October 2, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
I suppose we should celebrate this article (Wall Street Journal, 9/29/17). After all, we live in a time when American society, culture and politics seem remarkably polarized. But the linked-to article, appearing as it does in a right-leaning publication, agrees wholeheartedly with the Left. It does so by placing the “blame” for declining marriage rates squarely at the feet of men. Yes, if men weren’t so feckless and irresponsible, marriage rates would increase, society would be more stable and God would be in His heaven and all right with the world.
The writer, sociology professor Mark Regnerus leaves no doubt about what he thinks of men when he begins his piece by introducing readers to “Kevin.”
Kevin, a 24-year-old recent college graduate from Denver, wants to get married someday and is “almost 100% positive” that he will. But not soon, he says, “because I am not done being stupid yet. I still want to go out and have sex with a million girls.” He believes that he’s figured out how to do that:
“Girls are easier to mislead than guys just by lying or just not really caring. If you know what girls want, then you know you should not give that to them until the proper time. If you do that strategically, then you can really have anything you want…whether it’s a relationship, sex, or whatever. You have the control.”
Regnerus follows that up by leaving Kevin as the sole male from whom we hear about women, sex, marriage and the like. Are there males who take a more serious view of women and marriage than does Kevin? You wouldn’t know it from the WSJ piece.
Regnerus is rightly concerned about the decline of marriage. That’s a trend that indeed bodes ill for any society. Married adults are generally exactly what society wants. On average, they’re happier, more likely to be employed, the best people to raise children, less likely to abuse drugs, alcohol, each other or their kids, less likely to commit crimes, etc. So the decline in marriage rates is indeed a problem to think about and hopefully solve.
But we won’t do so by thinking about it Regnerus’ way. He seems to have a vague notion that, if women didn’t have such ready access to inexpensive and effective contraception, they wouldn’t be as likely to say “yes” to sex.
This transformation was driven in part by birth control. Its widespread adoption by women in recent decades not only boosted their educational and economic fortunes but also reduced their dependence on men. As the risk of pregnancy radically declined, sex shed many of the social and personal costs that once encouraged women to wait.
That’s all very well, but contraception is here to stay and every thinking person is glad it is.
Now, Regnerus almost gets to an analysis of the situation that makes sense.
For American men, sex has become rather cheap. As compared to the past, many women today expect little in return for sex, in terms of time, attention, commitment or fidelity. Men, in turn, do not feel compelled to supply these goods as they once did. It is the new sexual norm for Americans, men and women alike, of every age.
The economic analysis of sex makes sense. Of course Regnerus comes late to that game. Roy Baumeister advanced that theory almost 10 years ago and it explains a lot. If male demand for sex is pretty static and the female supply of it goes up, as it dramatically has since the advent of the birth control pill, then the “price” goes down. It’s not that women willy-nilly aren’t expecting enough of men in return for sex. I’m sure they’d all like more. But, as every man knows, these days, if one woman won’t, another will. To a certain degree, she will because of the pill, but also because there’s a lot of competition and essentially no social stigma attached to premarital sex or out-of-wedlock pregnancy. It turns out that the very things advocated for by feminists in the 60s and before make women’s lives, in many ways, worse, not better.
When I asked Kristin, a 29-year-old from Austin, whether men should make sacrifices to get sex, she offered a confusing prescription: “Yes. Sometimes. Not always. I mean, I don’t think it should necessarily be given out by women, but I do think it’s OK if a woman does just give it out. Just not all the time.”
Kristin rightly wants the men whom she dates to treat her well and to respect her interests, but the choices that she and other women have made unwittingly teach the men in their lives that such behavior is noble and nice but not required in order to sleep with them. They are hoping to find good men without supporting the sexual norms that would actually make men better.
If Regnerus would just pay attention to what he himself has written, he’d have an idea of why women make those choices. They’re basically caught in a trap that was set decades ago by what was then called the Sexual Revolution. It all made perfect sense back then, but, as with the best-laid plans, hasn’t worked out the way so many people thought.
Of course, Regnerus, being a sociologist, wouldn’t dream of noticing one of the most pernicious opponents of marriage – the family law system. I’ll have more to say about that next time.
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