Can we raise declining marriage rates by telling men to “man up”?

Marine prays with his wife on their wedding day
Marine prays with his wife on their wedding day

The latest Prager University video features pro-marriage scholar Brad Wilcox:

I watched this video, and, as a card-carrying member of the Christian men’s rights movement, I was concerned that nothing was said about how radical feminism has weakened the attractiveness of marriage to men. I mean specifically things like women carrying debt, having liberal political views, being unchaste and even promiscuous, initiating the majority of divorces (70%), withholding sex if they do marry, and denying men child visitation if they divorce, single mother welfare making men superfluous, big government replacing men as providers, etc. The consequences of divorce for men are catastrophic, and I don’t just mean financially, but emotionally as well.

I contacted Wilcox to ask him why he did not recognize how radical feminism undermines the value of marriage to men, and he pointed me to this article he wrote in the leftist Washington Post.

He writes:

These days, 20something marriage has gotten a reputation for being a bad idea. That’s partly because parents, peers, and the popular culture encourage young adults to treat their twenties as a decade for exploration and getting one’s ducks in a row, not for settling down. In the immortal words of Jay-Z, “Thirty’s the new twenty.”

Indeed, the median age-at-first marriage has climbed to nearly 30 for today’s young adults, up from about 22 in 1970. Of course, there’s an upside to that. As my coauthors and I report in  Knot Yet: the Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America, women who put off marriage and starting a family earn markedly more money than their peers who marry earlier.

And here he sort of takes on my concerns about chastity, delayed marriage, and fertility:

First, you are more likely to marry someone who shares your basic values and life experiences, and less likely to marry someone with a complicated romantic or family history.  Those who marry in their twenties, for instance, are more likely to marry someone who isn’t previously married and shares their level of educational attainment as well as their religious faith. Marrying at this stage in your life also allows couples to experience early adulthood together. In the words of Elizabeth Gilbert, a 31-year-old woman who married in her mid-twenties, “My husband and I got to grow up together—not apart. We learned sacrifice, selflessness, compromise, and became better people for it.”

Women who marry in their 20s generally have an easier time getting pregnant, and having more than one child, than their peers who wait to marry in their thirties.  You’ll also be around to enjoy the grandchildren for longer.

You’re less likely to lose the best possible mate for fear of getting started too young on the adventure that is married life. One single, thirtysomething woman struggling to find a good partner put it this way to psychologist Meg Jay, the author of The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now, and whose TED Talk on twentysomethings has garnered 6.9 million views: “The best boyfriend I ever had was in my mid-twenties. I just didn’t think I was supposed to be [married] with someone then.” And as psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb explains in her book, Marry Him, there’s a higher likelihood of finding a true peer and more appealing partner-for-life in one’s twenties, before those most appealing potential mates marry somebody else by their thirties.

I cannot fault Wilcox or Prager for being ignorant of the social changes that have undermined the value proposition of marriage for men, and that have also undermined men’s ability to fulfill their roles. Far from being a man-blamer, Prager is a warrior against radical feminism, and just today Wilcox tweeted a study showing the boys benefit from single-sex education – a position I favor myself. But I do want to head off the common “men need to man up” objection made by those who deny that the real problem is radical feminism.

Contrary to the “be a man / man up” crowd, my objections to marriage don’t come from a desire to be lazy about education, career and finance. Rest assured that I have a BS and MS in STEM, and nearly two decades of STEM work experience (internships, summer jobs, full-time employment). I do make six figures, like the person Wilcox discussed in the video, and I have the savings you would expect with a gapless STEM resume. So, complaining about “man up” isn’t going to work on me, and probably not on most men who have concerns about marriage.

Radical feminism causes women to delay marriage in order to have fun, travel and ride the carousel of promiscuity in their 20s. Women have been told that they will have more fun by delaying marriage and staying single in their 20s. Church leaders, friends and family should be discussing and demonstrating the value of marriage to women, and showing them how the lasting contentment of marriage is better than the temporary fun of drinking, sex, travel and career. Marriage is a better platform for lasting joy and for quality relationships. It’s up to the woman’s friends and family to make the case for marriage as more fun and fulfilling than the alternatives offered by radical feminism. Her friends and family need to be countering the feminist message that is everywhere in the culture: marriage is boring, children are a burden, and that husbands are needy and demanding fools. And women need to be told how spending a decade being selfish in their 20s undermines their suitability for marriage.

A woman’s friends and family should train her not to view the moral and spiritual leadership of a man as threatening and dangerous, just because it disagrees with her feelings and desires. Instead of recoiling in horror when a well-educated, successful, wealthy man tells a woman with a history of poor decision-making to get a full-time job, pay off her debts, and start investing, her friends and family ought to welcome it. A good man’s practical advice should not be seen as stifling a woman’s freedom to “follow her heart”. And her friends and family certainly should not celebrate when she chooses a penniless, unemployed, empty-resume man who never questions her reckless decisions. Women should be encouraged to choose men who have demonstrated ability as protectors, providers and moral and spiritual leaders, even if she would rather have a doormat who lets her be wild, selfish and irresponsible. Doormats are not intimidating, but they are also not decisive about marriage. When a man wants to marry a woman, he is very interested in encouraging her to be practical and responsible. This is a good thing.

Lesbian relationships are the most unstable and shortest-lived relationships. This suggests that there is a tendency in women to reject commitment when it goes against their feelings and self-interest. Women’s emotions can make them unstable, and less capable of commitment. Friends and family need to recognize that tendency, and help women to learn practicality, responsibility and unselfishness at a young age, so that they are capable of making commitments.Men look for women who have demonstrated that they are able to complete things that they start. We know that women initiate 70% of divorces, and mostly because of feelings of unhappiness. Finish a tough STEM degree, work a tough job for a few years, pay off debts, pay off a car loan, etc. Men look for women who can make and keep commitments through good times and bad times, even when it goes against their self-interest.

A good basic book to read on this issue is Helen Smith’s “Men On Strike“.

Here’s a short video about her book:

A longer interview from News Max:

And an even longer interview with a homeschooling man:

Some men are ignorant of how radical feminism makes women less suitable for marriage while simultaneously making school and work more difficult to boys and men. It is these men who need to “man up” and “be a man” by challenging women to reject radical feminism and embrace early marriage to strong men who lead. If you’re not willing to fight the radical feminism that causes the underlying problems, then you can’t complain when men wisely reject marriage to women who aren’t ready to be wives and mothers.

22 thoughts on “Can we raise declining marriage rates by telling men to “man up”?”

  1. Very astute take on the issue. However, if a man earns a six-figure income, and has savings to match, then all it takes is a wife that says “I don’t think I “love” you anymore” and he loses his kids, house, and a sizeable chunk of his income/wealth. I think two generations of men being burned by the legal system has yielded the expected results.

    1. I don’t think it makes sense to make marriage a risky proposition for men, and then expect them to be excited about it. It seems to me that men marry to lead a family and to be respected and relied upon. I don’t see how radical feminism equips women to meet those needs. And if a man cannot have those needs met, and there is a huge financial price to pay if the woman divorces him because she is unhappy, then the rational man would only marry in exceptional circumstances.

  2. Taking on the roles of responsible husband and father has always been an enormous sacrifice for men. That is nothing new. The difference is that in former days society granted men some perks for taking on those roles: respect, a certain amount of deference, male only spaces, and property rights. Those benefits are completely gone. However men are still expected to live up to their historic responsibilities. The amazing thing to me is that men still get married at all

    1. Yes, exactly. Not only was your wife aware of your need for respect (because she had seen her own mother respect her father), but you got social respect as well. Now, respect has disappeared at the individual level, and at the social level. “Man up” and “be a man” doesn’t address the root problem, which is that radical feminism has caused women to disrespect men individually and culturally, and men are no interested in taking on all of the risks and responsibilities of marriage for no rewards.

      1. Do the “Man Up” crowd among the clergy understand what is going on in terms of marriage demotivation for men? Or do they understand but are being coy about it for their own reasons?

  3. I agree with what you say about radical feminism, but I would go even deeper. Radical feminism is a gross symptom of a secular worldview. If more men and women had a true Christian worldview, and acted on it, a person would quickly see through the emptiness of radical feminism and reject it as an unfulfilling lifestyle.

    When you say that a woman should work full-time, I think that it is OK while single but unfulfilling when married. Full-time work outside the home means less time with your children and husband. A woman’s best time, energy, and focus is not given to her greatest source of fulfillment and happiness. But this requires swimming upstream in a hostile culture. A man must learn to love his wife as Christ loves the Church (Ephesians 5) in order to fulfill his responsibilities.

    Pastors and other Christians committed to marriage must set an example and talk about the happiness marriage can bring. On the radio today Dennis Prager said that he has received more negative comments from this video than any other. That statement shows an extreme hostility to marriage in this culture and the need for a dramatic shift in viewpoint. Such a transformation must be culture-wide. It is not enough to say “man-up” or blame the problem on radical feminism. There is an anti-marriage Goliath in our midst and we need a David.

    1. I agree with you on the working! I mean work full time before marriage, and maybe before young children arrive. According to studies young children need their moms. At least from 0-2, and preferably 0-5, and even longer. I wouldn’t marry anyone who wasn’t convinced of that.

      I wouldn’t marry a woman who didn’t agree to stop working once the first child arrived.

  4. “I cannot fault Wilcox or Prager for being ignorant of the social changes that have undermined the value proposition of marriage for men, and that have also undermined men’s ability to fulfill their roles.”

    It’s not their responsibility to stay informed unless they’re doing exactly what they’re doing – telling men to invest in an institution that strips them of their rights and treats them like slaves.

    Prager in particular has no excuse. The man got divorced at least twice. If that didn’t teach him nothing will. Why should anyone listen to a two-timer loser in marriage?

    Aaron Clarey ran Prager up the flagpole in a video he made a while back for this kind of ignorance. If the manosphere ever offered a medal of honor Clarey deserves it for that video alone.

    The whole “man up movement” is nothing more than “you will eat whatever society serves you” when it comes to marriage because it takes zero courage to yell at young single men. It takes real bravery to challenge the prevailing institutions and the injustices therein. People can deny it all they want but many women in our society who don’t think themselves feminists will still support and defend the status quo if its threatened because while they aren’t actively fighting alongside feminists they have no moral qualms taking advantage of the gains they’ve made.

    “Be a man. Get married.” – You mean like Jesus and St. Paul?

    1. I think Prager’s been divorced once.

      Paul is opposed to marriage, and thought that chastity and celibacy were superior. I think if women want to get men off the chastity and celibacy track, they’ll have to do a lot more work to attract us.

      Here’s the video: (very strong language warning)

      Clarey’s points:
      – the risk of divorce and divorce courts cancels out the rewards of marriage
      – single women have been voting election after election to replace men with government via taxation (by taxing men)
      – men are no longer guaranteed respect in the home as heads of the household
      – single mother welfare has made men expendable, and this gives women an arrogant, dismissive attitude towards men
      – women today are nothing like the women of 40 years ago, they are completely unqualified for lifelong married love

      I think that Clarey is more aware of what women are like today than Prager. I was trying to be generous there. Clarey is the authority.

      Regarding marriage, I would not marry any woman who was not actively opposed to the status quo.

  5. I try to post this kind of stuff and discuss it on supposed “conservative, bold” Christian sites / discussions. I have been given a list of bullet points of “How To Act Like A Man” or some other nonsense…..or told that “God wants you to be the man he calls you to b”e……most in our faith don’t even want to listen WK…..and again this isn’t on flakey-liberal churches…….these are ‘conservative, bold and not ashamed of the Gospel’ churches / discussion boards

  6. WK:

    This is a very good post. I have a couple of major issues with this, though:

    “Women should be encouraged to choose men who have demonstrated ability as protectors, providers and moral and spiritual leaders, even if she would rather have a doormat who lets her be wild, selfish and irresponsible. Doormats are not intimidating, but they are also not decisive about marriage.”

    1) Women should choose men with these good qualities, but they should also be strongly, strongly encouraged to select men to whom they are strongly sexually attracted. The sexual attraction absolutely has GOT to be there from the very get go. If it is not there from the beginning, it’s not going to be there later.

    I know that ‘s a tall order. Women have it very, very tough here. Most of the time, a woman can find men with these qualities but they’re not all in the same man. The men she meets are either (a) very sexually attractive to her and poorly prepared for marriage; or (b) good providers with steady jobs and lifestyles, but who just don’t do it for her in the sexual attraction department.

    The Church is really deathly afraid of talking about this. The church doesn’t want to talk about the role of sexual attraction in marriage, because they think Christians should be “above” this. Well, they’re not, and they shouldn’t be. Christians are human too. And one thing I’ve learned about Christian women is that they want to have sex with good looking, exciting, interesting men with something going on, just like their nonChristian sisters do.

    (2) Women don’t want to marry doormats. Women are never in positions where they would “rather have a doormat”. A woman would rather marry the good looking, exciting, interesting man who isn’t ready for marriage; than the boring milquetoast nerdboy who is. If given a choice, she’ll choose the first man, every time.

    1. Great comment. When I say doormats, I don’t mean nerdy beta men. I mean alpha males who are amoral and non-religious because they want sex or attention from women, and they have realized that pretending to be liberal, amoral and unreligious gets them sex. Women LOVE men like that. They get a good-looking, Democrat, pro-abortion, sexy alpha male who has no convictions whatsoever that challenge her self-centeredness in any way. This works for both parties. Amoral atheist aplha male gets sex, woman is never challenged to think of anyone but herself. It works until the man ditches her for someone younger. Women complain about this, but they picked the amoral atheist man on purpose – they wanted a hot guy to bang and show off to their friends, but they did not want him to open his mouth to lead her towards the wife and mother roles.

  7. WK:

    The reason Wilcox and those of his ilk don’t talk about feminism as affecting women’s choices are as follows:

    1) They really believe most women aren’t foregoing or delaying marriage — it’s always the men’s fault.

    2) They don’t see men’s attitude toward marriage as a response or reaction to what women are doing.

    3) They can’t fathom that women’s actions are in any way affecting men’s attitudes toward marriage, willingness to marry, etc.

    4) They see women as innately good, moral, pure, noble, and with good intentions. They believe all women just want to be wives and mothers, and that they want that right now.

    They don’t see that society really has changed, and that it permits women to do pretty much whatever they want sexually and relationally for as long as they want. They really don’t believe that women act on this to pursue the most attractive men they can get for sex and fun, and wait until the last possible moment to start thinking about marriage. They really don’t believe that women act this way.

    1. Well, I think Wilcox is better than the man-blaming he-man pastors and the other Christian leaders. He seems to be aware, and he at least listens to my complaints, so he is aware of what men’s rights people think. My goal is to impress upon him that men who are successful Christian virgins are taking a pass on marriage because WE DON’T FIND RADICAL FEMINIST WOMEN GOOD MARRIAGE MATERIAL. Not to even mention the problems with anti-male schools, high taxes, big government, divorce court, divorce law, radical feminist indoctrination of women at the university, misandry in the culture. Women either have to fight this, like Helen Smith and Christina Hoff Sommers, or they can learn to live with marrying the government.

      The papers coming out of the National Marriage Project document women drinking, hooking up, avoiding serious relationships and marriage, etc. Wilcox is NMP. He knows what these young women are saying. Unfortunately, he doesn’t go after them, other than trying to show them that marriage works better if they marry young, etc. In that sense, he counters the feminist narrative. BUT if you are looking for effective pro-marriage leadership from Christian leaders, there is ZERO leadership. They are the ones who REALLY have no idea about the things that you mentioned.

  8. I’m an older guy, so I don’t have my finger on the pulse of what is going on with the young’uns but is there really a crisis in modern churches of young women not being able to find guys to lasso, or is it being overblown?

    1. Well, there was always a crisis with most Christian women taking the view that religion is about their feelings and their experiences. Apologetics is nearly non-existent among Christian women, because they simply don’t care if it is true or not. The primary purpose of it for them is to make them feel things. It’s not there to be true and to give them work to do, and they shy away from defending it to non-Christians, because they want to be liked by non-Christians. They actually hide their faith, since their faith is there to make them feel good, and championing Christianity to non-Christians makes them unpopular, which makes them feel bad. So they don’t do it. So for them, it’s very emotional and private. Even the women who are very interested in apologetics are not interested in useful evidential apologetics, but more interested in people finding God based on desires and feelings. Nonsense, in other words.

      I recently had a conversation with a 38-year old woman who thinks that she has been a Christian her whole life. She cohabitated with an atheist for SIX YEARS, though. And while she was busy cohabitating with this atheist, she was praying to God to give her success in her career. So, there is this disconnect. Women in the church live like atheist women, and the Christianity is primarily things they believe without evidence because they want the universe to feel safe. You can often see even non-Christian women believing that the Universe has plans to make them meet the perfect guy, get the perfect job, win the lottery, etc. This is basically what Christianity means to most women in the church.

      Men are only a little better than that, but they have different, equally bad problems. However, men tend to have more of an interest in theological accuracy and apologetics, and so God functions in the intended way, as a real person who has a real relationship where we have obligations about how to act. One horrible trend is the tendency among men to prefer presuppositionalist apologetics, which is just fideism.

      One last thing. People like Wilcox tend to want to say that women are more “religious” than men because they sing songs, pray, attend church, etc. But this is not a good measure of Christian authenticity. A better measure is where people line up on abortion and same-sex marriage. Women are more supportive of abortion than men, and vastly more supportive of same-sex marriage. So, for Wilcox, at a surface level, women are more religious with their “cosmic butler” view of God. But if you look a little deeper at more convictions, men are more religious – it they are Christians at all, they take it seriously.

  9. Great post, Wintery. I thought the same things you mention here after watching the Wilcox/Prager U video. I was disappointed because I am a fan of both. I’m going to link to this on Monday. Keep up the good work.

  10. I am what one may consider not even a stepchild among God’s alleged family. Because I’m not married and have no kids, I don’t belong. I’m a freak, loser, gay, weirdo, and every other pejorative that fits their narrative.

    If I stack up what the Bible says, especially I Corinthians 7, I’m not the one wrong in this case. The family-uber-Alles country club church of today bears little resemblance to the first century church, and I highly doubt the one Jesus intended. He warned there would be a time when churches were dead, showing appearances of Godliness but lacking any Spiritual power. I think those times are here.

    I must rely on the Holy Spirit alone, for He is all I have.

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