Cheap Sexism and Intellectual Dishonesty about Marriage

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Yves here. Even though I took a swipe at the article that Black lambastes below, its author, right wing culture warrior Mark Regnerus, needs to be ridiculed every time his work appears.

By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One, an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and co-founder of Bank Whistleblowers United. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives

This is the second column in my series about win-win strategies to strengthen the family and countering the conservative culture warriors who use the family as a means to oppose win-win solutions that bring people together.  Mark Regnerus is one of the most notorious of these hard right culture warriors.  He is the disgraced pseudo-scholar who right-wing groups funded to try to gin up evidence that same sex marriage harmed children.  His efforts collapsed in an embarrassing spectacle that made clear that his dogmas rule his work.

Regnerus is back in the Wall Street Journal flogging his new book in an op ed entitled “Cheap Sex and the Decline of Marriage.”  He introduces his thesis with the claim that because unmarried heterosexual women are willing to have sex, tens of millions of men are no longer willing to marry.  If unmarried heterosexual women wish to improve their chances of getting married, they need to be virgins – and convince their sisters to remain virgins until marriage (at an average age of around 28 for college-educated women).

In Regnerus’ mythology, unmarried heterosexual men are not supposed to be the problem.  Regnerus’ view is that “boys will be boys.”  I begin with Regnerus’ discussion of economics.

Many economists and sociologists argue that this flight from marriage is about men’s low wages. If they were higher, the argument goes, young men would have the confidence to marry. But recent research doesn’t support this view. A May 2017 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, focusing on regions enriched by the fracking boom, found that increased wages in those places did nothing to boost marriage rates.

In my first column in this series I demonstrated that there is strong, broad economic support for the finding that increased financial stability is strongly associated with increasing working class men’s marriage prospects.

Regnerus’ claim that fracking boom marriage rates prove that “research” does not support the importance of male working class jobs to their marriage prospects is nonsensical.  First, economists and sociologists do not believe that the important factor is whether “young men” “have the confidence to marry.”  The key factor is whether unmarried heterosexual women view working class men as having reliable income and work and family habits that lead them to view the men as potentially marriageable.

A fracking boom is exceptionally unlikely to produce a near term marriage boom.  The regional fracking booms brought unexpected wealth to regions that were suffering from the Great Recession and were often relatively poor rural counties that had been suffering population out migration.  Women are more likely to lead that migration from rural counties, particularly women who are better educated and more likely to marry.  Fracking jobs are overwhelmingly male.  No one thinks this combination will lead to a marriage boom coincident with the fracking boom.  It is more likely to encourage first an influx of prostitutes.  The fracking boom, in many locations, also proved ephemeral when oil and gas prices fell sharply.  If fracking produces reliable, stable jobs that persist for many years it will produce increased marriage, just as mining towns eventually transformed from male enclaves to towns that attracted women.

The fracking study proves nothing about the importance of heterosexual working class males having steady jobs to make women view them as potentially marriageable.  Regnerus writes as if heterosexual unmarried men are the key decision makers about marriage, saying that they are deciding to delay the age at which they marry, but failing to mention why.  Increasingly, Americans marry after they get college and post-graduate degrees and secure stable employment.  College graduates are far more likely to have marriages that do not end in divorce.  Americans who marry at age 30 produce a much lower divorce rate than those with similar education that marry young.

Regnerus then bemoans the consequences of effective birth control that unmarried women can unilaterally use and the fact that effective contraception increased women’s education and paid jobs, which “reduced their dependence on men.”

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.

Regnerus’ lament that birth control and reduced discrimination against women “boosted their educational and economic fortunes” “but” “reduced their economic dependence on men.”  Consider why he used “but” rather than “and” in that sentence.  All three of the changes he described are highly desirable, so he should have used “and.”  He used “but” because he views the decline in female dependence on male income as undesirable.

Regnerus cites another devilish influence, overwhelmingly on males.  Regnerus does not understand that this influence undermines his thesis about women and “cheap sex.”

Online porn has made sexual experience more widely and easily available too. A laptop never says no, and for many men, virtual women are now genuine competition for real partners. In the same survey, 46% of men (and 16% of women) under 40 reported watching pornography at some point in the past week—and 27% in the past day.

Under Regnerus’ logic, this primarily male obsession with masturbating to porn (Regnerus’ euphemism for masturbation is “sexual experience”) makes his hope that women will adopt a strategy of maintaining virginity into their late 20s and early-to-mid-30s even more dubious because ‘porny’ males prefer their laptop to real women.  Worse, Regnerus believes that males do so because the laptop “never says no.”  More precisely, porn makes male sexual dominance and female submission a ‘sure thing’ that leads to the guaranteed fulfillment of each heterosexual male’s particular sex fantasies.

One might think that Regnerus’ take on porn would cause him to stress the need to reforming male pathologies, but the right celebrates the paramount male pathology of male dominance and fetishized female submission.  Regnerus’ euphemism for male dominance is men’s “mercenary attitude toward relationships.”  Regnerus’ op ed ends without even a whimper of a plea to deal with the paramount male pathology.  It turns out that the problem that Regnerus has identified lies overwhelmingly with males, not women.  Moreover, the problem is not with women’s supposed willingness to say ‘yes’ to “cheap sex,” but with males’ addiction to the sexual dominance of the fictional submissive woman of porn who “never says no” to their particular sexual fantasies.

The porn problem according to Regnerus is not that women say “yes” to men’s sexual desires, but that they say “no” to their sexual fantasies and to sex.  This contradicts Regnerus’ thesis that marriage is in trouble because women are too willing to say “yes.”

Regnerus, to his horror, has embraced Catherine MacKinnon’s most famous feminist views of male dominance, fetishized female submission, and porn.  Regnerus champions traditional sex roles, so his dogmas trap him.  He cannot offer any solution to his own (false) statement of the problem because any solution would have to embrace the feminism that he despises and fears.  He can offer no way out of his dystopia of dominance by males that even he labels “mercenary.”  His op ed does not even try to offer solutions.

Regnerus is the mercenary’s mercenary.  He makes women the villains in a phony culture war in which his ‘evidence’ shows that men should be his villain.  It would be vastly more productive to end the culture war, stop demonizing men or women as villains, and employ win-win solutions such as the job guarantee to strengthen marriage.  People of goodwill anywhere on the political spectrum from progressive to conservative should support the job guarantee program and a policy of maintaining full employment.

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  1. vlade

    The first point is like saying “hey, Gold rush in the Cal/Alaska/wherever didn’t produce lots of marriages so…”
    I’m not even going to comment on the second point.

  2. Livius Drusus

    The need for stable employment is not discussed enough, in my opinion. This is contrary to all of the hoopla over the wonders of the gig economy and being an entrepreneur. Most people are not capable of making a stable career out of either gigs or their own businesses. That is why we desperately need an expansion of public employment and why the elites demonize public sector workers. It is a source of stable employment for working-class people and especially for working-class men. My father and his friends all benefited greatly from having stable, working-class municipal jobs and were able to live a decent middle-class existence without having advanced degrees. We should encourage more of this kind of employment today.

    1. False Solace

      You can have high rates of marriage and stable employment, or high rates of marriage and a solid safety net, but you can’t have high rates of marriage with no stable employment and no safety net.

      1. yamahog

        Caveat about the safety net – America’s safety net probably reduces the marriage rate. A lot of welfare prioritizes single mothers, marriage would jeopardize their benefits.

        1. Pregnacio

          This is easily one of the weirdest things I’ve ever read about welfare. WIC is offered to pregnant/breastfeeding women without being offered to men whose partners may be expecting (though of course the partner may apply herself); that’s literally the only thing I can think of to explain your excitingly strange comment. For the record, WIC covers children regardless of whether they are cared for by a mother, a father, one of each, or two of either. I work in the field and would be delighted to learn about what these benefits are that benefit single mothers exclusively, and not single parents. Fill me in!

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              What sort of non-sequitur is this? The original claim was that safety nets discourage marriage, which is ludicrous. Just start with unemployment insurance, disability insurance, and food stamps.

              And then Pregnacio pre-rebutted a potentially narrower claim re welfare by writing: ” For the record, WIC covers children regardless of whether they are cared for by a mother, a father, one of each, or two of either.”

              So given that WIC covers parent, and not just a parents, your comment reflects not having read what Pregnacio said or deliberate bad faith argumentation.

  3. Ebr

    Thank you for the book review, a good hate read can be its own delight (see almost any David Brooks column for example) If the commentariat was going to fix Regnerus’ book, what should we talk about?

    1. Replace all the pearl-clutching about porn with some talk about the virtues & vices of using a screen to mediate or substitute for genuine human interaction. Yeah, we can & should beat up on Facebook for how it abuses our data & attention, but however could I in good conscience say that we should abandon screens when I read & type this comment on a screen. Maybe we should really talk about the difference between a healthy comment section and a bad one.

    2. Yeah, the sexual revolution freed both men & women from traditional gender roles, but somehow men ended up a little more free. Despite that freedom, why are there so many ‘Success Daughters’ & ‘Fail Sons’? Maybe I see some selection bias but how many families do you know where the daughters are going off to university and accomplishing actual stuff, while the sons sally forth to community college from their parents basements and then back again. Maybe a jobs guarantee would fix that, but something I don’t altogether understand is happening in the soul’s basement. If anyone does know, please tell me.

    1. Livius Drusus

      I don’t really buy into the “success daughters and fail sons” narrative. Dean Baker has written about the negatives of focusing solely on the problems men are having while pointing out that both men and women suffer from bad economic policy.

      The media tends to overly promote culture war narratives to avoid discussing economic policy. So the problem is either men being lazy Peter Pans who would rather play video games than get a decent job or women being too promiscuous or whatever. The reality is that the economy is just not working very well for the bottom 80 percent of the population and this is at least partially to blame for people not wanting to commit to marriage and family life.

      That being said there probably are some cultural issues at play such as the rise of individualism, the decline of religiosity and the simple fact that many people don’t see any point in marriage either because they grew up in broken, divorced households or because of other factors like simply preferring to be single. I know a few successful people who could probably find a marriage partner with relative ease but they just have no desire to do so.

      I do agree with your point about screens and mediated relationships.There is some evidence that friendships are also in decline and we know from the work of people like Robert Putnam that American civic life has collapsed and likely started doing so before the advent of neoliberalism. I believe that Putnam put much of the blame on television. So again there are certainly some non-economic factors at play too.

      1. jrs

        The economy not working is an issue with broad implications for everyone. What kind of economy do we want? Trying to saddle this with a bunch of cultural baggage on how people choose to live their romantic lives, just seems not to add anything of value. We don’t need to improve the economy for the sake of traditional ideas of marriage, people can marry if they want to and not if they don’t, but we need to improve the economic situation because of the suffering it directly causes vast swaths of the population.

    2. a different chris

      Is Regernus actually married? The article would make more sense if it was “Cheap Marriage and the (resultant) Decline of Sex”. :)

      Anyway, seems the underlying unquestioned theme is marriage is good. Maybe it is, but I sure wouldn’t take that as a given. Mother Nature has a whole range of apparently workable relationships, from hit-and-run, to monogamy, to the female biting the male’s head off post coitus. I do worry about #3 catching on….

      >while the sons sally forth to community college from their parents basements

      I don’t know if that’s true or not, my same unfounded-on-data feeling is to say males have a much wider range of outcomes than females given what we currently define as success. No glass ceiling, but the curve isn’t Gaussian either. Lots more guys at the top than should be (real sexism), and a lot more guys at the bottom than there also should be. Possibly the ones paying the price for that sexism – women don’t get a fair shot, men get thrown into a combat they may not really want.

      So you don’t fit a male definition of success, which is basically along a single line marked $$$, the world ranks you lowly and whamo – Oxycontin and drink. Hey, on the bright side, maybe I’m wrong – Rush Limbaugh sure is insecure and he’s pretty far along the money line. With that happy thought I need to get to work.

    3. The Insider

      Yeah, the sexual revolution freed both men & women from traditional gender roles, but somehow men ended up a little more free.

      That’s because biology puts the bulk of the negative consequences on women. You can try to correct for that through social expectations, but the more you try to correct for it, the closer you’re going to get to the kinds of roles and rules that the sexual revolutionaries hated and were trying to get away from.

      See: the proliferation of rules on campus related to sexual activity. They are ostensibly put in place to make everyone safer, but in practice, they are there to protect women from the negative consequences of sexual activity; but they clearly add a layer of rules and expectations to behavior that were not there even just a couple of decades ago.

      Maybe I see some selection bias but how many families do you know where the daughters are going off to university and accomplishing actual stuff, while the sons sally forth to community college from their parents basements and then back again.

      I think there are some issues regarding expectations there, where young women are more strongly encouraged to advance in education than men are. But I think the more significant issue is that modern recreation has been heavily marketed toward men, from sports to video games to action movies to (obviously) pornography. Young men in our society are barraged with opportunities for diversions that are fine-tuned to their interests, and aren’t being sufficiently prepared to resist those temptations.

      1. jsn

        Excellent point, NeoLiberalism has completely legitimized almost every form of economic predation while at the same time attacking all the institutions that once contained it, from defunding primary public education, ending the Fairness Doctrine and trashing liberal arts higher education at public universities to financial de-regulation/de-criminalization and the elimination of human “credit officers” (though the latter were a mixed bag of institutional prejudices, they did “look after the boys”).

        Part of what sets the coastal elites apart is that they continue to send their kids to Liberal Arts colleges and the private primary schools do continue to prepare kids for the predations of the market. Almost all such protections have been stripped from the public sphere where for profit education appears to be nothing but an money extraction machine to saddle the ignorant with permanent debt. The bad faith in so called “conservative” rhetoric is at this point beyond sociopathic and starting to drive a real mortality spike.

  4. The Rev Kev

    Personally, I’m not sure that a job guarantee program and a policy of maintaining full employment would really work anymore. Between the importation of foreign labour (especially illegal labour) and outsourcing to places like India, this is not a possible outcome. You would have to prioritize Main Street over Wall Street but I can’t see that happening anytime soon. When I was reading what this Regnerus had to say, I started having flashbacks to the same sort of stuff I heard back in the 60s. I doubt that sticky keyboards are the main source of the problem here and a lot of what he had to say seemed to be taken from some sort of agenda rather than an assessment of the facts. Probably best to ignore him.
    I’m gunna get myself into trouble here and suggest that a lot of the problems mentioned come down to modern feminism, or third-wave feminism as it is called. I will ask you to bear with me here. It has bred a male-female conflict that was never necessary and you can see examples of this conflict coming out of Hollywood (“Wonder Woman”, “Battle of the Sexes”, etc) or even average TV commercials. It has not escaped my notice that because of this, the cause of job wages, job guarantees, and full employment has been seriously weakened. When I was growing up in the 70s, I would never have imagined that here we are going towards the third decade of the 21st century and we still do not have equal pay and conditions for women. In retrospect, this is unbelievable.
    The people that should have fought for this should have been the feminists but instead they seem to have gotten themselves concerned more about equality for elite women with the understanding that equality would eventually trickle down to all women – someday. My contention is that if feminists had concentrated of equal pay and conditions for ALL women, with the support of most men this would have been accomplished. That would have cleared the field for men and women to go after things like full employment and the like as they both had common cause now. Better employment conditions would have led to more marriages and eliminated a lot of the problems mentioned in this article. Instead we have a male versus female culture which has not benefited either. All the problems mentioned in this article are not structural ones but are symptomatic responses to current society but you have to trace them back to see how we got here.

    1. Livius Drusus

      Good points. I remember during the 2016 election issues like higher wages, fixing the trade deficit, trying to bring more manufacturing jobs back to the United States, basically all traditional New Deal liberal policies were somehow categorized as “white male” issues and therefore unworthy of consideration unless you were an evil Bernie Bro. The Democrats continue to promote the idea of everyone becoming a college-educated professional as the answer to all economic ills.

      But the fundamental problem with this narrative is that: A) working-class women would also benefit from progressive economics in a direct way (higher wages, more jobs, etc) and B) I think it is wrong to assume that all women want to be professional career women.

      I grew up in a working-class family and most of the women worked but only worked in part-time jobs. They didn’t need or want full-time employment because my father and uncles mostly had good union jobs that were stable, paid well and had good benefits.

      It is a mistake to assume that all of the women who started entering the work force 40 or so years ago did so because they wanted to pursue careers. Many of them did so out of necessity because of the decline of male wages which forced more families to become dual-income households. I am certainly not arguing for keeping women out of the workforce and in the kitchen but I think affluent feminists fail to realize that they don’t speak for all women and that some people want to live a different lifestyle but find themselves prevented from doing so by bad economic policy.

      1. Heather

        Yes, agree with both of you. I think it’s one reason so many women voted against Hillary Clinton. I for one saw her as a professional, elite woman, totally out of touch with even middle class women, not to mention working class women. We were supposed to have affordable child care by now, but with the feminist movement taken over by elite women, who could afford nannies, or other forms of childcare, that demand fell by the wayside. And yes, not all women want to be professionals, or even want to go out to work, but I don’t see “Yes on $15” being an issue with elite, professional women. The movement was hijacked. And the ascendancy of identity politics really doesn’t help, IMHO. It further divides us. I would like to see more solidarity and less division, and that includes between men and women. But I’m an old 63 yr. old woman, I guess I ask too much.

        1. Arizona Slim

          Agreed. I’ve known plenty of female coworkers who would have been much better off if they had been able to stay home with the kids. On the male side of the equation, I’ve worked with quite a few guys who would have been wonderful stay-at-home dads.

          As for me, I’ve always worked. Not because I’m in love with it, but because I need the money.

        2. Livius Drusus

          Yeah I am so tired of the gender wars. I usually try to avoid articles that bring up these sort of issues but I couldn’t help myself today. We really do need more solidarity between people. Men and women are not completely the same but basically we have the same economic interests. Men and women need good jobs, universal, affordable health care and generous family leave and childcare programs to help families.

          This is truly disgusting.

          “…the U.S. is the only country among 41 nations that does not mandate any paid leave for new parents, according to data compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).”

        3. jrs

          the problem is it actually is hard to get women who don’t have to be primary breadwinners to get say the virtues of unionization and a workers movement and anything and everything that empowers workers (extending paid overtime, paid sick time, etc.) on a gut level. To get opposition to the brutalities of capitalism on a gut level.

          Because this arises in it’s most basic form out of having to sell labor to live, and selling it on the capitalist’s terms, and understanding what it means. So I’m not sure the stay at home mothers are actually going to be radicalized (and often they are probably quite conservative politically), in the way a working woman can be.

          1. Heather

            Agreed, jrs. And non working women are sometimes the most vociferous against low cost childcare. Don’t know what the answer is. It seems to be really difficult for Americans to feel solidarity with anyone.

    2. funemployed

      Sorry to quibble about a detail, but I think the feminism you describe is closer to the second wave variety. Third wave feminism (which encompasses an entirely too diverse set of views to summarize as any one thing) is often quite concerned with the problems you describe, particularly the way that second-wave feminism was dominated by the concerns of elite white women.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I beg to differ.

        I have been accused negatively by third and fourth wave feminists as being second wave. I graduated from college in 1979. See comment almost immediately below.

        I would describe, in keeping with the sentiment of the 1960s, which was still dominated political thinking in the 1970s (as you know, we didn’t see the big sea change until the Reagan era) that the focus was on getting equal rights and equal treatment for women in the workplace. This was the era of the failed Equal Rights Amendment. There was also a less overt belief that gender roles should be de-emphasized. Some held up Sweden as a model, not for its supposedly more liberal (= looser) sexual mores, but because it was much more accepting of men being house-husbands and playing big roles in child rearing. Amusingly, I’ve seen studies that show that men in Sweden do do close to half of the housekeeping tasks, and they appear to get laid more as a result (the study suggested causality….)

        What I saw in the 1980s was increasing confusion among young women. In my day, very few women wore makeup or dressed up to go to classes. In the supposedly more prosperous 1980s, I saw a much higher proportion of women bothering to dress up to go to classes. That went hand in hand with much more emphasis on traditional gender norms.

        One pet peeve is how women dress at work. In my day, women in professional jobs wore suits, which downplayed their bodies. You could show off your legs but that was about it and even then they had to be in hose. Most secretaries wore attractive but not tarty clothing.

        Admittedly, this is due also to the influence of Tom Ford on what passes for fashion in the 1990s (basically, clothes designed for first wives with hot bodies; the rise of pre-nups meant it was easier for men to dump older wives, who had been the foundation of high fashion, which was big on artfully tailored clothing to make older women look fetching without uncovering too much real estate) means it’s now normal for women to wear provocative clothes all the time. I see what my nieces wore in their early teens, and it was perfectly normal for girls their age, and wonder why there isn’t more rape of underage girls.

        So to get to my beef: women often wear very form fitting clothes at work and/or show a lot of skin. They make it very easy for men to undress them in their minds with what they wear. And then they get upset when men make mild approving remarks, like “Nice dress” or “You look good today”? Yes those remarks are (or should be) anachronistic, but when you wear clothes that are more suitable for dating than work to work, what do you expect?

        1. flora

          aside: on sexism :

          “The [45 foot tall naked woman] sculpture was created by artist Marco Cochrane as part of The Bliss Project. He said the sculpture was meant to combat a culture that increasingly dehumanizes women and sexualizes the female form.”

          Sure. Nothing combats sexualizing the female form like a statue of a naked woman – facing the Washington Monument. riight… I think artist Marco is laughing up his sleeve.

        2. adrena

          Re: women’s clothing – that’s my beef as well. However, I do not blame the women but the fashion industry and our culture that exert enormous pressure on young women to dress and look sexy at all times.

          I see it at the gym where the leggings worn by women now have strategic cutouts to show more skin. This is a recent development.

          The way men and women dress in our culture is extremely polarized.

          Personally, I wish men would dress more sexy – very little eye candy is offered to women.

          There is a precedent for this in the ancient Minoan culture.

          “Minoan Men’s Dress BC) Minoan men wore a loin cloth, a tight girdle and boots of ornamented leather. Their hats were often twisted fabric into a turban shape or a flat cap with decoration around the brim. Men wore their hair long.”

          Fortunately, I live in Europe during the summer months where I can enjoy looking at far better and sexier dressed men.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            I’m not as bothered by tarty clothes at the gym (one of the early gyms in NYC, the Vertical Club, was often called the Horizontal Club because it was seen as a pickup joint) but I get your point: people often wear workout wear on the street (at least in NYC, and not just en route to the gym, but also while running errands), so it normalizes that attire. And I was specifically thinking of leggings re my nieces. They had and continue to have good bodies and leggings with short tops puts their bums and crotches on display. Help me. This is asking for the wrong type of interest.

            I agree it would be more symmetrical if men were expected to show off too. It’s not a dramatic as Minoan attire, but there was a period of time when aristocratic men wore pants that chinched below the knee, and hose on the lower legs. People would remark on their legs. But we do see more pressure on young men to have good bodies, and now some men suffering from bulimia, when eating disorders used to be a female-only staple.

            Societally, we have body models held up that are totally unrealistic. As one fashionista friend said, we have so much fake no one knows what real is any more. Magazines, movies and TV are full of women with boob jobs. Some have also had liposuction. Many if not most photos on magazine covers are airbrushed.

            And those men on the covers of Men’s Health? It’s artificial but in a different way. They are in the same shape as bodybuilders at contest time. That takes months of bulking up, even for ones who weight train regularly, and then six weeks or so of “dieting down” as in eating in a very restrictive manner to lose as much fat as possible while preserving muscle to look that cut. Before contest they take diuretics. One piece of pizza after contest and that look is over. Not making that up.

            A similar beef by a woman friend who is a film buff is that full frontal nudity for women is common in movies but pretty much never happens with men, except in films by Almodovar.

        3. funemployed

          This make sense to me. I suppose I tend to gravitate toward marxist feminists of color like bell hooks, who tend to be more concerned with systemic and material injustices, so I don’t really have a broad-based understanding, which makes me pretty unqualified to make sweeping statements like my comment above.

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      I don’t want spill a lot of pixels on it, but I have gotten into long-drawn out fights with third/fourth wave feminists attacking a political ally because they thought he made a listserv “unsafe” for women. The row went on for days. The man in question was very frontal with everyone, a classic “suffer no fools” type but was right when he’d shred people for being sloppy or sentimental. And there was no evidence whatsoever that he went after women more than men. The women didn’t like being held to that standard of political debate. Help me.

      What I discovered from this drawn out fight was that these women were lousy at argumentation. I’d keep hitting their balls back over the net and what I’d get back amounted to whinging and ad hom (“you are privileged” which was nonsense given the jobs and education most of them had, they were peers, “You are older.” So?)

      Now this may not be true of all or even many third wave types, but that particular experience says that third wave feminism is bad for women. I would be classified as a second wave feminist, and I think the late 70s were the best time for women despite them not yet having yet made great inroads into the workforce. There was a collective acceptance that this was desirable and important and that women should be paid properly (as in equally) for their work, even though everyone also knew that was going to be at least a generation long project. That seems to be confirmed by the fact that studies also show that gender stereotyping in childrearing was the weakest then.

      1. JerryB

        Yves, if I understand you correctly, I have issues with third wave feminism as well. I have been exposed to strong working women all my life. My parents are from Eastern Europe, Czechoslovakia, and to them women worked. It was no big deal. I believe that Russia had women doctors way before the US. Now being a child in the 1960’s I cannot imagine the oppression that women in this country went through and I thought that was what the 1970’s feminism was fighting for, equality. Women having the right to “handle their own business” and to have equal rights. My sense of third wave feminism is there is no gender difference and we are all androgynous being. I consider myself a pro feminist but have done a lot of research on men and boys. In my opinion traditional male socialization is a major issue in our society but the third wave feminists do not want to hear about boys issues and want us to be androgynous beings which hurts both women and men, and many third wave feminists seem to play the victim role, i.e. safe spaces etc. It seems like a lack of personal responsibility, like dressing in provocative clothes and expecting men to ignore it. I miss the days of women like Sophia Loren, strong women who were proud of the femininity. By the way did you know that screen siren Hedy Lamar was one of the early inventors of what is now known as wireless technology? Yves, if you get a chance please read my comment in the Hubert Horan article. Keep up the great writing.

      2. funemployed

        I agree about the late 70’s. Back then, you could buy gender neutral kids toys pretty much anywhere (so I’ve read anyway, born in 82).

        I just want to add that I think that a lot of self-proclaimed young “feminists” these days don’t really understand what they’re talking about. I’ve had some great conversations and debates with feminist scholars, and the serious ones have never once employed ad-hominem attacks in spite of the fact I’m a cisgendered, straight, white, male who poses difficult and controversial questions. I really value those discussions, and they’ve changed my thinking about a lot of things.

        Young casual feminists, on the contrary, do tend to respond to challenging ideas defensively and use labels and finger-pointing as an excuse to avoid serious thinking. To me, there’s people who are willing to look at systemic problems and material conditions, and those who are not. The latter seem like they want to live in some superficial fantasy land where everyone makes them feel good about themselves in just the right way.

        In truth, I just hate how the serious thinkers are often drowned out by the self-absorbed virtue signalers, and want to give credit to those feminists out there who recognize, for example, that Hillary Clinton is part of the problem, not the solution.

  5. TK421

    It sure feels good to know that the main factor in whether I’m seen as husband material is how much money I make.

    1. Ned

      “Financially stable” was the tag line…

      Meanwhile, “free spirit” was the supposed female counterpoint that made up for the lack of that in a self proclaimed “Renaissance Woman”.

      No mention of the MGTOW-Men Going Their Own Way–movement in the review.

    2. Dave

      This criticism keeps popping up, but I think there is an important difference between “how much money I make” and “how much risk I introduce.” I haven’t seen Yves, or Bill Black, argue that women’s interest in men should be directly correlated with income past the point where they’re maintaining a steady standard of living – a fairly low standard and one I assume most people have already set for themselves.

      These articles keep producing this straw man counterargument that this means women only want rich men, but all I ever see them actually saying is that women want men who are able to consistently and reliably finish most months with more money in the bank than they started with. I’m pretty sure that’s what most men want too.

      1. Livius Drusus

        Yes, it seems to be more about stability than income. Some of the men making money in the fracking boom probably made more in those years than most college graduates but those jobs were short term relative to other jobs that are more traditionally considered “middle-class.”

        Most men will never be close to being rich but people still get married so clearly men don’t *have* to be rich to get married. Also, even if many people are not getting married poor and working-class people still have children and cohabit, they just don’t seem to get married as often so it is not like non-elite men are totally out of luck.

        I think this is why the answer to the marriage issue is both an economic and a cultural one. The conservatives might have some plausible points about the decline of religion and the Sexual Revolution but they always seem to discount economic factors like employment stability probably because that would put right-wing economics on the hot seat and they don’t want to do that. There is a fundamental problem combining right-wing economics and social conservatism and so-called traditional family values. The former seems to undermine the latter.

      2. Basil Pesto

        “but all I ever see them actually saying is that women want men who are able to consistently and reliably finish most months with more money in the bank than they started with. I’m pretty sure that’s what most men want too.”

        want for themselves? Or from the women they want to marry?

        I appreciate the distinction you’re making though. I think what is interesting is that I assume that that risk calculus will vary depending on different factors. The conclusion a woman who is considering a potential marriage partner reaches could presumably vary not just based on cultural values/norms, but also the social/class consideration – for instance, the calculus of a poor woman could be different from that of a middle class woman (to use fairly broad classifications) who might be interested in questions of social standing, money for creature comforts/status symbols, sufficient earnings to send potential children to ‘good’ schools etc. I say ‘could’ because I’m an idiot and don’t know anything so I stand to be corrected.

        My earlier :( was more about how calculated and cynical it all seems (I have my own, more developed thoughts on love and marriage but I might save them for Prof Black’s next post on this subject). That :( is somewhat alleviated by Heather’s comment below though!

      3. The Rev Kev

        I agree with this comment. However, it is not helped when you have a reality series called “The Millionaire Matchmaker” which features the tagline ‘Who wants to marry a millionaire’ with a score of women shouting ‘I do!’, ‘I do!’

    3. Heather

      Too funny!!! Way back , 41 years ago, to be exact, my husband and I got married and we didn’t have two pennies to rub together. But believe it or not, we were happy! Now, four kids, 5 grandkids and counting, and way too much water under the bridge, we are still happy! Money might help, but it doesn’t equal happiness.

      1. jrs

        If a woman is not looking for a provider for kids etc., which of course some but not all are, it’s more and it’s seldom put like this … that having to worry about money all the time, strains relationships …

        And so maybe people aren’t so eager to sign up for that, because they know stressing out about a partner being in a horrible abusive and sometimes threatening to physical well being job which they don’t dare leave without another and having a hard time finding another, fearing where the rent is going to come from if rents keeping going up etc. does really detract from the relationship to a degree, and it doesn’t matter if the woman works, because it is quite likely her man’s problems are going to become hers emotionally anyway. And so it drains a lot of time and energy to worry so much about jobs and money in plain speak. But most people don’t marry millionaires and so it goes.

    4. JustAnObserver

      Yeah. Remember that on those online dating sites the tag GSOH means Good Salary, Own Home.

      Maybe not there anymore since its been a while since I used one ?

    5. Peter L.

      “It sure feels good to know that the main factor in whether I’m seen as husband material is how much money I make.”

      I was left with the impression that no one is claiming that money, or even financial stability is the main factor. It is a factor, and quite a reasonable one. Presumably responsible people of whatever gender will think carefully about how they form commitments, and one factor will be income and wealth. Couples with healthy relationships will decide together when and if to marry, one factor will be financial stability, especially if they are considering raising children.

      So you can feel worse, or better, depending on your level of seriousness and sarcasm.

  6. Steve Ruis

    Gosh, it is amazing humanity survived … before marriage was invented! Homo sapiens have been around for 200,000 to 3000,000 years and marriage … uh, when was it invented? Gosh, that means that humanity survived based upon the behavior of sluts! No wonder we are all sinners, with a heritage like that!

    Why is the WSJ giving space to an idiot like that? Oh, they must be idiots like that, too! Thanks for letting me know.

    1. Brian M

      I am no cultural anthropologist, but I would bet that human societies have emphasized pair bonding for tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years.

  7. Off The Street

    There are many problems afflicting boys and young men. One thread to tug on is the differential in college matriculation rates (recent stat among others of ~ 58 F / 42 M split). Why are boys and young men not doing as well in school leading to college, not that everyone has to go and might not want to or afford the debt burden?

    Until those underlying questions are asked and answered objectively, thoroughly and replicably, and with follow-up or related questions about how to help all our children, then the discussions will be self-limiting sound bites and evening television infotainmentish.

    1. False Solace

      Some possibilities:

      o Men have more options. Most of the trades, which don’t require formal degrees, are traditionally barred to women and remain overwhelmingly male. Similarly, in IT jobs, experience is more important than formal education and these jobs are, to an ever increasing extent, overwhelmingly male.
      o Women are more heavily socialized to agreeableness. Rebellion in women isn’t tolerated. In males it’s a path to one form of social status.
      o It seems that in nature, males are more susceptible to environmental pollutants. Levels of pseudoestrogens or other pollutants could be impacting men’s health and success in ways we don’t presently understand.
      o Autism ADHD levels in males are higher than in females, and ADHD decreases academic performance. Some studies link ADHD to artificial coloring in food. These are banned in Europe which also has lower levels of ADHD. Similarly autism has been linked to traffic pollution.

    2. rd

      I think these stats need to be unpacked very carefully:

      1, Many more people now go to college now than 50 years ago.
      2. College used to take the top quartile of white men and much fewer women.
      3. Colleges now theoretically compete for the top tier students regardless of gender or race so it is harder for white males to get into the top tier schools compared to 50 years ago.
      4. However, white males still tend to be more present than women and black males in many of the STEM fields which result in higher paying jobs.

      So I think we are seeing some pay dominance at the top of white males (e.g. Silicon Valley) but then there is a second tier of women and minorities that occupy a rung where many white males used to be decades ago.

      I have several daughters, all unmarried. The oldest two have baccalaureate degrees and have been working for several years. The beer pong, video game playing guys they run into are not on their “marriage eligible” list and they don’t need to rush into anything because they are financially independent. So if they meet somebody they really like, it will happen. If not, they will continue working with a rich social life as a single person. fifty years ago, that would only have been an option for a few women.

    3. Rojo

      There might be some more motivation for women. Even today’s young women probably grew up with a mom who’s career was second-tier to her husband’s. It gives women something to shoot for — outpacing mom.

      But a lot of the young men realize their not going to outpace dad, and are trying something different.

  8. Joel

    The real question is who is paying this guy and the various publications and foundations that give him a platform.

    Bad ideas don’t just spread themselves.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Good point. I should look at the donors to his foundation. I find it remarkable that he has an academic position. As one of my friends would say, “What sexual favors were exchanged for that to happen?”

  9. Billy

    Surely the horrendous costs attached to divorce must make many men think marriage is a deal best avoided?

  10. Tomonthebeach

    Mating/partnering is far more about companionship and mutual support than it is sexual liberation or economic self sufficiency. Just look at the huge number of too-early marriages (those right out of high school) which often undermine any substantial lifetime economic upward mobility. Look also at the very high divorce rate. If income was the main motivating factor, why would people marry, remarry, and re-remarry – indenturing themselves further with each “I-do?” Yves does a nice job of pointing out such logical disconnects.

    At the risk of being ad hominem, trivializing marriage decisions by drawing a false parallel to ethological mating models seems simple-minded if not naive. People bond for many reasons; not just one, and surely not solely economic security.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Another issue is there is a great deal of social pressure to get married. It isn’t just the acculturation of women to get married and have kids. It’s very strong; as someone who got none of that at home I have come to appreciate how intense it is for most women.

      But men and women both get it in their 30s, if not earlier, for different reasons: you increasingly stand out from your peers in business and society if you aren’t at least married. Straight men who aren’t married are looked at as if they must be flawed; if they earn a decent income why haven’t they landed a wife? Are they abusive? Or maybe impotent?

      Similarly, single women generally are not invited to dinner parties with couples. They are assumed to be out to steal someone’s man (I am not making this up). That hurts them personally and professionally if they work in a line of business where having contacts in their economic strata is important (lawyers, partners in businesses like consulting, asset management, accounting, etc).

  11. jgordon

    When reality doesn’t match the imagination of leftists, reality must be mean and anti-something. The notion that people are inherently unequal and that people must accept personal responsibility and suffer consequences for their bad choices despite that unequalness is verboten.

    Reality doesn’t match our imagination. Life is not equal or fair. Men and women are not the same. Just one thing they are not the same on: men and women have different mechanisms for sorting the quality of potential partners. Women sort partners by resources and social status. Men sort partners by youth, beauty, and purity.

    Maintaining purity is a way for women otherwise lacking in appearance to attract the resource-rich, higher-status dominant male partners that they want. Bill Black, by spreading this misinformation you are denying women the ability to attract quality mates and thus you are dooming them to a future of unstable relationships with low quality mates and bitter loneliness. I hope that someday you’ll appreciate what you’ve done to them and repent.

    1. jrs

      utter nonsense, I really truly doubt, most men want a virgin and even if they do as a kink, not to you know marry one. Victoria was my queen … victoria .. victoria …

    2. WLS3

      Have you got any data/evidence to back up these claims? Like a link or something? Because nothing said here squares in any way whatsoever with my personal experience.

    3. HotFlash

      My dear jgordon,

      Maintaining purity is a way for women otherwise lacking in appearance to attract the resource-rich, higher-status dominant male partners that they want.

      I have long wondered why a man would prefer to marry a virgin. Would that same man prefer a woman who had never cooked? Perhaps it is as the author Trevanian observed, men of that sort “dread comparisons, and with reason.” Also too, I have dated people who seemed very interesting until bed, to find out whoops, totally *not* suitable! YMM (and apparently does) vary. :)

      Somehow I can’t see hoardes of women paying much attention to Bill Black’s advice, or Mark Regnerus’ either. Mostly we just make up our own minds, as best we can in our own lives.

      1. Alfred

        The high value still placed by many people on female virginity is explained by the history of patriarchy. For a man in traditional society merely to prove his virility, the impregnation of any woman would do (‘boys will be boys’, ‘sowing wild oats’, etc.). But in order to be absolutely certain of parenting a specific child (and heir), a patriarch required absolute control over the female through whom his (NB!) offspring were to be produced. He had therefore to choose as his (again, NB!) wife a female who was innocent of sexual intercourse (hence not liable to be pregnant at the time of the marriage by some other male) and subsequently to guard her against any possible intercourse with any rival males (even including his own sons). In such an arrangement, of which the paradigmatic form was chattel marriage, the essence of the male role was to ‘protect’ and ‘provide for’ the wife, while that of the female role was to be ‘provided for’ yet also ‘productive’ (not only of children but also of household labor, e.g., the spinning , weaving, sewing that during the industrial revolution translated seamlessly from the cottage to the factory setting). The memory of chattel marriage is very much alive in modern western folklore and practices such as ‘asking a woman’s father for her hand in marriage’ and ‘giving away the bride’ (both acts transferring her ownership from parent to husband), but also in the abortion debates (which hinge, in one perspective, on a woman’s putative right to destroy the child of her impregnator — ‘his child,” which is to say, his future if not actual property — and thus to effect or at least threaten a ‘taking’ in the sense of theft). Another, now very faded memory of chattel marriage was the practice of paying a ‘family wage’ to men (as providers for the wife and children under his care, (viz., control, and effectively ownership). The very word ‘husband’ connotes guardianship of property (cf. ‘animal husbandry,’ the protection of one’s livestock).

    4. nippersmom

      I would argue that a man who was only interested in the state of my hymen was not a “quality mate”.

    5. Pat

      Funny how so many men leave their wives for someone who has been having affairs with married men, aka them. I know it certainly worked that way in the early sixties when there was still far more of a stupid double standard where women were concerned. Not mind you that much has changed either with married couples changing partners OR the damn double standard.

      As for the purity standard, the major reason for that frankly is property and inheritance. And both from history and from an observance of human nature, being a virgin at the wedding is no guarantee that the kids will be the biological offspring of the husband. The only other reasons I can think of besides that include pedophilia, the disgusting and horrendous belief that sex with a virgin will cure you of disease, and a knowledge that the only person who will think you are adequate in bed is one who has no means of comparison.

      Otherwise for most, both men and women, the real standards for marriage is the person who will form a partnership that will provide the life most compatible with your ideal of comfort, security, family and companionship.

    6. kareninca

      “Maintaining purity is a way for women otherwise lacking in appearance to attract the resource-rich, higher-status dominant male partners that they want.”

      Nope. In your imagination. American men vastly prefer a very attractive female, of bad character (haha), to a “pure” homely one. No contest. A homely one would best increase her odds by becoming extra sexy-seeming (no woman is so homely that she can’t do that). No-one’s buying purity in the U.S.. It’s just hilarious that you would think so. I don’t deny that in some country where women are chattel, their “purity” might improve their marriage prospects, but not here.

  12. phaedras25

    Marriage is a fascinating prism through which to view human family and community dynamics. I am often caught imagining alternate life stories for myself when overhearing (mostly women) talk about what they are looking for in a match.The variety of characteristics that can be prioritized is wide and deep and I suspect changes fairly dramatically as people age. As someone who was raised to believe that the worst thing I could do to myself was put myself in a position where I was dependent on a man, I am fascinated by women who actively aim to find a partner that has the financial resources to enable them to stay at home. With that said, I’m equally amazed by men who actively rank beauty and purity as top priorities. These are all such ephemeral changeable attributes that the universe will change over time. For me, the only criteria was whether the person was an original thinker, with a strong life force and deep appreciation for the absurd. I remain delighted with my find.

  13. Bill

    ugh! does this guy actually ever go anywhere? you just can’t wrap this up in a neat monolithic box and tie it with a bow. and he gets paid for this shit. it must be like the economics profession these days, the mission is to justify some draconian policy–like denying women birth control and economic parity and…and…and…on and on

  14. Random American Male

    I agree with everything that was said about Regnerus, but I do think that there’s a connection between sexual options and the pressure to commit. For the record, I’ve never been married, and don’t believe in marriage. But I’ve found myself in many situations where the woman basically said, “Commit now, or I won’t have sex with you” or “Commit now, or no more sex”–and because I had options (sex is still relatively easy to get), I wasn’t forced to do anything that I didn’t want to do. The other men I know have dealt with the same thing. We’re mostly working-class, for the record.

    The four main outcomes I’ve seen:

    1. The man has options, but he also has an emotional connection to the woman, so he commits.
    2. The man has options, but no emotional connection to the woman (or not enough of one), so he moves on.
    3. The man doesn’t have options, and may or may not have an emotional connection to the woman. He gives into the pressure and commits.
    4. The man doesn’t have options, and may or may not have an emotional connection to the woman. He doesn’t give into the pressure and moves on.

    So, while Regnerus definitely has his own disgusting agenda, women do use sex to control men to some degree, and that’s getting harder to do.

    One last comment: earlier in my post, I mentioned that sex is still relatively easy to get. I personally feel that it was easier during the late nineties and early aughts. In those days, women felt they had more financial security, IMHO. I’ve met a lot of women online, and after the tech and housing bubbles popped, “getting to know you” questions went from casual stuff to provider-related stuff, at least in my experience. The emphasis went from personal fulfillment to more pragmatic issues.

  15. Filiform Radical

    Worse, Regnerus believes that males do so because the laptop “never says no.” More precisely, porn makes male sexual dominance and female submission a ‘sure thing’ that leads to the guaranteed fulfillment of each heterosexual male’s particular sex fantasies.

    One might think that Regnerus’ take on porn would cause him to stress the need to reforming male pathologies, but the right celebrates the paramount male pathology of male dominance and fetishized female submission. Regnerus’ euphemism for male dominance is men’s “mercenary attitude toward relationships.” Regnerus’ op ed ends without even a whimper of a plea to deal with the paramount male pathology. It turns out that the problem that Regnerus has identified lies overwhelmingly with males, not women. Moreover, the problem is not with women’s supposed willingness to say ‘yes’ to “cheap sex,” but with males’ addiction to the sexual dominance of the fictional submissive woman of porn who “never says no” to their particular sexual fantasies.

    I think Black mischaracterizes the “mercenary attitude” idea here. I see it as more calculating: It’s not about some twisted need for dominance, but simply about getting good return (of sexual satisfaction) on investment (of time, effort, emotion). In that framework, why bother developing a relationship with a real person to get sexual fulfillment when you have it on-demand through the internet?

    Not that there aren’t people with those sorts of pathologies, and certainly not that Regnerus shouldn’t be lambasted, but the idea that porn consumption is primarily driven by “addiction to the sexual dominance of the fictional submissive woman” seems like a bridge too far. “Addiction to convenient orgasms” strikes me as a more plausible candidate, although I suppose it’s possible I’m just naive.

  16. kareninca

    I have a neighbor who is in her late 20s. A few years ago she was dating a guy her age who was handsome, extremely smart, and decently employed. He told her clearly that he never wanted to have kids. So she stopped using birth control without telling him (she told me this). And she got pregnant.

    Then, she and her parents browbeat the guy into marriage. They are in the 1 percent (earned, not inherited), so marriage is normal to them. He gave in and married. Then he had a several-month affair almost immediately with his best friend’s girlfriend (how nice). She saw the clear evidence of the affair and divorced him. He is paying a lot of child support now, although he doesn’t earn that much.

    Now that she has learned that children inherit their intelligence – to the extent that it is inherited – from their mother (, she figures the next father need only be hand only be handsome and pleasant and want to have kids. Intelligence is not needed from the guy (in any case she is extremely smart), nor is money, since her parents are wealthy.

    If this is a representative case in any way, relationships are pretty rocky out there.

    1. rps

      He told her clearly that he never wanted to have kids.

      If that’s true, its called personal responsibility with a visit to the doc for a vasectomy prior to entering into a sexual relationship. The conniving woman and the duped man is as old as Adam and Eve fairytale with the latest twist of she stopped taking birth control and got pregnant. Where’s his accountability, where’s his birth control? Poor duped man sends a check for child support and she gets to do all the hard lifting of raising the child for the next 21 years. Poor misunderstood man, boohoo, I don’t like condoms, the drugstore is too far away, I like spontaneous sex without thinking about birth control.

      1. kareninca

        As far as I can tell, they are both idiots. She’s a manipulative one, he’s some other sort.

        “Poor duped man sends a check for child support and she gets to do all the hard lifting of raising the child for the next 21 years.”

        He would prefer full custody, but of course they got joint custody. They are precisely splitting the 21 years of hard lifting. He’s a very devoted father.

  17. johnnygl

    Underrated reason for not getting married and having kids in a fracking boom-town…..massive environmental pollution. No one thinks it is a good ideas to have a baby breathing oil/gas fumes right out of the womb!!!

  18. Charles Peterson

    It is a denigration of men to say that pornography or masturbation are any kind of substitute for real sexual relationships, or establish priors that would necessarily be required in those relationships.

    Men are people, they have minds, can tell the difference between pictures and people, and most of them are concerned what other people feel about them (except psychopaths), and are interested in having real friends and perhaps families and children too.

    Masturbation merely releases sexual tension, which means it might be a substitute for prostitutes or other forms of very casual sex, the very kinds of things that conservatives and theocrats claim to deplore.

    Organizations that prohibit masturbation and abortion ought to be well aware that these policies are going to increase the number of unplanned pregnancies. Do they really deplore that?

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