Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Love & Marriage

This article on CNN gave me pause today. Full text, in case the link doesn't work:

Men have upper hand in sexual economy
Posted by Elizabeth Landau

It's not a new theory:  As women progress in educational and professional opportunities, their odds of finding a committed man appear to go down. Women in their 40s and 50s have long heard this, but new research finds it's true for women just entering adulthood as well.

That's one of the findings in the new book "Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate and Think About Marrying," by researchers Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker at the University of Texas at Austin.

They looked at the results from a number of national studies including the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and the National Study of Youth and Religion, in addition to interviews with young people ages 18 to 23.

Researchers found that since women in the 18- to 23-year-old group feel they don't need men for financial dependence, many of them feel they can play around with multiple partners without consequence, and that the early 20s isn't the time to have a serious relationship. But eventually, they do come to want a real, lasting relationship. The problem is that there will still be women who will have sex readily without commitment, and since men know this, fewer of them are willing to go steady.

"Women have plenty of freedom, but freedom does not translate easily into getting what you want," Regnerus said.

The wide availability of pornography has also influenced the dynamics of relations between men and women, Regnerus said. A segment of 20-something men are content to have their sexual experiences by themselves, removing them from the pool of available partners. That means high-quality men - likely those who want monogamous, committed relationships - are still eligible for dating, but the overall dating pool has shrunk, meaning some women will be left unsatisfactorily single.

Researchers also found that marrying at or before age 20 constitutes the greatest risk for subsequent divorce, the data show. Early marriage doesn’t cause the divorce, but the partners are likely to be unprepared for the kinds of adjustments required, Regnerus said.

And here's perhaps some good news: Sexual behavior among this age group is less salacious than you might think. The "hookup culture" is most prominent when there is a Greek system present; otherwise, college students seem more inclined toward stable relations and have fewer sexual partners.

In case you were wondering, 16% of 18- to 23-year-olds are virgins, according to the surveys used in the book. In that age group there are more men than women who have never had sex. By age 27, the portion of virgins goes down to 8%.

This is ... true, I suppose. But it also seems oddly unflattering to women. Does this article mean that men all have the attitude of "why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?" or that men don't really want committed relationships and it's women that have, throughout history, forced that idea upon them?

The bit about financial independence was annoying to me. I feel as though it's been generations since women have relied on men financially. Is this not true? Are there are a whole lot of women that are hunting down men because they do not feel that they can rely on themselves, financially? That's odd. My mother, born in the early 50's, was a financially independent woman before she got married.

"Women have plenty of freedom, but freedom does not translate easily into getting what you want," Regnerus said. Well, no, duh. Anyone could tell you that. It's like saying, "if only I were rich, I would be so happy!" We might think it, wistfully, at times. But money certainly doesn't make all your problems disappear. If anything, it adds more (if different) issues to life.

I won't point out the other (weird) points in the article, because they also seem like "duh" moments (getting married before 20 leads to divorce more frequently? Really?)

The thing that really struck me, though, is this:

In my workplace (in Albuquerque, not the whole company), the men outnumber the women by far. It's about 10% women here. We women cover all kinds of age groups- most of us are in our 20's, but there's a few in their 30's, a couple in their 40's, and one in her 50's. We span more than 30 years between youngest and oldest, and I think that's a pretty wide range. Only a few of the women (all of them 30+) are married. None of us in our twenties, nor the oldest, are in long-term relationships.

The men (90% of the population) cover those same ages. There are a lot of married guys, of course, but the single ones go from early 20's to 40's. A fair range, similar enough to the girls.

Of the single people or the people that are just "dating," the men, by FAR, are the ones that want to get married, settle down, have kids, buy a house, and do the whole suburban family bit. This is true of most of the people that I know- the women don't care, really, and are fine just dating. The men are antsy, planning proposals, buying rings.

Perhaps this is just indicative of the fact that I work in a strange industry, or that most of my friends are in LA? Or perhaps this is just a study done of people that live in middle America?

Or maybe, just maybe, the author (a woman!) is one of the ones that really wants to get married?

I have to say, at least the article made me think. That's good, I suppose. Though maybe, if I want to get married, I should stop thinking and stop relying on myself financially.

... that's a big if.