Anybody who believes immature, single men are primarily to blame for people putting off marriage or not getting married at all needs to stop what he or she is doing right now, get up, go to the bedroom, and stay there until I say otherwise.
Chronically unexamined in the larger discourse are the contributions of the distaff gender to the current phenomenon of "protracted singleness." Thus, at least for the sake of balance, here are some talking points that constitute the proverbial "third rail" of the discussion on people not getting married ...
1. The Cosmo Complex
Popular culture keeps reminding men that the old rules are gone and now they got to prove themselves to women more than ever before. We keep hearing from women, "I don't need no mayyyannn, and if one is lucky to have me, he's got to ... [insert 6,045 stipulations here]." Let's be honest here. I mean it: let's-be-honest. We do not see men behaving like this. If they did, they would be written off as egoistical, chauvinistic cads, who think "the world revolves around them" or that they are "God's gift to women."
Women, due to a confluence of increased independence, increased social status, increased economic power, and a gynocentric culture, now have inflated assumptions about how men should be. A plethora of romance novels, mainstream television shows, movies geared towards women, etc. simply adds fuel to the fire. However, there is no serious widespread conversation about whether or not the criteria women set up for suitors are fair or warranted.
There are much more cultural controls for men who have unrealistic assumptions about women than vice versa. You see articles shaming men for viewing women through the lens of physical beauty. You see our media putting down men for going "out of their league" (envision the stereotypical blonde who pours the drink down the shirt of Joe Six-Pack). But where is the analogue in our cultural discourse for women who have unrealistic ambitions for men out of their league? Dove commercials can focus on realistically beautiful women (see also the Campaign for Real Beauty), but I don't see culture wringing its hands in a similar fashion to counteract some of the mental distortions women have about the ideal man.
When it comes to romance, media tells ordinary women they are all princesses and deserving of the best. It hearkens back to the Disney movies. I suppose much of this is the result of women being the pursued sex, the ones who reject the advances, the gatekeepers with regard to formation of relationships. But with woman-firstersim, the egos of the pursued sex get magnified. Women need to realize playing hard to get has it pitfalls. You won't have self-respecting men feeling sorry for you when you blow off opportunities. They are not going to listen to you whine about their being "no good men left" when you treated many men, who are indeed good, so shabbily--or like they didn't exist.
Why is there a delay in marriage? Because many women have drunk the Kool-Aid and believed they were goddesses of the new millennium and there would be an endless supply of suitors to choose from. This is especially the case for Gen X women who now are waking up with a bad hangover. Buyer's remorse is indeed setting in for women in this age group. No ladies, "you can't have it all" when it comes to mate selection.
2. The Cinderella Paradox
I've blogged about this one, and it's related to the "Cosmo Complex." Women tend to be hypergamous. The "Paradox" is that as women increase their social status, the ability of men to be desirable mates for these women decreases. The pyramid narrows at the top, but don't tell this to the modern woman. She has conned herself into believing that their are enough men of high status to go around who are, at the same time, serious about marriage.
Meanwhile, men are getting economically disenfranchised. Even Albert Mohler, who likes to target men a lot, said something revealing in a recent broadcast (see 9:40 ff. here). He indicated the recent downturn in the economy has essentially impacted male-dominated professions, except for one field--the repair industry. Of course, Al hardly connects the dots when comes to men's issues. The 300 pound gorilla that Al and others ignore is this question: Do you know any professional women who want to marry repair men?
We can't put the toothpaste back into the tube, tell women to stop seeking prestigious jobs, or tell them to get back into the kitchen and bake some pie. But the doesn't stop many so-called liberated women from confining men to the old, stereotyped role of being "the main earner" does it? The reason there is a delay in marriages is because a critical mass of women show they are clueless about this matter.
3. Your Female Essence Is Not So Great
Danielle Crittenden compares older bachelors to a subway train of "misfits" and "crazy men." Laura Nolan says men are like eggs; they must "hatch" (get attached to women) or "go bad." Candice Watters repeats what she says. Some of Lisa Anderson's friends think older men are single for reasons that are not so flattering. Let me say the following with all due respect and without malice: All the women saying these things and the such like need to collectively put a sock in it. It's no longer surprising to me, but nonetheless noteworthy, that some of the most bigoted, knuckle-dragging, anti-male sexist drivel comes from putatively conservative women.
I've already said something about women being told by society they are princesses and how such leads to inflated expectations regarding men. I also believe women being told they are princesses by a gynocentric, chivalrous society causes them to be blind to their own shortcomings. According to the Standard Party Line, it's men who have all the faults, all the bad habits, all the hang-ups, all the displays of immaturity, all neuroses, all the issues with the parent of the opposite sex, all the wrong reasons for being unattached, all the creepy behavior, etc. Popular culture leads us to believe that the typical women is Marilyn Munster, an archetype of prettiness and normality, surrounded by male freaks.
Women complain that media portrays them in an unrealistic manner. Indeed, this is the case. Popular culture is too flattering to women. Popular culture wants us to believe that the woman on the street is beautiful, intelligent, savvy, more adept than the men around her, emotionally stable, quick-witted, resourceful, etc. She is not the woman on the street that I know in real life.
The women I know in real life are not goddesses. They are Just. Human. Beings. They snore. Their breath stinks. They pass gas and it smells as bad as what comes from a man. They lose it. They have weird quirks. They take medications for their emotional problems. They have to turn to the men in their lives to fix things. They they say and do stupid things. In essence, they don't fare much better than their male counterparts in dealing with the vicissitudes of life. They're just as screwed up as everybody else. Like Alfred Adler said, "The only normal people are the one's you don't know very well."
In the meantime, I keep waiting for the female equivalent of the statement "Brother, You're Like A Six." But I suppose a society that can't realize a female murderer for what she is probably can't admit to even the slightest imperfections in women. The reason there are delays in marriage is because a lot of women don't see themselves as the flawed creatures they are--in need of God's grace like everyone else. Ergo, they are not willing to extend grace to the men around them. There is another reason for a delay in marriage. It's because some women, like men, are--gasp--not marriage material.
4. The Tool in the Company Store
Do you know what a lot of single men see when they look at their married counterparts? They see married men being treated like the tool. Nobody wants to be a tool. I daresay if your typical man wants to marry, it's because he's marrying for love. What do women marry for? From the looks of things, it's property, children, and social status. You demur when I say that, do you? Explain, then, the recurrent theme in our media of some older divorcée or widow who, having had her children and her inheritance at the expense of some man, says something along the lines of: "I'm not looking anymore. I just don't feel the need to clean up after some slob, yada, yada." Of course, she isn't looking. She got what she wanted.
There yet remains to be any serious discussion in this culture about how women objectify and demean men in marriage. Indeed, that married men might want to be treated as human beings with their own valid opinions seems earth-shattering to some women. Dr. Laura writes a book called The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands and women get upset. The insulting corniness of the title aside, why did such a book have to be written in the first place? Isn't caring about what should be the most important man in a woman's life a no-brainer? Apparently for a lot of women it isn't. Too many married men are treated like appliances, or that loud relative that visits every so often and that you wish would go away at the end of the evening.
Pundits like Mark Regnerus, Albert Mohler, and writers for Boundless.org hold out marriage to young men as the solution for sexual immorality. Really? Did they read the book Every Man's Battle? Did they read Paul Coughlin's No More Christian Nice Guy? Because these books tell a disturbing truth: A lot of Christian men hope that in marriage they can have their proverbial cistern to drink from or the proverbial breasts of a wife to get intoxicated by (Prov. 5:15-19). But men find the cistern dry. Women simply do not have enough love and respect for their husbands to care about the relationship needs and desires of these men in terms of emotional and physical intimacy. The pundits talk about men defrauding women before marriage. How about the women who defraud men after marriage (1 Corinthians 7:5)? No we can't talk about that, because men have to earn affection from their wives, dont'cha know.
Men have observed how their fathers have been treated in the new era of gender relationships. Young men are afraid of commitment. No surprise there! It's not "just a piece of paper" after all. They know "everything changes" after marriage. Indeed, what does change? Huh? Answer me. They know. It's about the obligations ... which tend to be slanted one way and offset by not very much being given back. You see, we talk about a man's fear of divorce. But there's another bogey-man here: the loveless marriage.
Like I said, many married men are treated like the tool. And the social structure is rigged like the Company Store. What's on the shelves? Marriage 2.0. It all about her expectations, their parents expectations, their friends expectations, the expectations of everyone else. It's about "keeping up appearances" and "keeping up with the Joneses." So, many men exhaust themselves physically, financially, mentally, and emotionally because what's on the shelf puts them in debt with the Store Managers. In this day and age, will a man's life really be enhanced by saying "I do" or will it be diminished? Will he have to sacrifice his dreams in a culture where a woman's opinion trumps all other viewpoints in a relationship? To say that the modern marriage (Marriage 2.0) is female-centered to a fault is an understatement.
Recently, John Thomas at Boundless offered a young man a piece of advice: "Remember: You're pursuing a person, not an institution." Boundless staff writer, Suzanne Hadley weighed in:
"I've been on the receiving end of this approach. A woman can tell when she's just on a job interview for the role of wife. Of course, single women want men to pursue them. But a woman also wants to know that a man is pursuing her because of her unique qualities -- not just because he's in need of a wife."But what I find more enlightening is the comment of one male reader who exposes Boundless' sheer hypocrisy in this regard:
I have read countless articles on this site that say the Christian dating should be intentional and with an objective toward marriage. In fact, the reason I started reading this site was a publication entitled, “A Guys Guide to Marrying Well”. This booklet is caulked full of section headings such as “Don’t Wait for a Burning Bush”, “Brother You’re Like a Six”, and “Don’t Wait For Your Soul Mate”. Apparently, Christian women aren’t getting the same message…. Because lots of you still seem to want “Brad Pitt and Jesus Christ all rolled into one”.Indeed women are not getting the same message. They're special, after all. They must never be objectified. They must never be reduced to a role or a position. They must be seen as unique human beings. Men on the other hand? Well ... uh .. um. Crickets chirp.
Who are we fooling here? It's the old tool thing again. Men are not wanted "for richer or poorer," "in sickness and health," or "for better or worse." They are wanted for what they provide. They are just a means to an end. The modern married man is just a cardboard cut-out, a body double, a convenient warm body to full the role of making the princess' dreams comes true. In the end, he is viewed as a commodity or resource that is disposable or expendable. His worth is ultimately determined by his usefulness to women. Too many men are finding out that their wives didn't really marry them; instead, these women married a fantasy of "being married." That is the essence of Marriage 2.0 for you. Moreover, let me say that a lot husbands are being torn down psychologically and blamed for everything that goes wrong in a marriage or family. But society and even the church just looks the other way. Are modern women and their male apologists so incorrigibly stupid as to believe that single men aren't picking up on these things that I've mentioned?
If what I saying here is overstated, then why is marriage framed in terms of a cost for men? Why do they say, "Why but the cow when you can get the milk for free?" If marriage was so great for men, then shouldn't they see it as an opportunity and not as a cost? Well it seems being the princess in modern society means not only that you get to treat men shabbily before a relationship, but during the relationship as well. In short, there is a delay in marriage because men are not getting anything out of what is offered and women don't care enough to have it otherwise.
Yeah, can't leave this one out. It's been discussed by many others, however, so I won't belabor it. Men stand to lose a lot if women decide to cash in on the marriage. You have people like Stephen Baskerville sounding the alarm on this matter. Mind you, this man has been interviewed by none other than Albert Mohler. And yet this is what Mr. Baskerville says in his book Taken into Custody:
There is mounting evidence that as men discover the terms of marriage and divorce today, they are engaging in a marriage boycott or marriage “strike”: refusing to marry or start families, knowing they can be criminalized if their wife walks out and how attractive the divorce industry has made it easy for her to do so. …. Sonja Hastings of Fathers-4-Equality says that “no matter how decent, hardworking, and caring you may be as a father, that in the event of separation, you will more than likely not get custody of your child, you will lose up to 80% of all of your assets, you will have to pay up to five times the cost of raising a child, and most importantly you could never see your child again.” In Britain a fathers’ rights group tours university campuses warning young men not to start families. Even one attorney writes a book concluding that the only effective protection for men to avoid losing their children is not to start a family in the first place. (HT: Dr. Helen)When it comes to the divorce and why there is a delay in marriage, well, "I rest my case, your honor."
Before I close, let me throw another molotov cocktail into the garden party of Blame-The-Guys-First crowd: Seven years ago the CDC conducted a study on people and their desire to get married. Do you know which gender agreed more with the statement, "It is better to get married than to go through life being single"? The men. Even among conservative protestants, the breakdown was roughly 68% men vs. 59% women. I am certain this study is not unknown to the Marriage Mandators. Even Steve and Candice Watters were made aware of it a few years back before the Boundless Line blog came on. Recently, Candice Watters was on a radio show with Al Mohler concerning their pet topic, the delay of marriage. Al, as usual, conjured up images of helpless little maidens desperate to get married and slacker dudes sitting on their duffs doing nothing. What did Mrs. Watters say in response to this talk? Search your feelings, padawan.
You see, then, how the snow globe really shakes up. Yes, there are women out there who are nothing like what I described above. That's not the issue. The issue is this: We have a cultural climate (both in and out of the church) that allows women to be exactly like what I described and a statistically significant amount of them are "like that." I've touched the third rail. It deals with how women treat men. And yet, I'm not shocked in what I've said. Are you?