Between Dalrock and a Hard Case

August 14, 2012 § 33 Comments

In the comments of the last post we learned that Dalrock’s influence is so powerful (Update: see here for today’s mind-ray promoting Game) that I’ve lost the capacity to think for myself. But before the lights of reason wink out completely and I sink into the testosterone Hive Mind, I’d like to explore a question raised in the thread.

The question is this: is it possible that, in the present circumstances, it is more difficult, as a general thing, for one of the sexes to marry, start a family, and stay married than it is for the other sex to marry, start a family, and stay married, assuming that good choices are made?

Note what the question does not ask: it does not ask about absolute levels of difficulty. My own guess is that it has probably become astonishingly difficult for a young person to marry, start a family, and stay married.  The forces set against marriage in general are horrendous. I expect (with nothing but my own observations and biases to go on) that there are so few marriage-worthy folks out there of either sex that out of every hundred dates (or whatever the kids are calling them these days) the odds aren’t particularly good that a single individual marriage-worthy man happens to be out with a correspondingly marriage-worthy woman. This says nothing about such trivialities as, you know, actually falling in love and being compatible and stuff.

Note also that the question is about the general case, not specific cases. This is just statistical reasoning of the sort we all can’t avoid but that gets people like John Derbyshire in such trouble. It isn’t about the two Christian kids who grew up in the same hometown, were homeschooled, and have known each other for most of their lives. It is about people who have never had any connection of any kind until (say) some time in their early twenties, when they met at college or whatever.

I’ll note that in many areas of life reasonable men don’t blink about answering a question like this. When it comes to being an effective firefighter or policeman or warrior, clearly it is easier (in the general case) for a man to do the job. When it comes to carrying a child to term, clearly it helps to be a woman. These aren’t small differences in difficulty: they are profound and obvious. In the one case the great majority of men will be able to get the job done more easily than the great majority of women. In the other case no man is capable of doing it at all.

Furthermore, it is clearly the case that a young woman who plans to make marriage a priority has an entirely different set of tasks and decision options in front of her than a young man with the same goal.   A young woman has to develop herself into good wife material, while a man has to develop himself into good husband material.  Those are two very different things.  Both have to draw from some pool of available mates; but those pools of mates are quite radically different from each other.  Both bring radically different things to a marriage: that is part of what makes marriage such a profound, complementary institution.   Furthermore, the legal and cultural climate is very different for a young woman than it is for a young man.  All of these differences can be overstated, of course; but they are real and substantial.

Without going into excruciating detail on all of these points, suffice to say that I am puzzled by the claim that it is simply ludicrous and absolutely beyond the pale to even consider the possibility that, in the general case, in our present state of culture and law, a young man who makes marriage a priority and makes good choices will have a materially harder time getting married, starting a family, and staying married than a young woman who makes marriage a priority and also makes good choices.

Of course the opposite is possible too.  What would be really astonishing, to me, is if one or the other weren’t true.

§ 33 Responses to Between Dalrock and a Hard Case

  • ytakery says:

    The churches do tend to be quite hostile to males, and so males are less common inside their doors. It’s quite possible that those outside have a very different set of experiences where there’s gender parity. So for a woman in a church finding a husband can be hard.

    Once women are married though far more divorce than men. Somewhere between 70 and 90% of divorces are initiated by women. As such, a woman who is dedicated to marriage will have far less trouble staying married than a similar man.

    As far as I can see, the second point is what the dalrock article was about, that women don’t see marriage as something you do forever but as a stepping stone to sexier men.

  • Chris says:

    The issue that both young men and young women have to face is that many young people in the back of their minds think that they can unmarry when things get tough.

    The old ways of working this out — using the church and family to preselect — do not work as well. The men who stay in churches get a fairly strong message that they are not marriage material (esp. if Divorced, but Van R testifies that this was the case for him — he met his wife via the internet). Most of the women have become quite feminist. In most churches, belonging no longer works as a filter, nor does saying you are a Christian.

    This, of course, should not be the case.

    The other thing that has changed is that there is no longer an expectation that you take your time and get to know the young (wo)man — instead of going on hikes together (with a bunch of friends — you need three to six people to go walking in the wild) , there is pressure on you to shack up. This means that you are besotted with the other person, and lose one’s discernment, let alone grieving the spirit.

    But it does happen, good people find good people. And that is wonderful.

  • Dalrock says:

    This is an excellent question, and for me at least there isn’t an obvious answer (but I look forward to possibly learning something here and changing my view).

    A young woman who is well coached should have an immense advantage in looking to marry both over her peers and over a young man in the same situation. But the problem is young women are being terribly coached not just by the culture, but by the church, and even by traditional conservatives. There is for example a very large stigma against a woman marrying young when her options are greatest. Darwin Catholic’s dig against wives and mothers whose only accomplishments are long hair, no makeup, and prarie dresses comes to mind. No, we can’t allow a young woman to marry young. She needs to prove her girlpower first.

    Add to the stigma against women marrying young the nearly universally accepted script that the ideal path to marriage is a series of “boyfriend” stepping stones. Once she has test driven falling in and out of love with enough men the narrative goes, she will know which man is right for her and will thereby be ready to marry and be happy. But getting used to falling in love and then ending relationships turns out not to be the valuable skill for marriage conventional wisdom claims it is. Neither is getting used to basking in the attention of new and exciting men. Even if the young woman manages to avoid these pitfalls, her romantic expectations tend to only grow over time.

    On top of all of the above, the popular understanding of women’s sexuality and attraction triggers are pure nonsense. We tell young women that they natrually crave commitment (they do, but from the man) so lifetime marriage will be a cinch so long as the man isn’t doing something greviously wrong. We also tell them that they will be sexually attracted to nice and loving men, and if they fall in love with a cad they must be just trying to “fix” him. Instead we should be warning them that they are going to find cads very appealing and need to fight the urge to rationalize choosing one instead of the less sexy nice guys they are surrounded by.

    Lastly, we could save young women a huge amount of heartbreak by remembering the biblical role of husbands and wives upfront. She needs to look for a man she can trust to lead her. If she isn’t ready to submit to him, he isn’t the right man.

  • Dalrock says:

    Typo: “Add to that the stigma” should be “Add to the stigma” [Fixed - Z]

  • Dalrock:
    A young woman who is well coached should have an immense advantage in looking to marry both over her peers and over a young man in the same situation. But the problem is young women are being terribly coached …

    I think you are answering the question “yes”, basically because I built into the question the assumption that good choices are made. But it probably isn’t reasonable of me to do that; at least, it preloads the discussion in a way which isn’t helpful.

    The overwhelming majority of cultural propaganda aimed at young women specifically undermines the things she ought to do to prepare for marriage. The same isn’t true, or isn’t nearly as true, for young men. Young women are basically taught that they need to go do what it takes to prepare to be a husband/provider (that is, develop a career to take on a provider role), and that doing what it takes to become a good wife is demeaning, foolish, immature — take your pick of negative characterizations, for they are legion, and as you point out they are pushed by religious just as much as by secular people. Young men are taught all sorts of foolish and false things about women, but they aren’t taught to avoid developing their productive capacities and other basic attributes that make for a good husband. If anything the culture still encourages them to “man up” and be productive.

    On the other hand, when the great majority of young women make the choice to de-prioritize marriage until some unspecified “later”, no amount of coaching of young men is going to make successful marriage more likely, in aggregate. Young men are literally shut out of the possibility of marriage until a sufficient number of women take it seriously, and this in turn removes at least an important incentive that young men have to build themselves into providers.

    Of course it remains unknown what young men would (in aggregate) actually choose if young women suddenly started prioritizing marriage and family. Would the men still spend their twenties playing video games and not bothering to grow up? Probably, if only out of cultural inertia.

    But if we want the dominoes to fall we’ve got to start with the first one. What I think this implies is that no amount of coaching of young men is going to help, in aggregate. We may be able to coach individual men to help them be more successful vis-a-vis their peers; but given the short supply of young women who have prioritized (and therefore achieved) becoming wife material[*], we aren’t going to move the needle in aggregate. In order to do that we’ve got to focus on coaching young women to stop trying to develop themselves into careerist pseudomen and to prioritize marriage and family.

    (I make no assessment of the plausibility of doing this, nor do I propose a strategy. Right now I’m just assessing the battlefield).

    [*] The fact that young men have de-prioritized becoming a provider is an immediate follow-on problem though. Women have a fertility window and what I might nebulously call a youth window: it isn’t that a woman can’t marry later and be a good wife, it is just that the baggage of time makes it increasingly difficult, for all sorts of reasons. This increase in difficulty tends to be a series of thresholds or “walls”, not a linear rise, the most obvious one – but far from the only one – being the fertility window.

    Similarly for men, putting off developing a provider career doesn’t mean a man can’t become a successful provider later; but it becomes increasingly difficult the longer it is postponed, also in a nonlinear fashion. The guy who postpones college for two years is probably OK if he is really committed to going back, but it is far easier to go right out of high school. The longer it is postponed the less success he is likely to see, and the more pits and traps he is likely to fall into. Anyone who has been to a 20 year class reunion can see this writ large. There is a series of “walls” for men developing themselves as husband material just as there is a series of “walls” for women developing themselves as wife material; though of course they are very different from each other.

  • caethan says:

    I may have a useful perspective on this. I’m an ex-Mormon, and although I left the Mormon Church in my mid-twenties because I came to understand that their doctrine and authority was false, they have done a very good job of teaching and preparing young adults for marriage, and I think that Christians can learn something from them in this respect.

    A couple of things the Mormon Church does to promote marriage that are worth thinking about:
    – It encourages marriage young. Men are encouraged to marry soon after they return from missionary work, in their early to mid-twenties, and women earlier. Marriages of women under twenty are uncommon, but not rare; my cousin’s wife was 18 when they started courting and 19 when they married. I laugh when I hear about “teenage pregnancy rates” in Utah, because most of those “teenage mothers” are married women.
    – There’s substantial institutional support for finding a good match. Single adults are expected to attend a singles congregation, organized from all of the marriageable adults in the stake (~approx. diocese size). The congregation then holds regular events to encourage meeting people in a healthy environment. When I was attending one of these, with about forty people, we organized events like pumpkin carving, or board game nights, or service events where we would go help an elderly couple with their yard work. You can learn a lot about what kind of wife a woman would make by raking leaves alongside her.
    – There’s substantial institutional support for young families. Women’s organizations will often organize babysitting rotas: one family will babysit for another in exchange for a babysitting favor later. The Mormon Church runs its own welfare system that will provide groceries or financial support to struggling families. Members with jobs to fill are encouraged to submit them to the church where they can be connected with someone looking for work.
    – Weddings are religious ceremonies, not enormous costly spectacles. There’s no need to save up money for the wedding, because weddings aren’t expensive. There’s a religious ceremony followed by a get-together with family at the local meetinghouse. They also don’t take very long to organize – a few months to at most a year is normal, largely just to allow family to attend.
    – Men are given leadership positions from a very young age. All religious positions are held by lay members; there are no professionals. So men are given temporary jobs. From age twelve to age twenty-five, I served as: usher, boy scout quartermaster, organist, sunday school teacher, youth group leader, chorister, and a number of other minor positions. This gives men a chance to learn how to lead a family, and teaches women to respect them as leaders.
    – People who violate marriage norms are punished. I knew of two excommunications during my time in the Mormon Church. One was of a husband who was a flagrant adulterer, and the other was of a wife who had frivolously divorced her husband.

  • johnmcg says:

    It’s obviously not wrong to ask and answer a question, since knowledge of the truth is a good thing.

    Still, I wonder if this is the right question to focus on, especially given that many of the recent nefarious innovations in our current society (abortion, birth control, same sex marriage, etc.) are misguided attempts to address an “inequality.”

    To take the abortion example:

    “Problem”: An accidental pregnancy has a greater mandatory impact on the mother’s life than the father’s.

    “Solution”: Allow women to kill the unborn children so that they, too, can walk away from accidental pregnancies.

    I see Game in this category.

    “Problem:” Feminism’s replacement of wifely submission has resulted in it being more difficult for men to form happy marriages than for women.

    “Solution:” Men should adapt techniques like “Game” and drop chivalry to level the playing field.

    The problem isn’t that it’s more difficult for men than it is for women. The problem is that it is difficult for men, period.

    I think that framing it as a problem of inequality gets us off on the wrong path toward solutions that make things equally crappy for everybody.

  • I agree with you about Game, John. A guest post at Dalrock’s today makes roughly the same argument.

  • Dalrock says:

    (Update: see here for today’s mind-ray promoting Game)

    Good one. That post is a guest contribution arguing against game though.

  • Dalrock:
    That post is a guest contribution arguing against game though.

    Welcome to my ironic writing style. :-)

  • Cane Caldo says:

    (Update: see here for today’s mind-ray promoting Game)

    Not sure you read my post…

  • Irony, folks, irony: tongue firmly planted in cheek.

  • Dalrock says:

    Irony, folks, irony: tongue firmly planted in cheek.

    Even better then!

  • Dalrock says:

    johnmcg
    “Problem:” Feminism’s replacement of wifely submission has resulted in it being more difficult for men to form happy marriages than for women.

    “Solution:” Men should adapt techniques like “Game” and drop chivalry to level the playing field.

    You frame this as if Chivarly is a part of biblical marriage. What book is that in exactly?

    But I agree with you that the right answer isn’t to find a way to deal with wives who rebel against submission. The right answer is biblical marriage. Biblical marriage doesn’t mean chivalry though, at least not the Chivalry women are demanding today. Chivalry today is a lost concept because it means women are one of the guys until they want extra perks.

  • Chivalry may or may not be Biblical – I haven’t really looked into it, since as a Catholic my whole hermeneutic doesn’t really work the way the question presumes – but it is definitely an important part of the tradition of western Christendom.

    It is true though that when elements of that tradition are selectively destroyed the remaining elements can start to operate in a dysfunctional manner, and often come to mean something quite different from what they originally meant in context. I do think Dalrock’s comment in the other thread — “This is very similar to going to someone’s home and demanding hospitality. No matter how much the host might believe in hospitality, the houseguest has just made true hospitality impossible.” — reflects a real and common dynamic, whether or not it was on target in the particular conversation.

    John writes:
    I think that framing it as a problem of inequality gets us off on the wrong path toward solutions that make things equally crappy for everybody.

    I think that’s a good point, but it depends on context. Modify it to say “risks getting us off on the wrong path” and I’m on board. I take it for granted that equality as understood by modern man is a load of tommyrot. But to an audience deeply attached to liberal equality, you are right that the “golly, lets quick-fix this with some more technocratic at-best-amoral stupidity” is likely to be the knee-jerk response.

  • buckyinky says:

    I guess I have a hard time seeing what is so odious about so much as the consideration of what Zippy hypothesizes, especially for those who recognize the pervasiveness of feminism in today’s society. One of the tendencies of feminism is to obsess over the faults of men and their masculine nature, while perpetually casting women in the role of the virtuous oppressed. This is a gross asymmetry right here.

    If feminism dominates our society, which I believe it does, even to the point of significant infiltration into churches, then it makes sense to me that a statistical asymmetry such as Zippy proposes is very plausible as a result of the asymmetry accepted by our feminist-embracing society. The churches, not much different in this way than society as a whole, are sending the message that women are more inclined to faithfulness in marriage than are men, and are ignoring the evidence that refutes this message. This makes it particularly difficult for men, statistically speaking certainly, to be able to rely on their discernment in finding a faithful wife. They are being given misleading information about the nature of women, thanks to the embrace of feminist doctrine by our society, and so are concluding that there is “virtue” present when true and crucial virtue is actually lacking.

    To point this out is not a battle of the sexes thing, as I see it. It is more a battle against the sexes, or against humanity if you like. I don’t see it as dumping blame on women, or something that women should be particularly ashamed about, but rather, as Zippy analogizes, assessing the battlefield. I don’t see it as “women’s fault,” anymore than I see it as “men’s fault.” None of these cultural degradations would have come to pass in one sex without the aiding and abetting of the other. In these large-scale problems, it takes two to tango.

    Just the same, I am father of two boys who have a great likelihood of needing to discern in years to come by choosing a mate. The circumstances of our day make it more difficult, as I see it, in a particular way on them because of the extreme wariness that is needed to sift through the lies about unquestionable virtue in women given to us by our feminized institutions, even, or perhaps especially, Christian institutions. Just because, for instance, they see many more young women at Mass than young men (and are told by Christian leaders constantly that the reason for this is that women are more “spiritual” or otherwise advantaged in the ways of God) does not mean that they have a greater pool of faithful Catholic girls from which to choose, but in fact, circumstances like these make their choice in a mate appear deceptively easy.

  • Dalrock says:

    @buckyinky
    If feminism dominates our society, which I believe it does, even to the point of significant infiltration into churches, then it makes sense to me that a statistical asymmetry such as Zippy proposes is very plausible as a result of the asymmetry accepted by our feminist-embracing society.

    Not only is it plausible, but it is incredibly implausible that after 40+ years of constant feminist demands and societal concessions that it would somehow work out equitably for men.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    I’m probably not tall enough to ride this blog, (as evidenced by my stumble over your irony test), but thanks for linking to my guest post! I greatly enjoyed the exchange in the comments on your last post; though I am too late to the party to join in. Plus, I’m simply not dressed for it.

  • Cane Caldo:

    Welcome, and you are welcome.

  • Anonymous Reader says:

    Without going into excruciating detail on all of these points, suffice to say that I am puzzled by the claim that it is simply ludicrous and absolutely beyond the pale to even consider the possibility that, in the general case, in our present state of culture and law, a young man who makes marriage a priority and makes good choices will have a materially harder time getting married, starting a family, and staying married than a young woman who makes marriage a priority and also makes good choices.

    Probably you are puzzled due to a lack of knowledge or understanding of the feminine imperative.

  • Anonymous Reader says:

    With reference to your original posting above, there are surveys that indicate that college men who are virgins outnumber college women who are virgins. I regret I do not have a reference to hand.

    When one reflects that there are more women than men in college, this fact becomes even more interesting to contemplate.

  • Probably you are puzzled due to a lack of knowledge or understanding of the feminine imperative.

    That must be it. /sarc

  • Scott W. says:

    The issue that both young men and young women have to face is that many young people in the back of their minds think that they can unmarry when things get tough.

    I can attest to that where I attended a wedding where the groom, still drunk from the bachelor party before of the usual ritual of strip clubs in the sleaziest section of downtown Richmond was asked if he knew what he was getting into and he replied it was no problem because he knew how easy they were to get out of.

  • Anonymous Reader says:

    I helpfully suggested:
    Probably you are puzzled due to a lack of knowledge or understanding of the feminine imperative.

    zippycatholic
    That must be it.

    The first step to solving a problem is admitting it exists.
    I’m always willing to help those who are willing to learn.

  • The first step to solving a problem is admitting it exists. I’m always willing to help those who are willing to learn.

    What is curious to me is that you seem oblivious to the fact that you are making one of Lydia’s points for her. I’ll leave discerning which one as an exercise.

  • Dalrock says:

    Anon Reader,

    Zippy agrees that the question he is posing is a valid question. I would go so far as to say he believes it is very likely it is more difficult for young men than young women. This post is in response to his previous post on the general topic being filibustered by one of his female readers. She is I am told extremely logical and sharp, but on that thread at least she chose instead to ensure that a debate could not take place. When I asked her if we could discuss the question she (logically and rationally) informed me that she would not, because I was not her friend. This post is Zippy asking if he was being unreasonable for wanting to discuss the issue on his own blog.

  • Anonymous Reader says:

    What is curious to me is that you seem oblivious to the fact that you are making one of Lydia’s points for her.

    It is not enough for the student to produce an example of the feminine imperative. The student must analyze the example and demonstrate an understanding of the feminine imperative as displayed.

    You’ll have to try harder if you are going to learn anything.
    I am always willing to help those who are willing to learn.

  • Anonymous Reader says:

    Dalrock, I understand that. I read the entire previous posting and comment thread. I’m attempting to deal with the question implied in zippycatholic’s last paragraph/’sentence in this posting.

    I’m chosen to approach the issue in a more or less Socratic manner, for various reasons.

  • AR:

    If this is an example of you trying to impose your “frame”, what it serves as an example of may not be what you intend.

  • [...] Zippy’s blog post.  She was sadly ultimately successful in this, to such a degree that Zippy followed up with a post asking if it is reasonable to consider such [...]

  • [...] Zippy never did get Lydia’s permission to have an actual discussion on the issue (vs how dangerous and damaged I am).  He ultimately gave up on the thread and wrote a new post about the experience titled Between Dalrock and a Hard Case: [...]

  • [...] any and all defense. And all of this merely for sport, since as you yourself explained in your Dalrock and a Hard Case post the only possible profit to be gained, a serious exchange of ideas, you allowed Lydia to take [...]

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