Sunday, April 29, 2007

Feminists and the Alpha Male

I recently came across a couple of blogs that generated the following post. Spungeon posts at and Dizzy posts at Both are thirty-something women, both lawyers or aspiring lawyers, and both have written dismissively about the "alpha-male" paradigm, i.e. the pop-sociobiological explanation for female sexual selection. It is this last point that I write to address.

This post is not intended to be a comprehensive defense of either sociobiology or its application to human sexual selection; this has been done better elsewhere. Nor is it an unalloyed apologia. In fact, there may be perfectly valid criticisms of the “alpha male” paradigm used to explain female mate selection: it can sound tautological, and therefore doesn’t really predict anything; it often tries to account for more variation than it actually can; and the paradigm doesn’t really apply to women over 30. (Both Spungeon and Dizzy are over 30, so they have had plenty of opportunity to assess the market and their actual buying power in it − but this is a subject for a separate post.) But feminist (broadly speaking) objections are seldom expressed in such an analytical way. My impression is that such as Spungeon and Dizzy reject, root and branch, the idea that the choices of women might be biologically determined. They are not alone in this rejection: all the (few) feminist bloggers I have read have expressed similar hostility. Since the hostility is so widespread, I decided that it requires some examination.

Sex and Liberalism

With the exception of libertarians, those of use who came of age politically in the last 30 – 40 years accept as a matter of course the political correlation between holding traditional views on sexual morality and pro-market views among conservatives on the one hand, and sexually licentious views and pro-interventionist economic views among liberals on the other. As any student of history could tell you, these correlations are anomalous: one only need to consider the writings of a tradition-minded socialist like G. K. Chesterton and a libertine capitalism like H. L. Menken, both of whom wrote during the 1920s, to realize that these correlations once cut the other way. But during the 1960s, the sexual revolution hitched its wagon to the horses of economic interventionism, a union that ultimately drove many Democrats into a newly-traditional Republican party. These coalitions, whatever their roots in expedience, and whatever theoretical tensions may exist within them, were ultimately marketed, and purchased, as package deals. (I myself bought the conservative package back during the Reagan administration.)

So the anomaly has become established fact: interventionist, sparrow-catching liberals, for whom no human suffering is beyond the reach of government to remedy, also advocate sexual anarchy. So long as they are between “consenting adults,” not only must our sexual relations be free from the reach of the law, they must be free from the reach of convention as well. Men and women should be free to mate with whom they wish, under whatever arrangements on which they mutually agree. (I shall write a post on whether this anarchy constitutes a stable end-state, but not today.) It didn’t take feminists long to realize that this anarchy left a lot of female victims: young women, pregnant and abandoned; older women, traded out for the new model. Feminist response to these victims varied in the particulars, but the central theme was that these injustices were artifacts of the imbalance of power between men and women. Specifically, men had greater social and economic power, and therefore were able to enjoy most of the benefits of sexual liberation. Correct that imbalance, and women, too, would reap its benefits. So ultimately, “liberation” required yet more intervention: affirmative action, childcare subsidies, taxpayer-funded abortion, comparable worth, etc.

The Invisible Men

But there was a second group of victims unaccounted for in the feminist worldview. Indeed, it was not until the age of the internet ended the monopoly of the “mainstream media” that these victims found each other, compared notes, and found in sociobiology a parsimonious explanation for their plight.

Under the tradition dispensation, there was some social and economic pressure on men and women to get married and to do so relatively young. Men enjoying higher status by virtue of their wealth and power, and young beautiful women got their pick, but monogamy was the rule, and almost everyone had the opportunity to marry somebody. Under the new dispensation, monogamy was most definitely not the rule, so it was very easy for high-status men to “play the field,” and easy for the majority of women to believe that they would eventually monopolize the affections (and resources) of a high-status male (because, after all, they slept with one). So women, lacking economic pressure to do otherwise, spend their twenties ignoring the majority of ordinary men and wait their “turn” to be with the alpha.

It is possible to overstate the injustice here. As I said before, most women realize as they approach thirty that sleeping around is not a viable strategy to finding long-term happiness. Therefore, most men will eventually get a shot. And it may be difficult to have much sympathy for those men whose disappointment stems from their failure to live the playboy’s life themselves.

Feminist Hatred

But even this does not account for the scorn with which feminist women hold low-status men. It is not enough for them to say simply that low-status men are unattractive. It is not even enough to say that they are socially inept (which is often the case for personalities bred in social isolation, itself a function of unattractiveness). No, these men are evil for one reason or another. Witness Spungeon’s observation that unattractive people are conveniently mean and treacherous. I say “convenient” because these qualities relieve Spungeon of any obligation to have compassion on them. The liberal worldview does not allow for distinctions like “the deserving poor” or shrugging at the realization that the free market leaves some better-off than others. No, low-status men must be morally undeserving, because if they weren’t that would mean . . . .

I will at this point officially decline to speculate what “affirmative action” or a “welfare program” would look like for men who can’t get dates. My point is that it is in this direction that left-liberal reasoning takes them. And since feminists most emphatically do not want to go in this direction, it is necessary for them to postulate something that they refuse to recognize in any other sphere of life: absolute, de facto, equality of opportunity. For the sexual anarchy of the feminist worldview to be morally coherent on its own terms, it is absolutely necessary for them to believe that, but for men’s own choices, all men have an equal opportunity to mate with all women.

And it is this postulate that runs into a fatal collision with sociobiology. Because sociobiology, as Darwinism in general, starts from an assumption of inequality. Indeed, it is precisely the inequality, and differential rates of reproduction, among individuals and groups that drive natural selection, evolution, and speciation. If Darwinism is describes reality, then the feminist worldview necessarily cannot describe reality. So in conflict with feminism, Darwinism must yield.

Update: Dizzy and Spungeon post comments that require me to issue a clarification. Both Dizzy and Spungeon, having reached their thirties, broadened their dating pool and had a number of negative experiences as a result. Dizzy in particular tells tales that beggar the imagination. Dizzy, Spungeon, and any other woman who has been treated like this has fully earned whatever feelings she has.

So in an effort to salvage my theory, I may need to restrict its explanatory power to the attitudes of women in their twenties torward men that they do not date. I had in mind such a woman when I wrote the post. I have no doubt that many "beta" males can behave abominably, especially when they try to imitate the behavior of the alpha males they see as successful. But what I attempted to explain was the willingness of women who have never dated such a beta to make gross (and, in my opinion, unwarranted) generalizations about all of them. This is most definitely not to say that they should feel obligated in some way to date anybody they do not wish to date (although she might be pleasantly surprised, as my wife was when she finally went out with me).


Sheila Tone said...

Hey, thanks for reading. Neither I nor Dizzy claim to be academics. We just tell stories about our experiences.

We have both had experiences getting dumped and treated poorly by the men you'd term "the deserving poor," even some nerds (at least me).

I have also had experiences with dysfunctional male friends, mostly older, who did poorly with women, turning on me and becoming enemies after I refused to make myself available sexually, despite the fact that I considered myself a good friend. I observed that all of these guys had very high physical standards for women, standards higher than those they met themselves. They had a double standard when it came to looks and youth. I never used the word "evil." But their behavior was certainly atrocious, and as you can probably understand I was hurt by it.

bobvis said...

I'm an academic! Well, kind of.

You raise some great points. I'll try to address some of that in a new post in the coming week. I largely share Spungen and Dizzy's distrust of the theory, but I certainly believe that all behavior is "biologically determined". (What else would it be?) I think the objection isn't to scientific explanations in general. It is to the particular ones that get bandied about on the Internet by guys looking for excuses for their unhappiness.

Liz said...

Uh, dude, I dated some guys who were totally horrible in just about every way you can be, in a dating context. I don't want to do that anymore. So I avoid guys who remind me of the guys I dated who were horrible. I would rather be single and die alone and be eaten by cats than go out on a date with one more of these guys.

It's really not any more complicated than that.

Liz said...

"For the sexual anarchy of the feminist worldview to be morally coherent on its own terms, it is absolutely necessary for them to believe that, but for men’s own choices, all men have an equal opportunity to mate with all women."

And this is true, but not for the reasons you say. I do prefer to think that all men have an equal opportunity to make the best of themselves. That any man can, with a little effort, become someone who can date the kind of women he would like to date. I fault the nerds because they don't seem to think they should have to put forth the effort.

But my theory isn't some feminist anarchy turning in on itself. It's basic American Dream dogma.

Burke said...

Dizzy, Bobvis, and Spungeon: Thank you for your visit, and for the grace of your replies. We don't get much traffic out here at Delenda.

I have learned--indeed, am still learning--to withhold judgment from people who's personal circumstances I am not intimately familar with, e.g. most everyone. No doubt, Dizzy and Spungeon have had a rough time. It may be perverse, but this is why I enjoy their blogs: they confirm that I am not (or was not) alone in the unhappiness I experienced when I was single. Ten years into a wonderful marriage, I can rejoice with Spungeon in her present happiness, and pray that Dizzy too will find this happiness, despite her experience.

My perspective is certainly limited by my experience: looking for friendship and courtship among the college-educated twentysomethings I met at the churches I attended as I moved from major city to major city. The men with whom I became friends in these contexts were mild-mannered, courteous (by GenX standards at any rate), not given to vice, and marriage-minded. And also men who were berated far out of proportion to their actual faults by most of the women of our acquaintance. Men who expressed some frustration at their inability to get any social traction with the opposite sex. Men whose very ordinariness was their primary handicap. Men like myself. So the idea of the "deserving poor" has particular resonance for me. This is not to say that I cannot understand why we were no woman's first choice: I can understand it all too readily.

But I also believe two things:

1. That the current twenty-something dating culture, delaying as it does the point at which women turn to their second choices, lengthens the time of frustration and lonliness that most us experience while being single.

2. That to defend this dating culture (which I describe as "sexual anarchy") in the context of interventionist liberalism, feminist women as a group are required to find moral fault with the men as a group that are socially excluded.

If all the men Spungeon and Dizzy rejected or threw back were really the brutes and pigs you believe, perhaps you have never met someone like me. Or perhaps you could tell me in short order what it was about me that made me socially radioactive in my twenties, something that was no longer true when I was granted my first kiss at age 28 1/2. Or perhaps my wife, who granted me that kiss, has exceptionally low standards.

But the quality we call "attractiveness" is most assuredly NOT merely in the eye of the beholder, nor is it equally distributed among either the men or women of a society. Nor is intelligence so distributed. Nor is energy and good health. Nor is charisma and leadership. I do not blame Spungeon and Dizzy for the choices they make. But I do make a plea for compassion for those not blessed with these qualities.

Liz said...

I'm sorry you had a hard time too. I think dating is one of those things that is just horrid until you meet the right person, and then it's not.

I don't think though, that it beomces less horrid when a woman turns to her "second choice." The guys who were awful WERE my second choice, in a way. I was following the "Duckie" fantasy, "He's not cute or popular, but he adores her and will treat her like gold..." But the reality was that these guys didn't know anything about women. And instead of appreciating me, they actually SAID things like, "If I can get a girl who looks like you, then I want to see what else I can get."

They weren't brutes or pigs. They were selfish, inexperienced and unwilling to accomodate another person. They were ungenerous (CHEAP), judged girls on their looks right in front of me (when the guys doing the judging had NO room to talk) and otherwise made me uncomfortable. They weren't putting any effort into making me comfortable. They didn't care about me at all.

They didn't remember anything I said, and frequently commented that girls talk a lot. Also that girls are, "Crazy." They asked me over to watch television and shushed me if I talked, even when the program was prerecorded! They called me at three in the morning to say, "Want to have sex with me?" With their friends giggling in the background.

And I threw THEM back? They were treating me like disposable trash. What did you want me to do? They had no concept of respect. Or consideration. For another person.

I TRIED to be understanding. There were patient explanations about how, "When you comment on other grls when you're with me, I feel uncomfortable." Or, "I thought we were getting along too, but that does not mean you can follow me home without asking and assume I will sleep with you when you show up at my door."

This has nothing to do with some sort of feminist need to put people down. It has to do with self-preservation. They were horrible. If a good-looking guy had pulled one fifth of what these guys did, I would have been out of there. But I kept staying, thinking, "He's just awkward and new at it. I'm sure he's nice underneath."

I no longer believe that. I think a person who is nice underneath could learn to be polite on the surface. If he won't put in the work, then it is NOT my problem. And I don't owe him a date.

I have compassion for a dog who has been beaten, and now bites anythign near. But that doesn't mean I'm going to take it home with me. These guys may have reasons for being so unpleasant. But from what I saw, it was just arrogance, entitlement and refusal to accomodate others. They weren't victims of anything other than the idea that the world should accomodate them.

Liz said...

Also, these guys were given to whining, "Women don't appreciate a nice guy." Then they would stand up a girl or otherwise just blow the whole showing interest thing, and try to excuse it with, "But I'm shy..." They had this idea that they were the epitomy of gentlemanliness. But they didn't see a woman as a separate person, but as "A Girl."

I don't think feminists are any more or less likely than any other woman to be un-charmed by this behavior. But I think maybe guys have this idea that "A Girl" has so much power that she is not allowed to HIT BACK. It's like guys see themselves as the cripple in a fight with a marine, and any blows the marine throws are just so unwarranted.

But, well, viewing women as the marine in this situation, just because we can deny you sex (which you want from ANYONE, so it doesn't make any one woman at all special, btw) is not right. We are equals. Equal in power. And equally able to reject.

Handicapping us with some philosophy that says we are evil when we reject doesn't do anything to solve the problem. Which, as I see it, is that guys think they can excuse their way to social acceptability with a group of girls who want something different. These same guys often ignore the girls who will go out with them. And then they think some theory will explain why that's right?

I don't think that's a productive attitude.

Burke said...

Dizzy: Jeez, I had no idea! You story is heartbreaking.

I had no intention of putting words in your mouth. (I will post an update to this effect.) If anything, your characterization of the behavior you describe as "inexperienced" is too charitable; you might not characterize it as piggish and brutish, but I would so characterize it.

And I did not intend my plea for compassion to be interpreted as a request that you should reward that kind of behavior with your attention. I do think that failure for such people is punishment enough; I save my anger and scorn for bad behavior that is rewarded in the dating marketplace.

But for my part, I have sympathy for such people, such as I once was, that go for years without ever having been given a chance.

I'm about to board a flight. I'll write more later.

bobvis said...

Just in case you missed, the promised post was here.

Natalia said...

I would argue that alpha & beta are a false dichotomy in today's dating and mating culture.

But thanks for the link-love! "Such a woman" - you're giving me tingles! LOL.

Burke said...

Thanks for visiting. I observe that your "Indiscretions" blog is now invitation only. How can I get an invitation?

Sheila Tone said...

Both Dizzy and Spungeon, having reached their thirties, broadened their dating pool and had a number of negative experiences as a result.

Um, no, my experiences and tastes were the same in my teens and twenties. I didn't turn 30 and decide I was going to "lower my standards." If anything, I raised them, because I started realizing the falsehood of the Duckie myth.

One thing you seem to be missing is that most guys don't want to settle down when they're in their early- to mid-20s. If you did, you were an anomaly. This is at least as much a part of why women stay single into their 30s as their "standards." What most men complain about in their 20s is their inability to get attractive young women to sleep with them, not to marry them.

Grace said...

I just posted but it looks like it didn't work; please forgive any double posting.

I am a woman in my twenties and know lots of other women in their twenties. I honestly don't understand your theory, because women do date fat, poor, short, ugly or socially awkward men all the time. I know this because I've done it and so have all my friends, including those who are really beautiful.

Women like men to pursue them though, so very shy men don't experience a lot of dating success. Maybe that was your problem.

Natalia said...

That blog was retired a long time ago.

Oh, and I've been with a short dude for nearly 4 years now! So there goes your theory. ;)

Burke said...

Spungen: As I said on Bobvis, we seem to be working from different data sets. As I said here, mine comes from my experience among the college-educated twentysomethings I met at the churches I attended as I moved from major city to major city. I can testify that we were certainly marriage-minded, seeing as how our faith forbade extra-marital sex. (Not that we were immune from temptation, only that we tried to fight it.)

Amanda: if a man asks for date, is he not pursuing? But truth be told, I always sought out a sign that such pursuit would be well received. Such signs were seldom forthcoming, and were usually misleading anyway.

Natalia: may I assume that "short dude" has . . . other qualities?

Unknown said...

This is an interesting conversation, (I got here from Ace’s page), I’m 36 now, male and probably will never marry or have kids. The reason is simple, I never reconciled my lowly position on the sexual totem pole with my expectations, I was never able to come to the compromises necessary for beta category males to settle for someone of their own status and I never will. Let me say in my own defense that, although I may have my failings, I am and never was an abject freak of the kind Dizzy describes who exhibit behavior so clueless I almost find it hard to believe. My problem is basic- I’m just not physically attractive, it’s that simple. I did a lot of body building when I was younger to try to offset this, but I just turned into an awkward, weird-looking, bulky, gym dork instead of a spindly, spotty-faced computer dork. Some people just don’t look good no matter what, it’s a fact.

I had brief, sporadic sexual relationships during my college days, then almost decades of celibacy once out into the cold, grown up world of work and career. It used to get to me when I was younger, the biological urge is strong to be with the opposite sex and the frustration and rejection that comes with the opposite sex’s contempt and clear dislike of you is hard to take.

But that fades, and you get more engrossed in your work. I run my own production company now with a business partner (who’s the opposite of me, women LOVE this bastard, I count eight girlfriends over the last five years alone- and those are the ones I know about), and our ambitions to make films are the main focus of our lives. If I looked at my life now I’d have to say I feel pretty content, I work long hours, but on what I want, I earn my own money, I’m not some wage-slave, and we are in a business where there is no upper limit to which hard work, talent and luck might take us. What I have achieved so far I have achieved because I had to, there was no married comfort zone, I was debarred from whatever happiness sex and female companionship might bring me and had to make some sort of life for myself that gave me some meaning and purpose without those things.

I dunno what my point is exactly, I guess I’m just responding to the weirdly confessional urge internet anonymity confers. But in the end, I can at least say I never became some lame, whining pussy or resentful misogynist because my sexual ambitions ran aground on a reef of female indifference, and I’m not such a hypocrite I can’t acknowledge that I myself apply exactly the same shallow physical criteria to them. In the end we each chart a strange and weaving course through the no-rules Mad Max land of the modern sexual scene and hope for the best. I think I’ve done pretty good with my zero-sex option, but everyone is different.

Sheila Tone said...

Shotyourdog, I appreciate your candor. I will restrain my usual tendency to offer encouragement and (probably worthless) advice to the romantically unpaired since you clearly aren't seeking it.

I am curious about the women you hooked up with in college, though, and why you didn't stay with them. We are the same age, and I got together with some guys who fit the general profile you provided. I was always perplexed when it ended fairly quickly, and I always wondered what became of them.

Unknown said...

I'm having trouble logging onto this thing, I hope this post doesn't appear three times, that's a total newbie move.

I dunno why it ended with them exactly, except that it just wasn’t right. Basically I just wasn’t that into them and we got together because they were the only option I had available and, I assume, I was the only option they had available. It felt dishonorable, I felt bad about it, which is an impressive amount of guilt for a non-Catholic.

I knew plenty of girls who were smart, funny and good-looking and guess what? They could get smart, funny and good-looking guys. All I had was smart, and when you use your intelligence to be an annoying, know-it-all dick, it doesn’t exactly work in your favor. Sleeping with someone you fundamentally don’t like is shameful, for me it was worse than sleeping with nobody at all and that’s what I ended up doing.

I had a weird experience about 6 years ago, before my current business partner and I started up our company and got our lives in order. I was working on a movie script with a friend and it got picked up by Columbia Tristar for development. This means nothing, big studios option hundreds of small projects, very few make it through to becoming films, especially if you have no prior experience and no leverage. So I was realistic about our chances, but what was weird was that everyone around us suddenly went nuts, they acted like we had hit the big time. Suddenly we had a hundred new best friends. I was like, “It’s an option, not a green light, it’ll go nowhere, stop humping my leg’, but people in this business are so desperate to hitch themselves to anything that looks like it’s going somewhere they act like idiots.

Anyway, the producer the studio assigned had a hot little production assistant I’ll call Monique, not her real name, and one night when I was out with her and her friends at the height of the project’s optimism I suddenly realized I could sleep with this good-looking girl if I wanted to. It was really, really weird. It was like an invisible, but impregnable barrier that had been there all my life was suddenly gone. It’s not like she hung out a sign or anything, she wasn’t drunk or all over me, it was just obvious. I hadn’t got better looking, what had changed was my status, with a film project up I was suddenly a winner, I had power, I was an alpha male. I went home with her and it was like there was no doubt or discussion about it, we were going there to have sex, which we sort of did, after a fashion, the details of which I won’t go into.

What happened next was predictable, Tristar distanced itself from the project, and Monique distanced herself from me so fast it was like she was terrified she’s get loser stink on her. But I found the experience as a whole fascinating, I remember thinking, ‘Is this what it’s like for those guys all the time? The tall, the handsome, the charming?” Is sex just something women want to do with you? Needless to say, I don’t recall this episode with much pride, but it was a brief glance into an utterly different world, it was really, really weird.

Liz said...

"Is sex just something women want to do with you..." (if you're successful)?

Um, no. And really, is Monique some sort of prize? she is a good looking girl who sleeps with people she thinks can help her. So I don't think you moved up in status. If anything, you were feeling more confident and so recognized an opportunity that you may otherwise not have seen. There are probably plenty of girls who will use you, right now. You just don't want them. You're holding out for an alpha girl. Which is your choice.

Sheila Tone said...

Basically I just wasn’t that into them and we got together because they were the only option I had available and, I assume, I was the only option they had available.

I'm curious: Did they seem as if they wanted to have a relationship with you? Were they disappointed when you didn't stick around? Or was the lack of enthusiasm mutual?

I'm also curious as to how you got together with them. Did you ask them out, compliment them, act as if you found them desirable? Or did they just sort of glumly drag you into bed when no one else was around?

Like I said, I got together in my 20s with a few guys who, like you, were trying to get into the industry but weren't big shots. They were also in their 20s. They seemed to find me attractive and interesting at first, but things fizzled quickly. And it wasn't even a deal of, they scored then dumped me, because usually we never even got around to having sex. There were maybe a couple tepid makeout sessions where I just couldn't understand their lack of enthusiasm. Since they had been the ones who wanted to get together in the first place. It was as if they'd found something to turn them off aside from my looks or personality, but I couldn't figure out what. It was perplexing. By this time they'd found out more about my background and general circumstances, so I had some suspicions but was never sure.

I suppose it's possible they never *really* found me attractive in the first place, but just wanted a shot at playing the role. Observers tend to gauge these situations by assessing whether the woman's more attractive than the man, and what his other immediate options are. But maybe those aren't the only factors. I suspected that they might be comparing me with supermodels or "It Girl" actresses (I would lose), and thinking that was in their future once they hit it big. But I never found out for sure. All I know is none of them got married yet, and none have hit it big.

You say you're unattractive. That could mean a variety of things. These guys were considered "unattractive" in the way Jason Alexander or "Spence" from "King of Queens" would be. Like, still cute, although not tall or handsome. I know it gets worse than that. But guys who look like that often do pretty well with women if they're in entertainment, even if they're not stars.

SomeGuy said...

I posted this on Bobvis blog page. I am interested in your comments.

I think the dynamic for beta males in their 20's is that the alpha and beta females chase the alpha males for ten years and the beta males experience occasional intimacy but no real long-term relationships since they are not prized by most females of that age range.

What follows is a gradual withdrawl by the beta males who become more self centered (or male centered) and who devote their lives to work, hobbies or their male friends. By the time (early 30's) the females realize that the alpha males aren't going to be caught the beta males may have developed carreers and financial stability (which are now prized by the 30-something females at this point), but have socially regressed to the point that the females find them ill equipped to have a fulfilling relationship with women.

I think a lot of this has to do with the changes in the roles of men and women in the 70's. Women, rightly so, felt that their options were limited in regards to the roles they were allowed to play in society and made a break with the past. The interesting thing for me is that women wanted the same opportunities as men, but men didn't necessarily want what women had.

The end result was that, to a certain extent, men were put out of a job. Their prior job being the breadwinner, protector and family leader. While this exclusively male role may have been unfair to women, I believe that most men took this responsibility very seriously. I also believe that many men, while dreaming about getting that alpha female, understood that the beta female was more realistic and because most beta females believed (prior to these social changes) that creating a stable family was a priority, the beta male was the best option.

Fast forward to today. Men no longer feel this historical responsibility since women have taken on the responsibilities that were once exclusively male. While this is great for women, I really think that many men today feel like women don't really "need" them anymore. This feeling is reinforced by the beta male experience I mentioned previously and once the beta males are approached in their 30's a decade of resentment has already built up.

Finally, I think the sexual freedom of today has come at a cost. There may be more sex but I believe a lot less intimacy. The disconnect between love, sex, commitment has led to a sexual bartering system between men and women which may have existed before, but I think women got a lot more in the deal 30 years ago than they get today.

Burke said...

I agree with your first paragraph. Different men will react differently to this. My sense is that most get married eventually, some will become "confirmed bachelors" as their blood cools, and a few will withdraw into bitter despair. But as you have read, our female contributors are convinced that we were NEVER suitable dating material in our twenties.

Clearly, the economic emancipation of women that occurred in the last century has benefitted a woman like Spungen, who has it all: great husband, wonderful baby, AND a successful career. But many women have not been so fortunate.

I can't really speak to the intimacy issue.

SomeGuy said...

What do you think of my "men put out of a job" thesis, and how this has led to male confusion about their roles?

Grace said...

Phi: I didn't say that you weren't suitable dating material! In fact, I was saying that women have different tastes in men and for many women (including those in their twenties) a man's looks/wealth/suaveness aren't that important.

But people who don't like themselves (or who perceive themselves as inferior) are not attractive. Also, most women don't want to date men who aren't obviously enthusiastic about them. Since very shy people are often emotionally reserved, this restraint can appear to be a lack of interest: so women will think you aren't enthusiastic and won't be interested, even if they would otherwise find you attractive.

SomeGuy: I think women expect a lot more from men in relationships than they used to. In the past, a husband that worked regularly and didn't beat you was a good one. Now women want to have egalitarian and emotionally honest relationships. I think a lot of divorced/single men aren't willing to make this change, and that's why they're not in relationships. I really think in successful relationships, there's far more intimacy than ever existed in the past. Remember that husbands used to have complete legal, financial and physical control over their wives: do you really think the wives could be truthful in such a situation?

SomeGuy said...


I would take issue that society ever defined a good husband as only being one that worked and didn't abuse his wife.

A good husband was loyal, devoted, made sacrifices, worked hard, didn't cheat, provided for his family, became a devoted grandfather when the time came, planned for the future. For this he received a loyal devoted wife.

There was honesty there, just a different honesty, an unspoken one.

My point is that while much has been gained on one side of the scales, much has been lost on the other. Men were given most of the power and with that came a great responsibility. While they have lost much of that power they have also let go of the responsibility that defined their behavior.

I think many women may be chasing something that doesn't exist - the stability and security that came when men accepted certain responsibility - along with the freedom to have their partners play the roles that they as women want them to be.

I am not saying 30 years ago things were "better", men were just less confused. I really think much of a man's self worth came from accepting the responsibility for his family. Now I think many men feel that women can take or leave them unless they conform to what the women want them to be.

Liz said...

I said this at Bobvis too... I'm just wondering, why are you basing your ideas on a romanticized view of the past? Why not just say, "Men should live up to their responsiblities?" There doesn't seem to be an obvious reason why that claim should have to be based on an appeal to a period when, as Amanda put it so well, "husbands used to have complete legal, financial and physical control over their wives."

It sounds like you think men have been the victims of something. But I dont' see what. So they can't beat their wives anymore? They are still perfectly free to step up and take care of their family. I don't see why you think women having jobs holds them back.

Liz said...

And isn't what you said, "Now I think many men feel that women can take or leave them unless they conform to what the women want them to be." exactly the situation women have always faced with men? And what do you think the women want, that is so sinister? I mean, emotional honesty doesn't sound so bad, right?

Grace said...

Like Dizzy says, SomeGuy is confused about what the past was like. How can a relationship be honest when one party has all the power and the other cannot leave, regardless of their true feelings? Remember that until quite recently, married women couldn't own property and couldn't divorce (and if they did lost all their money and their children, and could not be employed except as prostitutes). In such a situation, interactions are based on lies and manipulation, since that's the weaker party's only way to accomplish their goals. Read almost any Victorian literature (Ibsen, Balzac, Trollope) for a description of this.

Women had to put up with their husbands' behavior, regardless of how they felt about it. Now they don't and can ask for more. This is better because relationships are no longer based on silent resentment, lying, and long-suffering women: we can relate as independent and equal human beings. I think most men would see this as an improvement too.

Liz said...

I like you Amanda. :)

Unknown said...

I agree that people who don’t like themselves find it impossible to maintain a relationship, and, I suppose, people who like themselves too much are equally intolerable. Spungen, as to your question, I can’t offer much insight. I don’t know you or how you looked/behaved in you 20’s, I don’t know the guys you went out with or how similar they were to me in personality or situation, I doubt very. I’ve always been an unique case, and not in a good way.

Anyhow, I can’t believe how whiney I sound here, the whole pseudo-point of my original post was that I’m genuinely happy these days without the female company I used to desire. My life had it’s problems, but I’ve figured something out and I’m going good. If I was still a ‘looser’ sitting on a workstation doing crap I hated for a fixed wage I’d probably be very depressed at this point, but I have my own company, we’re having a lot of success and it’s amazing what that does for your sense of well-being. That’s probably a guy thing, ego-vindication or something.

People like me don’t deserve any sympathy for being shallow jerks who won’t settle for a so called “beta-female” nor should we ask for any. Since I won’t have kids my genes are going to be edited out of the human story anyway, so that’ll sort itself out, long term.

Burke said...

Other people have said this better than me, but here it goes:

The evolution of pair-bonding required a formula that would persuade men to stop living like chimpanzees, settle down with one woman, and provide for a family. One of the components of that formula was that the man was o rei da casa. Sure, Dizzy, there is no rational reason why men should not settle down to a more egalitarian formula . . . except that egalitarianism cuts both ways, and many men now expect women to bear their "fair share" of breadwinning. Most of the time, this comes at the expense of the children. Marital egalitarianism also appears to weaken a man's attachment to domesticity. It shouldn't, but it does.

I don't want to fall into the nostalgia trap, and idealize the ancien regime. Yes, different men bore their responsibility more and less well, and wielded their authority more and less benevolently. And I can understand how Spungen would not want to trade her life for what was available in the past.

However, the legal and social changes of the past decades were not cost-free: they benefitted some men and women at the expense of other men, women and virtually all children.

SomeGuy said...

Well, as you can see from these posts there will not be a meeting of the minds with this discussion.

My point is not that we should go back to the grand old days of women as chattel. In the abstract, it is a good thing that women can buy homes, buy cars, have a career, have a child without a man, divorce to get out of a bad situation, save for their own retirement, etc.

But as Phi has said, this has come at a cost. I do believe (most women posting here seem to disagree) that there was some good aspects of the prior social structure. The pendulum has swung a little too far in my opinion to the point that men feel that they are not needed by women anymore.

While in the abstract that may be true, it does have a corrosive effect on men's egos. Rather than going in with the attitude that "I don't really need you", at least pretend that you do and know in your heart that you have options if things don't work out.

Natalia said...

***Natalia: may I assume that "short dude" has . . . other qualities?***


But I don't think of him as an "alpha male," because, and this might seem strange to someone else but feels perfectly natural to me, I don't apply those categories to men.

Like I said, I think you're pushing a false dichotomy.

Liz said...

It has a corrosive effect on men's egos? I don't think I want the guy who needs someone who needs him. It really sounds like power issues. In a long-term relationship, of course you grow to need that person, equally. But what kind of guy would NEED to start off a relationship where he is clearly in the driver's seat, in order to feel, well, like being in a relationship at all?

You're right. We're not going to agree on this.Because I don't want what you seem to think I'm too stupid to understand that I should want.

Grace said...

SomeGuy says "The pendulum has swung a little too far in my opinion to the point that men feel that they are not needed by women anymore."

I don't think you understand what I'm saying. Women need more from men now, not less: they are looking for not just financial support but emotional support, parenting support, etc. It's not as if an egalitarian relationship means the partners exist as completely separate agents, who can take or leave each other. They are more deeply connected, because they can honestly express themselves and ask for what they need, rather than play roles (the paterfamilias and the "angel of the house") which don't reflect them as unique individuals.

This sort of relationship benefits men just as much as women. Think how exhausting it would be to be solely responsible for your family's wellbeing: there's no space for men to take a lower-paying but more enjoyable job, express fear and doubt, cut back on their working hours to spend time with their children. When women are freer to express themselves and pursue their interests, so are men.

Rich Rostrom said...

The "Sex and Liberalism" premise of this post is false (that socialism and libertinism only recently came together). Marx in the Communist Manifesto> acknowledged that Communism would bring "community of women". Socialists of the early 1900s advocated "free love". Communists in power turned puritanical, but libertine artists such as Picasso stayed Red as tomatoes.