Post on Captain Capitalism about the economics of courtship (and my ridiculously long reply)

I have been reading Captain Capitalism‘s blog regularly for about a month now, and would highly recommend it. He present good solid arguments with lots of facts and figures, both of which I find highly lacking in most news articles.

He has recently been posting some very interesting thoughts on courtship in the modern world. His most recent post said (among other things):

The basic fundamentals, the basic laws and principles on which human attraction and courtship have been based, have been violated in that I think arguably for the first time, there is a progressively larger and larger percentage of the male population that no longer cares to pursue romantic or sexual interests. Be it because the proposition of chasing women in today’s world is no longer appealing or that the alternatives of X-Box 360, cigars, cars, riches and never being poor due to too many “capitas” in “income per capita,” are all that much more attractive, the basic rules of the game have changed with no real emotion or passion or desire having anything to do with it.

Men simply quit or are quitting in greater numbers. It’s, again cold as this may sound, an economic decision.

I was going to submit a comment to his blog on his post, but after a while I realized I wasn’t really posting a comment as a whole blog entry myself. So, I moved all that over here, and I’ll send him a link and an invitation to quote as much of this post as he would like.

But I’m posting it here first because I think it’s kind of rude to hijack someone else’s blog by posting comments of such length they’re blog entries all by themselves. Probably an old-fashioned viewpoint, but that’s me.

Anyway:

Dear Captain,

I read your recent post titled “The Economics of Conventional Courtship”, and have a number of thoughts on the issue I would like to express.

I am female, and in some ways I agree with what you are saying. But in some ways I disagree.

Why I agree (in part): During my high school and college years, most of my friends were guys and I have long since come to feel a lot of pity for guys in modern society. While I appreciate the opportunities open to me that were not open to my mother’s or grandmothers’ generations (I have both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in electrical engineering, and worked as an engineer for nine years in the Portland, Oregon area), in many ways feminism has long since become an excuse for women to beat men over the head with a never-ending list of flaws.

In some cases, the perceived “flaws” women denigrate are a natural part of the guy being a guy. While it’s not an absolute rule, in general there are structural differences between the male and female brain, such as male brains tending to have each particular section be more specialized, while in the female brain functions tend to overlap more, which leads to men often being more focused on a single task than women, being less comfortable talking about feelings (the emotional and verbal centers are more tightly linked in women) and also to men being more prone to some learning disabilities such as the Einstein syndrome. (See Thomas Sowell’s book The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late for more information, or I can post more about that if you would like, but I’m trying to keep this reply from wandering too far off into the weeds).

In conversations where I tried to explain my frustration with the attitude of a lot of women my age, I used the example of a man holding the door for a woman — a woman angry with that man, a different man, men in general, or just having a bad hair day, can arrange it so no matter what is done by the poor schmuck by the door, he can’t win. If the man opens the door, she can chew him out because he is a chauvinist pig who obviously assumes she can’t open the door herself.  If the man doesn’t hold the door she can chew him out for being a thoughtless jerk. This may seem a minor example, but it’s typical of some women who treat all men with an attitude of “no matter what you do, I’ll find a reason to be unhappy about it and you’ll be sorry!!

Not only is this damned-if-you-do-and-damned-if-you-don’t stance rude and unethical on the part of women who pull this crud, but it also leads to a lot of men assuming all women are like that. This in turn really frustrates the hell out of me when I just want to unwind with some pleasant conversation over dinner or a beer. Now I’m in a situation where I can’t win, because the guy has come to the conclusion all women are self-centered witches and either (a) blusters and gets confrontational, or (b) whimpers and hides behind the nearest door or chair.

The really sad part of that (besides the part of “good Lord, I didn’t ask if you wanted to get married, I just asked if you wanted to grab a beer after work, if you’re not interested then you can say no”) is guys who assume all women are self-centered witches create self-reinforcing social filters because any woman who’s not a self-centered witch gets tired of the runaround and suspicion, leaving the guy with the self-centered witches, who then confirm his expectations.

And once you start talking about divorce laws, it goes from sad to heartbreaking! I have heard of men who abuse the system, but have seen far more cases of men who are on the receiving end of women abusing the system. I’ve seen far more women wallow in their hurt feelings and rationalize misbehavior and lies that are absolutely disgraceful, than I have seen men do that. And I spent six years in college studying and nine years working in a profession that is still very predominantly male. I’ve also observed that women in a divorce are much more likely to use kids, the kids’ schedules, and the kids’ feelings as a way to hurt and harass their ex-spouse, than are husbands in a divorce.

So I can completely understand why some men say “to heck with it” and get out of the dating / marrying game. For a while.

Why I disagree (in part): A lot of men like the company of women. And I don’t mean just for sex. Specifically, they really crave . . . the comfort and support, for lack of better terms, of knowing there is someone out there who has their back, believes in them, and maybe if they can’t confide in this person at least they know if life has dealt them a heck of blow they can go to her and find a place where they can curl up and lick their wounds while they heal up.

Also, a lot of men I’ve known have unpleasant things they’ve thought or seen or experienced that they’d like to talk to someone about, but don’t feel particularly comfortable really digging deep and opening up with most other men — some women would probably argue that’s some sort of suppressed homophobia, but I don’t think so, I think it’s more a constant subtle competitiveness men sometimes have with each other.

But whatever the case, it is that loneliness that will eventually drive a lot of men back into the dating game, maybe even the marrying game. It depends in part on the ratio of interested women to interested men in the specific social group the guy is going back into. A recent issue of New Scientist had an article about how the ratios of available men to available women may be a hidden cause of some of the social problems seen in inner-city ghettos. (Don’t have that issue right in front of me, I will have to update this blog tomorrow with specific title, author and date for that article.) Update: Many thanks to Michael Le Page, he posted the link to the article in the comments section. The article is “Perspectives: Still a question of black vs white“, by James Flynn, appeared in the Sept 3 2008 issue of New Scientist.

What seems to be an underlying cause of some of this: Unfortunately, even when guys get back into the dating game, they can run into problems. Some types of feminism (from what I know of the different waves, second-wave feminism in particular??), popular culture, and especially some areas of female popular culture really push the message that women have one of four stereotypical roles they can play, which I refer to as bitch, basketcase, bimbo, or den mother. The bitch role is the constantly nagging and controlling type who’s never happy about anything; the basketcase is the whiny twit who always seems to be in some crisis or another and always needs consoling and comforting, preferably by a big strong man (but never seems to want to avoid a crisis in the first place); the bimbo gets by on looks and promiscuity, either implied or actual; and the den mother is the codependent fixer type who smothers everyone to death with all her well-meaning caring and coddling.

Each of these roles is probably either a product of, or reaction against, some particular wave of feminism, and a well-rounded woman will exhibit parts of each role — able to make decisions on her own and speak for herself, but willing to compromise and ask for help when needed, pride in her looks, and showing care and compassion for others. Every woman will have a stereotype she tends to favor and revert back to under stress or in unexpected circumstances (my bad habit is the den-mother stereotype) but there is a difference between favoring and identifying with exclusively. And popular culture among women very strongly pushes (in some popular television shows and magazines, I’d say it demands) commitment to one single stereotype.

Which leads to a scenario I’ve currently been seeing a lot, of guys who will speak sincerely and honestly (or at least very convincingly) of wanting to find someone who is not just a wife / girlfriend / lover, but also a partner in life who can be trusted and relied upon and who will trust and rely upon the guy. But then these same guys will get burned a couple times, and to add insult to injury will probably run into a string of women who are all wrapped up in “girl power” or “you go girl!” or whatever the popular “women are great! (men are crud!)” female cheering line is this week. Instead of thinking “wow, so-and-so is really a messed-up dame”, they’ll think “that seems messed up to me, but all their friends seem to think it’s a great way to be and they’re all patting each other on the back about it”. And since the guy is starting to wonder (or even be convinced) that a certain type of behavior or stereotype is normal*, instead of saying “hmmm, this is really not working out, maybe I should change my social circles or start reconsidering my criteria, maybe looks / income / occupation / education level / number of kinky fetishes / whatever isn’t the be-all end-all I thought it was”, these guys will pick a certain mood or feeling as their single top priority (which usually corresponds with one of the stereotypes, “she’s really decisive and helps me make decisions I’d otherwise avoid” = bitch, “I like being strong and I need to be needed” = basketcase, “she’s really HOT and all the other guys are jealous that I’ve got such a babe” = bimbo, “I have so many issues and she understands” = den mother), and having created a self-reinforcing social filter, they’ll go through a succession of girlfriends who will be different in some ways but who will generally all fit into a particular stereotype.

I think this is one of the underlying imbalances with the economics of courtship, the guys don’t just get burned a few times and give up for a while, they eventually go back, fall into the same patterns, get burned again, and each time they try again and get burned again their expectations and filters are further reinforced**. Recently at a party an acquaintance made a comment that he can’t understand why some husbands refer to their wives as “my better half” since he’d never met a woman who he even considered his equal, let alone his better, and I looked at him and said “not to imply anything about the people you currently hang out with, but if you’ve never met a single woman who’s even close to your equal, have you ever considered dating a better class of women? ” and he looked thunderstruck like . . . this thought had never occurred to him.

In all fairness, I found people to be much more class- and occupation-conscious in Portland, Oregon, both at work and in leisure activities, than I ever did in Great Falls, Montana. So for those men living in large metropolitan areas, realizing “the social circles I’m moving in right now don’t seem to be introducing me to women I like, maybe I should see what it’s like around other groups”*** may be easier said than done.

Some caveats:

* The girls are putting just as much effort into convincing each other those stereotypes are “normal” as they are in trying to convince the guys. There are definitely a few women out there who would rather play a shallow predictable role than deal with such bothersome things as charm, grace, wit, conversation, courtesy, or manners. But most of the women you meet are as confused and uncomfortable with the stereotypes presented in popular culture as the guys are. Unfortunately, among other bad habits of thought created by feminism there’s the whole “the personal is political” guilt trip and an expectation of female solidarity. So anything seen as encouraging subservience to men or setting back feminist gains is absolutely taboo. Women being able to wear anything besides floor-length dresses and high-necked long-sleeved shirts was a huge gain for feminists, so if a woman wants to dress in ways that would make a prostitute feel cheap (bimbo stereotype), another woman has no right to criticize that. Your earlier post about not turning down men for dancing? Totally taboo for one woman to say to another — all those intricate social rules about manners and courtesy and reciprocity and not saying exactly what you’re thinking were just another way women stifled themselves to make men happy. One woman never tells another woman to not speak her mind (expressing your displeasure at all times, usually at top volume, is part of the bitch stereotype). Same for the basketcase stereotype — everyone knows women feel emotions more deeply than men (a completely crackpot notion in and of itself, but often overheard in girls-only conversations) and all this emphasis on intellect over emotion and planning instead of spontaneity, this talk of thinking about the consequences of your actions before you act — that’s all so typical of men. If a woman wants to be a spontaneous and free spirit, no one has the right to squash the beautiful butterfly every woman has within her soul, and if she runs into difficulties in pursuit of her true self, it’s the duty of her sisters to help her back on her feet and back onto the road to her destiny, and it’s also the duty of her sisters to let every man know he needs to help this free spirit too. And same for the den-mother stereotype — women are nature’s nurterers. Everyone knows that. How dare you tell a woman that her caring for someone may be stifling or enabling that person instead of helping? Would you rather she be one of those cold-hearted authoritarian fanatics of yesteryear ? These expectations of constant support and encouragement if you are following some feminist-approved pattern and censure if you’re not are never clearly stated, but they’re a recurring theme in female magazines like Cosmopolitan and Vogue, and in chick flicks and on channels like Lifetime and Oxygen.

** I myself am far from perfect. About five years ago when I realized that while the den-mother role was just a tendency that showed up occasionally in my friendships, it was becoming a very dominant factor in my dating relationships. And that was when I realized how much self-reinforcing filters had to do with it. I would withdraw from dating for a while, then talk myself into giving it another try, and while I had a whole list of criteria I was supposedly following, it all came down to wanting to be around someone who was funny and could talk about almost anything and to whom I wouldn’t have to explain and justify every single freaking thing I said (a lot of engineers use logical argument as a substitute for conversation and when they’re feeling competitive or insecure it becomes semi-logical arguments that thinly veil a determination to prove the other person wrong, stupid or misinformed, no matter what it takes, and at the time I hadn’t realized how much being around that all day at work was affecting me outside of work) — which inadvertently created a filter for men I can best describe as momma’s boys. Once I realized the pattern, I voluntarily withdrew from dating to spend a while figuring out what my filters were and how to get rid of them. That’s been almost five years ago and while I didn’t plan on staying out of the dating game this long, life has been a lot calmer and steadier than it used to be and I have a lot better idea of how to spot problems early on in a relationship.

*** I realize hardly anyone actually thinks like that, but that came across a lot cleaner and more meaningful than “this really sucks, it’s been sucking for a good long time, and maybe it’d be better to go see if there’s a place somewhere that doesn’t suck as much because I’m tired of thisgoddamned place.”

2 thoughts on “Post on Captain Capitalism about the economics of courtship (and my ridiculously long reply)

  1. Correct, and I’m not necessarily disagreeing with anything you’ve said. However, (and admittedly this is a very short response) keep in mind I have dated a lot of women. And whereas “not all of them are like that” sadly most of them are.

    Inevitably you have to respond to your environment and can’t write it off as to “what am I doing wrong?” you have to realize there’s nothing you can do wrong (or right). It’s the environment.

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