What Women Want-What Men Want: Why the Sexes Still See Love and Commitment So Differently

By John Marshall Townsend | Go to book overview

6
The Dating-Mating Market

The Man Shortage and Marriage Squeeze

In the eras depending on inner-direction sex might be inhibited. . . . Or its gratification might be taken for granted among men. . . . Only in the upper classes, precursors of modern other-directed types, did the making of love take precedence over the making of goods . . . and reach the status of a daytime agenda. In these circles sex was almost totally separated from production and reproduction . . . [now] sex permeates the daytime as well as the playtime consciousness. It is viewed as a consumption good not only by the old leisure classes but by the modern leisure masses. . . . This is one of the reasons why so much exitement is channeled into sex by the other-directed person. He looks to it for reassurance that he is alive . . . not for display but for a test of his or her ability to attract, his or her place in the "rating-dating" scale--and beyond that, in order to experience life and love.

-- David Riesman et al., The Lonely Crowd

IN THEIR BOOK Too Many Women? Marcia Guttentag and Paul Secord use sex ratios to explain the problems many contemporary women face in securing commitments from suitable partners. 1 Since World War II, women have outnumbered men in the United States. In 1970 for every Too women over fourteen there were 92 men. The imbalance for single men and women is even greater: 81 men per Too women. This surplus of women allows men to avoid making commitments to many women they date. In these conditions women are more likely than men to experience desertion, abandonment, and betrayal. Women therefore become wary of commitments themselves, but it is men's unwillingness to make commitments that leads contemporary women to delay marriage, stay single, or remain divorced rather than remarrying.

In addition to a general shortage of men, women born during certain periods face a marriage squeeze. For example, the birthrate was rising between 1946 and 1957 (the postwar baby boom). Women born between 1946 and 1948 who want to marry men two to three years older--which is the traditional pattern--face a severe squeeze because the birthrate was down between 1943 and 1945. There are simply not enough men in that age bracket for the women who might want to marry them. Guttentag and Secord also note that

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