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NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

October 4, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

But, as with all such articles, Mark Regnerus’ piece in the Wall Street Journal, about which I wrote yesterday, doesn’t stop at being merely misandric (Wall Street Journal, 9/29/17). Its sole example of the male sex is a 24-year-old whose ambition in life appears to be having casual sex with as many women as possible. Had Regnerus quoted a more mature man of course, he’d have gotten a more mature response, but depicting men in a positive light isn’t on his agenda, so the pseudonymous “Kevin” is what we’re left with.

No, Regnerus isn’t just misandric, but his misandry is all it takes for him to miss a lot, possibly the most important aspect of his chosen topic. Like Brad Wilcox and George Will before him, Regnerus wouldn’t dream of asking himself whether women might be part of the problem of the decline in marriage rates. Oh, he delves into contraception and rightly notes that, if women didn’t make sex quite so available to men, those men would probably place a higher “price” on it. And that would perhaps increase the marriage rate.

But one subject that’s apparently off limits is that women, like men, delay marriage for any number of reasons that have nothing to do with fecklessness or irresponsibility. The main one is that they want to establish themselves in a career before leaping onto the parenting track. That means the younger generation is delaying marriage later than previous generations have, but it hardly means those in their late 20s and early 30s don’t value marriage. In fact, they do and some research says they value it more than did their parents.

Regnerus isn’t interested.

He also isn’t interested in what is very possibly the most important factor in young men’s wariness of marriage – family courts. Remarkably, data he himself cites suggest that very factor.

As recently as 2000, married 25- to 34-year-olds outnumbered their never-married peers by a margin of 55% to 34%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2015, the most recent year for which data are available, those estimates had almost reversed, with never-marrieds outnumbering marrieds by 53% to 40%. Young Americans have quickly become wary of marriage.

Let’s do a bit of arithmetic. In 2000, people who were 25 – 34 years old had been born between 1964 and 1975, i.e. before the full effects of our current no-fault divorce/too-high child support/false allegations of domestic violence system of divorce had been felt. By 2015, that same age group had come into the world between 1981 and 1990. They know the facts of life in family courts all too well.

So it may well be that the data Regnerus cites is little other than the natural result of a family court system that’s brutal for fathers and children. Having seen that system “up close and personal,” young men may well have decided that the cost simply isn’t worth the risk.

If our system of family courts, including divorce, child support, alimony, visitation, paternity fraud, adoption and the like were described to men clearly and in proper detail, it’s hard to imagine any of them opting to marry or have kids. Toiling away at some soulless job to support a family that can be taken from you, no questions asked, at any time and being made to pay a large percentage of your future earnings to a woman who doesn’t like you and can’t be bothered to let you see your kids even for the minimal time the judge ordered can’t have much appeal to men. Plus, the fact that your child can be shanghaied into the adoption system with neither your knowledge nor your consent doesn’t exactly add to the appeal of having a family. Neither does the fact that the child for whom you’re paying may not even be yours. My guess is that the only reason as many men are marrying as are has more to do with ignorance of the reality of the laws governing children and families than anything. Maybe that’s why no high school or college course anywhere spells out that reality for men.

Tarring men with the brush of irresponsibility has long been a favorite game of conservatives and liberals alike. After all, doing so is pretty much necessary if we’re to hang onto our current family courts and the laws they adjudicate. Of course ridding ourselves of those laws and practices would do more than just about anything to improve our society, but entrenched interests like state bar associations aren’t about to roll over for something as sensible but fee-threatening as sensible family court reform. Articles like Regnerus’ are like the colorful mobiles parents hang over children’s cribs; the purpose is to distract attention from our discontents.

If men were ever asked about their take on family courts and whether those had anything to do with their wariness of marriage and children, and we were to listen respectfully to their answers, we might actually learn something about why marriage is in retreat. That of course would require us to drop, at least momentarily, our misandry and value men as important members of society.

Alas, people like Mark Regnerus recapitulate family courts in their refusal to do that simple thing.

 

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National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

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