In recent years, both men and women have been frustrated with their romantic options. Women especially are unhappy about the apparent shortage of eligible men — I hear it all the time from my friends and in casual conversation. I wanted to listen to another side of the story, though, so asked a of couple smart men in my life what their thoughts were on why this was happening and what could be done. What I got was a critique of how relationships are created in the changing socio-economic structure of society. Here is the sum:
First off, there’s a difference between men, males, and boys. Inside the realm of relationships, men are males that have a made the conscious decision to pursue an honest relationship with a woman, willingly improve their self-standard (if required), and do so with the genuine interest of creating an enduring relationship. Boys and males will have to decide whether or not to pursue a romantic relationship, but if they get sex without making a conscious decision to pursue sex, they are no longer required to develop their relationship skills.
Why is there an overabundance of boys and males? Males understand that it’s the show that draws a crowd and how well they present their game is usually enough to get what they want sexually from a woman — which for many is what the game is really all about. Consider the growth in use of pick-up-artist (PUA) techniques and the general rise of the hook-up culture.
In the view of males, the perceived standard required for sex has been lowered and therefore the perceived effort required on their part to achieve the desired relations with a woman has been lowered as well.
The reason why the standard for sex has been lowered is irrelevant to males. Other than making sure that they can do whatever they did to have sex with a woman again, guys are not concerned about why a woman chose to have sex with them; what they are predominantly concerned about is that a woman is having sex with them.
The hard truth is, casual sex does not motivate boys and males to turn into men. It does the opposite.
When it comes to romantic commitments, women would benefit from approaching dating like they are investing in the stock market: looking for a man that is interesting, capable, and appears to command a level of attention from other women (potential investors).
As a “relationship investor” — of their time, energy, and emotions — women must learn how to identify the real deal when the majority of males encountered either have “swagger” (a good marketing strategy), don’t make the time or space for a relationship, are indecisive, or may be a good fit on some levels but are missing drive and emotional availability.
The substance (a solid business plan) that women want to look for in a man is whether or not he will use his skills to build a well-rounded, healthy and enduring relationship with meaning and mutual growth for both partners. The questions to ask and consider are: does this guy have true interpersonal skills, such as the ability to listen, empathize, communicate, and work as a team to resolve issues? Does he have the wherewithal and desire to lead a relationship that is satisfying for both people in the long term? Women have to assess early on whether a guy is more of giver or a taker. Is he full of gimmicks instead of possessing a well-balanced approach with the capability and inclination to be in a genuine relationship?
These are important self-constructs that a man needs to bring to a relationship for it to be sustainable over time. Years of women going for the guy with the marketing strategy and not the substance have resulted in the significantly diminished dating pool with which women are now dealing.
Here is the scene: you are out at a bar or cafe engaging in banter with Guy 1; but here is what is going on around you: there are several other guys in the room and to some degree, based off of your perceived level of attractiveness, they’re paying attention to you and analyzing your situation because they want to learn about your social dynamics.
It is not necessarily “you” in particular they are learning about, rather it is the general characteristics of a woman of your perceived physical and mental desirability. And more importantly, what they’re doing is observing your reaction to Guy 1’s approach, to see what he is doing right and wrong and measuring whether it is something they have the ability to do with a woman of your perceived caliber.
During this process there is a unique study taking place on a subconscious level for Guys 2, 3, 4 because they are each for the most part, a disinterested party, which allows them a less biased view. The general difference between Guys 2, 3, and 4 is how they employ themselves to their ends adjusted for personal ability and context. Think of athletes watching one another’s technique or stance. For the most part guys can usually figure out other guy’s games and see each other for what they really are. They generally have the same concepts about women, dating, cars, and all other things that would fall under the general “guy” category.
This matters because guys can more easily assess another male’s level of character than a woman can, and when guys see a guy of less than reputable character (or at least less than their own) be successful with a woman with attributes they desire, they have to ask the question — “what is he doing right that I am doing wrong or not enough of? If I do more of X, will that get me the girl I desire?” But also, if he thinks the other guy is bullshitting and his game is reeling you in, then they think of you as less desirable for anything more than a casual fling.
Herein lie the problems:
- Out at the bar, Guy 2 sees a woman choose Guy 1 because of his confidence and or entertainment value. Guy 2 replicates actions of Guy 1 and has no need to regard the level of substance that may or may not have been involved in the transaction between Guy 1 and the woman. The relational decisions of a desirable female will significantly influence the actions and approach to courtship of the next women that Guy 2 pursues.
- When the guys that other guys think shouldn’t get the girl actually do get the girl (the “douche bags” and PUAs, etc.), their modus operandi leaves more of a mark on the other guys than if one of the good guys gets the girl. Guys understand why the good guy gets the girl. But if the lesser guy gets the girl the others guys think — “if that douche bag can get that kind of girl with that technique then I can, too.” Again, all of this transpires without the other guys recognizing the demand from women to truly develop their character.
- In their observation mode guys almost always assume that women make their mating choices with the same fundamental reasoning that they use for long-term relationships, that is, thinking they are ultimately looking for Mr. Right as opposed to Mr. Right Now. Which isn’t to say that Guys 2, 3, and 4 would always use the replicated technique to form long-term relationships, though they generally want to hone their abilities to improve the chances of forming a long-term relationship with someone they consider to be a high quality mate. This means guys would practice using the replicated technique with the knowledge that they will continue to practice this until they need to use it on “the one.” The caveat is that forming a lasting relationship with “the one” requires the substance and communication skills that they have not developed or have not been challenged enough to really have a handle on how to deal with the responsibility of a relationship where the outcome matters to them.
One of the most common shortcomings that males watch women fall prey to is when a guy can talk his way in, rather than prove his way to something. As referenced above, guys who can talk a good game rarely have to walk the walk, which is all the more reason for more males to learn and apply PUA techniques and find women with a more open attitude towards sex.
The benefits of this to guys are multiplied — they get to practice their technique with a higher success rate, have more sex with a desirable woman, and most guys don’t have to worry about the “messy” relationship entanglements that could follow. This benefits males in the short-term but the consequence is that they are seldom forced or challenged to develop their more enduring relational skills.
Supply and demand. The real issue happening right now is not where the good men have gone, it is the decreasing supply of most desirable men coupled with an inherent increase in demand for them. There are a finite number of males and a finite number of females. The average quality of females is increasing by the modern day definition; education, career success, economic status, and so on, while simultaneously, their male counterparts with similar qualifications are decreasing. On college campuses, for example, the average ratio is 1.33 females for every male yet over half of all couples in current marriages possess similar educational backgrounds.
For illustrative purposes, let’s identify the most desirable people as “Grade A” — those possessing at least a bachelors degree and a measurable level of career success. Next is the Grade B group — those that have the intellectual or financial ability to possess a bachelor’s degree, but not yet the will or inclination. This is not to say that they cannot or will not be influenced to eventually attend college or achieve a measured level of success that lands them inside the Grade A category. Finally, Grade C is comprised of males and females that do not fit inside of the A or B categories.
Though all individuals in each of the lower grades may be responsible and good hearted, what Grade B and C males can bring to the table falls outside the fundamental qualifications required by the rising tide of educated women.
The potential pool of Grade A men will be reduced by the number of males that are already married or in relationships leading to marriage, those that have no inclination for marriage (as their needs are met without commitment), and men that violate some non-negotiable factor or possess another disqualifier (like emotional unavailability) that removes him from a woman’s selection criteria.
Why does everyone keep making a big deal about these proportions? What this does is increase demand for a suitable male partner — a finite resource — that in turn increases the bargaining power of the supplier — men. As more women compete for fewer resources, the lesser grade — Grade B — substitutes come onto the market at a higher value than before, or than they merit.
Once all of the Grade A commodity has been bought up, or appears unlikely to go on the market, investors will move to the next available grade of product. This drives up the demand and value of that product over the next lower grade — into a negative downward cycle of seeking what is available over what used to be most desirable.
When guys see that the general expectation from quality women for sex and relationships is something that does not require as much energy, time, or commitment as they formerly thought, then they will adjust accordingly — downward.
Speaking strictly in an economical sense, there is no reason for any person to invest more energy in acquiring something he already has the ability to possess. Just like someone wouldn’t pay seven dollars for something that they know they can get for five dollars, a male won’t put in 70 percent effort when 50 percent will get him exactly what he desires. This is a basic human condition proven everyday by consumers, stock traders, and business negotiations — they are looking for the best value (mate) for their money (effort).
Sexual liberation? Recently, there have been some articles published with unusual bits of advice. A young female writer in New York proposed one, which sums of the main points of several. She suggested “promiscuity is another way of saying ‘practice makes perfect.’” Who would agree with such a formula? Any male who wanted to benefit from a bit of free sex would agree with that formula. However, any man who cares about the future of relational constructs will tell you that is the worst approach possible for long-term relationships and the women that want them. If you want a dog to learn a new trick do you give him his treat before you require him to perform it or after? If a guy knows he can get access to sex indefinitely without committing anything for it, then why would he commit to something… ever? 70 percent versus 50 percent…
By and large, guys are paying attention to women’s messages, which in general is: “I will actively sleep with guys until one of you takes me off the market.” This removes the potential moral issues that guys may have with the casual sex approach. What this translates into for guys is that there will be a steady supply of desirable women that are actively sleeping with them.
As long as a guy knows he has access to new partners, it is in his best interests not to. And he knows this. Furthermore, it only perpetuates the access to random, no-strings-attached sex because fewer desirable women are being taken off the market into long-term relationships.
One of the elements that feminism has brought about is greater sexual freedom for women; in turn this has brought an even greater sexual freedom for males. Males are motivated by sex with partners possessing desirable traits, which can be summed up in the following formula. The level of desirability (Value) of that female partner directly correlates with the level of energy and time that a male is willing to invest:
Value (V) = sex divided by energy (e) multiplied by time (t), or V = sex/e*t.
Experience quality and compatibility will determine the period of time that the male will want to repeat his experience with any one woman.
Additionally, most men that had a loving mother have at least some desire to be a husband or a long-term primary partner in a female’s life. While men have a significantly longer biological timeframe to find a long-term mate, beyond a certain point in their life they are not inclined to continue restarting the search after a certain number of dates once they believe that they have found the most desirable mate that they will find based off of: V= sex/e*t.
Creating a win-win. In 2013, the popular dating site OkCupid experimented with an app that set up people on blind dates. On launch day, they temporarily removed all user photos from the site, calling it “Love Is Blind Day.” They kept track of user activity, however, and found that although there were fewer new conversations started per hour, people responded to first messages 44 percent more often. Women were also more receptive to their dates when they used the blind date app.
Women generally reported having a good time on their dates regardless of the attraction level of their partner. Interestingly, women reported having a slightly better time on dates with the less good-looking men. In contrast, online, those same men could not get their foot in the door — only 10 percent of women rated as “much hotter” than the men messaging them would reply back to a given message, versus 45 percent of women that would reply when the men were more attractive than them.
Although there is an imbalance of quality men to second-rate guys, there is still a cache of quality men that are being overlooked by women. They are the less flashy men with substance (a solid business plan). They are there are the ones that don’t look the part even though they play it. They walk the walk but don’t talk the talk — their marketing strategy is passive.
While advances from well-rounded men looking for long-term relationships is not every woman’s desire, women should still consider how their rejection will affect men’s approaches to relationships. When women reject men, they often don’t think twice about it. Some tell themselves that he will get over it and move on, but that is the message males are conditioned to exude. The reality is that these guys will not stay that way for long. As the popular phrase goes, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Therefore males, as humans, will adjust their approach to meet their ends.
Why is this important? If there is no reinforcement incentive for the men that are trying and do take relationships seriously, then women will remove the demand for these men and eventually that supply will dwindle. As a whole, men have become afraid of being labeled sexist and acting as resolutely as men have in the past.
While this allows more room for women to grow and show their abilities, it also stifles the one-thing women want most in their relationship with the opposite sex: a quality man. Of course, this is not implying that women need to revert to a 1950s dynamic, rather that it is acceptable for a man to assert himself responsibly and to take a woman seriously.
As Anaïs Nin once said:
I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naive or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.
This is the response women are looking for from men and they are not getting it. And until women see that men being men (responsibly) is a good thing, there is very little chance it will come about.
Women should find a way to reward sincere attempts from men with something more than affable regard, such as helping him develop something he’s lacking (confidence, style, etc.) or giving him more insight about women so it he will be a better man for the next woman.
Women are going to have to teach men other ways to develop and sustain relationships. If enough women that a man desires tell him in one form or another that they do not want a long-term relationship with him — and more importantly the reasons why not — then he is more likely to adjust his approach to change that response.
Also, if you’re a woman reading this, the next time you feel like letting the guy that talks a good game dazzle you with his entertaining banter, without providing some substance, consider what message you are sending to the other guys in the room. Is this level of engagement that you want Guys 2, 3, and 4 to put forward to the next woman they talk to? Or do you want to challenge them to step it up a notch or two, just like another woman could be doing for you?
The competitive nature of men that have made the conscious decision to pursue an honest relationship with a woman with the intent of growing a sustainable and enduring relationship is the very key to bringing the quality ratio of males and females back into balance. But men need to know the next steps to take.
As we women achieve higher levels of education, professional success, and financial status, it should follow that we demand that men raise themselves as well. However, we must encourage and inspire men to do more, to reach higher, to work harder in school, and to make more time for real connection. We must also be willing to be supportive and collaborative.
When considering needs, don’t just think about the here and now, but the future too. If you’re a woman, I encourage you to honestly reflect on the trade-offs of participating and not participating in hook-up culture. There are always exceptions, but it seems most of us don’t really enjoy it all that much. To get better results later we must change our approach today. If there is a man in your life, be straightforward with him about your needs, expectations and boundaries, and ask the same of him. Any man you want to have a relationship with will have thought about these things, or at least will be open to talking about them.