Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Women in a bind?

According to Sally Bennett it is men who have all the power when it comes to dating:

The man drought has sent our mating rituals into orbit and given all the power to men.

It goes against the natural order of things. Men are supposed to hunt and pursue, not be lazy, badly behaved schmucks who can take it or leave it whenever they fancy.

And women are supposed to be alluring and hard to get in order to attract the best mate they can, not throwing themselves at any mate they can.

We're supposed to believe that there are so few men in Melbourne that hapless women are forced to accept whatever they can get:

At the moment men are blissfully coasting along in "I'm-so-hot-right-now" mode - picking, discarding and picking again with ruthless abandon. And women are quietly petrified, competing against each other for a scarce resource.

I don't buy it. There are heaps of single men in Melbourne. And if women were selecting and rewarding men for decent behaviour, then men would quickly adapt and behave decently.

I'd interpret Sally Bennett's article differently. The sexual revolution has meant that women haven't selected men for qualities needed for marriage or even for romantic relationships. If women are selecting men instead for sex, then they are free to select men who come across as bad, dangerous, cocky, needy, unpredictable and unsuitable.

So, what if you are by instinct a reliable good guy type? You might be lucky and marry early, thereby dropping out of the field of candidates. Or you might marry overseas. Or you might get demoralised and resign yourself to bachelorhood. Or you might adapt and begin to care less about how you treat women, thereby gaining an advantage of sorts.

So the field narrows to men who confidently play the game, who are no longer oriented to treating women in an old-fashioned respectful way, and who perhaps really do find themselves with the upper hand.

Sally Bennett is now tired of it. Perhaps she's reached an age where she wants a relationship and so is looking for other qualities in a man. Or perhaps the dynamic has gone so far that it's lost its appeal; maybe the remaining single men in Sally Bennett's social circle can afford to be so cavalier that women like Sally Bennett are now having second thoughts.

Her solution? A traditional one of playing harder to get. The problem is that if she alone plays harder to get, nothing will change. So she suggests that women play harder to get en masse:

Men, never forget that the bond between female friends runs thicker than blood. Once women have caught on to the fact they are being royally conned, you can expect a drought of your own...

So, single ladies, be brave and call their bluff ... Choose quality time with the girls over mediocre experiences with men and hold out until the level of decency has been restored to its former glory.

Interesting that the feminist sexual revolution should come to all this. Sally Bennett isn't feeling the empowerment it was supposed to bring her; in fact, she thinks empowerment might come in the opposite direction - in holding back a bit sexually.

The problem is you don't get women acting together in this way through a call to arms by a newspaper columnist. The sisterhood is not as cohesive as this.

There's a better solution, at least for young women. If women really don't want to end up in Sally Bennett's position they can be ready to partner a bit earlier in life. They can then catch the wave of men who are ready to settle down in their mid-20s.

This is the trend I've noticed amongst my own acquaintances. Whereas the over 30s women are still doing the sexual revolution thing and chasing bad/damaged/needy boys who don't ever quite commit, the under 25s are already married/engaged/partnered.

And these are highly educated, attractive women who have found some impressive men to settle down with.

I suspect that is how the sexual revolution ends. Not with older women attempting to reform Hugh Grant types by threatening to date amongst themselves rather than with men. But with younger women choosing something else while they can.


  1. The sexual revolution has meant that women haven't selected men for qualities needed for marriage or even for romantic relationships. If women are selecting men instead for sex, then they are free to select men who come across as bad, dangerous, cocky, needy, unpredictable and unsuitable.

    This is an absurd generalisation. There are very few women who select men purely for sex. There are in fact more men who select women this way.

  2. Anon, I agree that I've made the point in too shorthand a way.

    I'll rephrase. The sexual revolution encouraged women to select not for marriage or romantic relationships but for sex alone. Therefore women were freer to select men who came across as bad, dangerous etc.

    It's true, of course, that in any age people will select according to some combination of marriage or romantic love or sex. But what is dominant within a culture or sub-culture can change.

    And in the 1990s, at the height of third-wave feminism, there was such a change, at least amongst the uni educated. And it wasn't men who broke up the then dominant culture of romantic relationships but women.

    Anon, think about it. If a woman is selecting for marriage, then she'll be future oriented. She'll want a man who'll be a good father, who'll stick around, who'll be a good provider, who'll help her make handsome, intelligent kids and so on.

    Back in the 1990s, uni educated women in their 20s did not generally select in this future oriented way. They made it clear that marriage was, at best, something to be deferred until some vague time in their 30s. They were focused instead on a single girl lifestyle.

    So the emphasis was on casual relationships. These casual relationshps were generally not based on an ideal of romantic love. Far from wanting to arouse romantic love, the trend was for women to subvert it and to dress and act in ways likely to disappoint the male romantic instinct.

    Women selected much more for sex; it didn't matter if they shared much in common with the men they embarked on casual relationships or one night stands with, or if they were well matched in intelligence or social background. The relationships were only meant to be short term and grounded on immediate sex appeal.

    Men adapted to this and began to praise women less for their beauty or goodness and increasingly more for being hot. The culture became more sexualised.

    I think it's possible that we're on the cusp of another change, but it's a little early to tell.

  3. I've witnessed this phenomenon in the ex socialist countries of Eastern Europe. At first women dominate the sexual market but when men get wind of the change (and it takes some time) they reverse the tables quickly and its the women (out of exasperation) who end up looking for the traditional marriage.

    Problem is once the genie is out of the bottle its hard to get it back in.

  4. Such a difficult topic to think about. Its easier when things "just happen", provided everyone has reasonable manners.

    One solution suggested is that people marry in their early 20's. But then we get the "we married too early" phenomenon, 7 year itch and then divorce. In days gone by people would marry when stable careers began or when people were sufficiently personally stable. Now everybody's doing the chase everything thing, relationships get pushed out and when embarked on seem stultifying and laced with threat. Why? Because relationships are expected to perform such a colossal role. A partner in a relationship is supposed to be a personal role model, an outstanding example of the opposite sex, (probably) highly successful or competent in their jobs and general skills, knowledgeable in life, a personal confidant, supportive and patient, with compatible personalities and expectations of life, great chemistry, good in bed, fix everything that's wrong with you, be not too in love because that's a bore, also hot. On and on and on. If this isn't fulfilled we get the shits with our partner and then the fights starts. Which is reasonable because relationships are a tug of war and the other party is letting us down, stopping us looking elsewhere, being too demanding etc.

    We're also expected to do and be all this whilst at the same time undermining our traditional supportive structures and being less restrained in our behaviour. Yes structures can limit but they're also necessary to build solid and stable characters, which give the backing to work on all that stuff on the list.

    Assuming you can still achieve the awesome standard and you're everything and more, you're still the ‘same’ everything and isn't variety wonderful.

    It seems relationships happen not when we're satisfied with our partner but when we can't be bothered looking anymore. Too jaundiced?

    Why, why, why? Because relationships are supposed to be SO much now. The Alpha and Omega of everything. You put relationships up to such a high standard and combine that with an attitude of "shopping" for a partner, easy come easy go, and then its no wonder that people aren't settling.

    If people don't settle its the women who’ll lose more because they do have that biological urgency to have a child in their 30‘s and its very strong I'm told.

    What is offered here by Sally Bennet is the same old "get men" attitude. Stop playing hard to get men and chase down more women, commit when they want, act how they want, be simultaneously strong and weak, turn yourself into whatever is convenient at the moment for them and then back into something else when that's convenient. Also make it look effortless and be a tower of strength. Oh and better yet do it all without the woman having to ask. And if you don't? Then you're a baddy and oppressing women. Being non committal is now oppression.

    Is this just sour grapes? Will someone say that this is what has been expected of women all along?

    Where is this great emotional maturity of women? We hear that a lot, women mature faster than men. How is it mature to want/demand everything and then call it exploitation if you don't get it?

    God I sound terrible. This is a shit society we live in. Even with all its modern advantages and promise. This time it’s the tyranny of having things “too good”.

    Women will not be happy with men until they’re willing to compromise, and not just when the baby button is going nuts within them. Until that happens everything is just an "arms race". Who can play harder to get, who can get more sustenance from their same gender peers, who can outlast or outscrew the other. No YOU change (with gun pointed).

    Probably we don't as sexes have to live together for financial reasons as much as we did in the past, however, I do think we'll be a useless and defeated people unless we do.

    Sorry for that I'll do something to cheer up.

  5. So she suggests that women play harder to get en masse:

    Ahhh, enlisting the help of the mythical sisterhood once the chips are down. So she asks other women, presumably more attractive as mates than her, to give up the male companionship that most women so enjoy so that collectively women can, allegedly benefit.

    I will go out on a limb and suggest that in her own younger, more attractive years she would have never made such a sacrifice for older, less desirable women. Autonomy theory allows for young women to pursue their own desires at the expense of their older sister.

  6. Lonely people are empty people. This generation of women was seduced into a forming comparative rather than authentic self identity's.

    Just another manifestation of relativism, character formation based on counterfeit values. It only had the appearance of value, in the end sexuality was practically worthless as measure of worth - male or female.

    Like anything phoney, it only results in dissapointment and bitterness.

  7. Jesse wrote:

    In days gone by people would marry when stable careers began or when people were sufficiently personally stable.

    That was the ideal in the early 80s when I was hitting maturity. There was an assumption that uni was your "relax and live a bit" period, but that soon afterwards you'd get a job and then start looking to marry.

    Jesse, timing is a tricky issue. You're right that when people marry really young (say late teens) they haven't yet finished maturing and forming their adult character which can then make marriage less stable. But marrying too late comes with a range of problems as well.

    It's best if people can manage to mature and be ready for adult life by their mid-20s.

    Women will not be happy with men until they’re willing to compromise, and not just when the baby button is going nuts within them. Until that happens everything is just an "arms race".

    I'm sorry to hear that things are still a bit mercenary out there.

    In my experience, once women really decide they need to get married some of the more destructive game playing stops and women present a much softer and warmer side of themselves to you.

    Yes, it's not good if this has to wait until women hit a point in their 30s and start to worry about babies. By then, as you've described so well Jesse, there's already been generated some ill-feeling between the sexes.

  8. Living in Melbourne in the 90s, my experience of the dating scene (as a late teen and 20-something) was that women did want marriage, not just sex, but they were repulsed by the trappings of conventional marriage. And this continues even today. The women I see marrying fairly young (mid-20s) want the romance and status of marriage - of having got their man - but the freedom of being single. Freedom seems to be the crux here. Their husbands are fairly keen to settle down, have children, and live a more sedate lifestyle. The women, however, want to put off children until they're established in their careers (though God knows when that is), see the world ("while they can"), and live a party girl lifestyle. They've swallowed the feminist rhetoric about being shackled by children, etc., and are terrified of what will happen if they stay at home and hand over the financial earning power to someone else and relinquish life in the public sphere. Sadly, while there are so few women staying at home and therefore an awful dearth of community, supportive friendships, and practical help with the very considerable task of raising children well, it will be difficult to convince women that staying at home as a wife and mother is sensible choice.

    The other thing I've noticed (which concurs with other comments here, especially Jesse's), is that women have a ridiculously inflated notion of what to expect in a man and both sexes have elevated the relationship to a godlike status. I constantly meet decent, single men whom I would consider good potential husbands (if I weren't already married) but when I point this out to my single languishing friends they always find something to rule them out, usually to do with physical appearance (even though none of these men are ugly and many of these women need to lose weight and/or improve their dress and make-up) or their lack of a decent job (which I am convinced is due to feminism). Perhaps Hollywood is to blame, but I am ashamed that my fellow women have become so shallow and lacking in self-criticism!

    That said, both sexes have fallen victim to the modern proclivity for self-worship. Introspection, humility, and respect for others have been replaced by Twitter/Facebook feeds, arrogance,and a belligerent refusal to accept criticism or personal responsibility. Conscience has all but disappeared, replaced by politically-correct bandwagons such as climate change.

    I wish I had something more positive to say, but I haven't on this topic so I'll just go have a cup of tea....

  9. The article is based out of Melbourne so I can’t speak for there but a “man drought” would have my inner city male friends in Sydney howling with laughter. We have a saying here “you’re more likely to be struck by a satellite than meet a single women in Newtown” there simply are not any.

    Ok it is inner city and I suppose we are well middle aged pushing up toward 50, but we have all been here a long time and no offers came our way in our 30’s & 40’s . Between our lose group of say 20 we might claim 5 children between the lot of us and none of us are homosexual.

    It’s not as boast I say by most standards all I grew up with are pretty successful, we all earn over 100K or close to and in most case own a terrace or flat.

    “then they are free to select men who come across as bad, dangerous, cocky, needy, unpredictable and unsuitable.”

    They certainly can and certainly do and my close friend owning both his own home and 2 flats watched as his female possibility hooked up with a housing commission tenant on a methadone program.

    The above is completely factual but even very reasonable women (all married with no single female of course) when I tell then the above, believe with all sincerity that I am exaggerating.

  10. This is simply the natural consequence of hypergamy. The problem for these women is not a "man drought", but rather a large pool of women seeking to obtain attention & commitment from a small pool of high-value/alpha men and ignoring all the other men who don't make the cut (and who at that point may as well not exist as far as the women are concerned...hence, their inability to see them all around).

  11. GW, I agree that hypergamy is important in understanding what happens.

    But it doesn't entirely explain female choices. If women were simply snubbing men who had less social standing or wealth and holding out for a doctor or lawyer, then hypergamy would explain all (and there certainly are some desirable women who fit this category).

    This would make things easy for men to understand.

    But it's more complicated. Women seem to go for wealth, status, intelligence, looks, confidence and so on when they are oriented to marriage.

    But what about when they have put marriage out of their heads, at least for the present?

    They then seem to often go for other things: either crude displays of testosterone, or excitement and unpredictability, or danger, or neediness and so on.

    So the man who has tried to develop masculine character, has a good job and good social standing can still end up watching women going for other men, not as blessed with looks, money, intelligence, social standing, emotional strength and so on.

  12. Meerkat, what you relate about your group of friends doesn't surprise me, but I can't help but think there's a certain amount of loss involved.

    My own brother has never married. A pity as he has always had an excellent job, was a good looking man in his 20s and 30s, is good with kids, and has a good sense of humour. He had a lot to offer, but nothing came of it.

    I suppose he's one of the good family men that women in their mid-30s are now trying to find. But he gave up some years ago. He's not there to be found anymore. The whole process ought to have happened much earlier.

  13. "partnered" means next to nothing however, as the relationships collapse after a couple of years anyway.

  14. "My own brother has never married. A pity as he has always had an excellent job, was a good looking man in his 20s and 30s, is good with kids, and has a good sense of humour. He had a lot to offer, but nothing came of it."

    There's certainly a few men around like this. I'm guessing the kind of reasons why some women are ignoring them could include:

    -They have a bit of a Garry Cooper personality and aren't particularly expressive or extroverted - ok in the 1940s, but today's liberal women seem to love the cuddly entertainer type who can communicate emotionally.

    -they're a bit 'stiff', serious or intellectual in a hard-headed rational sort of way that only an Eastern European or Asian woman might tolerate - in today's world testosterone should be seen and not heard.

    -they're right wing - libertarianism is ok as most women haven't a clue about economics, but being a social conservative is a big no no, as is being even slightly critical of animal rights.

  15. Mark, I recall reading a some form of study or survey a few years back finding that women no longer found doctors/lawyers/professionals as attractive anymore and instead preferred tradies - presumably this could be seen as an expression of hypergamy and the alpha male syndrome.

    On your last point, Mike - except if you're Silvio Berlusconi perhaps.