Summary: Changes in gender relations are among the most powerful forces reshaping America. Team Trump is the most conservative administration since before the New Deal, but they are powerless to turn this clock back. Below you will see a vision of how our society will change in the decade or so.
- The new life cycle of American women.
- The family’s broken foundation.
- Allan Boom explains what’s happening.
- For More Information.
See part 2 of this series: Will today’s young men marry? America’s future depends which of these answers is right.
(1) The new life cycle of American women
In brief, the family is toast in its current configuration. My guess is that the places where this disintegration have advanced most (e.g., Scandinavia, Los Angeles) society is coasting, supported by inherited cultural traditions which no longer have any foundation. I believe that this is one of our greatest social problems, which the boomers bequeath to future generations much as the Founders did slavery. We are building a new social system, changing the basics but hoping the old dynamics still operate.
Scores of posts here document these changes and discuss their effects. We might see these changes erupt into a crisis during the next decade. The women now becoming adults are the first raised in a culture of third wave feminism. They enter a society in which women are outperforming men in an increasingly wide range of factors (most notably, education), in which the last constraints on young women’s behavior are gone (most importantly, any barriers to unrestrained pursuit of alpha men). It is a golden age for young women.
The median age of marriage for women is 28, a record high for America (see this Census graph). They have roughly a decade to play, with little need to plan for their future. Men will be there to settle upon when they are ready to settle down. But will they?
(2) We have destroyed the family’s foundation
Fifteen years as a Boy Scout leader gives me a window on the dating market for young men. It’s a jungle, a wilderness without rules. An astonishing number of them have become misogynists; more have abandoned the game — taking refuge in online gaming, sports, and drugs. They face marriages in which the traditional benefits for men are gone. No homemaker, a struggle with spouse with no defined roles, and fifty percent odds of her divorcing him — tossed into the grossly pro-woman family law system, after which he pays child support for decades (with joint custody in the increasing number of cases she does not want the kids).
More broadly, the institution of marriage was buttressed with elaborate scaffolding. Most importantly, girls were raised (“indoctrinated”) to be wives and mothers (“pronatalism“). Will it still work under these radically new conditions? Will men volunteer to find out?
Most people assume that society is like TV where we can fiddle with the controls yet the picture on the screen will remains largely unchanged. Humanity has made many changes in core social institutions, but until recently changes were made slowly. Now we have ideology, giving us confidence to do in decades what our overly-cautious ancestors did in generations.
The next decade will tell us much about this great experiment.
(3) Allan Boom explains these events.
For an explanation of our situation and how we got on this path, I recommend Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind. Here’s a brief excerpt. It only hints at the depth of Bloom’s reasoning about the nature of modern America. Published in 1987, reads like he was reading today’s newspapers.
Contrary to the popular prejudice that America is the nation of unintellectual and anti-intellectual people, where ideas are at best means to ends, America is actually nothing but a great stage on which theories have been played as tragedy and comedy. This is a regime founded by philosophers and their students. All the recalcitrant matter of the historical gave way here before the practical and philosophical ought to be, as the raw natural givens of this wild continent meekly submitted to the yoke of theoretical science.
…Now we have arrived at one of the ultimate acts in our drama, the informing and reforming of our most intimate private lives by our principles. Sex and its consequences—love, marriage and family—have finally become the theme of the national project, and here the problem of nature, always present but always repressed in the reconstruction of man demanded by freedom and equality, becomes insistent.
…The change in sexual relations, which now provide an unending challenge to human ingenuity, came over us in two successive waves in the last two decades. The first was the sexual revolution; the second, feminism. The sexual revolution marched under the banner of freedom; feminism under that of equality.
…At the origins of modern natural rights teachings, freedom and equality were political principles intended to bring both justice and effectiveness to the relationships of ruling and being ruled, which in the conventional order were constituted by pretended rights of strength, wealth, tradition, age and birth. The relations of king and subject, master and slave, lord and vassal, patrician and pleb, rich and poor, were revealed to be purely manmade and hence not morally binding, apart from the consent of the parties to them, which became the only source of political legitimacy. Civil society was to be reconstructed on the natural ground of man’s common humanity.
Then it would appear that all relationships or relatedness within civil society would also depend on the free consent of individuals. …The radical transformation of the relations between men and women and parents and children was the inevitable consequence of the success of the new politics of consent.
…Hobbes and Locke supposed that, although the political order would be constituted out of individuals, the subpolitical units would remain largely unaffected. Indeed, they counted on the family, as an intermediate between individual and the state, partially to replace what was being lost in passionate attachment to the polity. The immediate and reliable love of one’s own property, wife and children can more effectively counterpoise purely individual selfishness than does the distant and abstract love of country. Moreover, concern for the safety of one’s family is a powerful reason for loyalty to the state, which protects them.
The nation as a community of families is a formula that until recently worked very well in the United States. However, it is very questionable whether this solution is viable over the very long run, because there are two contrary views of nature present here. And, as the political philosophers have always taught, the one that is authoritative in the political regime will ultimately inform its parts.
In the social contract view, nature has nothing to say about relationships and rank order; in the older view, which is part and parcel of ancient political philosophy, nature is prescriptive. Are the relations between men and women and parents and children determined by natural impulse or are they the product of choice and consent? In Aristotle’s Politics, the subpolitical or prepolitical family relations point to the necessity of political rule and are perfected by it, whereas in the state-of-nature teachings, political rule is derived entirely from the need for protection of individuals, bypassing their social relations completely.
Are we dealing with political actors or with men and women? In the former case, persons are free to construct whatever relations they please with one another; in the latter, prior to any choice, a preexisting frame largely determines the relations of men and women.
…Man in the state of nature, either in the first one or the one we have now, can walk away from a sexual encounter and never give it another thought. But a woman may have a child, and in fact, as becomes ever clearer, may want to have a child. Sex can be an indifferent thing for men, but it really cannot quite be so for women. This is what might be called the female drama.
Modernity promised that all human beings would be treated equally. Women took that promise seriously and rebelled against the old order. But as they have succeeded, men have also been liberated from their old constraints. And women, now liberated and with equal careers, nevertheless find they still desire to have children, but have no basis for claiming that men should share their desire for children or assume a responsibility for them. So nature weighs more heavily on women.
In the old order they were subordinated and dependent on men; in the new order they are isolated, needing men, but not able to count on them, and hampered in the free development of their individuality. The promise of modernity is not really fulfilled for women.
…Locke believed, and the events of our time seem to confirm his belief, that women have an instinctive attachment to children that cannot be explained as self-interest or calculation. The attachment of mother and child is perhaps the only undeniable natural social bond. It is not always effective, and it can, with effort, be suppressed, but it is always a force. And this is what we see today.
But what about the father? Maybe he loves imagining his own eternity through the generations stemming from him. But this is only an act of imagination, one that can be attenuated by other concerns and calculations, as well as by his losing faith in the continuation of his name for very long in the shifting conditions of democracy. Of necessity, therefore, it was understood to be the woman’s job to get and hold the man by her charms and wiles because, by nature, nothing else would induce him to give up his freedom in favor of the heavy duties of family.
But women no longer wish to do this, and they, with justice, consider it unfair according to the principles governing us. So the cement that bound the family together crumbled. It is not the children who break away; it is the parents who abandon them. Women are no longer willing to make unconditional and perpetual commitments on unequal terms, and, no matter what they hope, nothing can effectively make most men share equally the responsibilities of childbearing and child-rearing. The divorce rate is only the most striking symptom of this breakdown.
More than two hundred years ago Rousseau saw with alarm the seeds of the breakdown of the family in liberal society, and he dedicated much of his genius to trying to correct it. He found that the critical connection between man and woman was being broken by individualism, and focused his efforts, theoretical and practical, on encouraging passionate romantic love in them. He wanted to rebuild and reinforce that connection, previously encumbered by now discredited religious and civil regulation, on modern grounds of desire and consent.
…He set utter abandon to the sentiments and imaginations of idealized love against calculation of individual interest. Rousseau inspired a whole genre of novelistic and poetic literature that lived feverishly for over a century, coexisting with the writings of the Benthams and the Mills who were earnestly at work homogenizing the sexes. His undertaking had the heaviest significance because human community was at risk. In essence he was persuading women freely to be different from men and to take on the burden of entering a positive contract with the family, as opposed to a negative, individual, self-protective contract with the state.
Tocqueville picked up this theme, described the absolute differentiation of husband’s and wife’s functions and ways of life in the American family, and attributed the success of American democracy to its women, who freely choose their lot. This he contrasted to the disorder, nay, chaos, of Europe, which he attributed to a misunderstanding or misapplication of the principle of equality — only an abstraction when not informed by nature’s imperatives.
This whole effort failed and now arouses either women’s anger, as an attempt to take from them rights guaranteed to all human beings, or their indifference, as irrelevant in a time when women do exactly the same things as men and face the same difficulties in ensuring their independence.
Rousseau, Tocqueville and all the others now have only historical significance and at most provide us with a serious alternative perspective for analyzing our situation. Romantic love is now as alien to us as knight errantry, and young men are no more likely to court a woman than to wear a suit of armor, not only because it is not fitting, but because it would be offensive to women.
…Here Rousseau is most helpful, for he honestly exposed the nerve of that incantation, whereas the discussion of roots is an evasion. There is a passage in Emile, his educational novel, which keeps coming back to me as I look at my students. It occurs in the context of the teacher’s arrangements with the parents of the pupil whose total education he is undertaking, and in the absence of any organic relation between husbands and wives and parents and children after having passed through the solvent of modem theory and practice:
“I would even want the pupil and the governor to regard themselves as so inseparable that the lot of each in life is always a common object for them. As soon as they envisage from afar their separation, as soon as they foresee the moment which is going to make them strangers to one another, they are already strangers. Each sets up his own little separate system; and both engrossed by the time they will no longer be together, stay only reluctantly.”
That is it. Everyone has “his own little separate system.” …The possibility of separation is already the fact of separation, inasmuch as people today must plan to be whole and self-sufficient, and cannot risk interdependence. Imagination compels everyone to look forward to the day of separation in order to see how he will do. The energies people should use in the common enterprise are exhausted in preparation for independence. What would, in the case of union, be a building stone becomes a stumbling block on the path to secession. The goals of those who are together naturally and necessarily must become a common good; what one must live with can be accepted. But there is no common good for those who are to separate. The presence of choice already changes the character of relatedness. And the more separation there is, the more there will be.
This continual shifting of the sands in our desert — separation from places, persons, beliefs — produces the psychic state of nature where reserve and timidity are the prevailing dispositions. We are social solitaries.
…The most visible sign of our increasing separateness and, in its turn, the cause of ever greater separateness is divorce. …Divorce in America is the most palpable indication that people are not made to live together, and that, although they want and need to create a general will out of the particular wills, those particular wills constantly reassert themselves. There is a quest, but ever more hopeless, for arrangements and ways of putting the broken pieces back together. The task is equivalent to squaring the circle …
The decomposition of this bond is surely America’s most urgent social problem. But nobody even tries to do anything about it. The tide seems to be irresistible.
The problem, however, is not that people are not authentic enough, but that they have no common object, no common good, no natural complementarity. Selves, of course, have no relation to anything but themselves, and this is why “communication” is their problem.
Gregariousness, like that of the animals in the herd, is admitted by all. Grazing together side by side and rubbing against one another are the given, but there is a desire and a necessity to have something more, to make the transition from the herd to the hive, where there is real interconnection. Hence, the hive — community, roots, extended family — is much praised, but no one is willing to transform his indeterminate self into an all too determinate worker, drone or queen, to submit to the rank-ordering and division of labor necessary to any whole that is more than just a heap of discrete parts.
Selves want to be wholes, but have lately also taken to longing to be parts. This is the reason why conversation about relationships remains so vacuous, abstract and unprogrammatic, with its whole content stored in a bottle labeled “commitment.” It is also why there is so much talk about phenomena like “bonding.” In the absence of any connectedness in their souls, human beings seek reassurance in fruitless analogy to mechanisms found in brutes.
But this will not work because human attachment always has an element of deliberate choice, denied by such analogy. One need only compare the countless novels and movies about male bonding with Aristotle’s discussion of friendship in the Ethics. Friendship, like its related phenomenon, love, is no longer within our ken because both require notions of soul and nature that, for a mixture of theoretical and political reasons, we cannot even consider.
The reliance on relationships is a self-delusion because it is founded on an inner contradiction. Relations between the sexes have always been difficult, and that is why so much of our literature is about men and women quarreling. There is certainly legitimate ground to doubt their suitability for each other given the spectrum — from the harem to Plato’s Republic — of imaginable and actually existing relations between them, whether nature acted the stepmother or God botched the creation by an afterthought, as some Romantics believed.
…The arrangement implicit in marriage, even if it is only conventional, tells those who enter into it what to expect and what the satisfactions are supposed to be. Very simply, the family is a sort of miniature body politic in which the husband’s will is the will of the whole. The woman can influence her husband’s will, and it is supposed to be informed by love of wife and children.
Now all of this has simply disintegrated. It does not exist, nor is it considered good that it should. But nothing certain has taken its place. Neither men nor women have any idea what they are getting into anymore, or, rather, they have reason to fear the worst. There are two equal wills, and no mediating principle to link them and no tribunal of last resort. What is more, neither of the wills is certain of itself.
This is where the “ordering of priorities” comes in, particularly with women, who have not yet decided which comes first, career or children. People are no longer raised to think they ought to regard marriage as the primary goal and responsibility, and their uncertainty is mightily reinforced by the divorce statistics, which imply that putting all of one’s psychological eggs in the marriage basket is a poor risk. The goals and wills of men and women have become like parallel lines, and it requires a Lobachevskyan imagination to hope they may meet.
…I am not arguing here that the old family arrangements were good or that we should or could go back to them. I am only insisting that we not cloud our vision to such an extent that we believe that there are viable substitutes for them just because we want or need them.
…women, due to the unreliability of men, have had to provide the means for their own independence. This has simply given men the excuse for being even less concerned with women’s well-being. A dependent, weak woman is indeed vulnerable and puts herself at men’s mercy. But that appeal did influence a lot of men a lot of the time. The cure now prescribed for male irresponsibility is to make them more irresponsible. And a woman who can be independent of men has much less motive to entice a man into taking care of her and her children.
…All our reforms have helped strip the teeth of our gears, which can therefore no longer mesh. They spin idly, side by side, unable to set the social machine in motion. It is at this exercise in futility that young people must look when thinking about their future.
Women are pleased by their successes, their new opportunities, their agenda, their moral superiority. But underneath everything lies the more or less conscious awareness that they are still dual beings by nature, capable of doing most things men do and also wanting to have children. They may hope otherwise, but they fully expect to pursue careers, to have to pursue careers, while caring for children alone. And what they expect and plan for is likely to happen.
The men have none of the current ideological advantages of the women, but they can opt out without too much cost. In their relations with women they have little to say; convinced of the injustice of the old order, for which they were responsible, and practically incapable of changing the direction of the juggernaut, they wait to hear what is wanted, try to adjust but are ready to take off in an instant. They want relationships, but the situation is so unclear. They anticipate a huge investment of emotional energy that is just as likely as not to end in bankruptcy, to a sacrifice of their career goals without any clarity about what reward they will reap, other than a vague togetherness.
Meanwhile, one of the strongest, oldest motives for marriage is no longer operative. Men can now easily enjoy the sex that previously could only be had in marriage. It is strange that the tiredest and stupidest bromide mothers and fathers preached to their daughters — “He won’t respect you or marry you if you give him what he wants too easily” — turns out to be the truest and most probing analysis of the current situation. Women can say they do not care, that they want men to have the right motives or none at all, but everyone, and they best of all, knows that they are being, at most, only half truthful with themselves. …
For More Information
See part 2 of this series: Will today’s young men marry? America’s future depends which of these answers is right.
If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about women and gender roles, especially these…
- Men are “going Galt”. Marriage is dying. Will society survive?
- When marriage disappears: rising inequality as the threat to the family.
- Beckett shows our future. She chooses wisely & marries Castle, but dreams at night of her alpha ex-boyfriend.
- “Castle” shows a future of strong women & weak men. As for marriage…
- Men are abandoning the rat race, & changing American society.
- Why men are avoiding work and marriage.
46 thoughts on “Will young men break America’s family structure?”
About the comments to this post
Readers have posted 50,000 comments on the FM website during the past 10 years. They have taught me that a post hits paydirt when the comments ignore its key point.
As they do here, big-time. Almost all the comments ignore Bloom’s telling observations about sex, love, and relationships in our era — and avoid like fire my question “Why Should Young Men Marry?”.
There are many successful family structures, as any anthropology textbook will show you. I think we might be evolving from the American traditional patrilineal, patrilocal system into a more matrilineal, matrilocal system. In those systems, a man is responsible primarily for his sister’s children, although in most he still retains some teaching obligations to his biological children as well. At least this is what I see happening amongst poor people, particularly the black families in my neighborhood. I see men who are being important parts of their nephews and nieces lives, in extended families where there are tons of first and second cousins who help each other.
“There are many successful family structures”
Yes, but that’s not my point. The common element in all those is that they evolved over time. Here we are making radical changes based on nothing but ideology. It’s an experiment, with ourselves as the lab rats. It’s a high risk procedure.
“we might be evolving from the American traditional patrilineal, patrilocal system”
It’s the civilization of the west — Europe and the Middle East — for millennia.
“into a more matrilineal, matrilocal system. In those systems, a man is responsible primarily for his sister’s children”
You’re kidding, right?
I think economic issues and strains make a much larger impact if you look at things on a macro level. The cited average age of marriage for an American woman is about what an Irish woman in the period right after the potato famine would have faced, although of course the latter would have probably not considered becoming a single mother. About 1/3rd of Irishmen and 1/4th of Irishwomen of that period (we ignore the many emigrants for this purpose) never married at all.
I don’t understand your point. Yes, economics can play a role in social strucutre. The late age of marriage for the Irish was historically unusual, prompted (as you note) as a method to suppress fertility (in the absence of other methods) by the extraordinary circumstances of their oppression by the English.
That doesn’t mean that all changes in family structure are driven by economics. More specifically, our circumstances are the opposite of the 19thC Irish in most respects.
Thinking about your comment, I still unsure of your point. But your insight is brilliant. We have adopted the same social response as the 19th century Irish — extreme delay of marriage until the late 20’s — but under more-or-less opposite conditions. That illustrates, perhaps, the social stress we’re under (just the oppressed Irish were).
Fabius, thank you!
My theory here is that a very large source of the pressure against marrying is economic stress, either actual or perceived. If the perception of risk of divorce losses would loom so large, surely the perception that you’re doing worse than your parents did would also have a large impact.
A lot of this, in my view, is a boomerang effect from the really great times for the Baby Boomers, which are unlikely to be reproduced (in relative if not absolute terms) any time soon. Many young people are also taking on substantial debt in order to enter the job market, and everyone knows the overall situation is much more precarious than was historically the case.
If I had another point, it was that Ireland did not collapse, cease to exist, or (as far as I can tell) fundamentally transform due to that situation in that generation. I do suspect it will help contribute to declining population (at least of this segment of the population) in the USA and, where relevant, similar nations, but as your posts on Japan said, maybe that has its blessings!
“My theory here is that a very large source of the pressure against marrying is economic stress, either actual or perceived.”
We have surveys in which people tell us why they don’t marry. Economic hardship seldom ranks high in the ones I’ve seen.
“If I had another point, it was that Ireland did not collapse, cease to exist, or (as far as I can tell) fundamentally transform due to that situation in that generation.”
That’s an awfully generic comment. How many discussions of difficult social phenomena can you not say “society didn’t collapse”. What does that tell us? Germany, Russia, China, and Cambodia didn’t collapse after near-genocidal killing. Did Russia and China change after the killing?
Just a little afterthought: It is probably fair to say that not marrying is more conceivable, more a thing that doesn’t draw shock on a casual basis, nowadays. At least compared to the 1840s Irish. But I think society has always been a lot more complicated than rows of nuclear or nuclear-ish families all in a row.
“society has always been a lot more complicated than rows of nuclear or nuclear-ish families all in a row.”
Yes, that is true. But that’s a really generic comment. Has there even been a thread in which people can’t say “things are always more complicated…”. How does this help us understand what’s happening.
The changes in marriage aren’t happening because of ideology. They’re happening from avwhoke confluemce of events: not least of which are men”s jobs being outsourced and effective, safe contraception being available. The latter is a huge cultural and technological change that the effects of which are often underestimated. We may well be dealing with the cultural reverberations from this for the next 500 years. Sex and childbearing have been decoupled. Of course marriage is going to change. Everything to do with sex changes.
Technology makes things possible. How we think — values, religion, ideology — are how we adapt to our ever-changing world. New tech does not force us to do anything. We’re not puppets.
Women have agency, despite the always fashionable attempts to deny that (one of the few constants of history).
Fabius Maximus, not so if you look at technology as something that regulates relationships between people rather than just looking at it from a strictly functional perspective. Marx had the great line, “the hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill society with the industrial capitalist”
I suspect everyone agrees that technology has a great effect on society. But that’s not the point of this post. Rather it is the simple question: what will happen to the family structure in the next decade?
I ask what are the odds it will degrades substantially (i.e., marriage rates decline rapidly). How does saying “economics!” answer the question?
Reverse the question. If the family does (exaggerate for emphasis) collapse, will we feel better after economists explain why it was inevitable (they seldom predict accurately, but their after-the-fact explanations are womderful).
Fabius Maximus, I offered the quote because the idea that technology mediates social relations is relevant (and a little bit more subtle than saying ‘economics!’). What will happen to the family structure in the next decade is not a simple question to answer, even if the question can be formulated succinctly. If you want to try to answer that difficult question, you could do worse than reading how Marx analyzed social relations and technological development. Again, the point’s not to throw up your hands and yell, ‘it’s inevitable!’ but to view the problem from a different perspective.
“What will happen to the family structure in the next decade is not a simple question to answer”
I’m confident that we all know that.
“You could do worse than reading how Marx analyzed social relations and technological development.”
Thanks, that is a useful cite! It’s usually forgotten how insightful Marx was about social dynamics.
“the point’s not to throw up your hands and yell, ‘it’s inevitable!’
I agree. But yelling “it’s inevitable” is almost the standard response. Not only do people tend to deny that individuals lack agency in these matters, but also that America (us) lacks agency.
“but to view the problem from a different perspective.”
I agree. However, you’ve gone far ahead of me. I’m just asking the question — too seldom asked — about the effects of changes we’ve already made on near-term evolution of the family. The usual assumption is that these things will work out. Given the scale and speed of the changes we’ve made, it’s worth pondering the possibility that things might not work out.
One other factor deserves discussion: the nuclear family is a tiny remnant of what a family traditionally has been. We evolved to live iin extended families and clans. People need a lot of help in raising their children. The amount of work is staggering. We dump it all on two people, or often just one, and then wonder why families become pressure cookers.
“We evolved to live in extended families and clans.”
Do you mean “evolved” in the biological (Darwinian) sense? IF so, in what way? What aspects of our biology are best suited for clans?
If you mean “evolved” in a social sense, western societies have evolved away from clans for millennia.
“People need a lot of help in raising their children.”
Yes. That’s why we have a wide range of support institutions, such as schools and day care.
“We dump it all on two people, or often just one, and then wonder why families become pressure cookers.”
In what way is a two-parent family with 1-4 kids, supported by the institutions of modern society plus vast wealth and security (by historical standards), under more pressure than the standard family of the past several millennia — lots of kids (often limited by infanticde), minimal security — and the ever-present prospect of mass death from war, plague, and famine?
One parent families put a large burden on the parent, especially when combined with low income. On the other hand, 80%+ of divorces are initiated by the mother. Presumably they know what they are doing, so their situation shouldn’t be worse than in the two-parent family structure they abandoned.
Lots of heavy intellectualizing in these comments, losing touch with the reality on the ground that young men (the subject of this post) are reacting to. Too much abstraction. People, men and women, will make their choices. I raise what seems to be an obvious question (which most here appear unwilling to consider): will those choices be compatible with a viable family structure?
To understand the background, I suggest looking at some of the posts describing their world, such as The war of the sexes heats up as men learn the Dark Triad.
For the brief version, this video gives a fun (& subjective) look at how the world looks to many young men.
It’s rich hearing someone invoke Aristotle and Rousseau to essentially call MRA/PUA stuff ‘the dark arts’ turn around and get upset at ‘heavy intellectualizing’ in the comments section.
Some great notion,
That makes no sense at all. The post about the “dark arts” cites a large body of social science research validating some of the basic tenets of “game”. I often cite Aristotle and Rousseau to show the roots of modern culture in our past.
Neither of those is “intellectualizing”. “Intellectualizing” is a term in psychology. It’s a defense mechanism to avoid a conflict between one’s beliefs and reality. It’s a cousin to rationalizing.
Devlin says it best: Sexual Utopia in Power: The Feminist Revolt Against Civilization by F. Roger Devlin. Publisher’s summary:
Like many political revolutions, the sexual revolution of the 1960s began with a euphoric feeling of liberation. But when utopian programs clash with dissenters — and with reality itself — the result is chaos, which revolutionaries seek to quash with repression and terror. In Sexual Utopia in Power, F. Roger Devlin explores today’s sexual dystopia, with its loose morals and confused sexual roles; its soaring rates of divorce, celibacy, and childlessness; and the increasingly arbitrary and punitive attempts to regulate and police it. Devlin shows that the breakdown of monogamy results in promiscuity for the few, loneliness for the majority, and unhappiness for all.
Every revolution gives rise to a reaction. Devlin, however, is very critical of mainstream conservative responses to the sexual revolution, which often eerily echo feminist complaints about innocent women being preyed upon by wicked men who must be scolded and punished. The most controversial aspect of Devlin’s work is his argument that today’s sexual dystopia is rooted just as much in women’s nature as men’s, exploring such taboo topics as female hypergamy (mating up), narcissism, infidelity, deceptiveness, and masochism. By showing their biological basis, F. Roger Devlin offers a non-traditional defense of traditional sexual morals and institutions and shows us the way out of today’s sexual dystopia.
Introduction: The Facts of Life
1. Sexual Utopia in Power
2. Rotating Polyandry—& its Enforcers
3. The Female Sexual Counter-Revolution and its Limitations
4. Home Economics
5. The Family Way
6. Back to Africa: Sexual Atavism in the Modern West
7. The Question of Female Masochism
Thank you for posting this! Cites of useful articles and books are always appreciated. I added he publisher’s description to your comment. This book, originally published as an article in , has become widely influential on the right.
Why are so many on the right opponents of feminism (“Men’s rights” does seem a useful label) and racists (“White nationalists)? Here’s more about Devlin.
A follow-up note, unrelated to this post but something I’ve wanted to post about. So I’ll toss it out here (topic drift, which I usually protest). Per RationalWiki, Chateau Heartiste is an MRA/PUA blog run by a guy named James C. Weidmann. In the past year he’s gone big into White Nationalism. More recently, he’s become proto-fascist (not yet there, but moving in that direction). See today’s post for a classic (and disturbing) example: “A White Hot Fire Rises.”
Social experimentation — radical and rapid breaking people free of the traditional forms — sometimes produces monsters. It’s something I’ve warned of for many years (see examples here).
Would you care to give an example of the ‘heavy intellectualizing’ you seem to think is rampant?
Some great notion,
(1) “Would you care to give an example of the ‘heavy intellectualizing’ ”
No. It’s not an important point to me, and I’m uninterested in spending time on it. I’m interested in people addressing the points raised in this post. Try reading the comments and my responses.
(2) All comments are immediately trashed by folks who believe that insults are useful discussion, with future comments moderated. Such as “if you aren’t being deliberately obtuse.” That’s my response to the tide of trolls that’s ruining the internet. See the Comment Policy, which also cites many major website operators views of the war against trolls.
Usual MRA/PUA ‘religious’ right/social conservative …homosocial male ramblings.
Real society doesn’t work that way. Males and females are going through a period of adjustment, that’s all, with a subset of men dragging their heels…while many men and woman have no problems and have successful long term relationships (LTR).
Bit by bit the divorce rate is dropping, it is at its lowest amongst higher class men and women who probably have the most equal relationships around.
Economic stress is a known factor in LTR breakups, so divorce rates ramp up the lower the economic class.
As always men and women partner up with those very similar to themselves (known since the 80s at least) in social/economic class, attitudes, intellect, even level of looks.
Age of marriage is a bit of distraction since many will live together for some time before marriage. But the time it takes to get educated, then get established in work naturally means ages of long term relationship foundation tends to be a bit older these days.
The (minority of) men that can’t handle this typically are entrenched in the ‘homosocial’ model indoctrinated into them, largely dysfunctional with endless sexual hypocrisy …and strong helpings of misogyny. People like this start as misogynist, then complain when women don’t fit their hypocritical model of behaviour (endlessly chase sex with women, women who have sex with them are ‘sluts’, marry a virgin who serves them domestically and sexually…and then cheat on them whenever they can with said ‘sluts’). Of course homosocial men also have totally dysfunctional relationships with other men too (endless competition, negging, bullying, power struggles and all the sorry rest). They usually make terrible (and reluctant) fathers as well.
The absurdity and hypocrisy of these attitude is shown by this (from the anti MRA site We Hunted the Mammoth):
From a MRA: ” It seems social engineers are catering to already existing instincts in women by encouraging them to be copies of men rather than copies of their grandmothers, bringing out the worst in women rather than the best.”
“Wait, this dude writing for a website run by a pickup artist who fetishizes very young women wants women to be copies of their grandmothers?
Honestly, dudes, do you actually think any of this through before posting it?”
Said people go on endlessly about ‘hypergamy’ and ‘beta worship’ to explain why they repel women…. Ignoring the fact that hypergamy is at its highest in those societies where women have the least rights and is done by their parents arranging their marriages, and that women actually like nice guys who they get on with and do things together.
Statements like “more have abandoned the game” are nonsense. What ‘game’.. this is about friendships, relationships, romance, fun, sharing life together, supporting each other. Relationships are not a ‘game’. Again that is such a homosocial attitude, where meaningful relationships (and friendships) are reduced to some sort of (and at least borderline sociopathic) roleplaying.
” They face marriages in which the traditional benefits for men are gone.”…at the self sacrifice of their partner’s life? And in what way are they entitled to that?
It begs the question of that there are many compensating benefits to men over all this (as all the smart ones all know), even just at the basic level of sex. Most men in LTRs now have vastly better sex lives than men ever did in the past. The ability to share the economic and domestic burdens of life together and combine their resources is an incredible advance on the past. The freedom of men to escape confining (and damaging) gender roles expected of them, to be more themselves.. yes men make amazing cooks if they want to be……and, amazingly many want to be good and involved fathers.
And heterosexual women like and want men, a common complaint is ‘where are all the good (and they do not have to be perfect) men are?”. But these days they won’t put up with misogynistic (and usually childish) idiots any longer. They actually expect men to be responsible adults not bratty little children…and know what a clitoris actually is …
There is a crisis amongst some men, a crisis of childishness and feeling of undeserved entitlement, combined with astonishing hypocrisy. To call them ‘men’ is a stretch.
Thank you for the ideological rant, so similar in structure and tone to those on the far right. I’m unsure why you believe you confident assertions are a rebuttal. Time will tell.
Follow-up question: You ignore the question raised by this post. Why should young men marry?
also anyone who seriously quotes “we hunted the mammoths” as a source, has zero credibility and is ideologically possessed.
I wondered about that title. What could they mean by “we hunted the mammoths”? But I wasn’t sufficiently curious to venture into it.
Looks like your silly analysis has gone wanting. The men of today, literally, have taken their balls and gone home. With a Marriage of 30 years myself, and observing the incentive structures of marriage today, I must advise my son to ignore females, do not get involved, and frankly never marry. Financially he makes >$200K annually and is in the top 15% of height. That places him in the top 2-3% of men his age….under 27! His average looks knock him down to the top 5% overall. He already has his own home, a couple of rental properties and by 35-40 will be essentially able to retire and do as he likes. The only way he will marry is if he wishes to have children, and only then, if she signs up for and agrees to an equal split upon any dissolution. Otherwise, he is walking into the 50% game show where a coin flip and a female whim allows the man to keep what he has or lose half of everything driven by hormones and the incentive system that rewards bad decisions! Bad decisions indeed, as broken families can NEVER get back to where they were and will always fall far short of those that hold together and grow their wealth for their posterity. Just try competing against families .like mine that remain together and grow and magnify their wealth to their children’s advantage. Children of Divorce will always be disadvantaged due to poor parent decisions. Hormones, Dishonesty, Selfishness, Stupidity, Insanity..why would there be an incentive structure to give credence to the worst in human qualities? Bad decision indeed as you always get more of what you incentivize.
With 50% of marriages failing, and 70-90% of those divorces being initiated by the female, the numbers don’t lie! it is obvious by these numbers alone who the incentives favor. Men of today are no longer in play for the long haul, there is no marriage incentive whatsoever, he explains to his female “friends with benefits”, this incentive system and they tend to agree, albeit sometimes disagreeably. He is in the driver seat because he recognizes the system and he understands the math. There is no hiding or denying this fact. As others have estimated that the court system should be remedied, the remedy itself will be an admission of the problem and will tend to overshoot by reducing the marriage rates further before any turnaround is possible. So I don’t expect any substantial change in the rest of my lifetime. My son will continue to date low 20 somethings into the foreseeable future, trading them in when they realize their goal is unobtainable or they “say the wrong thing” or they grow fat, withhold sex, or have a temper tantrum and he dumps them. Women have done this to themselves, their ability to try to escape blame only makes it worse when blame boomerangs around and hits them square in the face! The pendulum has swung far beyond what it should have for Western Women, the downfall of the entire Western system is now at stake and they resist their guilt, but the pendulum will swing back, albeit probably too late to save any semblance of civilization. We are doomed to a childless future of robotic romantic encounters of the mechanistic tech wizard kind. The final straw will be when we can see into the bottomless pit and the government provides direct tax incentives for families that remain married and have tax advantages for child bearing upwards of their cost of doing business. Ironic, White Men create the greatest civilizations, that raise half the planet out of poverty and provide the best living conditions for even its lowliest and opportunities for ALL above and beyond any other cultures in human history. Then those who gain the most from the opportunities, tear it down from within, a giant Trojan horse unleashed! Again the numbers cannot be ignored, a sustainable trajectory is unobtainable as the current decline accelerates.
Maybe some smart young woman will agree to my Son’s requirements for marriage, or maybe its not even marriage, but cohabitation with contractual exit rules? Either way, by putting all prior wealth into legal untouchable structures “Trusts” seems to be the only way forward for any man even interested in marriage or a family. I am doing this now so that I can safely pass down wealth to my son and I am advising the same for him. Maybe its all an expensive ruse? Nothing and no one can be trusted, as the numbers scream out to all men, about the low trustworthiness of women, How will women ever change this negative view of their nature?
Having been a young man in the 90’s and 00’s and having read widely on PUA material and the dark triad I have to say subjectivity that while the theory was good in small doses, it leads you down a dark path, where women and men become predetermined creatures, and relationships become fraught places. In my situation I actually broke up a perfectly good relationship by trying to apply the dark triad, I became an asshole. While there are some interesting insights, in my personal experience they seem to apply quit well to teenagers, and then decline in effectiveness pretty rapidly thereafter.
On the fate of the family, I think that the need of the future economy will provide as good a guide as we can get as to its shape. The single earner household is 30 years dead, but children still need to be brought up, women still do most of the rearing and need a good man to stand by them.
But then I live in a country that is still very family orientated with very low rates of divorce, so maybe I’m not in the best place to judge wider trends in western society. Still for what its worth, where I come from, a good job, good education, and good manners still go a long way for a man.
Bad boys are not so in demand. Perhaps thats a case of marrying older, where women are looking for stability rather than excitement? A case of older and wiser. Divorce rates are actually falling in Ireland (from very low levels) Among my peers its unthinkable, and would be concidered a great shame, we’re mostly educated to a degree or higher level, none of us are what would be considered practicing Catholics. From what I understand, Americans marry younger, I guess that has an effect on divorce rates. I would make a bet that among those who spend longer in education and carrier building divorce rates are far lower.
Perhaps now that the taboo of divorce is no longer there all those marriages that would have collapsed without the external pressure of the church and parents now don’t last. While those built on wealth, education, social status will survive, as they seem to always have done.
Perhaps thats the answer, the shrinking pie will demand marriages that are build on firm financial foundations, not on love.
Most of the women I know in there 30’s and 40’s turn a wry simile at the antics of twitter feminists, but then, there married, have children, and mostly jobs as good if not better than there husbands.
“it leads you down a dark path …In my situation I actually broke up a perfectly good relationship by trying to apply the dark triad”
Exactly like its dark twin, radical feminism.
“On the fate of the family, I think that the need of the future economy will provide as good a guide as we can get as to its shape.”
So the “invisible hand” now provides the society that we need? I doubt that.
“Bad boys are not so in demand.”
They’re in big demand in California, and (from what I hear) elsewhere in the US.
I would second what merocaine said. People grow up, men and women both. Especially relevant is the comment about marrying young not being super helpful.
I live in a well educated smallish town/city where the norm, both among upper-middle class and working class, is to “get serious” around the age of 30 or shortly after. But same basic idea as elsewhere – live to experiment for a while, fool around, get married, have kids, perhaps get divorced, try again etc. The divorce takes a huge toll on the single moms, without any doubt whatsoever. (The US could use policies more supportive for single parents, but that isn’t the main point).
I question the connection of feminism to divorce, somewhat, and feminism to lack of desire for family even more.
In my life, I don’t see any evidence that women do not want to have children or families, including deeply feminist ones of which there are a lot here. Nor men, though naturally there’s an asymmetry / biological clock factor.
The stuff this post is about has been talked about a lot in modern feminism too – I’m haven’t touched the literature at all unfortunately, but I bet you could dig up up-to-date counterpoints if you wanted to. The term I heard was the “having it all” debate, meaning both kids and career for a high-achieving woman.
As for the “dark triad” – Men who stay with “sex + career” as they get to male marriage age are rare, I think. And again that is not my impression of what either modern male or modern female identity is about from what I can see first hand. The aggressive “PUA” culture you are referring to, although glorified by glossy magazines and pop culture, along with its counterpart for women, is a phenomenon that’s more for men in their 20’s in large cities – a population who isn’t considering marriage anyway.
A last anectote- the most deeply experimentalist people I know around here, including the leading edge of the millenials, are very ok with family, and have it as their goal to successfully combine the some radically free post-everything ideas with domestic stability (if not always monogamy). I understand that’s not an even remotely new ambition.
“I question the connection of feminism to divorce, somewhat, and feminism to lack of desire for family even more.”
What are your “questioning”? From that point on I had no idea what you were discussing. It doesn’t seem at all relevant to this post.
Your overall theme seems to “stuff doesn’t change”. History says otherwise.
Terrific Post, and of course, the body is the excerpts from Mr. Bloom. But you set the frame very well.
Thanks for extracting the relevant ones for us here. Had to take a bit of time and re-read your listings from that book. Not things that lend to quick absorption.
“…This he contrasted to the disorder, nay, chaos, of Europe, which he attributed to a misunderstanding or misapplication of the principle of equality — only an abstraction when not informed by nature’s imperatives.” (deTocqueville)
Smiling….simply great stuff. One need not have read Locke or Rousseau (would help) to realize what he says in this sentence rings true in a daily substantive way in one’s life.
Every time I see you referring to W Bloom and that book, I can hardly recall reading it, was so long ago! As you say, just like it was published last week.
As to your question or assertion: “In brief, the family is toast in its current configuration.”
No doubt. As you say….”changing the basics but hoping the old dynamics still operate.”
Abstractions and political ideology have overrun something called natural imperatives. And Hope is not a good strategy, generally.
Life’s difficulties are timeless and universal. Connection is not an abstraction and try as one might that cannot be rationalized away.
Bloom deals with exactly that too.
As usual, you are one of the rare people writing a comment who show that you have read and engaged with the post. Most of the material on the FM website discusses hot, often painfully hot, topics. As seen in the comments, which on the best posts tend to ignore the core questions raised — focusing instead on secondary (even minor) issues.
Based up business rules and laws…..we are simply seeing the elimination of non functioning systems. (marriage & family) There is no need for men to put themselves in a position that only cause them grief and financial hardship. By simply opting out, they remove the non functioning system from their lives and create greater opportunity for success and wealth. Free markets have a tendency to work like that. It simply has found its way to the sexual market. As the saying goes..”why buy the cow when you get the milk for free”?
In Bloom’s book, (which I had to stop reading, it so frustrated me) I keep seeing barely justified sniping at and othering of young men as a group, trying to hold them responsible for what their predecessors allegedly did to oppress women. This is a feminist view of group oppression, using half truths and lies about gender relations in the past to justify default hate and mistreatment of the “other vile” group in the present. I suspect that he must be a father of only daughters to so proudly revel in his Misandry. Hopefully his efforts at further beating down Gen Z young men will bear fruit in even slimmer pickings of eligible marriageable men for said daughters.
“I keep seeing barely justified sniping at and othering of young men as a group, trying to hold them responsible for what their predecessors allegedly did to oppress women.”
I read Closing upon publication and several times since then. I’ve extensively consulted and quoted from it. That’s a gross mischaracterization. Really far out. Can you support that in any way whatsoever? Closing has been extensively reviewed and discussed since 1987. Has anyone said such a thing?
To mention just one problem – Bloom is equivocal about any oppression of women by men. That’s pretty obvious in the passage quoted, such as this:
You can agree or disagree with the principles now governing the US. You can like or dislike them. Bloom expresses no opinion. But they are what they are – embedded in countless laws, regulations, court rulings, internal rules of private and public organizations, and custom.
“… and they, with justice, consider it unfair…” is absolutely adding a personal value statement, an opinion to the analysis. Part of what women would give their men to help them thrive in the relationship is framed as oppression, when it should be considered simple reciprocity, for the equally real work and sacrifice that the man is making, to make things work.
Anyways I read it over 20 years ago, so I don’t remember enough to defend the impression I got. However you’ve got me curious so I’m going to dust it off and have another look.
“when it should be considered simple reciprocity, for the equally real work and sacrifice that the man is making, to make things work.”
What is the “real work and sacrifice that the man is making” that is equivalent to the work of women “to get and hold the man by her charms and wiles”?
Well, i can start with the work to initiate the relationship, and risking anything on a spectrum from basic rejection up to life destroying claims of sexual harassment or rape. I see a “sea change” in current and next generation.
We have successfully implemented population control by escalating the gender war. Boys and young men are starting to give back what they have gotten and are getting and girls/young women, are retaliating for the withholding of what they consider their due, in their all encompassing framework of un-earned male privilege. We have done it so well that we would go extinct in a few hundred years if we only allowed first world nations to propagate the species.
“can start with the work to initiate the relationship, and risking anything on a spectrum from basic rejection up to life destroying claims of sexual harassment or rape.”
That makes no sense whatsoever as a reply to Bloom’s text in 1989. Not the slightest.
“We have successfully implemented population control by escalating the gender war.”
Totally false. Population control in the US and globally results from use of contraceptive tech. Marriage rates have fallen only slights. Marriage plus cohabitation rates have not fallen at all.
Yes, but what is the driver behind the increased use of Contraceptive Tech? Is it not arguable that as interpersonal relations between the genders, even in the context of marriage, continue to tank (as young men are, now, slowly wising up the the new normal, under the pressure of unprecedented female arrogance) people are choosing NOT to have more children in this poisoned environment?