“Girl power” might have brought women and girls victories in academics and sports but, as a recent book out of the University of Texas reports, an unintended consequence of women’s success has given men a leg up in the game of love.
Based on research published in their new book,“Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate and Think About Marrying,” Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker, sociologists from the University of Texas at Austin, have found that with women becoming more educated and professionally successful than ever, it has become extremely difficult for them to find a committed man.
Financially secure and with less incentive to marry, more and more young women are playing the field longer and lowering the value of women in general — leaving their sisters, (usually older and hearing the tick-tock of their biological clocks) out in the cold.
If he can get to the “business” with just one or two dinners with Martha, why would he commit to 20 dates and “maybe” Mary?
Regnerus told The Daily Caller that in the sexual economy women act almost like a cartel. At one time the price of sex was extremely high, but with the demise of the shotgun wedding, the invention of “the pill” and a population of willing women, the “price” of sex has plummeted.
“People’s individual choices matter in part because they contribute to collective norms, collective possibilities,” Regnerus said. “So this is why I say there is no such thing as truly discrete sex because it becomes a data point in what you expect from women or from men in subsequent relationships.”
According to Regnerus, it is largely women who decide the going rate for sex.
“So if you think of a collective of men and a collective of women, the men come to learn what is expected of them in order to access sex, because they want it a little bit more than women …Women have to decide, more than men, how much it is worth so to speak … but she is not deciding alone,” he said.
In this model, phenomena such as the “one-night stand” act to lower the price for all and as women get older the value becomes more consequential.
“When you are say 27, 32, I assume most women wouldn’t want to give it up just for dinner,” Regnerus said. “They are at a different life phase where they want to cut the crap and say, ‘If this is going nowhere, then goodbye.’ But the problem is they are being under-bid and men are reaching further down the age range.”
So how should the women looking for a commitment cope?
Carrie Lukas, executive director of the Independent Women’s Forum, told TheDC that women need to be informed about both the emotional and biological implications of a long period of commitment-less sex.
“It is clear that men and women face very different costs when it comes to sex and dating. For women there is a lot of downside to casual relationships because women are different emotionally and physically, they are the ones who end up getting pregnant and it might be really unfair but women have a time limit on how long they can have children. And when it comes to marriage there is certainly a marketplace and many factors have changed that marketplace,” Lukas said. “[Women] should think early about what their goals are, the really sad thing is that many women do not realize the consequences of trying to put off children and marriage.”
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute, a marriage advocacy group, told TheDC that some young women are already confronting the challenge with pledges of chastity.
“He is quite correct that the presence of some women willing to have casual sex puts pressure on all the women to compete by having casual sex themselves,” Morse wrote in an e-mail, adding that on college campuses some are forming chastity clubs and others are working with groups such as hers to confront the marriage issue head on.
But for those who are not so sure about completely eschewing the idea of intimacy, Regnerus advises women to value themselves and use their confidence to inform their choices, both long- and short-term.
“There are individual factors which can add or lower your value. I am not optimistic the cartel can be recovered, I’d like it to be, but in this kind of environment with ‘the pill’ and women succeeding wildly — which is a good thing — I don’t think it is going to happen. I tend to lean on what should an individual woman do? I never think trading sex early is a good idea and it is giving the signal, ‘what I have here isn’t worth that much.’”