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Free Milk!

The basic new school anti-feminist line goes something like this: Women want to get married; men want to have sex; if unmarried women are willing to have sex and society isn't willing to massively stigmatize them then men won't want to get married because "why but the cow when you can get the milk for free?" Said contentions have been the subjects of a few posts around here recently. Elsewhere, Phoebe Maltz and Amy Lamboley confirm that women are not, in fact, cows so the whole free milk analysis is somewhat lacking. Let me just add to their remarks a quasi-mathematical observation.

Grant for the sake of argument that men are more interested than women in promiscuous sex, since this seems to me to be the case. It follows from this that women will have an easier time procuring promiscuous sex. Therefore, though there ought to be individual variation in the level of interest in "buying a cow" there shouldn't be any systematic, gender-linked disagreement on this subject. The reality of contemporary life doesn't live up to the lurid imagination of conservative intellectuals. People who both want lots of promiscuous sex and succeed in having it won't be very interested in relationships. There are, say, more men in the "want" category but more women in the "succeed" category. The gender balance in the both/and category should be about even. The only reason for this not to work out is if women don't like sex at all. If they are, in other words, literally cows.

Then there's the question of double-standards. Actually existing traditional marriage wasn't really a fantasyland of monogamy. Rather, it was a world in which wives who cheated were severely punished, but men who cheated really weren't as long as they kept paying the bills. See Anna Karenina for more. Also the fact that nowadays most divorces are initiated by women.

October 29, 2005 | Permalink

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Comments

"The gender balance in the both/and category should be about even."

Not if there is a smaller number of promiscuous women each of whom services many promiscuous men ... it's not hard to imagine a situation where e.g. 10 females take care of 50 males in this regard. Or, hell, it could be the other way around, but I agree that at least anecdotally it looks like larger numbers of men than women are interested in being sluts. Anyway, the point is there's no particular a priori reason to expect a one-to-one correspondence.

Posted by: lordy | Oct 29, 2005 2:34:06 PM

There was a recent study about black women wanting children but not being able to find men suitable to be husbands. So they have out of wedlock children and raise the children without them.

The criteria for husbands is more strict. They need to be reliable, good breadwinners, and good fathers. So perhaps the shoe is on the other foot, women just regard men as studs to be used when they want to procreate.

Posted by: robertdfeinman | Oct 29, 2005 4:38:44 PM

Is there something you're trying to tell us?

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis | Oct 29, 2005 5:00:29 PM

Stop with all that man-on-cow bestiality.

Posted by: Rick Santorum | Oct 29, 2005 5:30:27 PM

I'm having trouble along the same line as lordy, above. I also don't see what anything about systematic dis/agreement is being read off of, or why. What exactly does it follow from that "there shouldn't be any systematic, gender-linked disagreement" on "cow-buying"?

"Then there's the question of double-standards. Actually existing traditional marriage wasn't really a fantasyland of monogamy. Rather, it was a world in which wives who cheated were severely punished, but men who cheated really weren't as long as they kept paying the bills."

So what? To me, this seems irrelevant from the point of view of the outcomes the conservative argument wants. That argument, it seems to me, is concerned precisely and totally with securing "paying the bills" outcomes and associated goods. Frankly, I don't see how cheating husbands of the '50s are per se a problem for intact and provided-for families, just given what you've said.

I have read this post like four times, and I can't figure out what the fuck you are talking about. Please clarify for the retards in the audience.

Posted by: spacetoast | Oct 30, 2005 12:03:26 AM

One thing that perplexes me--if you want to look at it economically--is that it's just so damn stupid to think that the only thing men get out of even very traditional marriages is sex. They also get cooking and housekeeping services, as well as heirs. There's a lot to sell men on marriage, especially male-dominated marriage. It's not really all that appealing to women, unless it's egalitarian and we have some assurance (from premarital sex) that our sexual needs will be met as well. Basically, conservatives who make this argument are having a long, nonsensical temper tantrum.

Posted by: Amanda Marcotte | Oct 30, 2005 11:24:02 AM

I can understand your confusion.

Not intending any insult to anybody,

I believe that Matt's main point here is that he isn't getting a lot of sex under the current system, and he's a liberal, so those conservative fantasies about how great it is for guys that liberal women are willing to talk to, are way overstated.

And the old "price of milk" quote was *about prostitution*. Then or now, any man who feels he isn't getting enough sex and wants just that, can find a prostitute and pay her. It's probably cheaper than dating on a per-entry basis, and far more reliable. Any man who isn't in prison can find prostitutes and most men can find prostitutes in their price range.

The fact that so many men aren't willing to do that is a tribute to the belief that some men do have some minimal standards, or are looking for more than just sex.

Posted by: J Thomas | Oct 30, 2005 1:59:30 PM

"Also the fact that nowadays most divorces are initiated by women."

Shouldn't these women give up their rights to custody of the children? Child custody is area of gross inequality in this country. Perhaps whichever parent initiates the divorce should lose custody unless they prove their spouse unfit for some reason (physical abuse for example). Children from single parent homes are at a disadvantage and the parents should be held responsible for putting their children in that position. No one forced them to get married and have kids. I think many women decide to get divorced because they know they will get the house plus continued childcare and alimony. These women see no downside.

Posted by: Just Karl | Oct 30, 2005 8:05:43 PM

If Phoebe's giving away the milk for free, does she hang out in DC often? Just asking, ya know? :)

Posted by: Anon | Oct 30, 2005 11:21:46 PM

"Perhaps whichever parent initiates the divorce should lose custody unless they prove their spouse unfit for some reason (physical abuse for example)."

No. That's asinine. If custody defaults to the mother, which I doubt is as true as it once was (and I'll bet dollars to donuts varies not insignificantly from state to state), and does so inequitably, then the thing ought to be really reformed. Plopping down a crude deterent like you've suggested is just stupid.

"I think many women decide to get divorced because they know they will get the house plus continued childcare and alimony. These women see no downside."

Oh, right, because invariably divorced single mothers live the high-life in our country. Anyway, alimony barely exists anymore as the normal case.

Posted by: spacetoast | Oct 31, 2005 12:00:29 AM

Mothers get sole custody about 70% of the time. Joint custody is awarded about 20% of the time, and fathers get sole custody less than 10% of the time. Nearly 40% of fathers get no visitation rights of any kind, despite the fact that biological mothers are more likely to physically abuse their children than natural fathers.

There are plenty of websites out there with this information if you would just google before attacking me.

http://www.wisconsinfathers.org/genderbias.htm

What is your solution to this obvious gender bias?

Posted by: Just Karl | Oct 31, 2005 6:44:50 PM

So, you are arguing that the guys who want promiscuous sex but aren't attractive or skilled enough to obtain it will be forced to either settle for less sex or get into relationships in order to obtain the amount of sex they want from a regular partner? (Presumably, a significant number of men will also lie to numerous women to make them think they're in a relationship so they'll have sex when really the guys just want a lot of partners)

The flip side, of course, is that, if there's a mismatch between the numbers of men who want promiscuous sex and the numbers of women who do, then men overall have an incentive to try to convince more women that they really do want to have promiscuous sex, whether or not these women actually do so. I think part of the argument some conservatives are making, and that some feminists would probably join them in, is that the cultural messages young girls receive do encourage them to think that they must have sex promiscuously to be socially acceptable or normal, or, in some ways, that they don't really have a right to refuse to have promiscuous sex if that is whay men are encouraging them to do.

Now, I don't think that Phoebe or anything else thinks that any woman thinking she has to be promiscuous or have sex with people she doesn't particularly want to is a good thing. THe problem is that the alternatives in contemporary debates are so narrowly defined--either you think it's great for women to have sex promiscuously and everyone who tries to suggest to young girls that there are potential emotional consequences to having a lot of partners is a conservative oppressor, or you think women should keep their legs closed until marriage. This is idiotic. We're doing a crappy job of teaching lots of young girls to respect themselves and that they can make decisions about sexuality that take into account emotional, spiritual and physical risk factors (as well as personal enjoyment) short of the "hell-fire and damnation if you screw before marriage" (Phoebe and others may have gotten the right messages about this growing up, but this is certainly not the case in lots of communities). Kids taught an abstinence only message, unless they get marriage at 16 or something, start to see holes in it and then don't have any intellectual framework for incoroporating any kind of morality or emotional concerns into decisions about sex, so things become a free-for-all. This serves no one well. Except for men who want to demagouge the issue to push a cultural conservative message, and those who simply want to take advantage of women.

Posted by: flippantangel | Oct 31, 2005 7:23:34 PM

Karl, I didn't contend anything about statistical parity. I said the process is fairer than it once was.

Look, you haven't offered any candidate factors of the systemic gender bias you're alleging, and I really hate table-thumping assertions that different outcomes imply bias. I see no more reason to suppose a priori that the asymmetries you cite are evidence of bias, than to suppose that the courts have gotten things right and the numbers just reveal some sort of a "parenting asymmetry" with respect to gender. I don't particularly believe that, but I won't be shamed into assuming it's false either. I don't have a solution to the problem, because it's not clear to me what the problem is, besides that Dads have a lower batting average than you would like. You haven't articulated a problem, and you haven't given any reason for supposing that your cockamamey "solution" produces better outcomes than the status quo.

"...despite the fact that biological mothers are more likely to physically abuse their children than natural fathers."

Ok, I'll google the relative frequency of sexual abuse, and we can have a battle of orthogonal statistics.

I have to go get trashed now. Happy halloween!

Posted by: spacetoast | Nov 1, 2005 1:08:33 AM

The problem is fatherless homes and the ease with which they are created.

The statistics clearly prove that the default position of the courts is to award custody to the mother. In order to be awarded custody, a father must prove to the court that the child would be better off with him. The father is assumed guilty, and the mother innocent. Just because it's not as automatic as it once was does not mean things are equal.

As for your "parenting assymetry" argument, the problems in society caused by children from fatherless homes vs the problems caused by children from motherless homes might purport that the assymetry does not favor the mother's parenting ability. So therefore the only explanation for a court defaulting to the position of maternal custody would be gender bias.

While you are googling the relative frequency of sexual abuse, please be sure to investigate the percentage of abusers who come from fatherless homes.

Posted by: Just Karl | Nov 1, 2005 9:19:07 AM

Why would you think that cows don't like sex?

Posted by: DBL | Nov 1, 2005 10:43:07 AM

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