An odd recent New York Times op-ed by sociologist Amy Schalet touts the rise of, as the headline puts it, “Caring, Romantic American Boys.” Schalet, who studied American high school sophomores (along with Dutch ones) for a forthcoming book, reports that “boys [are] behaving more ‘like girls’ in terms of when they lose their virginity,” by which she means they “are becoming more careful and more romantic about their first sexual experiences.”
Maybe her book will flesh out that claim, but in her op-ed the boys sound downright terrified:
“American boys often said sex could end their life as they knew it. After a condom broke, one worried: ‘I could be screwed for the rest of my life.’ Another boy said he did not want to have sex yet for fear of becoming a father before his time.”
If “I could be screwed for the rest of my life” is what passes for a romantic sentiment at the New York Times, the editors’ Valentine’s Day cards must be a laugh riot.
Schalet’s most interesting assertion is that “the American boys I interviewed seemed more nervous about the consequences of sex than American girls.” It’s not clear if she interviewed girls as well as boys, but she offers this further point of comparison: “The 2002 National Survey of Family Growth found that more than one-third of teenage boys, but only one-quarter of teenage girls, cited wanting to avoid pregnancy or disease as the main reason they had not yet had sex.”
Given that nature imposes the physical burden of pregnancy on the female of the species, that sounds counterintuitive. And it’s possible that some of the boys in the survey, mindful of what Schalet quotes another sociologist as calling “the stigma of virginity,” are rationalizing away their lack of success with girls by chalking it up to prudence.
At the same time, there is good reason for males (men as well as boys) to be more fearful of sex than females. Contemporary reproductive technology and law place all the burden for unwanted pregnancy on them. Between the pill and abortion, women have complete control over the reproductive process. They can avoid or end any unwanted pregnancy, and the man involved has no say in the matter. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), the U.S. Supreme Court went so far as to hold that a married woman has the constitutional right to abort her husband’s child without even telling him..
A woman’s “reproductive rights” also include the right to carry a pregnancy to term. The crucial point here is that while the decision belongs entirely to her, in the event that a child is born the law assigns financial responsibility to the male involved. That is what the boy in her study means when he worries about being “screwed for the rest of my life.” Short of sterilization, the only way for a male to be sure of avoiding this fate is to abstain from sex.
Since most people agree that teenagers should abstain from sex anyway, isn’t the trend Schalet notes a healthy one? Not necessarily. After all, if adults abstain from sex too, mankind is doomed:
Just ask young women about men today. You will find them talking about prolonged adolescence and men who refuse to grow up. I’ve heard too many young women asking, “Where are the decent single men?”
That’s Bill Bennett, in a CNN.com column we criticized two months ago. Our surmise is that the “decent single men” are missing because Schalet’s “romantic” boys do not overcome their fear of sex, a fear whose rational basis is no less powerful after the age of majority. Women’s trouble finding husbands is only part of the problem: Men who aren’t interested in marriage also have less incentive to be productive workers or responsible fathers.
This is a serious problem with worrying economic and social implications. No amount of feminist happy talk about “choice” or Bennett-like bluster about “manning up” is going to solve it.
I Am Woman, Hear Me–Oh, Never Mind
We’ve seldom watched NBC’s “Meet the Press” since Tim Russert died, but we might have tuned in this weekend to see Hilary Rosen, the Democratic operative and scourge of traditional mothers. Alas, we won’t get the chance. Politico quotes a statement from Rosen:
I thank David [Gregory, the host] and the folks at MTP for offering me the chance to participate in the Roundtable. It will be an important political discussion, as it always is on Meet the Press. But I have said enough and while I have unfortunately made the Producer’s job tougher today, I don’t have anything more to say. I apologized to Mrs. Romney and work-in-home moms for mistakenly giving the impression that I do not think their work is valuable. Of course it is. I will instead spend the weekend trying to explain to my kids the value of admitting a mistake and moving on.
Did she make this decision on her own, or is the Obama campaign trying to silence women’s voices?
Fortunately, other brave and intrepid women are carrying on the War Against Mom. NewsBusters.org quotes Terry O’Neill, president of an outfit that styles itself the National Organization for Women, who appeared yesterday on MSNBC’s “The Mr. Ed Show”:
What would we be saying if Hillary Clinton [sic] had said this: that Ann Romney has never, has not worked for pay outside the home a day in her life? That’s my understanding that’s an accurate statement, and that raises the exact issue that Hilary Rosen was trying to get to, which is do Mr. and Mrs. Romney have the kind of life experience and if not, the imagination, to really understand what most American families are going through right now? I think that that was what Hilary was getting out, and so she left out the words “for pay outside the home.”
Meanwhile, Fox News Channel’s Greta Van Susteren offers a nice personal defense of Rose: Hilary Rosen is my friend. I like her . . . a lot. She is very passionate about her views. She will give you a strong debate and is not mean spirited. . . .
In making her remark about Mrs. Romney and her choice to raise a family and not work outside the home, I know Hilary knows raising children is hard work, really hard work . . . the absolute hardest work. Hilary has children. That is the best way to know the challenge of raising children–have them! Hilary is not anti-stay-at-home mom.
If you’ve lost Greta Van Susteren, you’ve lost Middle America. But apparently the converse isn’t true.
What Does a Woman Want?
- “Despite the popular notion that most mothers who don’t work outside the home are mostly wealthy elites, stay-at-home moms actually tend to be less educated and poorer than the rest of mothers, as we learned from recent census numbers. Many of these moms, especially younger ones, simply can’t find work that pays enough to cover their childcare costs.”–XX Factor blog, Slate.com, May 7, 2010
- “We can also admit that at this point staying home full time with your children is not only a choice but pretty much a luxury of the elite. And almost by definition makes it hard for you to relate to the average woman.”–XX Factor blog, Slate.com, April 12, 2012
For more about issues related to men see: www.ncfm.org/category/issues/