Men in their twenties and thirties are fed up with women, but author Kay Hymowitz says you can’t blame them when women are demanding equality except when it comes to romance. Plus, Jessica Bennett on the modern male's identity crisis.
About a week ago, The Wall Street Journal published an excerpt of my new book, which argued that the new stage I call pre-adulthood—the twenties and early thirties—was not bringing out the best in single young men. Some men didn’t like it. As in, “cancel-my-subscription-the-writer-should-contract-such-a-bad-case-of-carpel-tunnel-syndrome-she-never-writes-again” didn’t like it.
But a lot of the responses unwittingly proved my point—and another one: Men are really, really angry. Consider: “We’re not STUCK in pre-adulthood, we choose it because there aren’t any desirable American women. They’ve been bred to abuse men.” This fairly typical response that appeared at the Seattle Post Intelligencer website: “Sorry ladies. In the age of PlayStation 3s, 24-hours-a-day sports channels, and free Internet porn, you are now obsolete. All that nagging, whining, and stealing our hard earned cash have finally caught up to you."
Shocked? I wasn t. During the last few years researching this age group, I’ve stumbled onto a powerful underground current of male bitterness that has nothing to do with outsourcing, the Mancession, or any of the other issues we usually associate with contemporary male discontent. No, this is bitterness from guys who find the young women they might have hoped to hang out with entitled, dishonest, self-involved, slutty, manipulative, shallow, controlling—and did I mention gold-digging?
Check out the websites like names like MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way), Nomarriage.com, or EternalBachelor.com (“Give Modern Women the Husband They Deserve. None.”). Or read popular bloggers like the pseudonymous Roissy, a ferociously caustic dissector of female “sluttiness” and “shit tests” (attempts to manipulate men). There are dozens upon dozens of gurus and counselors who publish posts like “42 Things Wrong With American Women” while chat forums ruminate over how “American Women Suck.”
Women may want equality at the conference table and treadmill. But when it comes to sex and dating, they aren’t so sure.
So, is this what Susan Faludi famously called the backlash? Is it immaturity, as my own book seems to suggest? Is it the Internet as an escape valve for decades of pent-up rebellion against political correctness? Or, is it just good, old-fashioned misogyny?
A bit of all of the above, probably. But there’s another reason for these rants, one that is far less understood. Let’s call it gender bait and switch. Never before in history have men been matched up with women who are so much their equal—socially, professionally, and sexually. By the time they reach their twenties, they have years of experience with women as equal competitors—in school, on soccer fields, and even in bed. They very reasonably assume that the women they are meeting at a bar or café or gym are after the same things they are: financial independence, career success, toned triceps, and sex.
That’s the bait; here comes the switch. Women may want equality at the conference table and treadmill. But when it comes to sex and dating, they aren’t so sure. The might hook up as freely as a Duke athlete. Or, they might want men to play Greatest Generation gentleman. Yes, they want men to pay for dinner, call for dates—a writer at the popular dating website The Frisky titled a recent piece “Call me and ask me out for a damn date!”—and open doors for them. A lot of men wonder: “WTF??!” Why should they do the asking? Why should they pay for dinner? After all, they are equals and in any case, the woman a guy is asking out probably has more cash in her pocket than he does; recent female graduates are making more than males in most large cities.
Sure, girls can—and do—ask guys out for dinner and pick up the check without missing a beat. Women can make that choice. Men say they have no choice. If they want a life, they have to ask women out on dates; they have to initiate conversations at bars and parties, they have to take the lead on sex. Women can take a Chinese menu approach to gender roles. They can be all “Let me pay for the movie tickets” on Friday nights, and “A single rose? That’s it?” on Valentine’s Day.
Far worse in the bait and switch category is women’s stated preference for nice guys and actual attraction to bad boys. Now, clearly this is not true for all women. Many, maybe even most, want a guy with the sweetness of a Jimmy Stewart and sensitivity of Ashley Wilkes. But enough of them are partial to the Charlie Sheens of this world that one popular dating guru, David DeAngleo, lists “Being Too Much of a Nice Guy” as No. 1 in his “Ten Most Dangerous Mistakes Men Make With Women.” At a website with the evocative name Relationshit.com, (“Brutally honest dating advice for the cynical, bitter, and jaded,” and sociological cousin of Dating-is-Hell.com) the most highly trafficked pages are those asking the question why women don’t like good guys.
PlayStations and Internet porn? For a lot of guys, they seem like the better way.
Kay S. Hymowitz is the William E. Simon Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal. Her new book is Manning Up.