That’s why guys get married, so they can stop wooing. It’s exhausting to woo, you woo, you woo, and you woo, and then you’ve got to go: Whoa!
–Paul Reiser, Mad About You
Badger made an excellent point in his post Cattiness and the un-selected-man. He pointed out that when women like the Gizmodo blogger shred a date they deem unworthy they raise the risk level men perceive in traditional dating:
It’s not enough for a man to be politely rejected and sent on his way; you have to be humiliated, placed in the virtual stocks so that the world knows the insufferable wrong you’ve inflicted on her by not being good enough for her dreams.
…it only has to happen once before a guy replays the movie in his head every time he considers approaching a woman, and oftentimes decides not to even when he might be slated for success.
What women like Alyssa Bereznak are doing by punishing men they deem unworthy is raising the searching costs associated with finding a mate in the traditional way. They don’t perceive a loss to themselves by doing this because searching costs are born almost exclusively by men when women are young (at least under the traditional model). It isn’t just the threat of nuclear rejection which has raised the cost of traditional dating for men however, it is the additional uncertainty which men experience as women move more and more towards full fledged choice addiction.
Women traditionally were able to bask in the courtship process because they were the center of attention and men bore the financial, emotional, and social costs of the selection process. What men typically find grueling women find delightful. However, in cultures with traditional courtship men perceive the rewards to be high (lifetime commitment). In addition, in such cultures the risks are moderated by rules of decorum and formal and informal pressure on the woman to minimize the number of men she allows to court her. While the average woman might wish to be courted by 50 men, the average man is in no position to bear the expense of courting 50 women in order to find a wife.
Ever since the beginning of the sexual revolution women have perceived the incentive to prolong courtship in one way or another. The old rules no longer restricted them from extending the courtship period or required them to keep their lifetime commitment, and many men initially continued to play by the old set of rules. This is at the very heart of choice addiction.
Badger astutely points out that the changing sexual marketplace leaves unattached men who are interested in women with two main options. Option 1 is to continue bearing all of the risk and costs by dating in the traditional way, even though the costs are much higher and the rewards (in terms of commitment) are now much lower:
…take the initiative to set up a date doing something you hope she might enjoy, go on the actual date (hope she doesn’t flake), talk to her, try to figure out what she’s like and whether you’d be interested in a long-term partnership (and oh by the way pick up the bill with no expectation of her investment), and hope you don’t slip up and say something she’ll sneer at and have to start all over with somebody else. Then do the whole thing all over again two, three, four times until you no longer have to convince her every time you want to go on a date with her. She might hold off on sex saying “I don’t want to rush it because you’re so special,”when you suspect she had a one-night stand with an Axl Rose impersonator a month before she met you.
At best, you’ll suffer a long series of rejections – mostly silent ones, where your online messages go mostly unread and unreturned, your texts and phone calls fall on deaf ears and your invitations for follow-up dates go into the aether never to be accepted, never really knowing what straw broke her back.
But men have another choice aside from continuing to play by the old rules while women play by the new. Badger describes how men can use game to limit their searching costs:
Pursue a pump-and-dump lifestyle. Go hard into PUA game praxis, building a toolbox of seductive skills in accordance with your God-given personality while you emotionally firewall yourself from the betatizing effects of romance. Pluses of this strategy:
Within five minutes, you’ll know if she has rejected you out of hand.
Within thirty minutes you’ll have a pretty good idea if she finds you attractive.
Within two or three meetings (Mystery posits a seven-hour acculturation period) she’ll sleep with you, if she’s going to sleep with you at all.
Roosh advises this strategy for men in his post The No-Dating Challenge For Intermediate Players:
For three months, I don’t want you to go on a single date with a girl you haven’t already had sex with.
I undertook this challenge last summer, and the results were telling: I got more bangs with the prettiest girls than any other summer in DC. Remember that I did all this without having to seduce a girl on a date (the “dates” I went on were with girls I had already defiled).
Note that in this scenario men are both reducing their own investment as well as forcing the woman to bear some of the searching costs. Women who don’t put out in a short period of time are written off by the man, who continues on his low investment search. Putting out becomes a sort of Sexual Market Place (SMP) earnest money, proving that the woman has some, er, well, skin in the game. I suspect the fact that women now bear some of the searching costs is what bothers traditional conservative women so much. It is bad enough that men come in with a lower initial investment, but not allowing women to string along man after man basking in the attention of being eternally chased is unacceptable!
Yet no one seems to come right out and say it. What is striking about the loss of courtship is that:
- It is largely un-mourned.
- It was lost by the choices and actions of women, not men.
I suspect there is a relationship between 1 and 2 above, plus a heavy dose of denial. Women fixated on the opportunity to string out the courtship process like an addict looking at a crack pipe. And as with crack, the first hits were free. Young women are diving enthusiastically into the hookup market because while they aren’t getting the full courtship deal, they are getting the excitement of attention from the most popular men.
Not all women looking to extend the courtship process choose to engage in hookups however. On the other end of the spectrum we see religious women saving their virginity (or sort of virginity) through their late twenties and even early thirties. They proudly wear the traditional mantel even though in a traditional society they would be considered old maids for extending their search for a husband for so long. Some of these women are simply too picky and being unrealistic about their own league. Others are also extending the process because at some level they enjoy the process more than they anticipate enjoying being married to their suitor. Other women marry and enjoy the attention, validation, and intense investment which comes with making a lifelong commitment, only to eject from the marriage when they become bored.
Whether the woman is a forever chaste damsel, carousel rider, or divorcée however, she will almost always grow exhausted by her own choice addiction. We hear most often from divorcées, who start with the assumption that their past failure to keep a lifetime promise won’t deter would be suiters from seeing them as a good potential investment for courtship. The blog Post Divorce Chronicles probably sums this frame of mind up best with the post Divorce: No Stigma – Just Four Rs (H/T slwerner):
The ideas that have been instilled in society that people who are divorced lack commitment and should feel shame and guilt need to be thrown out. There is no stigma in being divorced – instead, it should be considered an exciting period of rebirth…
Before you were married, you were single. Now that you are no longer married you are “re-singled.” This is where you have come full circle in the life that you were meant to lead.
What a wonderful marketing pitch! Divorce your husband and become re-singled, so men can start courting you again! But as with anything else often reality is different than the exciting brochure. Divorced women and women dating past their early 20s are finding that the men they want to date aren’t willing to foot the searching costs. All of a sudden finding a new mate goes from a process to be savored to an exhausting one. Divorced blogger Big Little Wolf describes this in her post Page 19:
You coffee date which really ought to be a verb because there’s Coffee Dating at Starbucks and Coffee Dating at Borders and Coffee Dating at Starbucks again because by this time the Bulgarian Barista knows you by name and the Poet Barista knows you from Open Mike Night and you feel safer with this parade of coffee dates at “your” Starbucks and finally one of the dates leads to a little something and it’s been years since anything and you’re relieved that something still works and then there’s a flurry of somethings.
You weary of that pretty quickly because you’re not a kid and you have kids and it isn’t really your thing and you’re out of babysitting money anyway and losing your taste for Double Venti Skinny Lattes.
Of course, now the kids fly off for their dad’s wedding and you tell yourself Okay, maybe he’ll leave me alone…
She tells us in a separate post that it wasn’t always like this:
Once upon a time, I had a life as a woman. You know. Dates. Romance. Sex. And there were tokens of affection – little notes and cards, love letters, and even flowers. Signs of wooing, and eventually, love.
She isn’t the only divorcée to mourn the loss of courtship. Juliet Jeske describes how men are no longer willing to bear the cost of courtship in her Huffington Post article Dating After Divorce In a City of Sluts (H/T unclefred). Serial monogamy stops being so enticing when women bear the searching costs:
I have made failed attempts of hooking up with partners for something casual, but every time the results have been disastrous. For the most part I am let down by an experience that was supposed to be fun, and which ends up making my life more complicated….
So I realized, I am not this person, I need to be true to myself so I went back to my committed relationship roots. But no matter how much I keep trying to go for a relationship, the hook-up scenario keeps rearing its ugly head. I might start talking to a guy only to see him leave with a woman who has made it perfectly clear that a hook-up is about to happen. A situation I like to call survival of the sluttiest.
We see the same scenario described in the New York Post article
Cheap dates How the ‘price’ of sex has dropped to record lows:
researchers found a full 30% of young men’s sexual relationships involve no romance at all — no wooing, dating, goofy text messaging. Nothing. Just sex.
While this starts off as exciting and fun for young women, before very long they are no longer at the apex of their sexual power and hooking up stops being so appealing. By this time however, it is too late to go back and effectively pursue a traditional strategy. They may find a sucker willing to pay filet mignon prices for ground chuck, but these aren’t the same class of men they could have attracted for marriage or a LTR when they were younger.
What makes all of this more interesting is the slow motion changes to the SMP post sexual revolution. Men have been slow to adjust to women’s changing strategies, and likewise women have been slow to acknowledge that men’s behavior has finally changed. The whole process has taken decades. While hamster driven denial is a stubborn trait, eventually most women will have to acknowledge that men have adjusted and their dream of forever courtship is once again impossible. As this occurs I would expect women to more and more value their existing relationships. Women who overplayed their marriage hand may decide they are lucky to have a LTR at all, especially considering the cost of reentering the SMP looking for another man; serial monogamy just suffered a price shock. I don’t think many women are at this place of understanding yet, but over time it seems all but inevitable.
Flowers image by Ian Muttoo.