Dudes try “dating Darwinism”

An author argues that angry young men are becoming assholes to try to get women.

Topics: Broadsheet, Gender,

After Kay S. Hymowitz wrote an article about the alleged throngs of single young males “lingering in a hormonal limbo between adolescence and adulthood, shunning marriage and children, and whiling away their leisure hours with South Park reruns,” she received a vitriolic response from some such young dudes. In response, she proposes a theory in City Journal for what is causing all that anger: “The dating and mating scene is in chaos” thanks to women’s liberation.

Young men, she argues, are exposed to a series of “miscues, cross-purposes, and half-conscious, contradictory female expectations that are alternately proudly egalitarian and coyly traditional.” They don’t want you to open the door, but they do want you to pay for dinner; they want chivalry one moment and evolved egalitarianism the next. Young women just can’t make up their minds about what they want from a man, Hymowitz writes: She “may be hoping for a hookup, but she may also be looking for a husband, a co-parent, a sperm donor, a relationship, a threesome, or a temporary place to live … In fact, young men face a bewildering multiplicity of female expectations and desire.”

Then there’s the fact that “men face a situation — and I’m not exaggerating here — new to human history,” writes Hymowitz. “Never before have men wooed women who are, at least theoretically, their equals — socially, professionally, and sexually.” Retro dating manuals have been rendered obsolete, and feminism has failed to provide men with a guidebook for navigating courtship. So, “as middle-class men and women are putting off marriage well into their twenties and thirties as they pursue Ph.D.s, J.D.s, or their first $50,000 salaries,” they are left with several years, perhaps even a decade or more, of this “heartbreak and humiliation.”

As a result, she says, guys are resorting to “Darwinist dating” or, to put it another way, survival of the asshole-iest. It’s appears to be a modern reimagining of that myth of the caveman clubbing a female over the head and dragging her back to the cave, and explains the “the litany of stories you hear from women about the troglodytes in their midst.”

The pickup artist scene is one approach to “Darwinist dating” (or, more accurately, Darwinist screwing). While there is something to these theories of seduction, just as there is something to teaching someone basic social skills or training him or her to become a better public speaker, it’s all about artifice. They are taught to suppress the nice guy by putting on the armor of the asshole — but how fulfilling is that, ultimately? The essential message is: Toss out your feelings and don’t be yourself — act the part of your better self or, preferably, someone else entirely.

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Nothing in the seduction community seems to prepare a guy to find himself, grow genuine and warranted confidence, or start a real, emotionally rewarding and lasting relationship. As Hymowitz ultimately points out, to my great relief, the problem with this approach is that it’s “an uncompromising biological determinism that makes no room for human cultivation.” Not to mention, “dating Darwinism” suggests that all young men want is to successfully spread their seed — but something tells me that if they have to defensively put on the tough guy act in the first place, that isn’t at all the case.

Every time I read articles about this alleged Menaissance (a rebirth of medieval-style masculinity, in case you aren’t hip to the obnoxious buzzword) a few words come to mind: anxiety, insecurity, confusion and anger. But, get this, young women are feeling all those things, too. Those “miscues, cross-purposes, and half-conscious, contradictory female expectations”? They don’t come from a place of total illumination and enlightenment on the dating front — they are often a confused response to” miscues, cross-purposes, and half-conscious, contradictory” cultural expectations, whether they come directly from men in their life or the world at large. And men certainly aren’t just reacting to women, but to similar contradictory cultural messages directed toward them.

Let’s not make this a war between the sexes. As girls overturn traditional gender roles, boys are forced to do the same, leaving both sexes in scary, unscripted territory. This has, indeed, come as a result of feminist advancements — but  feminist advancements within a culture that is not yet egalitarian. I think many young women are still in search of an empowered and authentic sexual identity — a way to be active participants in our sexual culture. Given that they are doing this within a culture than defines sexual power in male terms, is it any surprise that they — as well as young men — perform contradictions and make mistakes along the way?

Tracy Clark-Flory
Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

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