Concerning Single Young Men

June 27th, 2009 by Pelle Billing

I have long argued that the strong influence of feminist ideology on Western societies has had profound influence on young men. Growing up with feminism, if you’re a boy, can easily lead to being shamed, having poor self-esteem and being confused about what role you are expected to play in society.

The fact that gender roles evolve is inevitable, so from that perspective the confusion seen in young men of today couldn’t have been avoided. On the other hand, I believe that feminism has unnecessarily put the blame on men for the gender roles of the past, instead of realizing that both sexes co-created the past, and we can co-create new gender roles in the future.

Anyhow, the point is that men have been deeply affected by the change in gender roles and by the influence of feminism on young men and women alike. This is finally starting to be acknowledged in the media, and the other day I came across a very interesting text dealing with this phenomenon. I don’t agree with everything being said in the article, but several of the observations made are interesting, and worthy of discussion.

The article starts out with the following observation about SYMs (single young males):

Their argument, in effect, was that the SYM is putting off traditional markers of adulthood—one wife, two kids, three bathrooms—not because he’s immature but because he’s angry. He’s angry because he thinks that young women are dishonest, self-involved, slutty, manipulative, shallow, controlling, and gold-digging. He’s angry because he thinks that the culture disses all things male. He’s angry because he thinks that marriage these days is a raw deal for men.

The anger of these SYM is palpable:

“Maybe we turn to video games not because we are trying to run away from the responsibilities of a ‘grown-up life’ but because they are a better companion than some disease-ridden bar tramp who is only after money and a free ride.”

“Men are finally waking up to the ever-present fact that traditional marriage, or a committed relationship, with its accompanying socially imposed requirements of being wallets with legs for women, is an empty and meaningless drudgery.”

When young men actually enter the dating scene, they find that the rules have changed, and that double standards abound:

But when they walk to his car, he makes his first mistake: he fails to open the car door for her. Mistake Number Two comes a moment later: “So, what would you like to do?” he asks. “Her idea of a date is that the man plans the evening and takes the woman out,” Straus explains. But how was the hapless social worker supposed to know that? In fact, Doesn’t-Open-the-Car-Door Guy might well have been chewed out by a female colleague for reaching for the office door the previous week.

The cultural muddle is at its greatest when the dinner check arrives. The question of who grabs it is a subject of endless discussion on the hundreds of Internet dating sites. The general consensus among women is that a guy should pay on a first date: they see it as a way for him to demonstrate interest.

It’s understandable that SYM become confused. The current dating scene is a mixture of new ideals (women own their own sexuality and have casual sex, often earn just as much money as young men, and will cry foul if you use chivalry on them) and old ideals (men should pay for the dinner date, be chivalrous, etc). Is it any wonder that young men become bitter if women expect the new ideals when it suits them, and the old ideals when those are more advantageous?

Kevin from Ann Arbor writes. “They want to compete equally, and have the privileges of their mother’s generation. They want the executive position, AND the ability to stay home with children and come back into the workplace at or beyond the position at which they left. They want the bad boy and the metrosexual.”

SYM also feel disillusioned when they discover what kind of men are successful in the dating scene. After having been taught by their mothers and by culture that girls are fragile, kind, moral and non-aggressive (i.e. the opposite qualities that feminism ascribes to traditional old-fashioned men), SYM are in for a brutal awakening when they discover how things really work:

This attraction to bad boys is by far guys’ biggest complaint about contemporary women. Young men grew up hearing from their mothers, their teachers, and Oprah that women wanted sensitive, kind, thoughtful, intelligent men who were in touch with their feminine sides, who shared their feelings, who enjoyed watching Ally McBeal rather than Beavis and Butt-Head. Yeah, right, sneer a lot of veterans of the scene. Women don’t want Ashley Wilkes; they’re hot for Rhett Butler, for macho men with tight abs and an emotional range to match.

On Craigslist, one guy posted a succinct, albeit somewhat bitter, analysis of how nice guys fare in contemporary culture (post-sexual revolution):

According to a “Recovering Nice Guy” writing on Craigslist, the female preference for jerks and “assholes,” as they’re also widely known, lies behind women’s age-old lament, “What happened to all the nice guys?” His answer: “You did. You ignored the nice guy. You used him for emotional intimacy without reciprocating, in kind, with physical intimacy.” Women, he says, are actually not attracted to men who hold doors for them, give them hinted-for Christmas gifts, or listen to their sorrows. Such a man, our Recovering Nice Guy continues, probably “came to realize that, if he wanted a woman like you, he’d have to act more like the boyfriend that you had. He probably cleaned up his look, started making some money, and generally acted like more of an asshole than he ever wanted to be.”

Ouch.

Carrying on, it seems that many men have made similar observations to what I sometimes address on this blog:

Adding to the bitterness of many SYMs is the feeling that the entire culture is a you-go-girl cheering section. When our guy was a boy, the media prattled on about “girl power,” parents took their daughters to work, and a mysterious plague seemed to have killed off boys, at least white ones, from school textbooks. To this day, male-bashing is the lingua franca of situation comedies and advertising: take the dimwitted television dads from Homer Simpson to Ray Romano to Tim Allen, or the guy who starts a cooking fire to be put out by his multitasking wife, who is already ordering takeout. Further, it’s hard to overstate the distrust of young men who witnessed divorce up close and personal as they were growing up. Not only have they become understandably wary of till-death-do-us-part promises; they frequently suspect that women are highway robbers out to relieve men of their earnings, children, and deepest affections.

I’ve never understood the “take your daughter to work” concept. Why discriminate so blatantly against young boys? Wouldn’t the natural impulse be to take you child to work, regardless of gender? Feminism has indeed been successful in the US educational system.

As the article carries on, it becomes obvious that a substantial portion of young men are ready to pull out of the dating game:

As the disenchanted SYM sees it, then, resistance to settling down is a rational response to a dating environment designed and ruled by women with only their own interests in mind. “Men see all of this, and wonder if it’s really worth risking all in the name of ‘romance’ and ‘growing up,’ ” a correspondent who calls himself Wytchfinde explains. “After all, if women can be hedonistic and change the rules in midstream when it suits them, why shouldn’t men? Why should men be responsible when women refuse to look into the mirror at their own lack of accountability?”

Every action has a reaction. The action taken by feminists during the last few decades, is now eliciting a reaction in SYM; a reaction that can easily lead to men becoming hyper-masculine and more irresponsible:

So, men like Wytchfinde conclude: No more Mister Nice Guy! They will dump all those lessons from their over-feminized childhood and adolescence. They will join what the Boston Globe has called the “Menaissance.” And they will buy titles like The Alphabet of Manliness (K is for Knockers, Q is for Quickies), The Retrosexual Manual, Being the Strong Man a Woman Wants, and actor Jim Belushi’s recent Real Men Don’t Apologize.

Is it any wonder that young men become more narcissistic and less interested in being responsible family fathers and citizens, when Western culture has marginalized the voice of young men?

Conclusion

I believe that the feminist revolution has missed its target for a few different reasons:

  1. Men’s needs, wants and perspectives were ignored
  2. Biological differences between the sexes were ignored, which is a terrible oversight when discussing career choices and partner choice
  3. Feminism focused on changing the negative aspects of the female gender role, while being all too happy about keeping the positive aspects

You ignore biological differences between the sexes at your own peril, as the author of the article notes:

Most of the women interviewed by Jillian Straus say that they’re looking for a man who can be the primary breadwinner. A June 2008 New Scientist article reports on two studies that even suggest that women are biologically attracted to “jerks”; researchers speculate that narcissistic, risk-taking men had an evolutionary advantage.

So women want a man who is a risk-taker and a primary breadwinner? Those wishes certainly go against what feminism has taught young men that women want, and also what young women have been told that they are supposed to want.

If they did similar research on young men and what they desire in women, I’m pretty sure that the response would be that they want a woman who will be the primary caretaker of the children, and only focus fulltime on her career once the children are a bit older. And just like women enjoy men who are confident and risk-taking, many men want a woman who can be loving and feminine. This is extremely politically incorrect, but if there is truth to these claims, do we not need to include them in any movement for gender liberation?

Personally I don’t believe that biology can explain the whole male-female sexual dynamic, far from it. We always need to include cultural and psychological factors, in addition to what biology can teach us. But it is clear that due to the three reasons I listed above, feminist reforms have misfired in a number of important ways, and it is up to us to develop a new, more robust version of gender equality. We need a version that defends the equal value of women and men, without claiming that men and women are essentially the same – while also offering a clear path to success for both genders that does not involve a total absence of moral development.

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16 Responses to “Concerning Single Young Men”

  1. unomi Says:

    Ah, another American, right wing think tank (the Manhattan Institute, publisher of the City Journal and favoured by Dick Cheney). I’m sensing a theme here…

    While I agree with a lot of the things being said on this blog about the male gender role, it always seems to come with an unhealthy dose of biological determinism, which is something I’m hoping any future masculist movement will stay away from.

    A June 2008 New Scientist article reports on two studies that even suggest that women are biologically attracted to “jerks”

    What exactly is “biological” attraction? We still don’t know why some people like men and some people like women, so how are we meant to know what makes a person fall for a jerk?

  2. Pelle Billing Says:

    When a phenomenom is cross-cultural, and there is no plausible cultural explanation, chances are that its roots are biological.

    Accepting biology as a valid factor is not biological determinism. However, believing that all talk of biology is biological determinism, is the definition of biophobia. Do you have biophobia Unomi?

    I’m glad that you agree with a lot of things that I say about the male gender role.

    Concerning right wing/left wing politics and think tanks, I think it’s important to listen to both sides, because both sides have valid points, and neither side has the complete truth.

  3. unomi Says:

    When a phenomenom is cross-cultural, and there is no plausible cultural explanation, chances are that its roots are biological.

    Right. There are some women in all cultures who like jerks. So if there are some women in all cultures who like to wear yellow shoes, that means women also have a “biological attraction” to yellow shoes?

    People come up with all sorts of excuses for their own crappy dates. In the 1990s it was quite popular for straight people to blame them on men coming from Mars, women from Venus, etc. And now it seems straight, western men can blame them on the conflicting messages they’ve been getting from feminists.

  4. Pelle Billing Says:

    @unomi

    Apparently you consider yourself competent of dismissing research without even having read it? That’s an interesting, albeit anti-intellectual, approach. Please raise the bar if you want to be taken seriously.

    Here is the link, if you actually want to read a commentary on the research.

    What exactly is “biological” attraction? We still don’t know why some people like men and some people like women, so how are we meant to know what makes a person fall for a jerk?

    We do have some clear differences in the hypothalamus between gay and straight men, so what you’re saying is not entirely correct. We also know about how women are attracted to men whose scent indicate that they are a good genetic match. So there’s already a substantial amount of research about biological attraction, and that knowledge base is steadily increasing.

  5. Danny Says:

    I’ve never understood the “take your daughter to work” concept. Why discriminate so blatantly against young boys? Wouldn’t the natural impulse be to take you child to work, regardless of gender? Feminism has indeed been successful in the US educational system.

    I think its comes from a deep seated feminist assumption that boys will be okay because they are male. In the the gender discourse one thing I’ve noticed about feminists is they work from the assumption that being male is some sort of magical key that will grant him the world (which I think is the core to the whole “male privilege” thing and why they don’t think they have to prove it with anything more than personal anecdotal evidence).

  6. unomi Says:

    @Pelle

    Shunning a 500-word piece in the New Scientist makes me an anti-intellectual?!

    Can’t have that. So after reading this I find: three broadly defined, subjective personal traits are more common in men who have a lot of casual sex. We’re not told how much more common, or how the research was carried out.

    This, apparently, makes it okay to say that women are biologically attracted to jerks, and that we ignore this finding at our own peril.

    Btw, if a similar percentage of men are gay, is it okay to say that “men are biologically attracted to men”? Because I’d quite like that.

  7. Pär Ström Says:

    I´ve always had a bad feeling about the lack of equality in the dating game. Women expect special treatment, and no one seems to bother, although this is extremely un-equal. When women have something to win from un-equality, then suddenly equality is not important.

  8. Danny Says:

    I´ve always had a bad feeling about the lack of equality in the dating game.

    Hear hear. The Dating game is so loaded with double standards and unfairness that I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to get involved (myself included). Men having to act a certain way to attract a woman, women acting a certain way to attract a man, (and it can get even tricker once you go into other sexual orientations).

  9. Jim Says:

    “While I agree with a lot of the things being said on this blog about the male gender role, it always seems to come with an unhealthy dose of biological determinism, which is something I’m hoping any future masculist movement will stay away from.”

    AMEN. When a phenomenon is cross-cultural, it may have a biological basis. But there’s no way to prove that. And I can think of all kinds of examples in lingusitics where there are all sorts of close parallels in completely unrelated languages, in grammar ot structure of the vocabulary or whatever, that no one can claim are biological because after all, there are complwetely opposite and contradictory structures in an equal number of other unrelated languages.

    A big part of being human is in not being biologically determined. How else does a savannah-adapted, subtropical primate species come to live in a place llike….oh….Northern Europe? Western Europe, for that matter – there isn’t that much of it that’s truly habitable. Of course there are physical adaptations, like the loss of pigment and the development of lactase persistence, but let’s be real – a lot more of the credit is owed to things like houses and food storage and clothing – cultural, not biological adaptations.

  10. Jim Says:

    “There are some women in all cultures who like jerks. ”

    OK, somehwere somone did a study – this was years ago – that involved a bunch of women and a bunch of their brothers. Every evening they collected the brother’s undershirts, and every morning the womenwere asked (I hope) to sniff a selection undershirts and rate them on a scale of undesirability. The issue was histocompatiabilty and genetic distance. Surprise, surprise; they found that at one point in ther cycle, when they were most fertile, the women preferred the scent of men who were gentically most distant, and their brothers’ scent icked them out. The rest of the time the response was reversed.

    So that may make some kind of sense. But how does it apply? Maybe a man who breaks cultural norms is going to register subconsciously as more foreign. “Jerks” might have this affect. The same is probably true for the way that guys go for “wild women”. Maybe.

    It still sounds to me like a lot of ananlysis/speculation based on a few facts.

  11. Jim Says:

    “I’ve never understood the “take your daughter to work” concept. Why discriminate so blatantly against young boys? Wouldn’t the natural impulse be to take you child to work, regardless of gender? Feminism has indeed been successful in the US educational system.”

    Well at least this part is mostly wasted on most women. I see women take about an equal number of boys as girls to work on those days on the train I ride.

  12. Pelle Billing Says:

    Jim:

    And I can think of all kinds of examples in lingusitics where there are all sorts of close parallels in completely unrelated languages, in grammar ot structure of the vocabulary or whatever, that no one can claim are biological because after all, there are complwetely opposite and contradictory structures in an equal number of other unrelated languages.

    What you are saying is that those structures are *not* cross-cultural (i.e. present in all human societies), and then no, we shouldn’t assume that they are biological.

    A big part of being human is in not being biologically determined. How else does a savannah-adapted, subtropical primate species come to live in a place llike….oh….Northern Europe?

    I agree. But “a big part” is not the same as “the whole part”. While environmental adaptation and cultural programming are very important, there are also behaviors that are influenced by biology. It doesn’t need to be an either/or thing, it can be a both/and thing.

  13. IfUSeekAmy Says:

    Concerning the New Scientist research, there seems to be a major issue with causality here. The assumption in the article is:

    Dark triad men get more women => Women are biologically more attracted to jerks.

    But there are potentially many other reasons why these men get more women. They may just pursue more women on average, they may have less barriers (nervosity, shyness, etc), they may be more aggressive (not assume rejection as quickly)…

    In fact, the article itself states:

    “The study found that those who scored higher on the dark triad personality traits tended to have more partners and more desire for short-term relationships”

    Ah, so they have a higher desire for short-term relationships – so perhaps they pursue more women (please note I’m not saying they do, since I haven’t PROVEN anything!) Why would men with a lower desire for short-term relationships pursue multiple partners?

    So, to conclude, it takes much more to prove the causality that the reason “jerks” get more women is that women are biologically attracted to jerks.

  14. Pelle Billing Says:

    I agree that these two studies could be interpreted in various ways.

    However, there is also the small matter of thousands of mens’ experience around the world. Nowadays there are various forums where men discuss these things, and nearly every man can tell the same story: before, he was pursuing women and having very little success, but after changing his manner and becoming slightly evil (a “bad boy), he is now having great success with women.

  15. Mattias Says:

    While I might not fit the description of ‘SYM’ completely (I am just above 30) I can relate to Pelle’s text and the articles almost completely. I have had a successful and busy dating history so far but havent met ‘the one’ yet. I find myself in a position now that is very ambiguous. I have even begun describing myself to potential dates as a “Mother-in-laws dream with a bad boy streak”. And it goes deeper than just a shallow description, I act according to the description as well. And I can honestly say that the bad boy streak has grown stronger over time as I get more and more experience with dating. Whats disconcerting to me though is the nagging feeling that I am not sure if it is really ‘Me’ or a social construction that has altered the true me. A further unsettling fact is that in order for the Product, me, to be successful I have to deliver it with a strong dose of confidence. Or in other words I have to believe (or at least appear to believe) that I am what I am displaying. This can easily lead to self-deception. And ultimately to a feeling of loss – who am I, really?

    I can also very heavily relate to the anger that was described early in the text. I started out as a very, very nice guy that was a little angel and always helpful to the point of naive. I still am, but over time a seething anger has grown due to the constant barrage of collective guilt from all around me. Very often I want to scream at the top of my lungs – Dont blame me! I never did that! I am a NICE guy! – but who would listen, who would care? And what happens with anger that finds no outlet? It turns to bitterness… And spite.

    Finally I want to bring up a point that hasnt been made here yet. To make it I will use the example about who pays for the first date, but it applies to alot of situations. As you described, a man that doesnt pay for the first date is not only certain he will not get a second date, but he is also considered rude enough that the surroundings often react and interfere. And this often happens after a successful first date where the subject of a possible coming relationship on equal terms has been discussed in a friendly and agreeing way. This creates an enormous frustration inside me. I desperatly want to be equal in my relationship (not because I am expected to, but because I am for equality between genders, races, classes and so on) but I am not allowed to be equal. I am supposed to fill my genderrole! This creates a conflict in me. The problem is that the internal conflict cannot be solved since the society does not allow me to vent my frustration. If I do vent it, I automatically fail at the dating game. So I have to control and push down my own needs and wants and values if I want to play the dating game. Which in turn means that the roles are uneven, unequal. I play the game on her terms. Why has the society evolved to a point where I am not allowed to date on my terms, values and beliefs and she on hers?

    I want to find an equal relation for life, but I cant find an equal girl.

  16. Pelle Billing Says:

    As you described, a man that doesnt pay for the first date is not only certain he will not get a second date, but he is also considered rude enough that the surroundings often react and interfere. And this often happens after a successful first date where the subject of a possible coming relationship on equal terms has been discussed in a friendly and agreeing way.

    This lack of consistency can indeed be frustrating. I think what would help is if the whole notion of gender equality stopped being equated to gender sameness. If we accept that men and women are different in some ways, then it’s easier to accept some differences in the dating game too. However, if we accept that women have some perks simply because they are women, then we will need to accept that men have perks simply because they are men…

    I think many men make the pragmatic choice of not buying anything more than a cup of coffee on dates, until they are in a relationship, where they can discuss how to split the check or not.


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