Easy Women = Male Arrested Development
November 16, 2012
Once, the only way for a 22-year-old man to have regular sex was to get married. That required he become economically and socially desirable. Now he just has to be buff.
What explains the campus hookup culture?
One widely overlooked factor is the scarcity of men. As buyers in a buyers' market, they're on the right side of supply and demand. The price they have to pay for sex - in terms of commitment, time and money - is at a record low.
Plus, women are more inclined than ever to say yes.
"Today's young man faces a sex life that probably would have exceeded the most optimistic imagination of most men throughout history," Roy Baumeister says in his book Is There Anything Good About Men?
Dr. Baumeister, a social psychologist, says our unequal desire for sex means that, men are the buyers and women are the sellers.
Until recently, the price was steep, up to and including a wedding ring and a promise of lifetime commitment.
In my parents' generation, the only way for a 22-year-old guy to have a lot of sex was to get married. Today, plenty of 22-year-olds can get all the sex they want for the cost of a pack of condoms.
Dr. Baumeister argues that, throughout history, it was to women's advantage to keep the supply of sex restricted. "Sex was the main thing they had to offer men in order to get a piece of society's wealth, and so they restricted sexual access as much as they could, to maintain a high price," he says in his essay Sexual Economics, Culture, Men and Modern Sexual Trends (with Kathleen Vohs).
But as women began to gain power and opportunity, that began to change. Women can now get wealth on their own. And life for everyone is a lot more fun, because it turns out that, wherever women have more autonomy, people have more sex.
NOT SO GOOD FOR WOMEN
But this bargain is having some unexpected consequences. Young men are in no hurry to get married.
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.
Dr. Baumeister's argument is that "men will do whatever is required in order to obtain sex" - and that, historically, society has made them do quite a lot.
To qualify as good marriage material, a young man used to have to show he could work hard, compete successfully, commit to family life, be a good provider and gain respect in the community. "The fact that men became useful members of society as a result of their efforts to obtain sex is not trivial," he says.
But now, young men don't have to do those things. Sex is readily available. According to sociologist Mark Regnerus, 30 per cent of young men's sexual relationships today involve no romance at all - no hearts, no flowers, not even "Hey, what's your name again?"
As he wrote in an essay on Slate :
"Don't forget your Freud: Civilization is built on blocked, redirected and channeled sexual impulse, because men will work for sex."
Which may help to explain why women outnumber men in university and so many guys in their 20's are in an arrested state of adolescence.
University is hard. Work is hard. Being an adult is hard. And if what young men want most of all is sex, then why work hard if they don't have to?