Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

What’s A Girl To Do?

Lori Gottlieb is a 40-year-old single mother who, tired of waiting to find the right husband and start a family, conceived a baby with the sperm bank three years ago. She doesn’t sound thrilled about her overextended life since making that choice, advising younger women, in the current Atlantic Monthly, to “Marry him!” “Don’t worry about passion or intense connection,” Gottlieb says, because, “Marriage isn’t a passion-fest; it’s more like a partnership formed to run a very small, mundane, and often boring nonprofit business.”

The women who heed Gottlieb’s advice to “settle for Mr. Good Enough,” however, may have to settle down – way down. According to Kay Hymowitz in City Journal, “Today’s single young men hang out in a hormonal limbo between adolescence and adulthood.” This limbo is filled with drinking, hooking up and video games, she says, pointing out that 31% of 25-year-old white men were single in 1970 but 67% were in 2000. (For 30-year-olds the figures were 15% and 42%.) The “child-man” who is Maxim’s target demographic – and has made the magazine massively profitable – is a “social retard” who would “like to forget that he ever went to school.”

Hymowitz discusses “Knocked Up” as a film that both celebrates and criticizes semi-permanent male adolescence. The New Yorker’s David Denby made the same argument, calling “Knocked Up” the culmination of a recent trend in popular film: the “slacker-striver romance,” whose stories are fueled by “the struggle between male infantilism and female ambition.” Hollywood has offered romantic comedies since the silent films of Buster Keaton, but the male leads always “wanted something,” Denby remarks, while the modern slacker-striver romance features men who are “absolutely free of the desire to make an impression on the world [yet] still [get] the girl.”

Gottlieb says that it’s not just in movies that losers end up with impossibly superior women. Friends of hers have, “in varying degrees of desperation,” recently married “a recovering alcoholic who doesn’t always go to his meetings; a trying-to-make-it-in-his-40s actor; a widower who has three nightmarish kids and who’s still actively grieving for his dead wife; and a socially awkward engineer (so socially awkward that he declined to attend his wife’s book party).” Her advice to younger women is that the sooner you settle the less settling you’ll have to do. For older women, “settling involves selling your very soul in exchange for damaged goods,” while younger ones can make the smaller concession of building a life with “a perfectly acceptable man who may not trip your romantic trigger.”

If Hymowitz is right, however, women in their 20’s and 30’s will have to abandon more than romantic dreams when assessing the sea of perfectly unacceptable doofuses before them. Is she right? Her evidence is vivid but doesn’t quite hang together. If the Single Young Males are underachievers for whom adulthood is “receding,” it’s hard to understand how Maxim’s readers can have a median income of $60,000 at a median age of 26. They might prefer to spend all their time drinking and playing video games, but are at least grown-up enough to curtail that agenda in order to get and hold decent jobs.

Is it also true that the SYM’s devote many leisure hours to “bars and parties, where [they] meet, and often bed, girls of widely varied hues and sizes”? If so, are these enablers the same SYF’s who complain in “Internet chat rooms, in advice columns, at female water-cooler confabs, and in the pages of chick lit, [that] the words ‘immature’ and ‘men’ seem united in perpetuity”? Or are they scabs who ruin the bargaining position of the women outside on the picket line?

Adolescence “appears to be the young man’s default state,” concludes Hymowitz, because “it is marriage and children that turn boys into men.” It’s a point Rousseau would have understood: “Men will always be what it pleases women for them to be; therefore, if you want men to be great and virtuous, teach women the meaning of greatness of soul and virtue.”

Discussions - 41 Comments

Well, I think that's true of KNOCKED UP, which is somewhat Rousseauean (and that ain't all bad). But what about the almost uncanny maturity of the young man in JUNO, who is not given due credit by his pregnant girl friend?

Obviously these women are not looking to the young men serving in our military. While there are no doubt more than a few who veg out playing video games, they certainly aren't slackers or infantile.

Also, if Maxim, like all magazines, gets their reader stats through self-reporting, perhaps they are wrong about their medium income of $60,000.

Slacker doofus-types probably overstate their income, don't you think?

Thanks, William. Kay Hymowitz is always worth the time, and really should be better well-known. Interesting how she refuses to buy the South Park Conservatives line of her fellow Manhattan Institute writer Brian Anderson.

Peter, I've only seen Juno once, mean to see it again, but my impression of Juno's what's-his-name boyfriend was not that of "uncanny maturity." My wife thought he was an admirable character, and to an extent I did too, but we argued about it. On my side, the bottom line is that the movie shows us that he holds none of the cards. Juno will do whatever she wants to with the baby. Juno initiates the sex. Juno dallies with the what's-his-name husband. If Juno "broke his heart," as he says at one point, does the prospect of an abortion not break it, too? Would Juno have been better off (and we without a story, true) if he had stood up against her whimsical approach to life earlier?

I guess this makes me sound like a harsh moralist, but I'm tired of applauding movie characters for managing to finally graduate from maturity/morality 101. The young man accepts sex from Juno with no thought of an ongoing relationship, even though he has feelings for her. The result for him is that he can't know if her approaches to him were mere lust, mere Juno-hip whimsy, or something more meaningful. And yeah, abortion is wrong and he should care. And yes, he is entitled to have some say-so about what happens to his kid. He's more straight-forwardly admirable than Juno, but you'll have to say more about his maturity to convince me.

Wow! The author of that article could be talking about me. I like getting drunk, bathroom humor, childish toys, watching sports, getting laid and Maxim.

What this woman (typicically) can't cope with, however, is that men are fully capable of putting a brake on if they find the right woman. And the right woman, suffice it to say, is NOT the ones who she characterizes as ultimately making the choice of "inferior men" out of desperation. So many women of a certain type are not unlucky in love till a ripe old age by mere chance.

They are the leftovers just as their male counterparts are.

Bleeker's his name. How could I forget? Of course, that must be his last name, right?

William writes and asks:

"...are these enablers the same SYF’s who complain in “Internet chat rooms, in advice columns, at female water-cooler confabs, and in the pages of chick lit, [that] the words ‘immature’ and ‘men’ seem united in perpetuity”? Or are they scabs who ruin the bargaining position of the women outside on the picket line?"

These is no difference between the enablers and the scabs anymore. Young women have been engaging in pre-marital sex for so long now--they are the daughters of mothers and fathers who so behaved--that they know of no other way.

Sex education in our schools have so completely disentangled sexual relations from intimacy, that sexual intercourse or other sexual contact is merely a recreational activity. This is the natural result when these issues are discussed with the candor and casualness of brushing one's teeth.

Today, sexual relations occur at the outset of a relationship--a part and parcel of dating--and, it is often suggested, a requirement for dating. Often, or even usually, sexual relations occur as part of the "hook-up" scene, as an initial approach to getting to know one another, and not something that ultimately occurs due to actual feelings of personal and cognitive intimacy after an extended courtship period (that formerly led to marriage).

This is all very much part of the "why buy the milk when you can rent the cow" mentality. Women have been told (and taught) for three decades, they can be just like men in opportunities and experiences. Now that women behave like the pigs men can be, they don't like being treated like the sl*ts they've become. No one told them the bar to being a man was placed so low.

Culturally, we've got it backwards. Women should be a civilizing and maturing influence on men. Instead, men are an impetuous and boyish influence on women. And our culture has been a facilitator of this phenomena.

(I report this from my field work in Manhattan bars and restaurants, as a middle-aged, single (divorced) male.)

From the Gottlieb piece
"When I used to hear women complaining bitterly about their husbands, I’d think, ‘How sad, they settled.’ Now it’s like, ‘God, that would be nice.’”

Yes, but women in thier 20's can't and don't think that way. They shove aside the "nice guys" to chase the jerks, players, and "bad boys" and hold out hope for Mr. Right.

Other thoughts:

1. There are few 26 year olds making 60K outside of NYC, LA, and DC

2. It's getting tiresome to read these articles framed as "women are virtuous and men have habits which must be broken" As if the female's have no bad habits or tendencies.

3. Men are immature becasue there is no disincentive to act any different. They can get NSA sex from a variety of women as noted.

4. Per #3, the problem is quite clearly modern feminism as women have simply not learned about their role in shaping men's behaviors.

I found Hymowitz's piece interesting, but not particularly compelling. First, I think she misreads popular culture, such as Apatow's movies (i.e., Knocked Up, Superbad, 40 Year Old Virgin). While one shouldn't read too much into comedies, she seems to have ignored the fact that these movies are littered with male characters who are more than willing to give up on their previous lifestyles to settle down in committed relationships. Some even turn down guaranteed sex in the hopes of long-term committed relationships. Others use sex as a substitute. If anything, I think these movies provide evidence to refute Hymowitz's point rather than support it.

Second, as has been pointed out, if 20 to 30-something guys are still going out drinking, partying, and bedding plenty of women, what exactly are the women being bedded doing? The same thing the guys are. Perhaps the reason guys are reluctant to settle down is because women are increasingly reluctant as well. As someone who spent the decade of his 20's partaking in the behavior that Hymowitz's laments, I have to say that most of the women I met during this time were not inclined toward serious relationships. And most of my male friends did indeed want long-term serious relationships, but couldn't find serious women with which to have them.

Third, Hymowitz really misses one big elephant in the room, which is the role that increased attendance at a college or university plays in all of this. Heck, college is practically a training ground for the type of behavior she laments: little responsibility, drinking and partying, NSA sex, etc. It's little wonder that, after four years of this, people aren't always willing to give it up right away. I wasn't. While one could easily overplay the role of attendance at college, it seems odd to ignore it entirely, as Hymowitz does.

As The Ace points out, these sorts of stories are a staple in the media. I seem to read a few of them every year. The NYT in particular loves these stories, which play well with its target audience.

It's a major mistake to start psychoanalyzing millions of men based on a few anecdotes, or even worse, on the basis of men who appear in a work of fiction. But I guess it feels too good for certain people NOT to do it.

Lastly, to the extent these is a grain of truth here, it is ridiculous to expect men to adhere to some 19th century code of manliness while women embrace, and expect men to embrace, feminism. Liberals still have not learned that the Law of Unintended Consequences will not be mocked.

One more thing: As John pointed out, these stories are pretty common, at least pertaining to men, but it makes me wonder, what does it take for women to be considered "adults"? Obviously, men have to give up their childish ways (i.e., give up things that men like), but what does it take for women to be considered adults? This question never seems to be asked, let alone answered. It's as if women are born adults.

Or is childish behavior more of a societal problem when it comes from men than from women? In other words, does society ignore, expect, or otherwise insulate itself from immature behavior from women in such a way that their behavior simply doesn't matter as much as that of men? One of my contentions has long been that the practical effect (if not intent) of modern feminism has been to infantilize women. Women simply are not responsible for their actions in a way that men are, and as such when they act the same way as men (i.e., spending their 20's partying and "hooking up"), it's only the men's behavior that gets noticed or seen as a problem. Anyway, just a thought...

Through most of my 20s I dated women who were my own age, and they always told me they had no interest in settling down, that they had very serious career goals, and that they were afraid of having kids or clear in their own mind that they definitely didn't want kids. They were all pretty clearly interested in 35-40 year old guys who made serious coin and were very successful in their careers, very established, but not in some no-hoper like me. So I fooled around a lot, got drunk quite a bit and played video games and sports. I finally met a good woman when I was in my late 20s. We really liked & loved each other, and she said she wanted to get married and have kids. We got married, I put most of the slacker stuff aside, went to law school, and am now moderately bordering on very successful 15 years later, and a small but happy family. I now get hit on by the younger women where I work (apparently, the aphrodisiacal effects of money and success), and occasionally hear from the old girlfriends, who are still single, but who sound a bit desparate now. I'm contendedly off the market though, and find it really funny that the 25 year old professional women can't understand why I would stick with my 40 year-old wife, when I could "trade up." They don't get my commitment to her is the flipside of their inability to commit to a guy like me, or doing what it takes to make an average guy into a guy like me.

This recent discussion abourt Juno and prolonged male adolescence has helped me sort of close the loop. The little girls - 25 year old career women hitting on me now - are the same girls I used to date, basically. They don't seem to understand that their job isn't to land some 40 year-old schlub with a nice bank account and induce him to leave his wife (or to give up the Peter Pan lifestyle) but to find some similarly-aged male knucklehead with good upside potential and then civilize him a bit, and settle in for a long ride as his own potential and hard work, realized through a good woman's love and support, makes him a success. The women I dated didn't really find me worthy of hard work or serious love, so I was just a booty call for them (not a bad arrangement for me) while they looked for Mr. Right. In fact, one girl I dated told me she really loved me romantically but it was pretty clear I'd never amount to anything, and she had needs, you know. It's funny now, but when I was 25, it kind of sucked. Other than the sex and booze and fun I was having running absolutely wild with my buddies. I don't look at it as women needing to settle, so much as women needing to talent spot men a little bit better and to understand that life isn't a series of single narrative arcs with clear choices, but of a whole lot of polyglot situations and multi-tasking requirements. You don't have a career, then a family, you start building a career and look to build a family when a good opportunity presents itself. Maybe you don't concentrate on career until after the family is established. There's no magic path, it's just a bunch of things (family, career, finances) that you have to try to work out simultaneously.

It doesn't look like there are any marriageable young guys out there, but I think that's because most young women don't appear cognizant of what actually makes a guy a 'catch,' and the importance of their own role, and the importance of buying in early, in growing a big fish.

So Gottlieb advocates women grossly misrepresnt their personality, interests, and goals to snag a husband because, as she casually throws out, if things go to hell after the deal is sealed and they start acting themselves again, they can always get a divorce and hit up the ex-husband for a lot of child support.

And then she wonders why young men are afraid of commitment.

It's funny, because women created the very situation they're whining about by "liberating" themselves from the gender roles that most respect both women and men, and by that I refer to the roles defined by matrimony and the rearing of children.

They made their beds. Let 'em lie in it. And quit their whining. If you want to be a sex object, you'll have to settle for adolescents. If you want a Prince, you'll have to be ruled.

The past forty years since Humanae Vitae have simply offered proof that women can't have both, no matter how much they wish otherwise. They have also proved another old adage: "Papa knows best."

Lori Gottlieb is a 40-year-old single mother who, tired of waiting to find the right husband and start a family

It's my impression that the majority of women in America regard themslelves as being well above average. Why that should be the case is another story, but a realistic assessment of ones value to the opposite sex is a precondition to being an adult, IMO.

Also, Jason's observation about maturity in women is spot on. A mature man is regarded as being one who observes certain age old rules about proper male behavior. Increasingly, mature behavior in women has come to be regarded as what would be very immature behavior in men, or even women before forty years ago.

Modern laws and social mores have made it so that women do not really need men, and men do not really need women, at least in the middle class and above.

Perhaps the new culture waiting to take over from the decaying European remanent will learn from our mistakes.

I was going to make a long comment here about this article, but most of things have already been said (especially in Al Maviva's comment) in previous comments.

Ladies, look in thy mirror, for there is where your problems lie!

I'll be honest, there is nothing less sexy that a woman desperate to get married and as a 30 something attorney that seems to be 90% of the women I run into. Single women need to realize that you can live a long and happy life without having kids and without getting married.

You men are having a very interesting conversation so I don't want to interject with contrary views and, thereby, put an end to it. But I do have a question. Do you really think it is true--or at least that it is as true as Rousseau and many of you here suggest--that women have the power to civilize otherwise uncivilized men? Do you really think it is true, in other words, that women and feminism led to the bad behavior women now decry in men or does it only (as I tend to think) feed that already established and bad behavior? A more interesting question, then, may be what led to feminism? I won't say what I think the answer to that question is but I will leave you with this: While both things may be possible, which sort of thing has history seen more of? A man corrupting the morals of a young woman or a young woman redeeming the morals of a corrupt man? In short, I think you men flatter us women. Granted, it may be prudent to flatter us (it often is) but do, at least, be mindful of what you are doing.

Finally, a larger problem with all of these ruminations is that they tend to forget the role of the political order in forming character. Character is not formed, entirely, in private--nor ever in a vacuum.

Do you really think it is true--or at least that it is as true as Rousseau and many of you here suggest--that women have the power to civilize otherwise uncivilized men?

Yes. Just as men have a similar power over women.

Do you really think it is true, in other words, that women and feminism led to the bad behavior women now decry in men

Yes. Do you think otherwise? If so, why?

A more interesting question, then, may be what led to feminism?

What led to liberalism? What led to communism? What led to fascism? What led to all the other bad ideas adapted in the West?

I won't say what I think the answer to that question is

No, I'm sure that you won't. A question for you then: Where does this thing called "civilization" come from, if not from men and women?

Of course, your track record in answering questions is not good.

Do you have a cite for that Rousseau quote? I don't recognize it. Thanks.

The Rousseau quote is from a footnote in the "Discourse on the Arts and Sciences," as translated by Lowell Bair.

Ah, I see. thanks.
Les hommes feront toujours ce qu'il plaira aux femmes : si vous voulez donc qu'ils deviennent grands et vertueux, apprenez aux femmes ce que c'est que grandeur d'âme et vertu.

I'm in basic agreement with John at #18 above.

It takes two to tango. If women run around sleeping with whomever they want, whenever they want, then why do women wonder why there are no marriageable men available? These women have set the bar for behavior on mens' terms.

Girls (women) that act like one of the boys, don't get respected. Respect is earned, at a minimum, by acting with self-respect.

Call it a double-standard, if you wish. I call it a two-way street.

Again, John, I feel as if I am deliberately misunderstood here (not to mention, unjustly attacked). Yes, civilization is a two-way street. Of course. I'm the furthest thing from a defender of feminism or an apologist for female vice--as anyone who reads me with any regularity must know.

But if we're looking for solutions it will be important to understand the origins of the problem as deeply and as fully as we can. So I don't discount everything that's already been said here, I just think there are some nuances or shades that are missing from it.

Let me put it another way . . . Do you think feminism serves the immediate interests (it serves no one's long term interests, I get that) of men or of women? Who gets more pleasure out of the existence of feminism? Sometimes we look at things in politics or society that are obviously bad and, therefore, puzzling and we ask, "Who's interests are being served by here? Who's making money from it or having his back scratched?" and that tells us where the bad thing came from and who is "employing" the clever salesmen for it. I think feminism may be like that.

I don't simply discount that statement of Rousseau's, but I think it is an over-statement. Women have that effect on men more as mothers than they do as girlfriends and wives. Men have to have good habits already in order to care about getting the good opinion of women. They don't really need it unless they have been taught to need it. So if men don't have good moral habits, they will only care about getting something else. By the time they know about that something else, they can't be made to care (at least not without Herculean and probably unrealistic effort) about getting the good opinion of women as long as they can find some to bed (an no matter what state society is in, there will always be such women). Women, on the other hand, are obsessed with getting the good opinion of men (perhaps that's too strong, but it is in their nature to care deeply about this). Women are more changeable than men are for this reason. They have to be more pliable, more willing to please. Men, generally, are more constant, more firm--less likely to be swayed or change their minds.

So you're onto something, John, when you ask into response to my question about what led to feminism, "What led to communism? etc." The answer to both questions is the same. It was a rejection of nature as a standard for judging good and evil. Indeed, it was a rejection of the whole notion of good and evil. Feminists didn't invent that, they responded to it.

Finally, men who are "whatever it pleases women for them to be" when they are past the age of twelve are, therefore, kinda feminine, aren't they? And isn't that (at least part) of the problem?

I think it's fair to say that the Big Idea of feminism was that women should no longer be bound by the old social mores and conventions and in some cases actual laws which determined what women could and could not do. Henceforth each woman would be able to live her life as she saw fit.

I don't understand the shock on the part of some women when they notice that men are displaying an interest in casting off their traditional roles and living their lives for their own gratification. What on earth did they expect would happen? That men would conduct themselves as they should, so that women might conduct themselves as they would? There's a large logical disconnect there.

Julie, I'm not a fan of the "Cui bono" method of analysis. It very frequently leads to absurd conclusions. For instance, clearly the Iraq War was started by the US military industrial complex, since they "bono".

Having said that, the principal beneficiaries of feminism have been the same people who drove it forward - mostly wealthy upper-class women, aided by wealthy upper-class men. But it had considerable support from women further down the socio-economic scale. I'd say the poorest women have had the least interest in it.

It was a rejection of nature as a standard for judging good and evil.

I think it was the logical extension of the liberal notion that all order and hierarchy and differentiation should be abolished, and that all people should be interchangable units. If men and women are essentailly interchangable biological units, with only some inconsequental plumbing differences, then why shouldn't women be treated just like men in all respects? Why should't they take on male characteristics, and why shouldn't men take on female ones?

The same thinking shows up in the immigration debate, where the liberal idea that people are fungible does so much mischief. But that gets us right back to the old "all men are created equal" trap.

Carl, There's a lot to what you say, but you certainly set a very high standard. Imagine what you'd do at 16 if the most wonderful and sexy girl in the world "whimsically" and quite aggressively took her pants and... That he was capable of being seduced under such circumstances isn't at all surprising and surely the most easily forgivable sin. We can only reasonably judge him on how he handles the consequences...

Yes, the thought had crossed my mind that I might have done as Bleeker did. However, without claiming teenage saintliness, I do know that my Sunday Schooling would have made me a) feel it had been a grievous sin had I given in, b) made Juno less attractive to me to begin with, and c) helped my innate romanticism, which would really would have been hesitant to have sex with the girl I was smitten with, particularly initially. Now I'm sure every male and female on the planet can imagine situations like that set up in the movie the Firm in which it would seem virtually impossible not to give into a temptation thrust upon you, and that quite a few have regrettably (or not) experienced such situations, but I do assume that you don't necessarily need Sunday School to have c), or to be able to yourself admit all the purely sensible things the abstinence sex-educators say. I.e., a even a 15 or 16 year old can be expected to have some eros and rationality, particularly if we're to admire him.

I guess what bugs me about Bleeker is that the movie makes his virtue/maturity, such as it is entirely passive...he's available to return to Juno when she's ready...the only clue we get about his wrestling with the consequences of his actions is his "you broke my heart" statement. Maybe with an ultra-strong character like Juno at the center of the story, there's no other way, but I can only muster up two cheers for Bleeker.

And, interesting conversation, the rest of y'all.

My husband was 17 when I met him and I was 15 years old. I suppose he's been in pursuit ever since, which is funny all things considered.

I saw the Atlantic article and looked at it. I can't bring myself to read the Hymnowitz article as described. As someone said above, these things come out every so often and are pretty much the same complaint, as most of responses above are pretty much the same complaint. I feel so sorry for those women who bought the modern lies about sex and about men.

The idea that the current state of things is all men's faults seems absurd to me. I balk at accepting the trend here in this thread to say that this is all women's fault, too. What do men want of women? If the funding of the porn industry is any indication, what men want is not modesty and faithfulness.

Not that there isn't a lot of truth in what you guys say. And I am impressed that this topic incited so many readers to comment. Comment #11 is my favorite. It made me think how faithfulness, as a virtue, is so little valued these days. I never knew how to make a "success" of my husband, how to grow my fish. Maybe he's not the fish I thought he was when he was a fingerling, but faithfulness he has. And when he looks at me, he still seems to see some trace of the fifteen year old girl, which nearly forty years later is a pretty delusion.

Still, I was to twelve weddings in 2007. I read this post and comments and think of their faces, the newlyweds at their weddings and many of them in these months since; there was, has been, no trace of "settling" in most. Maybe in a couple, but I could not discern the grounds. Given their circumstances, they could be as happy as the others and I wondered at the worm i' the bud, what the nature of it might be. Most looked like they knew they had made a great deal for themselves. Those I know well truly did.

If any of you commenting are young men, I still know some truly wonderful young women, ripe for and wanting a traditional marriage, for someone to watch over them for whom they could give their all. I live in a happy place where it is the sour marriage that is the exception. You might have to give up urbanity, though.

Some anecdotal thoughts. Throughout most of my college career I bought into the whole conversative/traditional thinking on female modesty - you know that whole "don't buy the cow..." argument. The funny thing is, as I approach 30 and look around, all of the women I know who slept around in college have husbands and babies. The ones who were more sexually judicious remain single and celibate (I should also add that I see this trend continuing at the university where I currently work). After reading through the links in this post I wonder if there isn't a connection: in other words, promiscuity is itself a reflection of lower standards and an unromantic/unerotic disposition towards life, putting these women in a better position to "settle" for a less than ideal (i.e. "romantic") marriage. On a different subject, I find the anti-feminist tropes from the conservative women on this blog always to be intriguing. All these women have had the chance to pursue education and life opportunities that would never have been open to them in the past (and they don't regret taking them!). Moreover, I wonder if the romanticization of the past is warranted. Beautiful romantic love stories are found in art and on the pages of literature, but did these ideals actually match the experiences of men and women "on the ground"? Finally, I think these women do not pay nearly enough attention to the variety in the history of the women's movement and feminist thought in general. Much of it makes me shudder, but I simply do not find myself reading a selfish desire to emulate men in all of the poorest dimensions of their character to be at the heart of the feminist movement. At its very founding, it was thoughtful, religious women who rejected particular circumstances to which women were subjected which only the most cold-hearted and obtuse would not call "horrific." Maybe all of this lamentation is not because of our victimization at the hands of man-hating feminists, but is more reflective of a general human proclivity to be always discontent with our current situation.

I am glad that "Single in Chicago's" formerly promiscuous friends were able to settle down into good marriages and produce wonderful children. I'm sure they'd be among the first to count their blessings and hope for a less dramatic course for their own daughters. I am sorry to hear that "Single in Chicago" believes her own virtue to be the cause of her current misfortune. I don't want to be mean, but mightn't finding a direct correlation between her virtue and her misfortune be a piece of wishful (though bitter) thinking? To wit, I wonder if ZEUS didn't offer another possible explanation in comment #5.

I hope I didn't lead anyone to believe that I am either bitter or "misfortunate." I have had a wonderful education, have a promising career, and a cadre of close and virtuous female friends. I count my blessings that I have not had to make the choice between “settling” for a "suitable marriage" and a life of cloistered celibacy. I recognize and appreciate that it was feminism that made this possible – that I have the luxury to wait for a man that I truly love and respect, and that if he doesn’t appear, I have the opportunity to develop and explore other worthwhile and meaningful human pursuits. I was merely taking issue with what I have come to believe is a conservative fiction – that female promiscuity has undermined males’ capacity for commitment, and that if you’re a “good girl” and “follow the rules” long enough, prince charming will magically appear and sweep you off to a life of perfect marital bliss.

As for your reference to comment 5 (I will try to overlook the implication that I and my single friends are “leftovers”), I am aware of the potential for male reform (and have had some mixed success on that front myself). I am also aware of women’s proclivity to overestimate this capacity. Human nature is such that real transformations of character rarely occur – in either sex. I wonder if you would encourage your single female friends (or daughter for that matter) to pursue a relationship with "Zeus", "banking" on the fact that he will be inspired enough by her virtue and purity to reform his ways.

Single in Chicago - you are, I think, very astute. Sorry Julie, but I'm with Single; I think virtue can be the cause of singleness. It is difficult to find men to date if one is committed to one's own chastity, and scrupulous virginity seems overrated after a time. Sex and dating are simply assumed to go together when one is in her mid-twenties. You may find some similarly-minded men in young adult groups at church, where it would seem that the odds would be good, but often the goods are just odd. I got married at 25, and my own tale of courtship is similar to Julie's, but I came to resent the whole True Love Waits stuff that I had been sold. Lauren Winner's book, "The Naked Truth About Chastity" describes this disillusionment of the "good girls" that repress their erotic nature through their twenties and thirties, and then find out that they've gotten to be a little too good at NOT having sex once the wedding night rolls around. The times, they-are-a-changin'-- and most fairy tales are too good to be true.

Stop analyzing, stop stereotyping, stop (dear God, please) comparing Hollywood to real life, stop treating a very personal issue like a sociology thesis broken up into sweeping generalizations of the "child-man" and the "career woman." It's so tired.

...and stop justifying why you're single or dating or slutty or chaste or married or divorced. TO EACH HIS OWN. It's your choice to be where you are - if you're not happy with it, get off your ass and do something about it. If you're happy - that's fantastic.

I was going to let this go. #33 has a good point and I do not really care. Except that the original Gottleib article indicates that women mature and find that what pleased them when young is profoundly displeasing as they grow older and they can't get off their asses and do something about it, because their asses got old. They are lonely, even if they managed to get themselves a child, somehow. When they are no longer young, who the hell cares about them? If a woman has not invested herself in anyone else, who has she got when she is old?

Men, too, are often lonely when alone, though old men I know seem to be able to find sex partners - usually women trying to entice them into marriage. Except that there are so many old women and relatively fewer old men; testosterone must just be a killer hormone. Yet I talk to those old darlings and wonder: a good man may be able to find a woman who will give herself to him when he is old, but otherwise, men without goodness and virtue, who needs them, either?

I think Christine may have a point in that the 40 year old virgin I knew was so shocked at the sex act on her wedding night that she divorced within a matter of months. However, the happiest young wives I know have no messy memories, which is also true of the very few young husbands I know of having gone into marriage in the same virginal state. I envy them. Passion, first and last, means that one other person. What a sweet state and an honor to maintain such a marriage.

Anyway, as to feminist ideals, most of what "we have gained" has been at the sufferance of men. They gave us the right to vote, voting that right into being. They granted us equality of station, employment, everything. It has come with a cost and that of a kind of protection that might have been idealized for many women, but was also truth for many. Women who forget that are ungrateful. Men who forget that are fools.

Scripture says that a man is to love his wife in the same way the Christ loved the church, giving himself for her. Inasmuch as a man can do that, he is easy to love, easy to give in to, a pleasure to serve. Inasmuch as he can't do that, marriage is a grim proposition and a woman does the best she can, or becomes single again.

But, honestly, Rousseau? He was blaming women for his own lack of virtue. How do you see him as an exemplar of a good husband, or father, for that matter?

You know, the more I think about this, the more I begin to think that it is all a lot of BS. Especially that Rousseau quote. Since when will natural men be what it pleases women for them to be? I used to really believe this and especially admired the work of George Gilder on these questions. I still think there are a lot of insights in his work, but ultimately it just doesn't hold together. Think only of Jefferson's remarks on the way American Indians treated women. Civilization is necessary BEFORE a man can even start treating a woman with respect. Even supposing that Rousseau (and Gilder and so many others, here) have got a small point (in that men need to at least appear a certain way in order to seduce women) . . . for how long after they've gotten what they want will they keep asking what women want? And what Machiavellian motive is spurring them to asking women what they want in the first place? Kate's right. Rousseau was just blaming women for his own lack of virtue. If only there had been a woman virtuous enough to guide him in the proper direction, he might have been a better man . . . please. A good woman alone cannot make a man virtuous. I grant that some men DO genuinely care about what their woman wants. The bet men I know certainly do and they are certainly loved for it. BUT, as I said above, these men don't need a woman to make them virtuous. They just deserve a virtuous woman because their parents (both mother and father) have taught them that a civilized and good man who wants to be happy will and should care about what makes his woman happy.

This gets back to the point I tried to make more subtly above but, perhaps, I was too subtle. Women did not create feminism. Just ask J.S. Mill and Rousseau. Women did not create the conditions that brought about feminism. Just ask Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Nietzsche. Women have become feminists, I'd assert, because they think that's what men want them to be. And, today, how can we say that men don't want feminism? They like to complain about its downside but, from the point of view of today's highest values, the upside for them is much more impressive. More variety in sex, less responsibility, no one to nag you or depend upon your efforts, and so on. The down side is that you might get a female boss--or president--wagging her finger at you. But then, you can always just slack off and give her another finger. You don't have to care about female opinions of you--not really.

Women wish to please men because, on some level, it is a basic human need of theirs to to please them. If men are displeased, they will leave. If they leave, we are vulnerable. I'd say that Rousseau got it about exactly backwards. It is men who have to be taught virtue and greatness of soul if they want women to be good.

Women need to expect virtue from men. Feminists destroyed woman's ability to be wooed. Don't settle for anything less than a man who will reverence you, and admonish any woman who does not do the same. In this way, men will only get what they want after they've proved themselves worthy.

But in order to expect virtue from men, women need to expect it from themselves. If you want to be sexy, you'll get immature. If you want to be loved, you'll get God. And if God wills that you be happy, He will provide.

This has always and ever will remain firmly in the woman's province to decide. What we have seen in the last decades is the inevitable result of what women have freely chosen.

p.s. you do recall who ate the apple, do you not?

Yes, SWP, I recall that they both ate the apple.

We need to expect, demand, virtue from one another. Why men throw this stuff on us women, I don't understand. Maybe it is only human. I guess Rousseau is just typical, as is SWP. After eating the apple, Adam did blame Eve when confronted by God.

Honestly, I have a bad enough time managing my own virtue without being expected to manage someone else's. I thank God for anyone, especially the man, who helps me remain virtuous. That is not just for my own sake, but for the sake of all of those around me, all of those who depend on my virtue to let them have a stable and comfortable world.

Julie is quite right that women seek to please men and wherein feminism opposes that, you'd think SWP would be pleased. The modern approach to women has two sides to it. The sexual freedom that men want is available to them and is demanded from women at a shockingly young age these days. Lazily, I'll cite myself: If the funding of the porn industry is any indication, what men want is not modesty and faithfulness. That men demand virtue and not virtue of women, nearly simultaneously, or perhaps sequentially (looking at back at some of the comments above), makes our modern world's confusion a logical conclusion.

What Kate said.

And I'd add this. What SWP says sounds so good. It sounds so right. The problem is when you get to the math of the thing. Then you see that it is just Utopian. For this to work, then ALL females must be virtuous. There can be none who lack virtue or even who are weak and give in. ALL must demand that men behave a certain way in order to win their favors. This is just like the solidarity of sisterhood the feminists preach about! It's a chain that is only as strong as its weakest link. I suppose that if such a chain were possible it might restrain men long enough to make them virtuous. But it is not possible. It is laughable. There will always be weak links and men are very good at making them weaker.

I, on the other hand, am not asking that ALL men be good and civilized. (I wouldn't refuse it if it were offered, of course, but I don't expect it.) I'm only asking that more of them work at it and express that expectation to the young women in their lives. I will add a word about "how" to express expectations too. Sweetly and with praise and patience. We used to call it courtship. Feminism may have confused young women, but it can't alter them. Women still want this. Trust me.

That said, SWP's point is not completely crazy. That's why it sounds good. Women do need to be taught about virtue too. It will help them to be less confused and it will help them in choosing a virtuous man. Above all, it will help them when the time comes for them to raise a virtuous man or woman--or, God willing, both.

As a conservative, I think Rousseau was an idiot at best, a madman at worst. Why is this thread obessing on him?

As for Julie, I see that she is now blaming men for feminism. Fine, I say we take away their right to vote and work outside the home then.

Seriously, and back on track, you are missing the point. Women cannot throw off their traditional roles when and if they feel like it, and then complain that men do likewise. It's that whole "social compact" thingy. And it is women who threw them off, not J.S. Mill, malignant as he was.

Very late thinking about this: I agree with Rousseau about "teach(ing) women the meaning of greatness of soul and virtue.” I work on that with my daughter, feeling like I am battling the whole wide world while I do that. Yet I do not believe I can hold her accountable for the men in her life, who have not been taught by women (mothers) who know the meaning of greatness of soul and virtue. Surely, men can come to such things on their own. If men HAD greatness of soul and virtue, fewer women would be feminists.

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