Who’s to Blame When Men Act Like Boys?

February 20th, 2011 at 11:32 pm | 32 Comments |

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Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal article entitled Where Have the Good Men Gone?, written by Kay S. Hymowitz, has prompted a surprising amount of ridicule.  In her three-page spread, Hymowitz addresses how everything ranging from college graduation rates to Adam Sandler movies has contributed to the modern “pre-adult” male.

The “pre-adult” male has a college education, a decent-to-exceptional job, and an apartment littered with Star Wars paraphernalia and crushed beer bottles.  He isn’t married and he doesn’t want to be.

He is immature, irresponsible, and generally offensive.  Women, on the other hand, have somehow managed to reverse the sexual hierarchy:

Among pre-adults, women are the first sex. They graduate from college in greater numbers (among Americans ages 25 to 34, 34% of women now have a bachelor’s degree but just 27% of men), and they have higher GPAs. As most professors tell it, they also have more confidence and drive. These strengths carry women through their 20s, when they are more likely than men to be in grad school and making strides in the workplace. In a number of cities, they are even out-earning their brothers and boyfriends.

These women are apparently “fed up,” with today’s barbarians (aka men).

They want to get married, but they have to deal with all of these pre-adult males who can’t seem to get it together.

Gawker – apparently only having read the last two paragraphs of the article – portrays Hymowitz as a narrow-minded, Star Wars-hating, man-bashing elitist, which is absolutely not true.  Hymowitz’s analysis of today’s “pre-adult” syndrome is spot on insofar as men and women are generally more concerned with building a career than building a family.  Unsurprisingly, these career-driven, independent young adults – unburdened by relationships or familial obligations – have prolonged the youthful, carefree, somewhat irresponsible lifestyle.  Getting married before 25 is not only uncommon, but generally looked down upon by both men and women.  But that’s just it… it is both men and women.

You can’t blame Gawker’s Adrian Chen – or any man for that matter – for getting a bit defensive after reading this article.  Hymowitz seems to be operating under the misconception that “guys” (who are “[neither] boys [nor] men but something in between”), are the only ones who have helped create this allegedly undesirable, destructive, pre-adult status quo.

According to author Julie Klausner, who is quoted in the article, “We [women] are sick of hooking up with guys.”  So … WHY ARE WOMEN STILL HOOKING UP WITH GUYS?!  Both Klausner and Hymowitz overlook the all-too-important fact that women play an integral part in perpetuating this “pre-adult” hookup culture they presumably find so unappealing… after all, these beer-guzzling, Star Wars-loving 20-somethings aren’t hooking up with themselves.  In fact, if anyone is to be exclusively blamed for today’s hookup norm, it is women.

This past weekend, in a bar in Washington, D.C., I found myself at the watering hole of these so-called “pre-adults”: single men and women in their 20s and 30s, drinking, and quite obviously hoping not to be going home alone (or at least, not to be going home without a phone number).   While most of the men could be found drinking a beer or scotch, dressed in a button-down and jeans, most of the women were sporting tight jeans, high heels, and plunging necklines.

By 2am, it is almost always the girls who are the ones downing shots, screaming along to Miley Cyrus at the top of their lungs, and dancing wildly in the middle of the dance floor – praying to catch the eye of some guy.  Ladies, if that’s your thing, go right ahead and keep partying in the USA… but when you wake up the next morning with a vicious hangover in some guy’s bed, don’t label him as an immature, selfish bastard when he doesn’t call you the next day.

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32 Comments so far ↓

  • forkboy1965

    While I don’t think I’d disagree with the assessment of the pre-adult male and his penchant for being adolescent, I wonder if it is, in no small part, a reaction to the lack of stability that comes from marrying at a younger age?

    Left to our own devices and not culturally required or coerced into marriage right after college, aren’t these men simply doing whatever makes them happy? If beer and Star Wars works for them then why not?

  • nikhil_gupta

    I liked this column

  • epistemicfail

    Good article indeed.

    The problem is that marriage is antithetical to modern life.

    Modern life presents us with more opportunities, with more choices and infinite possibilities. Marriage is a covenant to not participate in ever increasing choices. Does that make sense to anyone with any sense of rudimentary logic?

    Just as religion adapts itself to modern times, I think the concept of marriage needs to adapt as well.

  • Jamie

    I really thought I was going to hate this article, but I find a lot of it to be pretty hard to disagree with.

    So true:

    “By 2am, it is almost always the girls who are the ones downing shots, screaming along to Miley Cyrus at the top of their lungs, and dancing wildly in the middle of the dance floor – praying to catch the eye of some guy. Ladies, if that’s your thing, go right ahead and keep partying in the USA… but when you wake up the next morning with a vicious hangover in some guy’s bed, don’t label him as an immature, selfish bastard when he doesn’t call you the next day.”

    I also kind of agree with Forkboy. If a guy likes Star Wars, who cares if he has Star Wars stuff in his living room? He’ll eventually meet a girl who likes Star Wars as much as he does… or the girl he becomes involved with will, over time, remove them from view. Guys who have a bunch of Stars Wars stuff all over the place aren’t exactly the “alpha-male dominant type”… so the “problem” largely solves itself when a long term crush, random chance meeting, or just plain old desperation results in a relationship. So people are getting mortgages later in life… they are also living longer…

  • MurrayAbraham

    The first sentence of Kay Hymowitz’s piece is very reveling on what she considers a “good man”

    “Not so long ago, the average American man in his 20s had achieved most of the milestones of adulthood: a high-school diploma, financial independence, marriage and children.”

    In other words, the perfect stereotype of the beta male as food and shelter provider for a family.

    The “apartment littered with Star Wars paraphernalia and crushed beer bottles” thing is also very telling of the lack of perspective of her piece. Men of previous generations moved out of their parent’s home to move in with their wives and never had any experience of housekeeping and there was no such thing as paraphernalia. The truth is today’s young men are much better cooks than their fathers were, and they iron their own shirts.

    Many men in previous generations found themselves squeezed in this stereotype against their will, as much as many women found themselves squeezed in the “child bearing loving housewife” stereotype. As more and more women follow a different path than the stereotype the pressure for some men not to follow their stereotyped path has also decreased.

    In short, there is more and more diversity in both male and female behavior. Not the emergence of new stereotypes.

    • Churl

      “Not so long ago, the average American man in his 20s had achieved most of the milestones of adulthood: a high-school diploma, financial independence, marriage and children.”

      In other words, perfectly set up for a lifetime of alimony and child support payments.

  • swizzle

    I’m pretty sure that no matter how women behave, including getting college degrees and having sex before marriage, men are still responsible for their own behavior. It’s sort of the essence of being an adult, isn’t it, that whole being accountable thing? I blame women for blaming women for men’s behavior for keeping men “pre-adult.” Their mothers should have taught them better!

    More Star Wars, less marriage–sounds frickin great to me.

  • Houndentenor

    I have to wonder if

    1) women are looking in the wrong place for the kind of men they want.

    or

    2) they actually like how things are and just don’t want to admit it.

    • Nanotek

      “2) they actually like how things are and just don’t want to admit it.”

      Houndentenor — for what it’s worth, in my experience, people tend to do what they think advantages them

  • JeninCT

    When Star Wars-loving 20-somethings meet the woman of their dreams, they clean their apartments, mind their manners and bring her home to meet mom. Until then, they’re just having fun. If they can afford it, what’s the problem?

    I also agree with houndentenor (are you really a tenor?) that women are enjoying the hook-ups just as much as the men. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be out looking for them.

  • JonF

    This is no defense of louts or floozies, but is it really something to wring our hands about, that people tend not to marry before age 25? A youthful marriage is one of the quickest tickets to divorce court there is.

  • PracticalGirl

    Dressing up like peacock hookers, hanging in and doing shots until the last call in hopes of hooking up with random guys…WHO’S the pre-adult, now? Women may have come a long way, but from the state of things-we’ve STILL got a long way to go.

    While I don’t disagree with the general observations of this article, I’m with JeninCT and JonF on this one. Women need to step back a bit, take some advice from “He’s Just Not That Into You”, and concentrate on making the most of themselves while the boys mature into men. When they do (and when women present a package other than that of their fantasy bar-hook up), it all comes together.

  • Primrose

    First, the pre adult problem is not a problem for women before 25 . It’s the after 25, crowd that’s the problem. Is this generation of women really doing the bar thing after 25? Doubt it. Also, the writer mixes two groups, the pre adult and geeks ( ie star wars). While there is some overlap, it’s not so much as one thinks. So long as a geek recognizes he has to settle for an ordinary woman( more and more men have this problem), he settles down with reasonable alacrity. As an older mom I have a lot of younger friends and this seems to be true. Also, frankly the better husbands come from this crowd.

    It’s the men who were in a frat, who had access to girls in high school and were otherwise most guyish who have abandoned marriage. They think the tap never ends, even as they age, even as womens priorities change. There is the idea that any demand or expectation from a women makes a women a nag or a b….

    And young women, sadly, buy into this. They think they always have to be “fun” to be loved. By fun we are talking about the male perspective, not hers. Too many young women say things like “well men don’t like this… Men don’t like it when…

    My belief now is, yes and? If it’s not a compromise I want to make, I wont. He’s perfectly able to leave me if he doesn’t like it. But to many women are taught to negotiate against themselves. They are molded by fathers and brothers to be the perfect girlfriend and not taught to ask or even think
    what they want.

    And one that the media has decided not to make movies women like, this lesson is constant. When women are portrayed as standing up for their rights, they are always shown either as cold, shrill fishwives, whiners, or cranky saints. What reasonable women wants to be that? And so we permit, we permit, we give in.

    • Churl

      “He’s perfectly able to leave me if he doesn’t like it.”

      …and embark on a lifetime of alimony and child support payments, as heretofore noted.

  • The Merchant of Venice Beach

    I was one of the immature not marrying types with the not cleanest apartment who used to enjoy going out. One of my fondest memories is going out with a group of 6 other women (they were all just friends, I learned being friends with women is not conducive to dating, but is good in its own right) to watch Broadway play and dinner afterwards and I was the only guy in the group. It was completely innocent but the look of other guys in the restaurant was priceless. If I got married early I could never have done the whole NY scene. And for me, it was not hooking up and having sex but doing things like group hiking or ski trips or going to broadway plays. With time though everyone started to get married and have kids as did I (I now have 3 kids.) People live longer so I regret nothing, when people died by the time they were 60 they had to get a move on, no more, so I say enjoy your youth, you only got one.

    By the way, I once introduced a woman friend with a guy I knew, they married but subsequently divorced, so I never asked any of my women friends to hook me up with anyone they knew.

  • The Merchant of Venice Beach

    Churl // Feb 21, 2011 at 11:47 am
    “He’s perfectly able to leave me if he doesn’t like it.”…and embark on a lifetime of alimony and child support payments, as heretofore noted.

    You have a reading comprehension problem, it is referring to dating, not marriage. You don’t get alimony and child support payments from dating. I have no idea how you managed to completely misread Primroses perfectly acceptable posting so badly.

  • Alan Chatham

    I think some of it may be what we’ve settled on culturally as ideal. For guys, the Ideal American Woman is hot and young. Meanwhile, it seems to me that the Ideal Man is not only hot, but is also deeply caring, financially well off, serious about commitment, always doing romantic things, getting tickets to that thing you love, etc. So it’s relatively easy for a man to find a good (hot) woman, but it’s also easy for them to keep going after different good (hot) women. Meanwhile, if what a woman considers to be a good (the Old Spice) guy is rare, the average guy is going to seem woefully lacking, and if she does find a great guy, ironically, that guy will have the most options in terms of dating a harem of other women. And to back up my assertion that women are in a bind because their standards are too high, heres an awesome post with some great statistics on how girls view the attractiveness of men (it’s about 1/5 the way down the article)
    http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/your-looks-and-online-dating/

    Of course, yes, the current culture is one of the young, urban bachelor lifestyle through the 20′s, which does conflict with an earlier generation of social patterns. On the flip side, I think it might be possible that people a generation ago had less disposable income, fewer opportunities to meet new people, less mobility, and as a result, a much greater incentive to settle with whatever partner they could get.

  • Deep South Populist

    It might take a book, or at least a long rebuttal essay, to fully analyze and untangle this man-hating hag’s disgusting screed.

    Let me give you the short answer Hymowitz: marriage in 2011 has nothing to offer young men. Nothing. Only a damn fool would sign a marriage license in this man-hating society.

    Hymowitz apparently doesn’t like it that large numbers of young men are wising up to the marriage scam and rejecting the potential degradation and dehumanization that follows from signing a marriage license in 21st century America — a life-time of alimony and child support, just like Churl said, not to mention rarely seeing your own children.

    No thanks.

  • Primrose

    Yeah, cause asking for your life partner to have the qualities of a good friend is just too much. And most women over the age of twenty one( that is to say women not girls) will trade a good man for goog looking one-so long as there is something about him they find sexy. Fidelity requires that caveat. But he can have wrinkles, grey hair, no hair or a pot belly and still be acceptable. Sometimes, if you are really really funny, really charming, really rich or have the proverbial guitar, you can be actually ugly.

    Thank you M of Venice. I was referring to dating. But I just dont get this anti child support vibe. Do your children stop being your children when you stop stooping their mother? Do they stop needing housing,food, clothing or a comfortable life just because the relationship is over? And in the end the law does not require more than 17% of the non custodial parents income and will not revoke parental rights if there has ever been a child support payment, however un reliable. States do differ of course but this is true in the big blue states, at least.

    But think some of the negative comments here outline the problem. When women ask for things they are portrayed as unreasonable or asking too much automatically. Before any negotiation begins, we are required to prove we have a right to even ask and are not just being a, well, y’all know a the word.

  • Primrose

    Oh FYI churl and deep south populist, ther is no lifetime alimony any more. Keep up with times.

    I could make some fairl tart comments about your other points, but I don’t think I serve my fellow women well convincing either one of you marriage is in your interest. Your right. Your absolutely right. Never marry.

    • Churl

      Actually, Primrose, I’ve been happily married for 35 years, and I think my wife might agree.

      However, I know numerous unfortunate chaps shafted by divorce court out of alimony, more than their share of joint assets, and any say in the raising of their children.

      Others see this and and are gun shy about marriage, hence the avoidance of one of Ms. Hymowitz’s “milestones of adulthood”.

      As someone else pointed out, I’m blissfully ignorant of alimony law, but I’ve seen mens’ financial futures considerably messed over by woman-favoring asset splitting, alimony, and child support.

      Someone else pointed out that you were discussing dating rather than marriage in your first post. Given your phrasing and the mention of marriage therein, perhaps I could be excused for thinking that when you said “If it’s not a compromise I want to make, I wont. He’s perfectly able to leave me if he doesn’t like it” the subject was marriage. Usually one doesn’t “leave you” when you’re dating; doesn’t he just stop seeing you? My information on the mating customs of the young is out of date, but I’m always willing to learn.

      By the way, please feel free to make all the tart comments you like.

  • JeninCT

    Primrose your first post was spot on. Churl’s reaction misunderstood it but I do see the perspective of the divorced father in that they do tend to get the short end of things in a divorce. Father’s rights fall somewhere behind hamster’s rights in this country. It’s only when both parents are reasonable and put the kids first that divorces don’t end up nasty. My ex and I co-parent well because I respect his rights as a father and vice versa but I am afraid we are a rarity.

  • jncohen

    Gawker – apparently only having read the last two paragraphs of the article – portrays Hymowitz as a narrow-minded, Star Wars-hating, man-bashing elitist, which is absolutely not true.

    LOL!

  • The Merchant of Venice Beach

    “Hymowitz apparently doesn’t like it that large numbers of young men are wising up to the marriage scam and rejecting the potential degradation and dehumanization that follows from signing a marriage license in 21st century America”

    Did it ever occur to you that your problems with women are due to the fact that you are a misogynist jerk? If my wife ever left me I would have zero objections to supporting my children to the fullest extent I could financially afford (above and beyond whatever some court ordered me to), even if it meant no dating or many nights out with the guys. I would also want her to be happy herself since her own unhappiness would have a negative effect on my children.

    And marriage offers a tremendous amount. We file jointly, plus have our kids as tax deductions, we share the finances of our home, we enjoy each others company but give each other enough private space, we also are enjoying the tremendous joy that comes with rising 3 fine young sons.
    And then there is you, sitting at home kicking the dog eating cold pizza and complaining about what a bitch you ex wife is to whoever will put up with it. From your post I can also detect you haven’t made love in a helluva long time (not have degrading sex with prostitutes-certainly for them it must be having you-, I mean made love with someone you love)

    To think this thread is man hating is simply crackpot.

  • Jamie

    Primrose,

    You are kind of making a gross over-generalization here:

    “It’s the men who were in a frat, who had access to girls in high school and were otherwise most guyish who have abandoned marriage. ”

    This is actually a pretty small percentage of the male population. There really aren’t a whole lot of 28 year old men who act like 20 year old frat boys. Out of the hundreds of males that I know, I can honestly only think of 2 who acted like that after the age of 25. This actually isn’t that big of a problem. Focusing on it is kind of misdirected.

    And:

    “Too many young women say things like “well men don’t like this… Men don’t like it when… ”

    I don’t exactly understand why this is a bad thing. Normally when you are attracting the opposite sex, you try to show that you like or are open to things that the other person likes. If you reverse the genders, women often have the opposite complaint… that is, men are not considerate enough and that the men never do what they want to do.” It’s bad for the girls who are attracted to losers, but for everyone else (which is the vast majority) it’s actually pretty beneficial. I’ve gone to plays and poetry readings and God knows what else when I would have rather been doing heaving labor instead. It’s called being a nice guy. Since when is that a bad thing… for either gender? I think someone along the line has convinced you that you’ve been brainwashed to act a certain (perhaps) unnatural way by the men in your life. But who knows. Even your description of women in movies seems really off to me. I mean, most female leads in movies do not fit your description. They are often confident, moral, intelligent, resourceful, etc (think of Erin Brocovich or basically every film with Nicole Kidman, Sigourney Weaver, etc… even younger actresses like Natalie Portman) How many Hollywood films highlight some sort of male on female / child abuse where the victim overcomes all sorts of terrible things? These far outnumber the types of roles that you are describing.

    And from your other post:

    “Before any negotiation begins, we are required to prove we have a right to even ask and are not just being a, well, y’all know a the word.”

    Does this sentiment stem from personal experience or is it more theoretical? The way I see it, you have to consider how much you are asking from the other person and compare it with how much they are asking of you. Some people are just super demanding, especially in the beginning of relationships, where nothing you do is right. Some women are like this… some guys are jerks. It’s just the way some people are.

  • Levedi

    Rachel’s article is a classic logical fallacy called the tu quoque. It means “you also” and it’s used to defer responsibility by arguing that another person’s bad behavior is equally bad or worse and therefore absolves the offender of responsibility. It’s a classic variety of the red herring.

    Are there slutty, stupid girls out there who give the guys plenty of fodder for an irresponsible hook-up lifestyle? Sure. Are these girls fully responsible for their own behavior? Sure. Are they the responsible party when guys behave like this? Nope.

    Twenty-something girls in America (I see a lot of them in my line of work) are too often invested in the following myths:
    1. Attract men or you’re worthless. The more men the better and no cost in self respect or personal desire or authentic personality is too high.
    2. Men are pigs who only want you for your body. But they’re still valuable pigs, so give them your body.
    3. One day one of these pigs will magically decide he likes having sex with you so much that he likes your personality too (the same authentic personality you’ve been suppressing in order to get him into bed). He will then completely clean up his act and propose.
    4. You will then have the wedding to end all weddings in which your former pig will worship you like a queen and commit his selfish self to serving your every selfish need for the rest of the marriage.

    It’s a formula for misery and despair before and after marriage and it’s obviously based in horrid selfishness. But it permeates youth culture. Those screaming drunk girls out on the dance floor at 2am – some of them are just party girls. But a lot of them are living out steps 1-3 in the hopes of getting to step 4.

    Unfortunately, I’ve met a good number of young men who think this is how it works too. So they act out the empty, piggish role, hoping one of the drunk hook up harridans will turn out to be their perfect girl.

    I’m not saying they’re all victims of culture or circumstance. They are responsible adults who are making horrendous choices for bad reasons. But I am saying that Rachel’s post on FrumForum fails to actually analyze the causes behind the hook up culture and instead engages in cliched blame shifting.

    (PS Primrose – never mind the trolls. The rest of us understood your logic. It was spot on.)

    • JeninCT

      I actually enjoyed your post until I got to the last line. Trolls? Really? WHERE? Certainly not on this thread.

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  • Smargalicious

    The whole thing is actually simple of you understand it.

    Women get the urge to nest at about 15. Men, about 25. Women just have to wait for a guy who’s tired of catting and wants sex, or a person who can supply him sex at any time, all the time. That’s what the woman has to play into. Then, after he’s tricked into marriage under the ‘sex whenever you want it’ premise, she slowly tightens the noose around his neck. After the first baby she doesn’t want sex that much anymore. But, she’s got him.

    Hah!

  • abk1985

    The greater autonomy of the genders is what is really driving this breakdown. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

    Many educated women are high earners, and don’t need a man for financial support. As a result, they can hook up and have sex when they feel like and the rest of the time they can watch Grey’s Anatomy reruns. Or they can blog or do Facebook.

    Most men can at least earn a living for themselves. They know they can have sex fairly easily, and if they don’t have the time, there’s always internet porn to inspire them to take care of business themselves. Then they can spend the rest of their time playing video games or watching Youtube. And updating Facebook.

    In short, women don’t need a man for money, and men don’t need “a woman” (as in, one socially sanctioned woman) for sex, so it’s not surprising the genders have as little to do with each other as possible. Put in the simplest terms: how many men, even with the promise of a spectacular sexual payoff, would be able to watch a Cake Boss marathon? The question answers itself.

    Nowadays, a typical 20-something will have had at least half a dozen serious or semi-serious intimate relationships. Or at least a number of random hookups. Right there, you have taken the bloom off the rose in terms of any mystical union between one man and one woman.

    Obviously, the only thing left is compatibility. There isn’t much of that by nature, and it is not enhanced when women don’t go out of their way to make a man feel special, or even learn how to cook something more complicated than toast. And, yes, men don’t particularly like women who are promiscuous or who have slept with their friends. Women can call all of this hypocritical, but we’re talking about marrying a guy, right?

    I say all of this in retrospect, since my kids are grown and looking, and I’m married and have no plans to change. Given how demanding men are, maybe women shouldn’t marry. The sperm bank is in the next block over.

  • Smargalicious

    It’s also tough for girls to find a decent partner when many young males are living in thier parent’s basement surfing porn and masturbating all day.

    Electronic devices obviate the need for interpersonal relationships nowadays. That’s why we’re doomed as a nation–there is no loyalty to it anymore.

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