What’s with the sexes these days?
Questions about sex and the sexes are never really answerable, but people do notice things, and some of them seem illuminating, so an occasional comment is in order.
Everybody seems to agree there are problems today. Men and women have always complained about each other, but there seems to be less lightheartedness and more bitterness now. Also, they don’t seem to be forming durable connections. Charles Murray says that the situation is not so bad and has actually gotten somewhat better for the top 20%, but it’s remarkably bad and getting worse for people who don’t happen to be prudent and highly motivated careerist self-starters, and that will always include the great majority.
Somewhat conservative women who accept feminism and get published in mass market outlets say it’s a problem with men. Women are doing exactly what they should and getting on just great, but men are messing up and have to shape up. That’s why Kay Hymowitz wrote a book called Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys. She later conceded there may be a bit of an issue today with feminine willfulness and narcissism, but for some reason she’s convinced the issue only affects a very narrow range of situations like who picks up the tab at dinner.
For her part, Maggie Gallagher circulated an email last winter about saving marriage in which she said that the big problem was “How do we create young men who women want to marry and who want to marry women? … Young males need a civilized vision of masculinity if they are to shape their sexuality in ways that turn them into husband material–men who are good for women, and whom women want to marry.”
So her view is that men have to be remodeled to suit women. I sent her a response, which she didn’t reply to. Here is it, slightly edited to remove irrelevancies:
I very much approve of what you’re doing … but … how many marriageable women are there? Girls respond to social cues and do what they’re expected to do, and they’re mostly cautious in daily life, so today they go to school, study, graduate, get jobs, etc. That’s no doubt better than the opposite, but I’m not sure it makes them wife material. I hear lots of complaints from men and (at the anecdotal level) have noticed some problems myself.
So far as I can tell, the problems, from the man’s point of view, mostly have to do with narcissism and erratic behavior. My theory, for what it’s worth, is that women mostly understand things relationally, and if they’re in a setting in which the standards for relationships aren’t settled and functional, they can go haywire. They become radically narcissistic–everything has to be thus and so for me, with the thus and so always changing. Or they become insecure and depressed, since nothing can be relied on, which means endless problems for any man with whom they have a connection. Or they latch on to a sociopath, since that puts them in a definite and often rather dramatic setting, and something is better than nothing.
What they don’t do is form settled relations of trust, cooperation, and love with what bitter young men refer to (thinking of themselves) as “beta males”–nice, hardworking, provider-type guys who mostly just want life to make sense and function in a normal reliable way. The situation is made worse, it is said, by female hypergamy combined with general sexual looseness–women spend their twenties and early thirties trying to snare Mr. Big, and then after numerous affairs settle for Joe Beta. That situation is not much to work toward from the latter’s point of view, and it doesn’t do much to make Mr. Big good husband material either.
Such are the complaints, and it seems to me there’s probably enough substance to them that they should be taken into account. The basic point is that young men also have a point of view. They can’t be treated simply as a problem, and we won’t be able to restore masculinity without restoring femininity.
All the best,
[What provoked this post are discussions I’ve been involved in regarding the sexes and why there seem to be such problems just now. I’ll be putting together a couple more posts summarizing the results of those discussions, for my own use and the use of anyone else interested in the issue.]