Every article I’ve ever read on this topic dances around the elephant in the room. They list the common culprits:
- Video games.
- Peter Pan syndrome.
- Money (given the tendency for universities to milk students for all their worth, and an average student loan debt of ~$37k, they don’t want to put that burden on another person before they have their own finances in order).
- They don’t want to fall into the popular stereotype of the “dumb dad” (good point, but moot).
- Men are players who are afraid they’ll lose their freedom.
- The degradation of traditional gender roles provides little incentive for men to get married.
- That men are sexist. That’s one of my favorites. The data makes sense; Jeff Guo’s interpretation doesn’t. It might even be worth its own post.
None of those quite get the point.
One of the closest:
- Divorce laws. They’re keenly aware of the likelihood that they’ll eventually get divorced (even if it’s not as high as people think — see Clarence’s comment below), and they know that they will spend a fortune on divorce proceedings just to lose half of their net worth, custody over their children, and probably their mental health. I wrote about divorce statistics here, if you’re interested.
- “Try paying 50% of your income in child support, another 20% in taxes, and being threatened with jail and loss of your professional license if you don’t pay. Then to top it off you won’t get to see your children, because the court won’t enforce visitation. See what that does to you emotionally.” – “G.” from this article.
On a personal note, I can still clearly picture the day when my uncle, already drunk, came over to my family’s house for dinner. I didn’t know he was drunk. I figured it was going to be just like any other day. Instead, he sat on the couch and broke down because his ex-wife, who cheated on him while they were married, was going to take his son to another state. To live with another man. I still remember him saying, over and over, “I didn’t even think she could do that.”
Now I only see my cousin every other holiday.
But the problem is all of those things, and none of them.
Why are men avoiding marriage?
“Men are avoiding marriage” because women have drastically changed. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing!
Before you break your scroll wheel trying to get down to the comments section to tell me how much of a disgusting misogynist I am, let me explain. First, there’s actual data to support this, and it’s nowhere near as offensive as it sounds. Second, women are also avoiding marriage because of men.
In fact, men are the common denominator in every one of the points listed above. In this case, the verdict is that men are the problem; it’s the de-facto assumption when it’s wrapped in a loaded question like that.
But men aren’t the problem.
I would argue that women aren’t really the problem, either, but that’s how a lot of men see it.
When you ask the question, “Why are men avoiding marriage?” the most obvious answer, of course, staring everyone right in the face, is “it’s something about women.” For some reason, every other writer isn’t addressing that. (There are actually more than a few assumptions in the wording of that question that anyone who’s “against traditional gender norms” should presumably find offensive, according to their own logic, but I’ll address that later.)
You need to look at it from the male’s perspective: A lot of them have had devastating experiences with women — especially when it comes to divorce. They’ve been lied to, cheated on, and taken for granted over and over.
Then some Buzzfeed writer comes along telling them that they need to stop watching porn.
It’s laughable. Everyone’s constantly missing the point: These men aren’t losers. They’re mostly intelligent, strong-willed, and highly educated. They’ve just had a series of awful relationships that have probably warped their views of women.
With that said, the marriage rate decline is the natural result of a lot of historical developments. Among those listed above (which are certainly still factors), I would include:
- The availability of contraception. This is a no-brainer. It makes casual sex easier. In 1962, an employer could fire a woman for getting pregnant. Women were naturally more reserved.
- The rise of “hookup culture,” which also isn’t as common as a lot of people think.
- Fewer young Americans identifying as Christian, and fewer young Americans saying that religion is an important part of their lives. Marriage is still, by and large, a religious institution.
- Online dating.
- Others. A lot of others. Reducing any major social development to one cause is stupid.
I want to point out, though, that men haven’t changed much in the past hundred years. American men are largely the same as they’ve always been. There’s a review for the book, The Demise of Guys, that’s too good — and too relevant — to not include in this post:
The sky is falling. The sky is falling. Again. If it’s not a pool table in River City, then it’s video games in Visalia or porn in Poughkeepsie. At one time or another it’s been movies, pool halls, gambling, comic books, alcohol, drugs, Al Capone, television, jazz, pinball machines, rock ‘n roll, homosexuality, heterosexuality, bad breath, bad posture and foot odor that was going to be the total ruination of our boys, and the death knell of western civilization. SOS. Save Our Sons.
How come there’s never been much hue and cry about the ruination of our daughters?
The major premises of ‘The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It, by Philip G. Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan seem to be: times have changed, things aren’t like they used to be, and the world’s going to hell in a hand basket.
Then sign me up for the ride. It sounds like fun.
There have been worthless bums in every generations of every human society throughout civilization, and beyond. And yet, we survive and progress. The millions of men, spending hundreds of millions of hours and billions of dollars playing video games and watching cyber porn aren’t really the one’s who shape and move the world, and, cumulatively, aren’t worth the time, energy or words of this one sentence.
Besides. Isn’t it THEIR hundreds of millions of hours and THEIR billions of dollars that they’re so spending? What ever happened to ‘live and let live’?
Recommendation: Find something else to lose sleep over.
Again, it’s not men; it’s women. That’s not as bad as it sounds.
My argument: While the feminist movement has obviously accomplished a lot, it’s also the main factor behind the falling marriage rates — by no fault of its own.
When you look at this in a historical context, men are the same; women are radically different. Specifically, they’re much more educated and earn much more money.
Consider for a second: are males and females any less attracted to one another? Are they any less likely to fall in love?
No. Of course not.
The “problem” is that women have a tendency to marry up or across socioeconomic lines (either hypergamy or homogamy). On average, they almost never marry down.
If you’re a woman who’s looking for man with an income level that’s equal to or greater than yours and who is just as educated as you, then your pool of available mates is already harrowingly low. As I mentioned in one of my previous articles, women outnumber men in college by about 16 percent (42% male, 58% female), and that ratio is only increasing as time goes on.
To borrow a metaphor from Jon Birger, it’s like a game of musical chairs, except men are the chairs. If there are 5.5 million college-educated women playing the game and only 4.1 million chairs, at least 1.4 million women are going to end up losing the game.
And that’s assuming that all college-educated men and women want to get married, which is, of course, false. If you’re an enemy of traditional gender roles, you’ll probably note that it’s a little offensive to assume that all women want to get married, as if it’s the ultimate end goal of the female gender. I agree somewhat, but probably not with the same ferocity (I’m actually kind of a fan of traditional gender roles). I’d also like to point out that Birger’s book, Date-onomics, is all about how the lack of male college enrollment affects women’s dating preferences — which is almost on par with Guo’s “sexism” comment, except it also pisses women off by assuming that they’re only good for marriage.
I’m not exactly sure how much I have to argue that women engage in either homogamy or hypergamy, because, to me, it’s always been self-evident. It is, of course, very easy to find statistical evidence for: A team of economists headed by Jeremy Greenwood at the University of Pennsylvania found that men and women tend to engage in “assortative mating,” dating or marrying someone who’s on the same level, economically, as you; while Bloomberg analyzed 2014 census data and found that, “high-earning women (doctors, lawyers) tend to pair up with their economic equals, while middle- and lower-tier women often marry up. In other words, female CEOs tend to marry other CEOs; male CEOs are OK marrying their secretaries.”
I’d also add that there’s some archetypal evidence for hypergamy if you look at, say, Beauty and the Beast or Cinderella. More recently, those stories have morphed into Fifty Shades of Grey. “Prince Charming” is, by and large, on a higher socioeconomic level, even if he’s an ugly, aggressive animal.
This all has an unintended consequence when it comes to men who don’t feel genetically suited for physical attraction; they’re now aware that their money likely can’t make up for their shortcomings (unintentional pun — under 8% of couples are the same height or with a taller female; 26% lower than random pairing would suggest. Also, women are the driving force behind that preference).
In a world where women are intentionally oppressed, this is less of a “problem.”
I’m not suggesting intentional oppression.
But this specific dynamic reminds me of something that Charlotte Lucas said in Pride and Prejudice after Elizabeth confronted her about her recent marriage to Mr. Collins, who — while only short in the movies — can certainly represent the “second-choice” male:
When you have had time to think it over, I hope you [Elizabeth, her best friend] will be satisfied with what I have done. I am not romantic, you know; I never was. I ask only a comfortable home; and considering Mr. Collins’ character, connection, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state.
Back in the day when women exclusively relied on men for resources, less desirable men didn’t run into this problem. In order to win a woman’s affections, or her father’s, all he had to do was earn money. Now, men have to do — and be born with — much more.
This “problem” is largely unavoidable, and it’s stupid to blame it on porn and video games.