Thursday, February 7, 2013

Sexual capital, virtue, trust

A conversation between Congressman Frank Underwood and his mistress about his body guard in House of Cards gives a succinct description of sexual politics:

[Mistress:] “He’s cute.”

[Underwood:] “He’d never go for you.”

“Why not?”

“You’re too intimidating.”

“He’s the one with the gun.”

“But you’re the one with the congressman.”

The mistress, young and beautiful, and the congressman, virile and powerful, stand atop D.C.’s sexual hierarchy. In their respective stages of life, they have more sexual capital than they have had or will have again. A mere body guard cannot fathom competing with a congressman for power; therefore, he would not dare compete with him for his mistress. As George Gilder writes, he “knows in the marrow of his bones that his buying power consists of his supplying power, no more, no less.” In other words, the congressman’s mistress is out of his league. Her interest in him may be sincere, but he cannot hope to hold it for long when she has known so much better.

That being said, there are sexual arenas in which a man of relatively low stature could compete with the congressman and win. But not in Washington, D.C. Out in the country, a large landowner or rancher, who has mastered the way of life inherent to the region, could compete with the congressman for his mistress and win, provided she wants to sacrifice the comforts of modern urban life. It is the rare woman who has known said comforts, which liberated her from the traditional burdens of her gender, who willingly makes that sacrifice.

Later in the series, a print reporter goes to an upscale bar for a drink. He sees a beautiful woman, dressed to kill, being entertained by a middle-aged man in a crisp suit. He guesses, correctly, that she is a hooker. In a musky, dimly lit room crowded with half-drunk men, lacking morals and inhibition, she has what they all want. Supply and demand dictate her price. Every night, she goes to the highest bidder.

For how long can she keep up this routine? Five years? Ten, if she avoids disease? Regardless, by then her body has begun its slow, inevitable decline. Meanwhile her clientele and their tastes do not change. As she approaches them in age, she actually becomes less desirable. And there are younger, more vivacious suppliers entering the market.

Where virtue reigns, the prostitute finds little to no demand for her wares. She must lower her price below what she feels she is worth. Her alternatives are to leave in search of greener pastures or start selling something else besides her body. That last is best and the goal of civilization. Her enduring love and the stability her tender nature gives to errant, seeking men safely discharges the sexual atmosphere.

In exchange for her sacrifice, he must prove himself worthy. That means trust. She won’t settle if she suspects one day he will leave her. Time is not as kind to her as it is to him. While menopause is still a long ways off, her sexual capital peaks early and for a briefer time, while his increases with wealth and experience. If not for the promise he made to her, he would be free to pursue women he feels he deserves. Not even men half his age—better-looking, to be sure, but still getting their start in life—could stand in his way.

Honestly, few are the provinces where men’s virtue exceeds women’s. Nature’s penalty for rutting is miniscule compared to the euphoria he feels with the ultimate expression of his vitality. For her, however, the risk of pregnancy looms large. This circumstance makes her naturally more cautious. By and large, men have as much sex with women as women let them have.

Most affairs are crimes of opportunity. A man is less likely to cheat on his wife if there’s no one around to cheat on his wife with. That there are strikes rational fear in married women. And it’s far worse since culture has given its stamp of “tolerance” on female promiscuity. Men surrounded by temptation are even more difficult to trust, leading to the failure of many marriages and the failure of others to get started.

Some more food for thought:

Regina Lewis reports at USA Today:

Research conducted at the University of Ohio and published by the American Journal of Sociology indicates a woman’s employment status has no effect on whether her husband will stay or go. And an employed woman is only more likely to initiate divorce than an unemployed woman if she reports being highly unsatisfied with the marriage.

It’s different for guys. They are more likely to leave a marriage, and they are more likely to be left if they are unemployed.

Researchers involved with the study suspect this speaks to the fact that women working has become acceptable, but men not working does not sit as well.

How can a man provide for a wife if he cannot provide for himself?

Kay Hymowitz popped up on my radar about 2 years ago. This is one of the first articles of hers I read (via The Daily Beast). She looks at the post-feminist sexual marketplace and young men’s justified bitterness:

Never before in history have men been matched up with women who are so much their equal—socially, professionally, and sexually. By the time they reach their twenties, they have years of experience with women as equal competitors—in school, on soccer fields, and even in bed. They very reasonably assume that the women they are meeting at a bar or cafĂ© or gym are after the same things they are: financial independence, career success, toned triceps, and sex.

That’s the bait; here comes the switch. Women may want equality at the conference table and treadmill. But when it comes to sex and dating, they aren’t so sure. They might hook up as freely as a Duke athlete. Or, they might want men to play Greatest Generation gentleman. Yes, they want men to pay for dinner, call for dates—a writer at the popular dating website The Frisky titled a recent piece “Call me and ask me out for a damn date!”—and open doors for them. A lot of men wonder: “WTF??!” Why should they do the asking? Why should they pay for dinner? After all, they are equals and in any case, the woman a guy is asking out probably has more cash in her pocket than he does; recent female graduates are making more than males in most large cities.

Sure, girls can—and do—ask guys out for dinner and pick up the check without missing a beat. Women can make that choice. Men say they have no choice. If they want a life, they have to ask women out on dates; they have to initiate conversations at bars and parties, they have to take the lead on sex. Women can take a Chinese menu approach to gender roles. They can be all “Let me pay for the movie tickets” on Friday nights, and “A single rose? That’s it?” on Valentine’s Day.

It’s hard for me to not be bitter about the situation. But I think, with the changes I’ve begun to make, there will be less confusion over what I have to offer as a husband, and that will attract the right kind of woman.

More from Hymowitz, this time in the City Journal:

Women are less inclined than men to think that power and status are worth the sacrifice of a close relationship with their children. Academics and policymakers in what’s called the “work/family” field believe that things don’t have to be this way. But nothing in the array of work/family policy prescriptions—family leave, child care, antidiscrimination lawsuits, flextime, and getting men to cut their work hours—will lead women to infiltrate the occupational 1 percent. They simply don’t want to.

One of George Gilder’s brilliant points in Men and Marriage is how the sexual revolution’s pillars of free love and women in the workplace inevitably pair women in their peak years of fertility (20s) to older, accomplished, married men in their peak years of productivity (40s and 50s). In this equation, older women are left to become spinsters and young men miss out on the socializing power of submitting to a woman’s long-term rhythms.

In line with that, the largest audience of HBO’s Girls—about the debauchery of urban, “liberated” young women—is older men. The smallest? Older women. The biggest beneficiaries and the biggest losers of the sexual revolution, respectively. No coincidence.

No comments:

Post a Comment