Courtship, Sex, and Commitment

Okay, son.  I’m going to go **** your stepmother.  I love you.  [hangs up]

We are now exactly one step from hearing about my mother’s enduring love of fellatio.

GREAT!  That’s a good thing.  I totally didn’t need to actually hear that, but let’s face facts here — if it wasn’t happening, that would be a sign that something had gone horribly wrong with the relationship.  And, dude.  That’s my Dad.  Obviously, I want his marriage to rock.

Now.  This is my Dad and Stepmother.  Clearly, we have hit “the appropriate time to broaden the scope.”

Lasting romantic relationships are about sex and commitment.  Both of them.

Mercifully, Andrea Dworkin begs to differ.

Vanilla Heteronormative Relationship says “women are the gatekeepers of sex; men are the gatekeepers of commitment.”

A woman can get any man within her league; the challenge is for her to keep him.  Men, on other other hand, go through that whole ritual of trying to get into the relationship.

Enter the New York Times, proclaiming that the courtship dance is over.

Granted, Alex Williams strikes the perfect note to indicate incipient disaster:

“MAYBE it was because they had met on OkCupid.”

But let’s be open-minded. In his column, Alex Williams describes the trials and tribulations of a woman who has real trouble on the dating scene.

1.  Trouble One:  “I met a musician.”

But when the dark-eyed musician with artfully disheveled hair asked Shani Silver, a social media and blog manager in Philadelphia, out on a “date” Friday night, she was expecting at least a drink, one on one….“At 10 p.m., I hadn’t heard from him,” said Ms. Silver, 30, who wore her favorite skinny black jeans. Finally, at 10:30, he sent a text message. “Hey, I’m at Pub & Kitchen, want to meet up for a drink or whatever?” he wrote, before adding, “I’m here with a bunch of friends from college.”

Turned off, she fired back a text message, politely declining. But in retrospect, she might have adjusted her expectations.

She might?  She might have told him to go fuck himself and get on with life.  The problem here isn’t Ms. Shani Silver (except insofar as she apparently has tragically bad taste in men); the problem is, and I’m going to use big words here, the guy’s a dick.

Now, Ms. Silver has a different take on the situation.

“The word ‘date’ should almost be stricken from the dictionary,” Ms. Silver said. “Dating culture has evolved to a cycle of text messages, each one requiring the code-breaking skills of a cold war spy to interpret.”

And Miss AwesomeHat apparently has it wayyyy nailed down compared to Ms. Silver.

Part of this, of course, is the joy of being a young urbanite in an environment in which there are so many young men and women that standing out is seriously non-trivial.  In New York, there are so many young men and women that you don’t have to be Casanova or Mata Hari to have a phone full of addresses, half of them for people you’ve never even met.  The dating market is full of fish.

And that’s the problem.  Right now,the market’s broken.  Lots of women happily provide (to both the applause and disdain of feminists and not-so-feminists all over).  Men who want nothing other than sex, and who know how the play the market, do fine, as do similar women.  In other words, the sexual marketplace is probably better than it’s been since before HIV scared the shit out of us and Abba was a thing.

I mean, dude. These guys rocked Zardoz with a straight face.

The dating marketplace, on the other hand, is pretty messed up, if you’re living in an urban or college Hookup Zone, precisely because hookup culture is all over the place.  Flyover country, on the other hand, that’s different.  So part of the solution may simply be “get the hell away from NYC, Philadelphia, and similar places, in favor of quieter digs.”

And yet, when you look around… by their 30s, most of the people around you have successfully paired off and are in significant relationships.  So what gives?  When the bitter side of the blogosphere says that courtship is dead because men are man-boys, or because women killed it by hating on nice guys….they’re wrong, point-of-fact, before they even make it to the “because” point.

It has to do with filtering, to some extent, as Susan Walsh points out:

If you want a meaningful relationship, you must filter guys according to the degree of effort they put in. Garbage in, garbage out. There’s nothing wrong with hanging out in social groups, or meeting up with someone you’d like to know better. But that initial interest should graduate quickly into real dates. Focus on men who are willing to put in the kind of effort you’re willing to put in. You can help them out by encouraging their interest, initiating some plans, and sharing the expense of dating.

And that’s absolutely accurate.  If you’re looking for a hookup, that’s easy.  If you’re looking for a date, on the other hand, cads won’t do.

But there’s something missing from that analysis, too, and that’s escalation.  Just as a man has to escalate if he wants sex — women rightfully disdain  creepy “nice guys” who hang out in the friend zone hoping that this will somehow magically get them laid — women have to escalate if they want commitment.  Some men will jump that hurdle and pull off a Prince Charming, sweeping the gal right off her feet.

For a lot, and maybe even most, women, that’s not reality.  And quite a number of women don’t want it, either.

Even if he does have an alpine chateau.

For those other women who aren’t living “the Disney Romance,” (and you’d be surprised how many are), a woman who wants to date  has to not only filter the men, but also to do something to stand out and get the guy’s attention, so that the men who “meet her criteria” know that she’s in it for  the long haul.  For most of us, this isn’t exactly rocket science, and most folks seen to understand it pretty implicitly.

And now, for the elephant in the room:

“MAYBE it was because they had met on OkCupid.”

If you’re looking for a lasting relationship, you need to avoid the tools and methods of those who are just looking to hang out and hook up.  OkCupid and similar can wbe used to look for romance…but most of the guys who use the service don’t.

Just like “Nice guys of OKCupid” and “Online Women of Incipient Divorce,” there are a LOT of people out there who are, and I hate to sound mean, “single for a reason.”  If you’re just looking for a hookup, hey, who cares?  But if you’re looking for dates, romance, eventual lifelong partnership/marriage, that just won’t do.  You’ve got to filter aggressively, and figure out how, in your environment, to meet people who are good candidates to be a match.  Lots of people do better by avoiding the urban zones, or shifting gears into a slower-paced section of it — the LA/NYC crowd isn’t into the flyover-country game, but smaller populations have a number of advantages, one of which is that lack of anonymity makes it harder to get away with jerk-ass behavior like what Ms. Silver encountered.  It’s still there, but guys who act like that are going to get a reputation which will follow them much more rapidly.

Once you’re into your thirties, that gets harder: the market narrows considerably.  Point-blank, most of the good ones are taken.  And most of those are going to stay that way.  Filtering like mad becomes more important, and quite frankly, a quality man or woman going online is going to instantly disquality 80-90% of the opposite sex that the various systems say is a “match.”  It can still be done, but it’s going to take effort, online and off, to meet enough people that you eventually get introduced to the dude or dudette who rocks your house.  And since we’re positing that dude/dudette is quality, it’s almost a guarantee that there’s competition.  You’re going to have to make it happen.

And that’s a good thing.  After all, if you’re dating, it’s for a relationship, and for the long-haul.  If you want that kind of relationship, but aren’t willing to do more than lifting a finger and making some mouse-clicks to obtain one…. the men or women you’d like to meet deserve better than to wind up with you.

That’s harsh.  But then again, so is winding up as a sad old cat lady or “that creepy old man next door.”

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1 Comment

  1. Susan Walsh

     /  January 15, 2013

    Good post, thanks for the link.


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