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07/10/2009

Who Cares About Unsexy Men?

The 40% of moms unwed statistic I quoted yesterday jolted me into thinking more about something I knew was important, but had thought little about.  I don’t yet have much of an opinion on whether to embrace or resist the new low-marriage mating equilibrium we seem to be heading toward, something between US ghettos and Sweden today, relative to a high-marriage equilibrium we might instead choose, perhaps like Japan or Utah today.

While an awful lot isn’t clear here, two effects of low-marriage seem robust to me:

  1. Kids will spend less time with dads, and
  2. Men will have more unequal intimate sex.

This first effect is much noted, and with great concern.  Kids spending less time with dads suggests men less caring for kids, which suggests moms get less kid help unless strong alimony or subsidies compensate.  This effect seems to increase inequality among kids and moms, and is much noted and lamented.  As that over-the-top Time quote said:

It hurts children, it reduces mothers’ financial security, and it has landed with particular devastation on those who can bear it least: the nation’s underclass.

Time didn’t discuss the other effect, however, nor do most main-stream media mentions.  It is hinted at in this quote Tyler found:

“What are you looking for in a husband?” Without batting an eye or pausing for thought, [the young Swedish woman] answered: “Three things. One, he must be good in bed. Two, he must be a good father. Three, when we divorce, he mustn’t be bitter.”

When dads help with kids less, women tend more to choose sexy over kid-helping men.  Relative to a strong marriage world, sexy men are now more easily shared, either via two-timing, which is easier to manage in a world of fluid relationships, or via serial monogamy, where women wait longer than their men between relationships.   So the few sexiest men get more attention, at the expense of men who might otherwise have been good solid husbands.   (See Patri here for more.)

While dads who want more time with their kids are hurt in this new world, perhaps the total amount of sex goes up as male sex inequality goes up; so it is not clear what fraction of men actually get less sex.

But it is striking to me that people express far more concern about increased kidcare inequality of kids and moms, than about increased sex inequality of men.  Pundits express concern about male income inequality when women and kids depend on those men.  And US pundits  express concern about the unhappy unsexy men created by an imbalanced gender ratio in China, even though since China has a stronger marriage culture, they’ll have a much smaller fraction of unhappy men than we’ll have.  But why do US pundits express so much less concern about US men unhappy about sex inequality?

The obvious explanation I see is that complaining men look weak.  Women and men can both can seem attractively caring, i.e., good parent material, by expressing concern about moms and kids with unequal access to dads or kidcare.  But regarding male sex inequality, men have to act like they aren’t worried because they expect to be among the winners.  Men can express concern about unsexy men in other places, but offer sympathy for local unsexy men and people will suspect that you think you are one of them.

So who really cares about the suffering of unsexy men, besides their parents?


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