Manosphere conventional wisdom: Any half-way decent looking woman, in her late teens/early twenties who is marriage minded can easily snag a good, hard-working provider to have babies with if she would distinguish herself by being sweet, and signaling a willingness to be a quiet, deferential, submissive, peaceful help-meet.
Alternative Hypothesis: When accounting for variables such as race, geography, church size, etc., the marriage market for such a woman is more complex and difficult to navigate than this.
I generally agree with this, while also agreeing with the ‘sphere’s trope of Joe Churchgoer being undervalued.
I had a lot of thoughts on the topic, and read some old stuff, and thought some more. Some of that thought will surface in future posts.
For now, though, I wanted to focus on one particular insight that jumped out at me:
If there’s a gender war, both sides have already lost.
Concept 1: Marriage requires pre-marital cooperation, and therefore intersexual societal trust
Good grooms and brides do not simply appear from the ether. Eligibility requires work and self-denial from both sexes, for many years before marriage.
Much of the motivation for this work and self-denial comes from the carrot of marriage. But for this to work, young people must believe that somewhere in the world, their opposite number is doing the same thing.
My mother used to teach middle-school/high-school-aged girls as part of her service in the church. A few years ago she had a lesson on modesty coming up and asked me:
Mom: So, there were girls in our church that you went to high school with. Did their modesty or lack thereof affect you?
Dropit: Well, let’s be real. 99% of the girls I went to high school with weren’t in the church. So if it was an issue of protecting my innocent eyes, that just wasn’t going to happen regardless of what they did. It would be more…like, what the hell? It would be nice to have some moral support, you know?
What I was groping for, but didn’t quite grasp, was the importance of young people trusting that the opposite sex is also preparing for marriage.
(As a sidenote: as far as I can remember (not well) the girls in my ward when I was in high school were actually pretty modest. This was more of a hypothetical.)
Concept 2: The Weakened Signal, or: Dalrock’s Revenge
Men in their early 20’s are observing that marriage and girlfriends aren’t in the cards, and this reduces their incentive to work hard to demonstrate provider status.
To put it another way: young men have generally ceased to believe what Concept 1 says it is very important that they believe: that they stand a reasonable chance of marrying well. In response, they work less hard to be eligible husbands.
The standard conservative response has been: No problem, we’ll just lie to them. Or yell at them. And that actually worked for a surprisingly long time, but as Dalrock details, that train is running out of steam.
Concept 3: A man shortage means more sluttiness, not less
Romanceless men eagerly anticipating a future Great Wail from women, where the man shortage means men will have more market power, are in for an unpleasant surprise. Men will be in more demand…by women who generally lacked faith that marriageable men would be available, and thus saw no point in preparing themselves for marriage. Just as porn and the Xbox are better than the girl who doesn’t show up, Netflix and Chad are better than the man who won’t show up. Ladies can enjoy the decline too.
When you think about it, this shouldn’t be much of a surprise. It is merely the gender-flipped version of the “Weakened Signal” phenomenon above.
The situation will be less like a shortage that some men may be anticipating, and more analogous to an economic depression, where no one works because they doubt anyone can afford their products.
In simpler terms:
“Why prepare for marriage? Guys will always be available”
“Why prepare for marriage? There are no girls available”
“Why prepare for marriage? There are no guys available.”
Revenge fantasies may imagine a transition from arrogance to penitence, but there likely is and will be a large cohort that instead moves to despair. This can create a vicious cycle that I really do not enjoy contemplating.
Be of Good Cheer—Or Else
What we are hitting upon here is the importance of morale. We could aptly describe current failures in the marriage market as a cyclical “Morale Crisis.” We should start talking about this!
Salt, Leaven, Light…
Realizing that a major part of this problem is perception kind of flipped a switch in my brain. Christ’s analogies to salt, leaven, and light all held one factor in common: a very small thing having a wildly disproportionate impact on its surroundings.
There is a sense in which working to make oneself more visibly eligible for marriage — through appearance, career, chastity, and pretty much anything you can think of — is an act of service, in that it reassures the opposite sex about the ROI of whatever sacrifices they are making. What’s great is that the worse your surroundings, the more impact it has. This is the stuff I exult over; I see in it God’s ability to transform tragedy to triumph with a flick of the wrist. It is exactly the kind of thing I imagine the Adversary would rage at as “unfair.”