That’s a line from this Slate article on the ‘loser boyfriend epidemic‘. Earlier this year, introducing the Free Market Feminism blog, I admitted that I don’t think
much often about women’s issues. But lately, I’ve been noodling around a lot of relationship issues, especially the psychology of dating. Mostly because it’s been in the news non-stop. And I promise I’ll have some more fully formed thoughts on such a broad topic soon, but for now let’s just look at some of the bizarre claims in this piece.
This article is stupid in a lot of ways. Author Mark Regnerus throws out statistics as if they amounted to insight; young men are underachieving. How do I know that? Because only 43% of undergraduates are men. Because they are poorer now than they were in 1970. And … well … that’s it. That’s the state of men today, versus ‘the past’. We’re dumber, and we’re poorer. And yet we’re still having sex. Because that’s all men want! SEX AND LOTS OF IT THANK YOU GOODBYE. And now for a basic economics lesson:
And yet despite the fact that women are holding the sexual purse strings, they aren’t asking for much in return these days—the market “price” of sex is currently very low. There are several likely reasons for this. One is the spread of pornography: Since high-speed digital porn gives men additional sexual options—more supply for his elevated demand—it takes some measure of price control away from women. The Pill lowered the cost as well. There are also, quite simply, fewer social constraints on sexual relationships than there once were. As a result, the sexual decisions of young women look more like those of men than they once did, at least when women are in their twenties. The price of sex is low, in other words, in part because its costs to women are lower than they used to be.
In short, he’s arguing that sex is a commodity that has dual suppliers, and multiple customers. Regardless of all the other inanities in his article, and all his crappy statistical modeling, this is a common sense point; men and women both want sex, and it requires a partnership, or at least a fleeting agreement, to realize it.
This article plays on both the Judd Apatow stereotypes of men being sex-hungry controlling losers, and the classic woman-as-helpless-reactionaries trope. Both those stereotypes contradict his premise that women should have the upper hand in relationships. It’s weird that he never speaks to that. And by ‘weird’ I mean infuriating.
Sex, we must conclude, is not a zero sum game. So if it is a complex web of social and individual actions, bargaining positions, and varying constraints (availability of partners, standards, etc), why is it men’s fault and men’s fault alone? Because Mark Regnerus is a lazy writer, or a lazy thinker, or both.
Some random thoughts that could screw with his statistics; maybe men are underrepresented in higher ed because we lock up a significant portion of college age black men. Or because women have fewer low skill jobs available. Maybe men are poorer now than 1970 because the cost of a college degree has skyrocketed. Student debt never, ever goes away. Maybe college has become a breeding ground both for infantile men, and for women who have never been exposed to anything else. In other words, maybe there’s a whole bunch more going on here than ‘men are unilaterally bending the sex curve’.
Editor’s note – I cannot believe I got through that without a “that’s what she said” or worse. This must be what maturity is like. GET ME A BEER AND AN XBOX STAT.