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Dating Mating Sex and Reproduction

More on Dating and Value

I’ve been thinking a lot about value and dating since my recent post on the subject.  Today’s post is going to be a little different than my normal presentation of facts.  Instead, I’m going to talk about what I feel is an interesting (and potentially frustrating) change in dating/mating dynamics.

Through most of human history, mating has been largely about procreation and property.  The concept of marrying for love and self-actualization is not completely new, but America and other post-industrial democracies are arguably the first venues in human history where the majority of marriages are not matters of financial or social necessity.  Most marriages happen because two people have fallen in love (or gotten pregnant).

Also, society has changed substantially in the last fifty to a hundred years with regard to living arrangements.  Most Americans either live by themselves or with roommates.  Lots of unmarried thirty or forty year old men and women have their own houses, and many are homeowners.  It’s not all that difficult for either sex to live single.

While this is certainly good from the perspective of gender equality, it’s caused some considerable changes in the value of women to prospective husbands.  I was thinking of myself recently:  I own a house.  I am a great cook.  I do my own laundry.  I don’t need anyone to contribute financially to keep this arrangement going.  I’m also not unusual in this respect.  Most men my age are pretty damn self-sufficient.

For much of American history, a substantial part of the value of a wife was domestic.  With labor intensive chores like cooking, laundry, and general housekeeping being essentially delegated to women, men without wives could legitimately say they “needed” a wife to take care of such things.  No longer. *  There’s also precious little social pressure left for men to marry.  No longer is the forty year old bachelor seen as a deviant or malcontent.  Typically, he’s a divorcee, just like everyone else his age, and typically, he still has a fairly easy time dating casually.

The biggest value of women to men remains procreation.  Most people want to have children, and finding a wife is still the best way for a man to do it.  So for twenty-somethings and early thirty-somethings, there’s still one overwhelming reason to get married.  But the window for childbearing is pretty short.  Most women in college are not looking for a man to impregnate them.  After about age thirty five or forty,  many people are divorced and through with having children.  Single parenthood is not easy, but it’s far from impossible.  Most people will have five or six serious long term relationships in their lives, and especially among the educated and upper classes, only one or two of those will be for the purpose of reproducing.

The upshot of all of this, or so it seems to me, is a value problem for women.  Sure, men will always want to date women for sex, and most men want more than a warm body — they want a woman they like who enjoys other activities as well, but without the marriage and children, that kind of relationship is defined primarily as a friendship with sex.  So, for men who are established, single, and not looking for a mother for their children, what bargaining chip do women have to entice men into a committed, long-term relationship?  For many men, it just makes more sense to have casual, short to medium term relationships that have all the sex without all the extra hassles of joint checking accounts, choosing whose house to move into, redecorating, and so forth.

What does this mean for women outside of the childbearing window?  Is our culture moving inexorably towards serial short-term monogamy?  Are women doomed to continually repeat the cycle:  Fall in love, date, have “the talk,” and then break up when the guy decides it’s not worth his while to commit to anything else?

I don’t know the answer.  What I do know is that I know a lot of men who follow this pattern.  As long as the woman doesn’t ask for more than friendship with sex, she’s fine.  When she asks for a ring, she gets the boot.  Especially for women with children, this seems like a big problem.  What benefit is there to a guy to marry and take on the extra responsibility and financial burden when he’s getting sex, and doesn’t especially need or want to raise someone else’s kids?

Will there be a change of value for women?  Something that will entice men into long-term commitment that doesn’t involve housework or children?  Again, I don’t know.  At a certain point, most men do have to make a commitment as they approach the later part of their life.  Dying single and alone isn’t fun.  But most men have twenty or thirty years after they’ve had kids to find someone to die with.

Susan Walsh wrote an article over at Hooking Up Smart that’s been tickling the back of my brain for a while.  In it, she encourages young women to drop their extra-picky expectations of the “perfect husband” and get married to a man who will be a good husband, but who may not be the ideal man.  I think this is solid advice.  The value of sex has gone down considerably since feminism and the “Free Love” movement.  No man has to get married to have regular sex.  The value of a wife as domestic help has gone to virtually zero, especially since so many women still feel a certain backlash at the thought of being valued as a house cleaner.**

This whole line of thought reminds me of one of my personal mantras:  Generally speaking, you can get anything you want most of the time.  It is nearly impossible to get everything you want.

So it seems for women in post-feminist America.  Freeing women from domesticity and giving them permission (and encouragement) to have sex in casual relationships has given them lots of options they didn’t have before.  But the necessary downside to this is that it has reduced the value that they bring to a marriage.  Most any man can get friendship and sex in casual relationships.  If women aren’t bringing anything else to the table, then practically speaking, that’s the limit of their value to men who don’t want (anymore) children.***

For young, childless women who aren’t ready to be mothers, this isn’t a big problem.  Women’s value is highest when they’re young and childless.  They are at their physical peak of beauty, and this alone is usually enough enticement for a man to at least commit to long term monogamy.  But as women age, the gap in value between men and women narrows considerably.  Men tend to get more wealthy, more socially established, and wiser as they age.  Physically, they can remain attractive to a wide age range of women well into their forties or even fifties.  If anything, men’s value rises somewhat during their thirties and forties, while women’s value (especially women with children) drops sharply.  Forty to fifty year old men who make enough money generally don’t have much trouble finding a twenty-eight or thirty year old woman to date them or have sex with them.

In other words, A-list men can generally entice A-list young women even after having children and divorcing.  It becomes very, very difficult for women to do the same.  I wonder how this value dynamic will affect our culture over the next generation or two.

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*Don’t get the idea I’m lamenting the good old days.  I think it’s great that women are emancipated from the traditional gender roles.  But like most things, there are pros and cons.

** Incidentally, I just asked myself the question:  What would entice me to move from a casual dating relationship to living together and making long term plans?  I have to admit that not having to do housework anymore would be a big deal to me.  Perhaps, for women trying to land a self-sufficient man who doesn’t need a second income, a rethink of housework as “demeaning” or subservient is in order.  I dunno.

*** I realize this is a very clinical look at dating and marriage, and I know that for a lot of people, love is enough reason to get married.  This will probably not change for a substantial part of the population.  But there is still the reality that love tends to be much more important to the young and unmarried.  After a couple of failed marriages, both men and women tend to get a bit more practical about long term commitments based just on emotions.  Also, with education and money comes selectiveness.  Lots of A-list men are smart enough not to get married just for love.  More and more men realize that love isn’t magic, and the idea of one soul-mate per person is just flat out wrong.

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Discussion

24 thoughts on “More on Dating and Value

  1. I don’t think this is cynical at all. It’s just the way it really is. The deep choice to me doesn’t really seem to be one between lifetime monogamy or serial monogamy, but children or not having children.

    I made some unwittingly good choices in my life early on and am firmly in the very happily married boat. But if it all fell apart tomorrow, I’m not convinced I would seek remarriage. I’ve already got kids and honestly I have little interest in hooking up with another women to help raise her kids by another man. Not with the way women put out in just a handful of dates these days.

    If you want kids, then an earlier marriage, popping some out and staying together seems like the best option for overall success. (Waiting until you’re 35+ for kid attempts is just silly)

    Otherwise… what’s the point for the man other than to expose himself to excess risk.

    Posted by Athol Kay: Married Man Sex Life | February 27, 2010, 8:38 pm
  2. Athol, my mother used to always accuse me of being a cynic. I was confused as to why she thought I was being cynical. I felt like I was just being realistic. (In a lot of ways, I was accurate.)

    A large part of my purpose for this blog is to present reality in the harsh light of day. If someone becomes cynical after realizing the nature of reality, that is sad, but nobody is responsible for another person’s attitude. Generally speaking, I’m anything but a cynic, and in fact, what gets me in trouble more than anything else is that I trust my fellow man too much.

    But anyway, to your point. Yeah, when I hit 35 I decided that unless someone really surprises the hell out of me, my next marriage will be to someone who will help care for me in my old age, and help me die gracefully. There’s just no benefit to marriage for me right now. Hell, there’s really not much advantage to anything more than casual dating.

    There are a lot of guys like me, too, and what’s sad is that the reason we don’t feel the need to get married is that we’re high value enough to stay single. We can get laid, and we’re financially stable. We can keep our own house in order. There’s simply nothing we need from a woman that we don’t already get.

    I really didn’t want to go so far as to tell women they ought to be offering more to mid-30s guys, but the choice is pretty obvious. Especially if a woman has started to age less than gracefully, she’s got to pony up something of value to entice a man into marriage. Either accept casual dating from A-list guys, get a B-list guy who needs you, or offer more for a better quality guy.

    Posted by hambydammit | February 27, 2010, 8:56 pm
  3. Hi Hamby. Enjoyed your post and have several dozen observations:

    “…America and other post-industrial democracies are arguably the first venues in human history where the majority of marriages are not matters of financial or social necessity.”
    Really? Is that why women more often than not are immersed in poverty after a divorce?

    “Most marriages happen because two people have fallen in love (or gotten pregnant).”
    And how is the pregnancy factor not an economic imperative for one or the other in this economy?

    “It’s not all that difficult for either sex to live single.”
    “Not that difficult.” When was the last time you actually had a conversation with a woman (or other human being) living on minimum wage or disability, honey? “Not that difficult” for people making 30-60 G a year would be more accurate, don’t you think?
    “While this is certainly good from the perspective of gender equality,” (yeah, never mind class, since you’re only going to be dating people in your own class anyway, right?),” it’s caused some considerable changes in the value of women”
    Switch value of “women” to value of “men,” and see if your assumptions about women’s value might be interpreted as indicative of unconscious sexism.
    “There is also precious little social pressure left for men to marry.”
    And accordingly, there is also less social pressure for women to do so, perhaps why now more than 50% of us aren’t.
    “No longer is the forty year old bachelor seen as a deviant or malcontent.”
    That’s not what I’ve heard from a successful, 50-something woman professional, looking for a mate. She assumes something’s wrong with men her age who are either serial divorcees, or never-married because of a lack of experience or ability to empathize in matters of family commitment. You’re making an assumption about what others think about you, based on your beliefs about social trends and roles.
    “Typically, he’s a divorcee, just like everyone else his age…”
    Wouldn’t it be more apropos to say,”just like everyone else with whom he associates who is his age,” NOT necessarily everyone else his age?
    “…and typically, he still has a fairly easy time dating casually. ”
    LOL, of course he does, he has money and is connected to people in his own class and there are more women than men in that class, I’d venture to guess.
    “The biggest value of women to men remains procreation.”
    And where is the evidence for that, Hamby? What about men just marrying (trophy wives, or not), for status? That never happens, with kids as the unintended consequence?

    “Most people want to have children…”
    or rather, and perhaps more likely, most people get children, whether they want them or not, perhaps because of the social pressure to marry, of which you wrote, and they would not admit to NOT wanting children for fear of being labeled selfish or anti-social.
    “Finding a wife is still the best way for a man to do it. So for twenty-somethings and early thirty-somethings, there’s still one overwhelming reason to get married.”
    I think there is more than one overwhelming reason to get married for a number of different age groups.

    “But the window for childbearing is pretty short. Most women in college are not looking for a man to impregnate them…”
    And perhaps MOST women OUT of college MOST OF THE TIME, aren’t either. The statement seems to imply that all women want to do is get married and/or pregnant.

    “The upshot of all of this, or so it seems to me, is a value problem for women .”
    And why is it not ALSO a value problem for MEN? The main “value problem” is that marriage as an institution is based in unequal power relations to begin with, and society wholly supports such inequality, reifying and revering its internalized sexist notions of dependency and role expectations. Who’s to blame for that – women and their devaluation?
    It seems that you unconsciously assume that women are only valued as the things of men, as the reading of the next sentences suggest. Again, replace the words “women” and “woman” for “men” and “man,” and “mother” for “father” and such, and you might see some tiny flaws in your assumptions here (words in parentheses are my substitutions for your opposite terms:
    “Sure, men (women) will always want to date women (men) for sex, and most men (women) want more than a warm body — they want a (man) woman they like who enjoys other activities as well, but without the marriage and children, that kind of relationship is defined primarily as a friendship with sex.”
    And what’s wrong with that, for either sex, esp. if they’re past childbearing years?.
    “So, for men (women) who are established, single, and not looking for a (father) mother for their children, what bargaining chip do (men) women have to entice men (women) into a committed, long-term relationship?”
    Why buy or bargain for marriage? Because of unequal power relations? If not for that chronic economic disparity between men and women, far fewer women would be interested in marriage (OR encouraged to marry) for any reasons whatsoever – (economic or emotional) – and who’s to blame for that “value problem”? Feminists working for equality and improvement of social programs that support all types of families?
    “For many (women) men, it just makes more sense to have casual, short to medium term relationships that have all the sex without all the extra hassles of joint checking accounts, choosing whose house to move into, redecorating, and so forth.”
    Maybe that’s why about 50% of women are now single – because they choose it over dependency, despite inequality, not just because they have lost their social capital as child-bearers and housekeepers.
    “What does this mean for women outside of the childbearing window”
    Or for older men who don’t really give a sh*t but just like to yuk it up with chicks?
    “Is our culture moving inexorably towards serial short-term monogamy?”
    It already did, we just didn’t officially notice it until divorce became more acceptable and the rates skyrocketed. Humans have been serial monogamists for a long, long time, maybe before the institution of marriage was invented.
    “Are women (men) doomed to continually repeat the cycle: Fall in love, date, have “the talk,” and then break up when the guy (gal) decides it’s not worth his while to commit to anything else?”
    Almost certainly, for as long as marriage is just a financial arrangement devoted to the care and feeding of children, rather than to the emotional well-being and nurturance of adults who might want to simply commit to each other; and it will always be problematic if wage disparities between marriage partners (or potential marriage partners) continue.
    “I don’t know the answer. ”
    It might be contained in an expansion of my previous thought on wage disparity and marriage as an institution of dependency and unequal power relations.
    “Why … take on the extra responsibility and financial burden when he’s getting sex, and doesn’t especially need or want to raise someone else’s kids?”
    Only the personal emotional satisfaction? But then, again, why make the assumption that it’s a financial burden? If only he and his wife-to-be was enabled to make the same kind of money, and if only society provided more adequate after school care programs, it wouldn’t be as much of an issue, would it? And why should these older, self-satisfied men need to buy sex that way, anyway? Aren’t there enough childless women out there his age?
    “Will there be a change of value for women?”
    OR FOR MEN? Not as long as society continues to assume that it’s okay for women and minorities to make shit wages as the working poor.
    “Something,” (something or some people?),
    “that will entice men (women) into long-term commitment that doesn’t involve housework or children? (Trophy wives or trophy husbands, maybe?
    “Again, I don’t know. At a certain point, most men do have to make a commitment as they approach the later part of their life. Dying single and alone isn’t fun.”
    And after all, care taking is a woman’s job, right? BTW, who’s going to take care of HER after YOU croak, cuz you know, the data show that you will leave her behind, not the other way around.
    “But most men have twenty or thirty years after they’ve had kids to find someone to die with.”
    And women have 30 or 40. Maybe it will be better (and perhaps essential) for us to find other women to look after us.
    “Susan Walsh…encourages young women to drop their extra-picky expectations of the “perfect husband” and get married to a man who will be a good husband, but who may not be the ideal man.”
    Men can take the same advice, I suppose, especially the ones with end-of-life dependency issues.
    “I think this is solid advice.”
    Me too, esp if it goes both ways.
    “The value of sex has gone down considerably since feminism and the “Free Love” movement. No man has to get married to have regular sex.”
    Nor do women.
    “The value of a wife as domestic help has gone to virtually zero…”
    Whose stats? And the value of a husband as domestic help, where is that, numerically? From what many studies show, for many married people, his domestic contribution more often than not is about a 10 out of 100.
    ” . . .especially since so many women still feel a certain backlash at the thought of being valued as a house cleaner.”**
    And especially since so many married men still avoid it at almost any cost (studies have shown) – even at the cost of a marriage.
    “It is nearly impossible to get everything you want.
    So it seems for women in post-feminist America.” Feminism never promised us everything; nor did it suggest we expect everything; it only fights for equal access and equal treatment; it makes no promises, only demands, and it shall not stop, either, seeing as there is still plenty of inequality, to which many are apparently blind:
    “Freeing women from domesticity,”
    Most women have not been freed from domesticity, and that is not the goal of feminism; its goal is to make domesticity and the public sphere equally accessible to men and women, and to provide freedom from sexual, economic AND domestic OPPRESSION.
    “And giving them permission (and encouragement) to have sex in casual relationships has given them lots of options they didn’t have before.”
    And more importantly, so does easier, affordable access to birth control, and family planning, which feminism seeks to protect.
    “But the necessary downside to this is that it has reduced the value that they bring to a marriage.”
    If that is true, and I don’t think it is, then it must also necessarily do the same for what men as equal partners bring to a marriage; however, since marriage is not an equal partnership because of economic disparities between men and women, any downside of which you write, is the result of THAT disparity, not of the fight to make marriage more equitable for BOTH men and women.
    It is not a “necessary downside,” of freedom, but rather a stubborn fact of social life that privileges and values marriage and marriageability (with sexist notions about roles), above all other traits in an individual woman.
    In frustrating the value of marriage itself as an instrument of unequal power relations, the pursuit of EQUALITY PERIOD, is what SEEMS to diminish the value of women, but only from a sexist view point. Whether you name the pursuit for equality “feminism, OR NOT, the unintended consequences of equality-seeking include: more work for women, and more competition for all.
    A lot of people hate that, so they have to scapegoat the movement as the cause of more problems, rather than seeing these challenges as part of the road to progressive equality for all, which includes equality in the shit job realm, and in the realm of negotiating relationships.
    “Most any man can get friendship and sex in casual relationships.”
    So can women.
    “If women (men) aren’t bringing anything else to the table, then practically speaking, that’s the limit of their value to men (women) who don’t want (anymore) children.”***
    So you’re saying that women aren’t bringing anything more to the table than their ovaries?
    “For young, childless women who aren’t ready to be mothers, this isn’t a big problem. Women’s value is highest when they’re young and childless.”
    And is that because sexism is something perfectly acceptable and natural?
    I’ve added words in italics to what you’ve said, as qualifiers for some very sexist generalizations about women’s value:
    “They are at their physical peak of beauty, and this alone is usually enough enticement for a man to at least commit to long term monogamy. But as women age, the gap in (marriage) value (for the purpose of procreation) between men and women narrows considerably. Men tend to get more wealthy, more socially established, and wiser as they age. (Women don’t get wiser, too? And don’t some women also get wealthier?) Physically, they can remain attractive to a wide age range of women well into their forties or even fifties. (Thanks to plastic surgery, makeup, and money, women now do this, too (and they are often attractive to men, as well). If anything, men’s value rises somewhat during their thirties and forties, while women’s (marriage) value {your italics here: (especially women with children)} drops sharply (unless they have money and good plastic surgeons). Forty to fifty year old men who make enough money generally don’t have much trouble finding a twenty-eight or thirty year old woman to date them or have sex with them. (Back to unequal power relations, and Hollywood, I suppose.)
    In other words, A-list men can generally entice A-list young women even after having children and divorcing. It becomes very, very difficult for women to do the same.(Again, back to unequal power relations, not to mention double standards about beauty; if women could buy husbands as easily as men buy trophy wives, they might, but would they want want to?)
    “I wonder how this value dynamic will affect our culture over the next generation or two.”
    I wonder if this value dynamic can be changed by affording women more economic and social support so that it does not matter as much, and people will choose to marry for emotional and personal reasons less related to dependency or status, and more related to nurturing regardless, of economic need or lack of it.

    Posted by Joy Nichols | February 28, 2010, 12:22 am
  4. Hamby you may like… http://www.marriedmansexlife.com/2010/02/dershowitz-and-feinstein-and-legally.html

    …That’s about as cynical as I come lol.

    Maybe what I think is love for my wife is just the oxytocin talking, but I’m completely into the experience.

    Posted by Athol Kay: Married Man Sex Life | February 28, 2010, 1:01 am
  5. Joy, I’ll address what I can address in your post. If I skip something, please accept it as either admitting I don’t have a response, or pragmatism, or both.

    Really? Is that why women more often than not are immersed in poverty after a divorce?

    Well, after divorce is different than before divorce. Women do make less than men, but generally speaking, an unmarried woman can support herself if she doesn’t prematurely bring a child into the world. The point you quoted doesn’t really address post-divorce.

    And how is the pregnancy factor not an economic imperative for one or the other in this economy?

    Please see my answer above. Birth control and abortion are the friends of young unmarried women. But that’s why I included it as one of the big reasons for marriage.

    When was the last time you actually had a conversation with a woman (or other human being) living on minimum wage or disability, honey? “Not that difficult” for people making 30-60 G a year would be more accurate, don’t you think?

    We’re talking about two different things here, Joy. Between 13 and 17% of the U.S. population lives below the poverty line. That’s certainly a matter of concern, but it still means that at least 8 out of every ten people are living above it. Please accept my statement as one of average. And trust me when I say I know about what it’s like to live in poverty. I live in one of the poorest counties in the U.S. It’s all around me, and many of my close friends live below the line.

    Switch value of “women” to value of “men,” and see if your assumptions about women’s value might be interpreted as indicative of unconscious sexism.

    Well, no, because men’s value has changed, too. I even discuss further on how men and women’s value changes with age. I’m sorry, but pointing out the value of one gender to the other isn’t sexism. It’s just reality. It’s not fair or nice to realize that all things being equal, most women will pick the man with the most money. All things being equal, they’ll also pick the one with the best abs. Us guys with beer guts have to live with the reality that we have to make up for lower value in that sense if we’re going to find a quality partner. Women have the same burden, but in different areas, since there are different and competing biological drives.

    And accordingly, there is also less social pressure for women to do so, perhaps why now more than 50% of us aren’t.

    Quite so. And I fully support any woman’s decision not to marry. I typically only date women who don’t want to marry. But… fifty percent or so do, and want to. My blog isn’t about the way things should be. It’s about the way things are.

    That’s not what I’ve heard from a successful, 50-something woman professional, looking for a mate. She assumes something’s wrong with men her age who are either serial divorcees, or never-married because of a lack of experience or ability to empathize in matters of family commitment. You’re making an assumption about what others think about you, based on your beliefs about social trends and roles.

    Well, no. I’m making a generalization about what an average person perceives in their social environment. I’m not sure why you think citing a different opinion is relevant. Sure. Lots of women view 50 year old divorcees as damaged goods. But overall, our society is quite used to the idea that men approaching middle age are often divorced. It simply isn’t the dealbreaker it used to be… in general.

    Wouldn’t it be more apropos to say,”just like everyone else with whom he associates who is his age,” NOT necessarily everyone else his age?

    No. A very large number of men who have married before 50 are divorced by 50. If a man is available in the dating pool, and is 50 years old, the odds are very high that he’s divorced.

    And where is the evidence for that, Hamby? What about men just marrying (trophy wives, or not), for status? That never happens, with kids as the unintended consequence?

    I should have been more specific: The main value of women to men in the context of marriage value is procreation. In other words, the man receives substantial parental rights by being married (or at least cohabiting in a long term relationship) to the mother, whereas it is more difficult for him to be an active father if the mother was just a “casual fling” and never committed to anything long term.

    or rather, and perhaps more likely, most people get children, whether they want them or not, perhaps because of the social pressure to marry, of which you wrote, and they would not admit to NOT wanting children for fear of being labeled selfish or anti-social.

    I’ll agree with that.

    And why is it not ALSO a value problem for MEN? The main “value problem” is that marriage as an institution is based in unequal power relations to begin with, and society wholly supports such inequality, reifying and revering its internalized sexist notions of dependency and role expectations. Who’s to blame for that – women and their devaluation?

    I think this is going off on a substantial tangent. I’m not here to defend the institution of marriage. (See my considerable article on the history of marriage.) I’m no defender of the politico-economic institution of marriage. When I speak of marriage in this article, I’m speaking of committed, long term, monogamous relationships, with or without the paper. I guess I should have made that more clear. I really don’t deal with politics on this blog, and the issues you raise are political.

    What I’m observing is a substantial population of women, most of whom are >30, who are having a very difficult time getting men to commit to long term monogamy.

    Sure, men (women) will always want to date women (men) for sex, and most men (women) want more than a warm body — they want a (man) woman they like who enjoys other activities as well, but without the marriage and children, that kind of relationship is defined primarily as a friendship with sex.”
    And what’s wrong with that, for either sex, esp. if they’re past childbearing years?.

    I have no idea why you’d think I wouldn’t agree with this statement as you’ve reworded it. But as far as I can decipher, there’s no growing group of 30-50 year old men who can’t find a woman to commit. So… that’s why I didn’t mention it.

    Why buy or bargain for marriage? Because of unequal power relations?

    Because a relationship is a bargain. There’s no way to avoid the simple fact that both men and women want something from their partner. When each is offering what the other wants, a bargain is struck. When one side is lacking, no bargain. This arrangement in no way precludes both parties entering into negotiations from equal footing. Again, you’re talking sociopolitics. I’m talking psychology. We’re on different topics.

    Maybe that’s why about 50% of women are now single – because they choose it over dependency, despite inequality, not just because they have lost their social capital as child-bearers and housekeepers.

    The question is how many of them are choosing singlehood and how many are effectively forced into it. I think you have read an awful lot of absolutes into my article that simply aren’t there. If some women choose to be single and others would really like to be in a LTR, then this article has relevance to some of the population. Are you implying that no women over 30 are single and hating it?

    If that is true, and I don’t think it is, then it must also necessarily do the same for what men as equal partners bring to a marriage; however, since marriage is not an equal partnership because of economic disparities between men and women, any downside of which you write, is the result of THAT disparity, not of the fight to make marriage more equitable for BOTH men and women.
    It is not a “necessary downside,” of freedom, but rather a stubborn fact of social life that privileges and values marriage and marriageability (with sexist notions about roles), above all other traits in an individual woman.

    Well, this is another topic entirely, and I’m not sure it’s an answerable question at this time. Can we create an absolutely equal society in which women bring exactly the same value to the workplace as men and get paid exactly the same rates? I dunno. That’s a question for politicians. If we created that society, would older, established men have any reason to commit to long term, committed monogamy with single mothers? I can’t think of why they would. (And by LT, C, monogamy, I mean committing their financial and emotional resources to her children.) So… I don’t see why the point is relevant.

    “Most any man can get friendship and sex in casual relationships.”
    So can women.

    Many fewer women than men want casual relationships. If you disagree that this is a biologically programmed psychological reality, then you and I are just going to have to disagree. The scientific evidence is brutally overwhelming.

    So you’re saying that women aren’t bringing anything more to the table than their ovaries?

    I’m saying that when their ovaries are no longer a bargaining chip, established older men have little motivation to commit to any kind of legally binding committed relationship, whether it’s equal or not. This is primarily because such men could (and most are perfectly willing to) engage in a series of short term casual relationships with significantly younger women. All the sex, none of the menopause. Win/win for the guy.

    And is that because sexism is something perfectly acceptable and natural?

    It’s because we’re animals, and we have very, very strong biological programming that creates a certain level of inequality — which, by the way, should not be mistaken for political unfairness. It’s my contention (and I have strong, strong scientific evidence to back it up) that even in the most socioeconomically equal society we can imagine, there would still be significant differences in what men and women wanted from each other.

    (Again, back to unequal power relations, not to mention double standards about beauty; if women could buy husbands as easily as men buy trophy wives, they might, but would they want want to?)

    Well, there is a beauty double standard, and it’s not going away, no matter the political progress we make. Across all cultures — egalitarian and sexist alike — men across the board are most sexually attracted to young, childless women. It’s the cards nature dealt. We can offset the effect to some degree, but good luck reprogramming our DNA.

    I wonder if this value dynamic can be changed by affording women more economic and social support so that it does not matter as much, and people will choose to marry for emotional and personal reasons less related to dependency or status, and more related to nurturing regardless, of economic need or lack of it.

    Probably yes, we could change the dynamic some. But… in a perfectly equal society, women will be biologically driven to desire (regardless of their political viewpoint) fidelity from one man. They will attempt to find A-list men, whether A-list refers to money, physical beauty, or whatever is culturally valuable at the time. The A-list men will have little reason to commit if the women are not up to the standards the men can achieve.

    Posted by hambydammit | February 28, 2010, 1:11 am
  6. LOL… Yes, Athol. That is pretty high on the cynical chart. I like it. In a funny ha ha sort of way.

    Posted by hambydammit | February 28, 2010, 1:22 am
  7. I think the essential mistake Joy makes is that she seems to think men and women think rationally about sex. We simply don’t.

    Most times we just get the biologically driven impulse and then or mind kicks in like an internal PR department to justify why we did something.

    Posted by Athol Kay: Married Man Sex Life | February 28, 2010, 9:50 am
  8. This is a great post, Hamby, and another much-needed reality check for women.

    1. If what you say is true re women and aging, and I believe it is, then that suggests that women who want to marry should employ a strategy of:

    a. Marrying early to someone close in age, or if that doesn’t happen
    b. Targeting men 10 years older once a woman hits her late 20s.

    2. It seems to me that you don’t really allow for the possibility of falling hard for a woman. Are A-list men really invulnerable on this issue? You mention the unlikely possibility of being surprised by someone, but you also state that you generally only date women who don’t want to marry. This strikes me as an insurance policy against becoming emotionally entangled, which would make it harder to give a woman “the boot.”

    I am struck by Athol Kay’s relationship – having popped over to his blog, it’s pretty clear that he fell head over heels for his wife and still feels that way. So women in aggregate offer less value in a marriage, but AK clearly believes that his wife offers enormous value to his quality of life.

    I do think that many relationships and marriages amount to a lot more than friendship + sex.

    3. What does offering more to a better quality guy look like?

    4. In the next generation or two, marriage rates will continue to fall. There will be an increasing number of women who don’t reproduce, which will continue to spawn books of the Lori Gottlieb/Julie Klausner variety. Cougarism is just one stopgap strategy, but I expect to see the unmarried woman aged 30-40 population complaining quite a bit. At best, they offer a lesson in what not to do to young women who are just getting out of college and will need to date strategically if they want to marry. Finally, I expect to see a whole lot more sperm donor babies, and more books, movies, etc. around that theme.

    P.S. Thanks, as always, for the link love!

    Posted by Susan Walsh | February 28, 2010, 12:22 pm
  9. I don’t expect to see more sperm donor babies. They are hunting down donors for child support too frequently.

    I believe for myself and Jennifer we have an outrageously good genetic match for each other that triggers sexual interest in both of us constantly. Plus we are also each others first and only sex partner so if there is any credit to the idea of sexual imprinting… we’ve imprinted the hell out of each other. So there is a real pair bond between us.

    I really don’t consider my attachment to her to be rational on any level. It’s what I call the Body Agenda at work.

    Posted by Athol Kay: Married Man Sex Life | February 28, 2010, 1:41 pm
  10. Athol, the genetic match question is so important, and is actually comforting, as science often is. Women so often over-analyze why a particular relationship didn’t “take,” and it’s really helpful to consider that the DNA is too similar to foster that intense spark.

    One of the problems with a FWB or casual sexual relationship is that the chemistry can be “wrong” in a genetic sense, but the cocktail of oxytocin, dopamine, vasopressin, etc. winds up fostering the connection anyway.

    Posted by Susan Walsh | February 28, 2010, 2:48 pm
  11. 2. It seems to me that you don’t really allow for the possibility of falling hard for a woman. Are A-list men really invulnerable on this issue? You mention the unlikely possibility of being surprised by someone, but you also state that you generally only date women who don’t want to marry. This strikes me as an insurance policy against becoming emotionally entangled, which would make it harder to give a woman “the boot.”

    Well, yes, no, and yes… and maybe. That’s my definite answer.

    Seriously, though…. of course falling hard for someone is a factor, but I think your website is a pretty good testament to the fact that a lot of men don’t fall easily. I think there are two things making it less likely that the A-list 35-45 year old men are going to fall hard.

    1) Most of them have been to this circus a couple of times, and a lot of them have lost a house, a car, and 18 years of child support to the first woman they fell hard for. I know among my friends, many of whom are squarely in this age group and divorced, that’s the most common situation. I’m friends with business owners, entrepeneurs, pilots… people who make good money. Most of them have fallen hard and paid for it dearly. Many are very, very gun shy

    2) Simple economics. Most women don’t like hearing this, but women put out fast for rich guys. They don’t want someone else jumping in and claiming the prize. Furthermore, a lot of women are willing to put up with being strung along for a LONG time by a rich guy. Think about that girl who stayed with Tiger Woods for what… a couple of years when he hardly ever paid for more than her drinks! If the prize is good enough, it’s worth sticking around for. It’s also easier for these guys to actively date multiple women, even when all the women know about it… which means the women are competing more, which means he gets more and better sex from all of them. So… settle down with one, reduce her pressure to compete, risk giving her half your shit… or just keep playing the field? It’s a simple option for a lot of men, and they simply don’t allow themselves to get close enough to fall hard.

    Oh, and in my case (I am not rich… just comfortable and self-sufficient) the reason I tend to date girls who don’t want to marry is that I am a stickler for personality types and beliefs. If a girl is all about marrying and settling down, she’s probably not the kind of girl I would marry. (I would never be a member of a club that would have me.)

    I am struck by Athol Kay’s relationship – having popped over to his blog, it’s pretty clear that he fell head over heels for his wife and still feels that way. So women in aggregate offer less value in a marriage, but AK clearly believes that his wife offers enormous value to his quality of life.

    And in truth, I envy him. This is going to sound awful, but women need to hear it… there are lots and lots and lots of good looking girls who are just… average… and not particularly unique, interesting, or giving. Throwing one of those back and continuing to fish isn’t much of a let down. There are women I would marry, who I would fall head over heels for, and if it happens, I’ll be thrilled. Until and unless, I’m content with serial dating.

    3. What does offering more to a better quality guy look like?

    Good question. I’d say that it varies between men to some degree, and I can’t imagine it’s possible to list all the ways to raise value. However, I do think it behooves women to decide where to focus their energy based on what’s most important to them in a guy. Whatever it is the A-list guy does, or likes, or focuses on, it’s good to find a way to insinuate yourself into that part of his existence in a way that’s very helpful to him, and will be hard to let go of. If you’re going after engineers/scientists/stock brokers, etc, it’s a good idea to focus on being knowledgeable, intelligent, and clever. If it’s a sports star you want… well… you know the answer. Hit the gym, baby.

    I know I always say that being better, more willing, and more consistent with sex is always an advantage, but it’s important to realize that men will eventually ditch a girl who’s only good at sex. So number one, realize that a satisfied man is… well… a satisfied man, but that eventually, the sheen will wear off, and men will want substance that relates to them. THAT’s what will make a guy fall hard.

    Finally, I expect to see a whole lot more sperm donor babies, and more books, movies, etc. around that theme.

    Yeah. I think so, too. As long as sex is fairly easy to get in the short term, and it’s relatively easy for 80% or more of the population to live single, I expect the single population to continue to rise. Joy has (perhaps inadvertently) raised a reasonable point by saying that marriage is an unequal sociopolitical arrangement, and if more and more women continue to be single, there will be less and less of them getting divorce settlements from their husbands. There might be a significant economic impact if what you are saying comes to pass. I dunno. That’s beyond the scope of my blog or my interest at this time.

    P.S. Thanks, as always, for the link love!

    Of course! You give me lots of blog fodder, and often help me sort through my own ideas just by having conversations. Thank you!

    Posted by hambydammit | February 28, 2010, 4:48 pm
  12. I don’t expect to see more sperm donor babies. They are hunting down donors for child support too frequently.

    You mean they don’t sign a waiver?!? That’s astonishing!

    Posted by hambydammit | February 28, 2010, 4:53 pm
  13. They just go to court and get it all over turned in the interests of the child.

    Posted by Athol Kay: Married Man Sex Life | February 28, 2010, 5:36 pm
  14. Um… that seems… really, really wrong. On a lot of levels. I’m all for protecting children, but that’s retarded. Is a legal contract a legal contract or just a suggestion. Every waiver I’ve ever signed precluded me from ever even bringing suit.

    Posted by hambydammit | February 28, 2010, 5:48 pm
  15. Google “Sperm Donor Sued” for the mess.

    Also never help lesbians get pregnant by the masturbation and turkey baster method.

    Dispose of all your own used condoms.

    Posted by Athol Kay: Married Man Sex Life | February 28, 2010, 7:09 pm
  16. First off I have to say this was an excellent post by hamby and I could not agree more with his observations and analysis. My group of friends is essentially in the same position; 50ish, doing well, divorced and for the most part dating much younger women. Why? Because they can.

    In response to Joy’s comments, one part stood out:

    “No longer is the forty year old bachelor seen as a deviant or malcontent.”
    That’s not what I’ve heard from a successful, 50-something woman professional, looking for a mate. She assumes something’s wrong with men her age who are either serial divorcees, or never-married because of a lack of experience or ability to empathize in matters of family commitment. You’re making an assumption about what others think about you, based on your beliefs about social trends and roles.

    Seriously now, have you taken a good look at most American women in their 50s? Sure there are standouts, but by and large they do not hold up as well as guys do, particularly guys who take care of themselves. This is reality and to complain about it not being fair is simply silly; life is not fair. And I do not mean just looks either; a lot of 50-something women seem to hold onto the idea that simply because they commanded more of what I’ll call “dating capital” when younger that they should automatically continue to do so. I would even go so far as to say that this may lead to a certain amount of peevishness, which just isn’t going to help matters.

    All of that being said, I had to recently give my 34 year old girlfriend the boot as she was pressing for more commitment (but not bringing anything more to the table) and have moved on to a 53 year old who has taken care of herself, is fun to be around and does not appear to capable of peevishness. Go figure.
    That should sort of answer, to some extent, the question of what women can bring to a relationship–be easy to get along with, fun to be with and drop the expectations.

    Just my opinion; I also tend to be a bit clinical in my analysis but I think that is just reality. I have nothing against women and very much enjoy their company–but that doesn’t mean they get a pass for having been super hot when they were 19 either.
    Bill

    Posted by bill | March 1, 2010, 12:52 pm
  17. Thanks for the comment, Bill!

    I think you have raised a really important point. High value women have the ability to be demanding. There’s a saying around my little college town: “Damn, I’d eat a mile of her shit just to find out where it came from.” The idea is that some women are so high value that men will put up with a lot of shit and high maintenance drama in exchange for both the physical and social rewards of being with such a high value woman. In addition, attractive 20-something men with good prospects are a dime a dozen, so guys that land a high value woman are forced to put up with a lot or she’ll just find someone else.

    When the physical beauty fades, women’s dating capital goes down significantly. But you’re right… it’s got to be hard for women who used to be able to say “jump” and have a whole room full of guys knocking holes in the ceiling. To a certain degree, I think you’ve hit on something very important. To keep a high value older guy, you really do have to tone down the demands, roll with the punches, and be easy going.

    Speaking of which… this might be a word to the wise A-list woman. Mating value does change over time. If your 25 year old stud lives up to all that potential and becomes a 35 year old lawyer pulling down 6 figures, you better do some serious assessment to see if your value has also gone up.

    Posted by hambydammit | March 1, 2010, 4:16 pm
  18. Even though reading about these harsh realities makes me cringe, I have to say it all makes perfect sense. Women should not make the mistake of taking their men for granted as they age. Of course, if a man loves his wife, and has no desire to replace her with a newer model, he should appreciate her as well.

    Posted by Susan Walsh | March 1, 2010, 6:47 pm
  19. Susan, I definitely agree with you that some men place their commitments above their own sex drives. (Did you read my piece on atheist men being more faithful? Food for thought…) The thing I want to get away from is idolizing love, integrity, and commitment, and counting on them passively. Sure, some women will luck into the men who really do view marriage and love as trump cards, but the odds of integrity sticking will go up sharply if women’s value goes up!

    Posted by hambydammit | March 1, 2010, 7:19 pm
  20. With regard to older, A-list men and their potential incentives to marry, I must say that I have had many discussions in a similar vein with some of my divorced friends. I, myself, have faced this dilemma for ten divorced years. I make plenty of money, I pay someone to do my household chores, I have no trouble taking care of my two daughters, aged 11 and 15, and I have no trouble finding young and attractive childless women to date. I exercise, stay fit, go on vacations to nice places, and climb mountains with my friends. So what possible reason would I have to take the huge risk of getting married again?

    The only possible reason would be finding a woman to whom I was greatly attracted, who shared many or most of my interests, and who was easy to get along with. Someone who created peace in my life instead of adding one iota to my stress. I could see going through the rest of my life with such a woman, despite her decreasing value in the usual physical sense.

    With regard to the value of a woman, I believe that women are born with a certain amount of “babe capital”. This refers to the physical attributes that attract men. Babe capital develops somewhere around the fifteenth year of a woman’s life and lasts for ten to thirty years, depending on genetics and on how well a woman takes care of herself. The problem is that many women, having experienced the incredible power of babe capital at its peak, somehow get the idea that it will or should last forever. When it wanes, they become distressed and angry: “Why do you men always look at those young, skinny sluts?”. And the greater a young woman’s natural genetic gifts, the greater the eventual sense of loss.

    Women should realize that their bc is limited, and should therefore spend their time and energy not in the pursuit of the next “hot guy”or in using men to get whatever they can, but in the development of a genuinely sweet character, a certain well-rounded intelligence, and a reasonable amount of financial success and stability. In this way, they will have a reasonable chance at developing a long-term relationship (if this is what she truly wants) with a man of quality, and if she retains her equanimity and peaceful character through the years, she need have little fear of eventual divorce and loneliness in her later years when all of her babe capital is forever gone, squandered in a few short though powerful years of selfish pleasure.

    Posted by Tom Lugus | March 5, 2010, 7:45 pm
  21. Agree with Tom. If anything happened to my wife and I where I ended up alone, I’m not sure I would seek remarriage.

    Though I suspect I’m a sucker for oxytocin, so….

    Posted by Athol Kay: Married Man Sex Life | March 7, 2010, 10:41 am
  22. Tom, thank you very much for that response! I can’t think of anything to disagree with. Women certainly have the mating advantage from the late teens to early thirties, and the advantage is huge. I remember in high school and college, finding a date to dances or other social events was a big, big deal for me. In the instances where my date cancelled on me, it was devastating. The possibility that I wouldn’t be able to find a date was very real. But when a guy cancelled on a girl, she usually had a new date within 24 hours.

    But the advantage goes strongly to men after 40. If anything, it’s reasonable compensation for all the months (or years!) of enforced celibacy we had to endure while all the girls were fighting over the top 10% of desirable guys.

    And you’re absolutely right, by the way… most successful guys I know are holding out for a girl who adds something to their lives, and the reality is that adding just sex is not adding enough in most cases.

    Posted by hambydammit | March 8, 2010, 4:34 pm
  23. @ Joy Nichols:

    Thanks for the fact-free rant. Now I realize why I find American women so…..interesting.

    Posted by mjay | March 17, 2010, 7:53 pm
  24. Just to point out, though, from the perspective of a middle aged divorced guy, an older woman who is fun, in shape and exciting, is, in some ways more attractive than a younger woman who may have another agenda (marriage).

    A 50 year old woman who travels, has fun and looks great can have a lot more energy and potential than a woman in her late 20s looking to get married and pregnant ASAP.

    And who knows what she may look like at 50, on top of that?

    Posted by mjay | March 17, 2010, 9:18 pm

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