The Times September 23, 2006
Is modern life ruining relationships?
It’s the question posed at a debate next month in which Body&Soul writers are taking part. Here’s a taste of what they’ll have to say…
'In this feminised age, women are encouraged to expect too much'
My father was a tweedy bloke, brought up in an era when a chap should just have a job and a hobby and leave all the domestic stuff to his good woman. But Dad could be moved to tears by hearing something terrible on the news. And he loved to cook. So he was considered a bit of an odd fish.
These days, emoting and compoting are de rigueur for any eligible middle-class male.
Expectations of men in relationships have been growing hugely since the 1970s, with the advent of our feminised society. But expectations can be made to run too far.
In former times, a man could remain socially cack-handed but reasonably expect that a young woman would take him on. After all, until the 1970s young women had to find a man to marry in order be socially respectable, to have children born “on the right side of the blanket” and even to get a mortgage. Now that women don’t need a man to function in society, they are free to raise the bar on male behaviour. (Emphasis mine: AND of course, this is a bad thing to raise the bar on male behavior. God forbid men should have to obey the rules like women have always done everywhere and still have to do, for the most part, today.)
A lot of men are happy to meet the challenge. But many are just not wired that way. (Emphasis mine: Oh the poor dears. I guess that means we should change all the rules around for men and boys now, since they aren't wired to follow instructions or behave in an orderly manner. Why don't we just let them jump all over the classroom, for instance, while the teachers run around after them carrying aloft the lesson for the day printed on huge placards. Meanwhile the little girls will sit quietly in their seats being taught in the traditional manner which was children shutup, sit in their seats and listen to the teachers. But boys 'learn' differently I guess.)It’s surely no coincidence that we are witnessing an explosion in diagnoses of Asperger’s syndrome, a spectrum disorder that mostly affects males and runs from normal to mild autism.
Somewhere at the “normal” end, what we really get is “bloke being bloke-ish” syndrome: difficulty communicating or expressing emotions; obsession with arcane information such as football statistics or car engines. Modern society doesn’t like this and defines it as illness.
There have always been clashes of expectations between the genders. You only have to read Chaucer’s Wife Of Bath’s Tale to see how deeply it is ingrained. And high aspirations can indeed improve civilised behaviour. But this modern clash is spinning beyond reconciliation, thanks to our have-it-all society, and particularly the women’s media, which continually ups the ante for what gals should expect of blokes.
The latest perfect male should be a warrior in the workplace and six-pack god in the gym, as well as an angel in the kitchen, whore in the bedroom, deity of dadhood and metrosexual wonder in the wardrobe department. Faced with ever more expectations, how do men respond? Many gamely take up the gauntlet. But plenty of others just retreat into the sexist, lads’-mag world of Zoo and Nuts. Thus the number of male heterosexual paragons is shrinking, while the list of Sex And The City-inspired requirements grows ever longer. The result? Steadily accruing dissatisfaction on both sides.
John is the author of Put What Where? 2,000 years of Bizarre Sex Advice (HarperCollins, £9.99)
I think the above article says it all: “Women expect too much.” This is the modern excuse for men refusing to marry if women don’t accept the bad boy behavior that men have been allowed to get away with since time immemorial.
Of course, as the author noted, back in the days of yore women had to tolerate it. As if women didn’t tolerate it, we were just never allowed to participate fully in society: as in never getting a husband, and, thus never having any children or even our own homes to live within.
Historically, unmarried women just hovered around the edges of society living in other people’s homes, acting as unpaid maids or babysitters for them, grateful for a roof over their heads. They were the proverbial ‘maiden aunts’of the pre-WWII era that most people of a certain age are familiar with. These unmarried, middle-aged women were always around to help out with every crisis from a mother falling ill and needing her young children cared for to an adult invalid needing 24 hour care in their own home. The maiden aunt never had a life or home of her own. She just expected to be shuffled around from one relation’s residence to another helping out on an as-needed basis in exchange for a roof over her head and her meals. If she was lucky she got a small amount of pocket money here and there.
Many historic novels feature a maiden aunt floating around in the background and I, myself, grew up acquainted with one, my grandmother’s unmarried younger sister. Sometimes these inconvenient unmarried women were sent to live in convents and spent most of their lives praying, attending mass, mediating, etc., but at least they were provided for, not being starved somewhere on the outskirts of the cities or even forced into prostitution.
It was a very convenient system for men then and, of course, the more selfish amongst them would like to return to it again. In some sense they have: by giving themselves undeserved rights to children of women, who they haven’t bothered marrying. But, as usual with selfish people the thought is always why take half when you can get the whole?
Men refusing to marry, if women try to set any sorts of standards whatsoever, is a large part of the reason for the proliferation of single motherhood today. AND this situation will continue and worsen as long as men continue being able to work the legal system by making laws that give themselves undeserved rights to the children of women they refuse to marry. As why should men who are nothing but recreational sperm donors get the same rights to children as a married father does? Short answer: they should NOT.