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Buyer’s Market

“Women control access to sex. Men control access to marriage.”

The first part of that modern homily is mostly true, at least in Western, non-shithole countries. Almost any straight woman who wants to get sex can get it by walking into almost any bar and announcing her intention to get laid. A man wishing to do the same faces anything from laughter to arrest.

The homily’s second part is also mostly true. Maybe not as true as the first part but still mostly true when it comes to forming a marriage or other strong commitment. Men are mostly content with hookups, maybe exclusive, maybe not. It’s usually the women who want the bended kneew, the ring, the ceremony, and legal status, and the security.

Riddle me this: When a couple moves to marriage, why does the man have to make the move? Why is the man expected to buy a diamond ring?

The woman benefits more from the marriage. This is certainly true in the US. It appears to be true in the rest of the Anglosphere and northwestern Europe but in this essay I’ll be focusing on the US.

Marriage is a contract, a promise which can be enforced by the government. Each side needs to give something and each side needs to get something. The husband traditionally provided security, both financial and physical, and chores which were easier for a man’s muscles or skills. The wife traditionally made a home and provided him with sex and children.


Nowadays, the husband almost always works and the wife probably does. Most of the financial security comes from the husband, as before, between greater income and the probability of women spending more than they bring in. In most families the wife has more say over spending than the husband does: more “me” money from the joint bank account, stuff for the house which she wants and the husband doesn’t care about, probably a newer car than the husband drives, and even getting the family to move to a more expensive house or apartment because the wife isn’t satisfied with the old one.

Most married couples have children, though that’s on the decline, with almost a majority of young adults not wanting children. If a couple has small children and the wife works, there’s a good chance that the wife’s entire paycheck goes to childcare and expenses related to her working.

(This does not address the issue of the couple having married only because the woman was pregnant, either because someone was careless or because she baby-trapped him.)

Financially, men continue to perform their traditional role.

Making a home? What does that mean anymore? It used to mean making meals, keeping the house clean, taking care of the children, and providing peace and comfort when the husband came home from work. Now, the husband is expected to do half of the cleaning (and all of the mowing and snow shoveling). Get up in the middle of the night for the baby or “I heard something downstairs” even when he has to go to work the next morning and she’s on maternity leave. The wife providing “peace and comfort”? That’s a joke, right? “Happy wife, happy life” means that most wives feel no obligation to provide a peaceful home environment for their husbands and many take offense at the suggestion that they should. Worse, if a woman is unhappy or stressed, she’ll generally take it out on her husband because he’s a safe, acceptable target.

As for sex, it’s more than just a joke that sex declines within months of the wedding and drops like a rock after the children are born. It appears that 20% of marriages in the US are sexless. (Though “sexless” can mean anything from “less than once a month” to no sex at all for a year or more.) It doesn’t matter whether it’s her choice because she’s too busy or is punishing him or just isn’t interested, or it’s his choice because she gained a hundred pounds or because of her personality. Sex is one of the major lures to get men into a committed relationship and almost no men get as much as they want and some get none at all.

OK, sure, looking at it from the wife’s side, some husbands don’t provide income or don’t do anything around the house or bully their wives. Wives are justified in leaving an abusive husband and may be justified in leaving a non-contributing husband.

Here’s the thing, though: A wife who leaves an abusive husband will have full societal approval and full legal support. The same for a wife who leaves her husband because he doesn’t provide her with money or because he doesn’t help around the house. And the same even for a wife who leaves her husband because she’s not happy or thinks she can do better.

Switch it around: If a wife spends so much on herself that the power bill can’t be paid, how much support would the husband get if he stopped the shared credit card she’d been using and cut her off from the bank account? None, and he could be accused of financial abuse. If a stay-at-home wife does nothing around the house and tells her husband that if he wants supper he can make it himself, what would neighbors, friends, and coworkers say if he told his wife that she had to start doing something or he’d leave her?

Financial and legal aspects of divorce go in the same direction as the societal approval and can’t be as easily ignored. I sure that I don’t need to go into detail on the numbers: In a divorce or other breakup, expect the woman to get the kids and the child support and at least half of the cash (that which she didn’t pull out just before filing for divorce) and half of the retirement and most likely the house though not the mortgage.

It doesn’t much matter who filed for divorce, nor the reason. The wife having committed adultery — wives in the US commit adultery more often than husbands do, now — and gotten pregnant by the affair partner — an estimated 10% of fathers named on the birth certificate in the US did not father the child — has very little effect on child custody, child support, or division of marital assets.

One should never enter into a contract with someone who will be rewarded for breaking it.

It should come as no surprise that in the United States, women initiate around 80% of divorces. Even without social pressure or postulated innate female nature to always try to get something better, women have a lot of incentive to divorce and very little incentive not to.

Given all of this, let’s return to the riddle posed above: Why is it the man who is expected to save thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to buy an engagement ring? A few centuries ago the valuable ring was something of a surety that he wasn’t wasting her time and wouldn’t walk away, before or after the marriage. Women had something to lose, some of their innate value of youth and virginity, and insulating them from the potential loss made sense.

These days, men have much more to lose from a failed relationship. Men deserve some form of surety against spousal betrayal or abandonment.

Women want commitment and marriage at least as much as men do, especially when the woman gets around thirty years old.

It’s time for women to step up and pay for what they want. Most men won’t want something basically useless like an expensive ring, but instead something durable and practical. A garage full of tools would be good.

Do the math, gentlemen, and know your worth. Don’t settle for a woman who doesn’t value you.


6 thoughts on “Buyer’s Market

  1. in the old days (before Woodstock) usually you didn’t find out until after you came back from the honeymoon

  2. Sad, but true, from first to last. But the key questions deserve to be made explicit, so they can be addressed:

    1. How did we men get here?
    2. How do we get out?

    We got here because of the persistence of men’s evolutionarily wired-in protect/provide natures coupled with women’s ascent to political dominance. The combination is deadly, and very hard to fight.

    We get out by refusing the deadly one-way bargain of contemporary marriage. However, in this we must fight our own deep instincts, for we seek to protect/provide as a validation of ourselves.

    It’s not easy. It certainly isn’t straightforward. Worse, women and the courts are straining to “bar the exits” by imposing the legal commitments of the married state on couples that merely cohabit for a sufficiently long time. Nevertheless, that’s the way out, and until the overwhelming majority of men adopt it, we will remain the patsies of the “weaker sex.”

  3. Really? Meet a woman in a bar and you get what you pay for. God has been left out of your equation.

  4. I’ll be married 34 years in November. I have 2 children and 3 grandchildren, so far (want more). For about the first 10 years of marriage, children and all, I’ve had sex with my wife about 5 times a week (on average).. now two decades later I average 2 to 3 times a week. I don’t know if it’s my social or provider status but I’ve always made one thing clear… to her…I don’t need her. I don’t need her to live…I can do that without her. I can get along fine without her…I CHOOSE not to because I want her… and she knows that. I want to be with her but I don’t need her. She knows that. We also BOTH have enough respect for each other to not let our physical appearance slide. I go to the gym 7 days a week about 2 hours a day. I make the effort to stay physically appealing to her and she does the same (about 3 times a week). She will not start the day without fixing herself up with makeup and dressing feminine for me. It’s called respect for each other because for better or worse we are true to our vows.. and it might as well be for more better than worse.

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