The Changing Sexual and Cultural Mores

by Whiskey on January 26, 2010

Read more of Whiskey at Whiskey’s Place.

Two recent stories illustrate the changing sexual mores of women. In one, a now 20 year old woman alleges that age 16, she was forced into sex with a supervisor when she worked as a Starbucks barista. The kicker? That the woman acknowledges she had sex with 12 other men, 7 before she met her alleged sexual harasser (who pled guilty and served several months in prison). The other is one of Tiger Woods mistresses tawdry retelling of her affair with the celebrity golfer. What these stories show is a very big shift in female sexual behavior. Which is changing the culture radically. Making in particular, older men and women absolutely clueless about how families (mostly don’t) form.

In the first story, we have the remarkable news that an otherwise ordinary, attractive but not jaw-droppingly beautiful young woman, had sex with 7 men by age 16! And went on to have sex with another four men (without coercion). This is a sea change in female behavior. Moreover, the young woman in question does not feel shame at such a high partner count (much of done underage, I must add). The plural of anecdotes is not data, of course, but what is most telling is the lack of shame and indeed, pride at the high partner count. Certainly there seems to be no social pressures or control to keep young women from having many sexual partners. The AIDS crisis is long past, ads for Valtrex and other medications make STDs socially acceptable (notice the attractive young women in relationships getting approving smiles from their hunky partners and doctors), and there is no sense of social shame making women with many partners less desirable. Indeed, the lack of shame points to a defacto “woman shortage” where any woman, who is halfway attractive, can get some sort of relationship with a man no matter how many prior partners (indicating a bad bet for the current relationship).

In the second, we have a lack of shame by Woods mistress. Indeed, much of the story is filled with female bragging about sex in all sorts of places, and the thrill of having sex with a celebrity:

” It was a thrill to be the secret lover of such a famous star. In front of TV cameras he acts shy and professional, but away from that he is very macho, cocky and has a huge eye for the ladies.”

“As a sportsman he is in great shape, but he is also very well endowed. He kept on complimenting me on my figure and kissed me all over.

“That first time he was very dominant and knew what he wanted and what he was doing. By the time we finished I looked like a rag doll, but we both had big smiles on our faces.”

Despite being the first billionaire sporstman, Woods was not generous to Mindy. She said: “He did not buy me anything, not even a meal.”

Mindy said that after a while she fell deeply in love with Woods, but he made it clear he only wanted a physical relationship.

“I really did fall for the guy,” she said. “I began to dream that I would some day be the next Mrs Woods. I really did think that he would want to be with me. He is such an attractive guy and what woman wouldn’t be attracted to him. Of course it probably helped that he is worth millions.”

Writer Julia Baird in Newsweek echoes many of these assumptions young women make when she urges young women not to settle. Criticizing the book by Lori Gottlieb “Marry Him: the Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough,” Baird asserts that women should not compromise on passion and sexual attraction. Indeed, Richard Whitmire, author of “Why Boys Fail” in a Wall Street Journal piece, itself from a New York Times Magazine article, notes the case of one Rachel Downtain, 36, attractive, single, and searching for a sperm donor instead of a husband (she won’t compromise). Downtain’s real complaint? She can’t get Mr. Big from Sex and the City to marry her.

Contrary to Whitmire’s naïve, chivalrous older male view of women, the operational sex ratio is driven by women’s hypergamy. Women desire generally, the highest available man for a mate. Even a waitress can get a celebrity like Tiger Woods to have sex with them (marrying them is a different story, of course). Women can and do delude themselves over the power of their sexual attraction, “dreaming” as in Mindy Lawton’s case, that they will get the superstar over the current wife. Feeling no shame at that, either, and facing no social condemnation (the dog that isn’t barking, so to speak). There were plenty of men available for Rachel Downtain, in her twenties. They merely lacked the superior status of all the “Mr. Big” types that Downtain obviously preferred.

What has happened is the sexual revolution, encompassing the pill and condom, reducing risks of pregnancy and disease, along with urban anonymity, a consumerist approach to sex (conspicuous consumption), and critically, lack of social condemnation by other women AND potential partners lead women to have a lot more sexual partners than they did in times past.

Why can’t Rachel Downtain find a husband? Because she lived like Mindy Lawton, and the Starbucks barista, pursuing and catching their own many, Tiger Woods-types, during the peak of her attractiveness. Now, many partners later, and significantly older, she isn’t very interesting to the Alpha Male types she desires. She’s unwilling to sacrifice by marrying downward, to a man less attractive or status-laden. Even those types of relationships don’t work out when the man is significantly younger. Ashton Kutcher notwithstanding.

What this means is that the fundamental way in which families formed has changed. Instead of most men and women marrying equally, and forming families, in a middle class America, we have a “Brave New World.” One in which women (and significantly, underage girls), have many partners (most of them the typical Alpha Male, from Tiger Woods to “the Situation” on “Jersey Shore”), and then finding few Alpha males wanting to marry them, forming single mother families.

The graph below, taken from the “Lex” column of the Thursday, Jan 21, 2010 Financial Times shows how household formation has fallen off the cliff. If a man lacks the asshole cocky nature of say, “the Situation” (which women love), his only play is that of provider. However, employment for those 25-44 years (almost 75% of the job losses have been male) has fallen off the cliff. Employment of that age group is down 8%, since the start of the recession, again almost all of them men. If past recessions are any guide, finding jobs for that age group and new entrants into the labor force will take between six and fourteen years.

Household Formation from the Financial Times

Household Formation has fallen off the cliff

[Click Image to Enlarge]

The “Beta Male” is not even on the playing field. Given downward pressure on wages for those employed, and uncertainty in employment as the economy teeters on the precipice of a double-dip recession. Instead we are shambling towards a new model, one characterized by short-term hook-ups, driven by sexual desire (by the women for guys ranging from “the Situation” to Tiger Woods types), and not much else. Women just don’t like marrying down, or even equal, if they can find a man who is Alpha to have sex with, and don’t face social condemnation for single motherhood, or even not marrying an ordinary, same-status guy in their twenties. This is our new reality. And it is already shaping our culture.

Two interesting movies, show how romance leading to marriage is now dead. The George Clooney, “Up in the Air” centers on the impossibility of traditional romance OR marriage among the yuppie professional set. Clooney plays a man who travels around the country to lay people off, and lives to collect frequent flyer miles and live anonymously. He meets a woman (Vera Farmiga) with whom he has an affair, to the point of taking her to his sister’s wedding, and a young female co-worker dumped by her boyfriend by text message. After falling for the woman (Farmiga), Clooney shows up at her home, only to discover she is married with young kids, and that he was just an escape. Clooney remains an empty, anonymous professional firer, living for frequent flyer miles. Because, intriguingly, marriage is redefined to mean “stuff at home” while men and women have affairs in the workplace. The dream of marriage and family Clooney’s character chases is as empty as his frequent flyer miles. Marriage is redefined as “cheat but don’t get caught.”

The other is “(500) Days of Summer”, which bills itself as “not a love story.” It spends nearly all of the movie with the young male protagonist, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, in love with a young woman (Zooey Deschanel, daughter of cinematographer Caleb Deschanel) who likes his attention and devotion but exploits him for her own emotional validation. In the end, Deschanel’s character is engaged to someone else. While it takes Gordon-Levitt’s character to begin greater career success to get a date. [Indeed, he meets a woman called “Autumn” while applying for a more prestigious job interview, and makes a date. It is implied, however, that his character must win the job and the woman lose, for the date to occur.] The whole point of the movie is the Gordon-Levitt character learning that “true love” does not exist, and killing his romantic impulses by becoming adult and cynical about relationships.

What this means is social reality (family formation is for the middle-rich, the upper class but not ridiculously wealthy) is making culture reflect the reality. Movies, the purveyor of “Its A Wonderful Life” images of family and the sanctity thereof, now do not even believe that George Clooney can get married (OK, they have a point there), or even an earnest young guy get a girlfriend. Given how culture is a lagging indicator, this is a big shift. America is moving to a single-mother dominated family structure. Like Chav Britain or ghetto Black America. The nuclear family is dead, not even Hollywood believes it can exist in its old form given female hypergamy and relaxed sexual mores. Both “Up in the Air” and “(500) Days of Summer” wear their cynicism about love and relationships on their sleeves. At best both are for other people who exist outside the yuppie world of professions and upper middle class life.

At best, this is what America will become, a nation of cynics who know, because they’ve lived it, that sex and love are conditional, fleeting, short-term, and so not worthy of commitment or sacrifice. The cost of no real social control for female and Alpha Male sexuality (women do not desire Beta Males so their control is irrelevant) is quite high. As satisfying as it is for most women to have many, many Alpha males (young girls aged 16 do not rack up seven sex partners if they do not like it), the ultimate cost is male cynicism and lack of investment. Removal, even. As women and families and children become something for the upper class rich or a few Alpha Men with significantly younger women.

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