During college, I took the dominance of feminism somewhat for granted. It was very much part of the landscape both on campus and beyond. What I have since come to appreciate is the way that conservatives capitulated to it. I distinctly recall a class on Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France in the early 90s. The professor–the estimable Ed Rosenheim, WWII veteran and all around great guy–asked specifically what Burke meant when he spoke of a “manly, moral, and regulated liberty.” My classmates and I referenced Aristotle’s discussion of the natures of animals, men, and gods. There was the familiar distinction of liberty and license. After all this, the professor was somewhat amused; what good boys we all were. (I think the class consisted entirely of men, in fact.) None considered that “manly” might be distinguished from “womanly.” And that “womanly” might be pejorative, as in hysterical, emotional, and weak.
In the bookish atmosphere of the University of Chicago, the mind reigned supreme. The two sexes were equally awkward, physically lackluster, and somewhat different from their peers on the outside. Of course, the “meatheads” at a few fraternities seemed to have more action than the rest of the campus combined, but this was considered a negative reflection on the men and women involved, who incidentally were the best looking and most normal people on campus. On the whole, feminism and its call for equality and explicit consent in all matters sexual was an easy sell. The whole group at this and similar schools were mostly passive, “nice,” and not terribly committed to traditional masculinity and femininity.
On college campuses and beyond, conservatives did not buy the entire feminist critique. They extolled the virtues of a kind of beneficent patriarchy where men stayed married, raised their children, and acted as breadwinners. But it was all abstract. The plain fact of equality was the dominant mode. For conservatives, both men and women were treated as degraded artifacts of modernity, neither terribly responsible nor admirable. The traditionalist “solution” of getting married and staying married was refracted through other au courant values that had rubbed off from the culture such as equality, reciprocity, and sexual democracy, and thus conservatives were silent about natural male power and dominance, which would logically require natural male leadership and a corresponding female deference. Instead, it was Oprah meets Jerry Falwell. And this unthinking synthesis remains the dominant “conservative” view.
Conservatives made a grudging and unconscious concession to male superiority insofar as their critique of the culture imposed most of the responsibility for the modern state of affairs on selfish and hypersexual men. Women were both put on a pedestal–in homage to old fashioned chivalry–while their moral responsibility for divorce (initiated at 2-3X higher rates by women), promiscuity (for which they bore the greater burden based on their more selective sexual nature), and abortion (which they exclusively have the power to choose) were all treated as inchoate social problems at best. For many conservatives–including at times myself, I confess–women were seen as easily misled, semi-willing pawns who, far from being coconspirators with the modern man, were rather victims of his unbridled sexuality. The conservative’s frequent contempt for “rights without responsibility” did not reach women, who were treated as a lofty idealized type even as their behavior had become more and more degraded inside and outside of marriage.
Feminism infused the culture in other insidious ways. The traditional deal of marriage was undermined by the gender-neutral call for women to have extended post graduate education, high powered careers, delaying marriage until 30 or beyond, exhortations to play the field, and the like. This situation has made women of marrying age less fertile and less attractive and, more important, less attracted to many men in the process of increasing their own wealth and status. Conservatives have said very little against these trends, other than in their occasional recognition of the problem of illegitimacy.
Secondary and tertiary negative effects have occurred, including lower overall rates of marriage, reproduction, and happiness by the most productive and valuable members of society and, worse , their being dragooned into working especially hard to support the lower classes who have lost all restraint and whose women have kids with abandon from the most antisocial but aggressive (i.e. manly and attractive) specimens.
Finally, the normalization of a kind of rotating or at least temporary polygamy–which normalization is particularly apparent in the lower classes–presented a new kind of problem, as relatively few men monopolized the choosier but still attractive pool of women in their 20s, who often find that at the age of 30 or 35 marriage is not quite so easy to pull off. Many still marry, of course, and it happens often enough at these later ages, but the meager benefits are being rejected especially by the men who are most desired. Indeed, men who remain unmarried in their 30s find that those girls rotating through high status men during their 20s are often more in reach later in life as their own income, confidence, and thus desirability has increased. At the same time, the men who have been relegated for many years to “let’s be friends” status often find that having done everything demanded by the culture, their punctilious concern for the fears and worries and stated desires of women for a “nice guy” get them a marriage deal quite different from what they were expecting. Instead of a partnership, a mother for their children, and steady sex which for them was so hard to come by in the Darwinian world of singledom, they instead get the burden of permanent courtship, a mother perhaps, but one who can get the economic benefits of her husband through the wrenching divorce process, and sometimes a “sex strike” that defeats one of the chief purposes of marriage.
Mainstream conservatives rightly decry the culture of illegitimacy and divorce as bad for society, but they mistakenly use the absence of adultery or divorce as the sole standard of a good marriage. A marriage where the husband that is supposed to be “loved, honored, and obeyed” is instead disrespected and nagged, when not being threatened with divorce, is a failed marriage and one that more and more men do not see any reason to hazard.
As all this has occurred, countermeasures have proliferated in the so-called “game” movement which is attempting to allow the majority of men to at least salvage something of value from this situation. Younger men–ten years or so younger than me on the whole–have realized that this situation, not least the continued promotion of marriage in a world of easy divorce, promiscuity, and feminist propaganda, is mostly a racket. Playing by the rules of feminism/traditionalism gets them nowhere in many cases, even if they do marry, as the laws permitting no fault divorce and crushing economic penalties render them in effect victims of a self imposed hostage situation. Further, most have realized that a certain kind of man quite unlike the nebbishy, sweet, submissive man of feminist fantasy seems to do pretty well in the new milieu. That is, there is a sexual and dating marketplace that seems to follow very different rules from either feminism or traditional marriage courtship. In the old world of one man per women for life, women and men had rough dating and mating equality. When married, they had few choices if things didn’t work out, so there was some higher incentive to get along rather than to run one’s husband ragged. Further, the fear of good men getting snatched up led more women to marry and marry younger with more reasonable expectations than today.
In the new world, a serious player might have 50 or 100 partners or more by the time he’s 40, while another might be a de facto virgin-by-women’s-choice until nearly the same age. For those that do get married, they’re usually playing second fiddle to some existing suitor or the playback reel of a “true love” alpha male from the past. When a marriage is under stress, and even when it’s not, the sexual marketplace asserts itself in the form of suitors and proximate males, who present an alluring but misleading alternative. Women getting divorced often regretfully realize that sex is easy enough to get for a spell, but commitment from a man of higher status than their ex husbands is even more elusive as their baggage and age has increased.
The “game movement” criticism is useful insofar as it exposes a reality: a widespread culture of extra-marital sexual couplings, the pressures of female hyperagamy, the corrosive effects of feminism on female expectations and behavior, and the realities of anti-male divorce and child support laws. Its practical advice to married men–other than to dissuade them from getting married–is to help themselves and their relationships by asserting their power and independence, not to grovel or give into no win psychological games, and to ignore spoken demands that do not conform to biomechanics seems sound, as too is the very practical advice to get a rigorous prenuptial agreement and paternity testing of children in nearly all cases.
That said, something is missing from this critique. It allows untutored biology to set the entire scale of values, as if men are incapable of rising above mere appetites to do something more difficult and ultimately more rewarding than simply screwing.
Of course, the mainstream conservative view that we must ignore what is going on and sacrifice ourselves as conservatives and Christians in order to restore marriage, even when that marriage will have little in common with marriages past, seems naive and stupid. The 90% or so of ordinary people who married in the past were not heroic; they were simply doing what made sense under the cultural and economic constraints of their time and place. They did not divorce very much for the same reasons. It is not realistic to ask men to be heroes and not to react with anger and commonsense self-protection from a marriage institution that for the a great many is a raw deal. It is also not so surprising that married or not, a million years of evolution still will compel men and women to form relationships of greater and lesser permanence. But their impermanence has created new rules and a new divide both between men and women and men and men.
Returning to Burke, we are not just animals, and nor are we, as men, the same as women. If they are governed chiefly by their feelings and various status competitions, it is we who are supposed to be governed by higher concerns, not least self-respect, justice, and concern for the future. The nature of men–the best men–is to live a life of challenge, a search for truth, and the conquest and improvement of the world around us. A man is not simply supposed to use his intelligence to employ what amounts to a decoder ring for conquering lots of women. Indeed, this new found and less romantic understanding of women prevents him from valuing the end result as highly as he once might have.
These “countermeasures” have value both intellectually and practically. But a man who rejects this purely materialistic worldview, who knows that it is not geared to human happiness, who feels some commitment to restoring his civilization (or at least protecting a portion of it), does not have completely to employ this knowledge as “pickup” advice in order to live a life designed around taking advantage of female promiscuity. He should not do these things (or at least should stop at some point) not to appease the unappeasable and unhappy guardians of feminism, but rather out of a concern for himself and his own happiness, which cannot be achieved simply by stringing together ultimately meaningless acts of pleasure and narcissistic affirmation. Real happiness comes from struggle, from standing for something, for accomplishing something of value.
So while men–married or otherwise–may benefit from Roissy and Roosh and Solomon‘s well stated critique and insights into female psychology regarding relationships and sexual attraction, theirs is not the end of the story. Knowing these things–as we know also uncomfortable truths about genetics, neuroscience, and much else–is the beginning of a journey of living a life fully in accord with truth, including higher moral and spiritual truths that say we should strive to be more than the yin to the nihilistic yang of our oversexed and decadent culture.
Returning to Burke, I can’t help but be affected by his counsel of heroic resistance to the tide of his age coupled with an equal commitment to recognizing real and enduring truths about human nature:
We know that we have made no discoveries, and we think that no discoveries are to be made in morality, nor many in the great principles of government, nor in the ideas of liberty, which were understood long before we were born, altogether as well as they will be after the grace has heaped its mold upon our presumption and the silent tomb shall have imposed its law on our pert loquacity. In England we have not yet been completely embowelled of our natural entrails; we still feel within us, and we cherish and cultivate, those inbred sentiments which are the faithful guardians, the active monitors of our duty, the true supporters of all liberal and manly morals.