A great article by Bettina Arndt the other day about the changing nature of sexual relations. She is summarising an academic piece titled, “Sexual Economics, Culture, Men and Modern Sexual Trends“. The central point:
Back in the 1960s, it was difficult to get sex without being married so men married early. Yet to qualify as good husband material, men had to have a job, or at least the prospect of getting one, had to show they were willing to work hard and be willing to commit to family life. So a man’s overarching goal of getting sex motivated him to become a respectable stakeholder contributing to society, suggest the psychologists.
‘The fact that men became useful members of society as a result of their efforts to obtain sex is not trivial,’ declare Baumeister and Vohs, pointing out how much that has changed. Many young men nowadays can ‘skip the wearying detour of getting education and career prospects to qualify for sex’. They have easy access to abundant sexual satisfaction, facing an early sex life that, according to Baumeister, probably would have exceeded the most optimistic imagination of most men throughout history. So men learn early that they don’t need to buy the cow to get milk.
So how has sexual liberation worked out for men. Sounds pretty disappointing:
Baumeister and Vohs point out that the traditional notion of a sexually accommodating wife ‘has been eroded if not demolished by feminist ideology that has encouraged wives to expect husbands to wait patiently until the wife actually desires sex, with the result that marriage is a prolonged episode of sexual starvation for the husband’.
The result is marriage offers grim prospects for hot-blooded young men: ‘To sustain a marriage across multiple decades, most husbands must accommodate to the reality of having to contribute work and other resources to a wife whose contribution of sex dwindles sharply in both quantity and quality – and who also may disapprove sharply of him seeking satisfaction in alternative outlets such as prostitution, pornography and extramarital dalliance,’ say the psychologists.
It even seems that men are no longer as interested in finding success at work since it is so easy to find accommodating women. As Arndt puts it:
Despite the fact men still create and run most institutions, the workplace is becoming progressively rigged against them because of anti-discrimination measures favouring women. They ask how it is that men have acquiesced so readily in giving women the upper hand in gaining access to these institutions, suggesting it may be due to the fact success isn’t as important as it once was for men, when it was a prerequisite for sex.
It’s all speculation and who can ever know the truth of any of this but it is interesting and strangely plausible. And yet another article, by Margaret Wente in The Globe and Mail, discussing the same piece of research. The key para:
A lot of women are in no hurry to get married, either. But it might not work out so well for them. They’ve watched too much Sex in the City. They think they’ll still have the same choices at 35 and 40 that they had at 25. They have no idea that men’s choices will get better with age (especially if they’re successful), but theirs will get worse. Believe me, this sucks. But it’s the truth.
What’s that about we get old too soon and smart too late?