Men on strike: the social changes that caused men to opt out of marriage

Painting: "Courtship", by Edmund Blair Leighton (1888)
Painting: “Courtship”, by Edmund Blair Leighton (1888)

I read and enjoyed Dr. Helen Smith’s book “Men on Strike” last year. The book explains a few of the developments that have led to men underperforming in school and in the workplace, and opting out of marriage and fatherhood.

Dr. Helen comes to this problem as a secular libertarian, not as a Christian conservative.

A review of Dr. Helen’s book appeared in Salvo magazine. The review is written by Terrell Clemmons, who has the best Christian worldview of any woman I know – I frequently rely on her advice.

Terrell writes:

While the feminist movement may originally have been about equal respect for both sexes, what it has morphed into, she argues, is female privilege. From rape laws that empower women but not the men they may falsely accuse, to divorce laws tilted in favor of the wife, to the feminization of the U.S. education system, men have become the sex under the gun, while women enjoy the status of a protected class.

But unlike their mothers or grandmothers, men today are not taking to the streets burning their undergarments and shrieking demands (thank God). They’re doing just the opposite, which is far worse. They’re going on strike. The strike zones are manifold:

Higher Education.In addition to the enrollment imbalance, which is approaching a 60/40 ratio of women to men, college has become, in the words of one professor, “a hostile working environment [in which] males increasingly feel emasculated.” Smith quotes a student named John, who had this to say about his college experience: “I had already been cautious around women, having grown up with Tawana Brawley in my backyard and daily stories of sexual harassment; I played it safe and passive every time. But it doesn’t matter. The only way not to lose is to not play. So I’m out.”

Work,including community involvement. With higher female graduation rates and salaries, men today are falling behind their fathers economically and professionally. Consequently, their efforts to prove themselves worthy mates through hard work and higher earnings don’t win female attention the way they used to. Discouraged, too many retreat to a man cave, and inertia sets in from there.

Marriage.Marriage rates are down, and honest men opting out will tell you why. Smith cites a Rutgers University study of single heterosexual men which turned up the top reasons they hadn’t married. They can get sex and the companionship of cohabitation without marriage more easily than in times past, and they don’t want to open themselves up to the risk of divorce and financial loss. It really isn’t that complicated a decision. In fact, it’s often not an actual decision at all. It just happens.

The simplest explanation for the difficulties that boys face in an education system that is dominated by women (teachers and administrators) is discrimination. And in the workplace, the government requires employers to report on male and female head counts, and promote women who are not qualified. I have seen receptionists with tattoos and no college degrees promoted to six-figure manager jobs in companies where I worked.

There is one more which to me was the most surprising one in the book – paternity fraud, and the laws that support paternity fraud:

Take the following cases of nonconsensual insemination: Nathaniel from California, age 15, had sex with 34-year-old Ricci, which, due to his age, was legally considered nonconsensual. Emile from Louisiana was visiting his parents in the hospital when a nurse offered him oral sex, if he wore a condom, which she conveniently offered to dispose of for him afterward. S. F. from Alabama passed out drunk at the home of a female friend and awoke undressed the following morning. In all three cases, including the one involving the minor, a woman got sperm and, nine months later, a child, and the man got ordered by a court of law to pay support for eighteen years.

Less devious, but similarly amiss, are those cases in which a man, having been betrayed by his wife or girlfriend, was nevertheless held financially responsible for a child genetically proven to be another man’s offspring. While not as sensational as sperm-jacking, it is another form of paternity extortion.

In each of those cases, the man was found liable to pay child support – including the case of the 15-year-old boy, who was forced to pay child support to his statutory rapist when he turned 18. This is how the court system works, and more and more men are understanding the risks.

I often encounter “pro-marriage” people while gathering stories for the blog. These pro-marriage people come in two varieties.

On the one end of the spectrum are people like Terrell Clemmons and Jennifer Roback Morse, who understand marriage, but who also understand the social changes that have made marriage unattractive for men. Both Clemmons and Morse have a background in STEM fields, so they are able to understand incentives and tradeoffs. They understand that society has to rollback the changes to education, divorce laws, etc. if they expect men to be interested in marriage again. They understand that men are not just accessories of women, but instead have their own desires, feelings and reasons for marrying.

On the other end of the spectrum are feminist men, who are not able to understand the changing incentives that face men in a world that has evolved under the influence of radical feminism. It is just simpler (less thinking) for these men to accept the radical feminism as a given, and then urge men to “man up”. I think a much better idea would be for the “man up” crowd to realize how marriage has changed, and how the schools and the workplace have changed, then make all of these things more attractive to men. It doesn’t do any good to try to “dare” men into jumping off a cliff. Men aren’t stupid, and they do what is in their own best interests. If the man-up crowd wants younger men to marry, then they need to change the incentives offered to men. And that means changing women first.

One thought on “Men on strike: the social changes that caused men to opt out of marriage”

  1. IMHO there are systemic problems for both sexes and between both sexes:
    Yes, feminism (of the 60’s/70’s/80’s, and we are the inheritors of their legacy) wanted “free love” and women to be able to sleep around “just like men” and so on.

    Prior to say, World War II and even in the 1940’s and 1950’s, men largely saw women in two camps: the virtuous group of women that you would want to take home to your parents, and the loose group of women that men fooled around with and/or slept with. Yeah, so the virgin/whore dichotomy. Feminists didn’t like the bifurcation; they didn’t like the latter term attached to those who had a lot of notches on their bed posts. The joke used to be that a slut/whore was a woman with one more sexual partner than her current partner (or the answer for “how many people did you sleep with?” for women was 0.5*[actual number] – 4 and for men it was 2*[actual number] + 4).

    Well, if women were free to sleep around, men no longer needed to be ‘protectors.’ The men who wanted women to sleep around were probably cheering: no more guilt for sleeping around and free sex for all!

    Of course with increasing the supply of free sex, well, the cost of sex went down. A lot. If a woman expects that a man will have to have a steady job/be a provider and exclusively commit to her (forsaking all others) before engaging in sex, the number of suitors will drop down a lot — but it is a high cost. By the same argument, if women will just jump into bed — and as you’ve rightly noted in the past, it’s not just with any average Joe — on other dating sites, websites, public domain sites like stackexchange and quora and reddit and so on — there’s lots of casual sex but it goes to those who have the looks. The men who benefit from this are the hot ones with pecs and biceps and abs and buns of steel/cute butt and so on. But the cost to these men is very low (usually just time in terms of working out and grooming).

    The sad thing is that women who are looking for love and use sex as bait … you have to give up a lot of sex (okay, so it can be fun for a short time) for very little love. Comments like, “We hooked up, but I don’t even know if he likes me” abound.

    I found this comment yesterday, surprisingly honest and blunt, someone commenting about the Downside of living in Sweden:

    “How do people meet? Internet dating, mostly. Superficial dating where it is all about looks to get casual sex and feel good for a while. There you have the reason why Swedes love the gym and looking good: otherwise they are stuck in their small and lonely apartments.

    This pathological loneliness is perhaps the reason why our politicians decided we needed to be more multicultural and opened the borders to large scale immigration.”

    The author’s conclusion also agrees with other articles that you’ve posted in the past about people who just engage in rampant casual sex. It’s lonely. It’s like an itch merely to be scratched. It’s not meaningful. I read various books from Pick-Up Artists [and no, I didn’t sleep around when I was single] — it was to be cunning as a serpent (and yet maintain that I was supposed to be Christian). The PUAs, when they are honest, will admit that they are trying to fill the void that’s in their hearts and souls and tons of sex with a gaggle of women temporarily feels good, but never fills that void. Some of the PUAs turned to religion. Some of them realized that commitment WITH sex together was better and more fulfilling than just tons of one-night stands.

    And you know what, Christianity actually has the answer to this one. It’s not popular, but guess what: men and women are supposed to commit to each other exclusively before engaging in sexual union, and the loneliness — well, try something called “koinonia” or true community or fellowship, within the body of believers.

    I do agree with you that the risk/reward structure has to be better for men to engage in marriage. As it stands, men can cohabitate with their girlfriends (all the upsides without the commitment!) and therefore this mitigates a lot of the downsides (if it gets hard, the other person gets boring, they can bail, because, hey, there was no commitment in the first place).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s