I’ll admit it, I never liked Sex and the City. Its premise to me always seemed amazingly depressing, and the idea that women can take on men’s vices and then get old-fashioned fairy tale endings seemed counter-intuitive, if not outright delusional. The Mr. Bigs of the world don’t date older average-looking, high-maintenance career women and marry them. They may have sex with them, but no rings are exchanged. Men who are Masters of the Universe marry supermodels whose skin is still dewy, whose boobs are still perky, and whose fertility is still in full bloom. That may not be fair, it may not be romantic, but that’s the way it is. Anyone female who survived high school and was honest with herself can give you a pretty accurate estimate of what her social value was and tell you which guys were “out of her reach” (as well as those she considered “below her touch”). It’s the same after high school, with a fair number of other complicating factors thrown in the mix.
Last week The Weekly Standard ran an article by Charlotte Allen called “The New Dating Game: Back to the New Paleolithic Age” which discusses what passes for dating in the 21st century. Hook-ups and shack-ups and sport fucking – that’s apparently where it’s at now, and women are seriously shooting themselves and their futures in the feet. Forget HEA, forget romance. Practically speaking, this kind of behavior will result in years of up-and-down narcissistic dating and eventually either loneliness or serious settling – as Lori Gottlieb examines in a controversial article she wrote in 2008 for The Atlantic, entitled “Marry Him!” – an article she expanded into an entire book. Gottlieb explains that she thought she had plenty of time for career and dating and motherhood, but then her twenties, which had been dating-rich, turned into her thirties and her prospects became less and less palatable. Determined to be a mother, despite Mr. Right’s tardiness, she had a baby thinking that taking the ticking biological clock out of the equation might do the trick. It didn’t. Her value on the dating market had fallen so precipitously that guys she would never have considered ten, maybe even five, years prior started to look good. But they weren’t interested in her anymore. Much of her sexual capital was spent, and she was never getting it back.
What no one – or correction, what few women – is saying or has said for decades is that men are attracted to women mostly on how they look and women are attracted to men mostly on what status they have or what confidence they exude. Which means Carrie Bradshaw in real life would have had the best chance to hook a Mr. Big when she was in her early twenties, fresh and firm, and not nearly so well educated or experienced. Physicality isn’t the only thing that men look for in a long-term partner, but it’s probably the most important one. Especially for high status guys who do not have to compromise because of what they bring to the table. Those same guys don’t want women with a long sexual history either. Not to marry. Not to have children with.
Now, if you don’t want to marry and don’t care if you have children, the world is yours as a modern woman. As long as you can finance it yourself, you can live life pretty much as you please. But lots of women still want to get married. Intelligent women, women with great careers, women who consider themselves liberated or feminist. They still want that ring. And to get that ring you have to have something to offer a man, something he values as a man. Which is not necessarily what a woman sees as valuable. Not at all, in fact.
For some time I’ve been browsing sites written by men about men and how they see the dating market. I interloaned a copy of The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists by Neil Strauss. I went though post after post on Roissy in DC, which The Weekly Standard references as a main site for guys who are focused on bettering their game so they can “pump and dump” the highest number of women possible. The site is pure hedonistic nihilism, but it doesn’t flinch in saying exactly what men today want
These women will not be walking down the aisle any time soon, though. Because if, like Lori Gottlieb, they wait until their careers are established and their lives are in order, the best they will be able to do is settle. It hardly sounds romantic. No wonder we read romance novels.
– Rachel Potter