Friday, July 19, 2013

Unexpectedly Roosting Chickens Part 1: Are Young Women Abandoning Romance?

Regard well the following article:

A recent article in The New York Times Magazine about the "hookup culture" running rampant on college campuses (and beyond) has tongues wagging, especially because, by and large, the people featured were young women. And none of these young women had the desire or inclination to "date" or be "in a relationship." They are too busy. They just want to have sex and move on. The horror!...

Casual sex is now the name of the game. One junior at Penn (all the girls were anonymous) said:

I positioned myself in college in such a way that I can’t have a meaningful romantic relationship, because I’m always busy and the people that I am interested in are always busy, too.

This makes sense. But casual sex isn't always simple. It has its place, by all means, it can be fun. But the reasons these girls are doing it is disturbing. They are saying there is no room for love or emotion in their lives. They are saying it's all pointless in the face of ambition and drive....

It's not about money or prestige or any other kind of thing. It's about love. No matter how successful we are, no matter how much money we make, without love, none of it really means anything. And that is what is getting lost here....

We make the time for the things we value, and valuing success and money over love and relationships is a mistake. Ten years from now, I would love to hear how these young women fare.

The author, Sasha Brown-Worsham, probably isn't stupid -- she writes decently, at least -- but her article reads as if she'd spent the past forty years in a glass bubble at the top of Mount Everest. Could any American adult possibly not be aware of the context within which the attitude that so disturbs Miss Brown-Worsham has developed?

Is it a mistake to prioritize success and money over love and family? Yes, indisputably. Equally so, some decisions about priorities can be difficult to change: because the passage of time reduces our options, and because admitting to a really serious mistake is inherently humbling. Even so, sometimes people -- yes, even women! -- do change their ways later in life...if the incentives are correct.

It's not merely the "hookup culture." Indeed, the "hookup culture" is itself on the wane, for reasons to be discussed.

Young people's time horizons are shorter than those of two and three generations ago. An unmated young man of 1960 was all but certain to put forming a family at the very top of his priorities, He was aware, from his parents' and grandparents' experiences and tutelage, that one's family is the only support that can be counted upon to persist through the decades. More, he had been reared in a cultural context that venerated older adults and taught young persons that it's their sacred duty to respect, support, and cherish them. Incredibly to the young of our day, he looked forward to becoming a husband and father, with the social status that accrued to such men. All that was blown away in the decades that followed.

Atop that, the enveloping socioeconomic context has instilled a lot of fear into our young women, especially those who've been taught that they must "make something of themselves." The connection to the instability of the marital bond could hardly be clearer. After all, if you can't trust your husband / breadwinner to remain faithful and keep "bringing home the bacon," you have to be ready to do so yourself, especially if you're planning to produce a papoose or two who'll need to be fed, clothed, and sheltered. Under current economic conditions, the urgency of becoming financially self-sufficient has risen very high. That alone might seem sufficient to explain the loss of interest in husband-seeking.

As if that weren't enough, the principal reason for the institution of marriage -- the rearing of children -- has morphed from an anticipated pleasure, albeit one freighted with responsibility, to a major hazard in and of itself. Child-rearing is now so heavily encrusted with expectations, restrictions, and new risks that a modern parent-to-be is well advised to get into serious shape -- and perhaps to have a family-law attorney on retainer -- before procreating. But wait: there's more!

Along with the considerations above, young women are beginning to react against the trend away from serious romantic involvement among young men. The last three generations of young American men have watched their fathers suffer unconscionably from the culture of militant gender-war feminism, women's use of sex as a lure, a goad, and a weapon, unilateral no-fault divorce, and our woman-centered / always-blame-the-man legal environment. (Cf. Stephen Baskerville, Taken Into Custody and Helen Smith, Men On Strike.) Indeed, many young men, especially those intelligent enough to benefit from higher education, have become so fearful of young women's self-centered, mercurial, vindictive ways that they're even turning away from casual sex, a development that has shocked no small number of observers of cultural matters. They are the leaders in the disaffiliation from traditional patterns of love, marriage, and family. Young women are following a "rejectee rejects the rejectors" strategy, in part as salve to their pride and in part out of simple realism.

These are consequences of fifty years' devolution of our social, economic, legal, and political context. They cannot be countervailed with dark forebodings of the you'll-regret-this variety. The disincentives to serious romantic involvement must be reversed -- and that will be a job for more than one generation.

1 comment:

pdwalker said...

Just a brief tangental comment

that one's family is the only support that can be counted upon to persist through the decades.

When people ask me why I have "so many kids" and that it "must be very expensive" I just say that my children are the only wealth that matters.