study. What it found was essentially: women and men are about equally interested in sex; the differences between men and women in studies about accepting propositions for casual sex are basically down to (1) men are more dangerous than women and (2) women know that the kind of men who proposition you for casual sex are generally creepy and not good in bed.

"Across studies involving both actual and hypothetical sexual encounters, the only consistently significant predictor of acceptance of the sexual proposal, both for women and for men, was the perception that the proposer is sexually capable"

I know this thread has been over for days, but fuck it, someone actually did a study to demonstrate what was already obvious to everyone sensible upthread. Seemed worth mentioning.
posted by moss at 8:59 PM on March 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


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