Is it BS to tell women to marry young? Depends. Anna North at Jezebel pulls this quote from an interview with Mark Regnerus, who has some thoughts about cow purchasing and free milk, ancient territory here at WWPD: "My advice is if you find somebody who you love and who loves you, make it work, whatever it takes!" North is not convinced, the Jezebellians are appalled, but as far as I'm concerned, it makes sense, insofar as there is a window of opportunity during which women are neither too young to settle down nor in not-getting-any-younger territory. Yes, that window should be extended - in both directions. Which includes making it so that 20-year-old women in happy relationships should be able to feel they've found their life partners, knowing in the back of their minds that their options will be more limited later on. It is not as easy to find a man - not that all women want to find a man, or that they should, or that it should be first priority, etc., etc. - at 40 as it is at 20. It isn't as easy to find friends, either, when one is out of school, so it's not just about female nubility. But 40-year-old men have greater romantic options. Feminists - and I speak as a feminist, if not for feminists generally - can wish it otherwise, but it is what it is.
Of course, the man one has "found" at 20 will have to be willing to stay with a woman who's not going to be 20 forever for there to be any point to this. Unless the idea is to procreate and then let the man run off with whomever, in which case yes, settling down young at least lets you have kids, but under what conditions? This, in turn, is the flaw of the pro-early-marriage argument. Is it easier to "keep" a man found at 20 than to find one at 30 or 40, as I feel like a commenter here once countered when I argued this before? Maybe, maybe not, depending what "keep" entails. Divorce is legal, adultery happens, as do marriages worse than so-so, and committing to a not-so-committed man at the peak of one's conventional attractiveness is a worse bet than starting something on more solid ground later on.
Where Regnerus, in turn, goes wrong is in pointing out that these days, men don't need to buy a woman a ring in order to get sex from her. Which is true, but which leaves out the fact that women do not want rings from many men they sleep with. Sex is not a pleasure women provide for men, but one sought out by all but the asexual; pursued in earnest by all but the most restrained. Pretty young women realize that 20 may be the only age when they can go at it with beautiful 20-something, when they have their best shot with many dashing older men as well (many of whom will seem sleazy to women their own age), and think, now is the moment.
"But I still think you have better odds of succeeding, especially if you're attractive, if you don't give in, if you make him work hard, get to know you, make commitments -- all that stuff that seems pretty basic."
Youth and beauty in a woman mean the power to get a commitment (although, obvs, the not-so-good-looking marry, too), but also the power to have sexual adventures that aren't available to the less attractive, and that won't be so readily available later in life. With the Pill plus condoms, this is fairly low-risk activity, physically, but still more risky for women than men. At the same time, sexual activity doesn't necessarily even mean intercourse. My vague recollection of what the young people did way back when is that more casual relationships often did not include the full repertoire. (What "base" does Regnerus think can be reached before a woman has "put out"?)
If you tell good-looking coeds that the guy they're having casual sex with probably won't commit, they will be unmoved. (Young women who have hook-ups but then tell a researcher that this isn't meaningful enough, that they want more, are, uh, following a social script? If women sleep with men they're attracted to without the promise of a commitment, it's because they want sex with a hot guy more than they want a commitment.) If you tell them that they may be having fun now - and Regnerus kinda-sorta admits that women have sex for reasons other than in exchange for hoped-for commitment, falling short of acknowledging female lust - but that the free-milk offering of women generally makes it harder to get men generally to commit, and that this will be a problem when a young woman is not so young and/or finds a man from whom she wants a commitment, this will be marginally more convincing. But not all that convincing, because of the serious relationships that do exist, how did they begin? Wedding announcements don't include anecdotes about how delightful the sex was within hours after they met, but that's not to say this wasn't how things proceeded.
Which brings us to... "Men who have sex early in a relationship feel little impulse to make strong commitments." The logic here confuses me. Of all sexual encounters among those who don't yet know each other well, a few of the partners are men who want more, a few women who want more, many men who just want sex, many women who just want sex. So yes, a relationship that begins with sex is likely not to become a marriage, whereas one that begins with formal introductions through family members or a matchmaker, in a society with arranged marriage, is far more likely to go that route. Meanwhile, a relationship that begins with a string of three dates without so much as a peck on the cheek? Are we to assume marriage ensues, or that there's no fourth date because the two weren't so into each other? I'm sure there are numbers on this, less sure that they'd account for marriages occurring because a woman metaphorically crossed her legs, as versus because that's just how things go for men and women in a society or subset thereof. If man and woman alike are of a free-and-easy subset, if nothing's happened, that doesn't bode well, I would think, for a long-term anything. Meanwhile, it strikes me that the way to get men or women to commit is to have a society in which neit
Off the topic of this post, but still striking:
"In American colleges, 57 percent of students are women and 43 percent are men. That's a radical reversal of where we were 30 or 40 years ago. Presuming that people are attracted to people who are like them educationally, it means looking for secure relationships becomes challenging because the sex ratio is so imbalanced."
In the Golden Age, when women didn't go to college, and instead scrubbed floors and changed diapers, or if wealthy supervised these activities, men still found a way to marry their social equivalents. Give it a moment, women will do the same.