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In the Gender War, Everybody Loses

March 26, 2012

In response to my posts on pornography, Dylen Durret (@sicklove) tweeted this:

Porn certainly stunts men’s growth and ability to bond, it also plummets the value of unattractive women to worthless status.

This got me thinking about how both men and women have made advances in the relationship market in recent decades. While some people have no doubt benefitted, my feeling is that, overall, this is bad for most people of both genders. After all, an arms race can impoverish everyone.

Porn is a major competitive advantage for men. Since porn no doubt functions as a substitute for sex, all women have seen a drop in their market value. To compensate, many women have adopted sluttier behaviour. But this makes them less fit for marriage or other long term commitments, thus pushing their value further down, and making marriage to a quality man (the real ultimate goal for most women) less attainable.

All this could be considered an gain for men those men who would never have attracted a decent partner in the first place (porn is arguably better than never having anything), or for men who don’t want to settle down anyway (and are happy with easy women). And it could be considered a gain for (assertive and socially competent) men in general insofar as they want easy sex until they settle down.

But just as a monopoly tends to dull the competitive edge, porn has not made men better in any absolute sense. Staying home and not meeting anyone doesn’t do anything for a man’s own value. If he also comes to expect sluttier behaviour from women, and is consequently less able to form attachments and to appreciate the less gaudy joys of monogamy and marriage, then he’s losing out too. Worse, many such men come to desire the wrong thing: easy access to sex rather than an adoring and faithful partner. Some men have clearly ceased to believing that the latter even exists.

Women have also made gains. Women have gained great independence, which means that they don’t have to put up with as much in a relationship. They’ve also gained legal advantages: women are favoured in divorce law, and generally in domestic law. For example, a woman can be as cruel as she wants to a man, but if he hits her in response she can easily have him imprisoned, and take his money and his kids to boot. Even if she hits him first, he’s liable to be arrested under ‘predominant agressor’ policies. All this means that women have much more power within marriage, and with regard to children. But again this is by no means an altogether good thing even for women. Wealthy and independent women find it harder to find desirable men. And lots of men are deciding that marriage is a raw deal and are swearing of it altogether. Women often divorce to discover that they can’t so easily find another good partner at their more advanced age. Their children suffer, too.

Competition can enrich everyone. It’s not clear that competition between the genders benefits any but the less scrupulous. Nor can it be desirable even for men and women to see each other in an antagonistic light, and major competitive advances on both sides can’t help but cultivate that impression.

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