Several of the commenters on Don’t play hard to get argued that Robert Stacy McCain and I aren’t really in disagreement regarding the post that I responded to. While we are in agreement on many points*, there is an important difference in our perspective.
I’ll start with our agreement. McCain quotes the Vanity Fair article Tinder and the Dawn of the “Dating Apocalypse” where a player named Marty describes his own hookup strategy:
Marty, who prefers Hinge to Tinder (“Hinge is my thing”), is no slouch at “racking up girls.” He says he’s slept with 30 to 40 women in the last year: “I sort of play that I could be a boyfriend kind of guy,” in order to win them over, “but then they start wanting me to care more … and I just don’t.”
McCain points out that Marty is playing the promiscuity game to his own best advantage, and that women are foolish to play this man’s game:
See? Marty understands the game he’s playing. Pretend that you’re emotionally available — “a boyfriend kind of guy” — and “racking up girls” via online hook-up sites is not difficult nowadays for any reasonably attractive young man. The more a guy succeeds at that cynical game, however, the lower his estimation of women in general, because each “win” for him just proves how easily girls can be deceived. No amount of feminist “consciousness raising” can change the fundamental reality of human nature. Casual sex is a game in which guys have a decisive advantage, and therefore any girl who plays that game is a fool.
McCain is absolutely right; men and women have different preferred strategies for promiscuity. Marty is doing what he can to tilt the outcome in his own favor, and feminists are foolish when they teach women to be promiscuous according to men’s rules.
Women are much better suited to a different form of promiscuity, which is serial monogamy. With serial monogamy women retain the freedom which comes from sex without commitment, but gain the status which comes from a man publicly declaring his investment in her. This missing status is the part of the modern dating environment the women in the Vanity Fair article are complaining about the most:
“New York guys, from our experience, they’re not really looking for girlfriends,” says the blonde named Reese. “They’re just looking for hit-it-and-quit-it on Tinder.”…
“There is no dating. There’s no relationships,” says Amanda, the tall elegant one. “They’re rare. You can have a fling that could last like seven, eight months and you could never actually call someone your ‘boyfriend.’
The women complain that they feel pressured by feminists to approach promiscuity from the perspective which favors the man, instead of the perspective that favors women:
“Sex should stem from emotional intimacy, and it’s the opposite with us right now, and I think it really is kind of destroying females’ self-images,” says Fallon.
“It’s body first, personality second,” says Stephanie.
“Honestly, I feel like the body doesn’t even matter to them as long as you’re willing,” says Reese. “It’s that bad.”
“But if you say any of this out loud, it’s like you’re weak, you’re not independent, you somehow missed the whole memo about third-wave feminism,” says Amanda.
McCain points out that following feminists in this regard is foolish:
No, ma’am. You got the memo. It’s just that you seem to be smart enough to realize that the memo was completely wrong. What feminist ideology tells young women they should do — being sexually “empowered” and expecting this empowerment to lead to “equality” in their relationships — is the exact opposite of what common sense based on an actual knowledge of human nature would advise them to do.
The accumulated wisdom of centuries still holds true. If you want to be loved, be lovable, and if you want to be respected, be respectable. As I tell young women, don’t just “play hard to get,” be hard to get. A girl who acts like trash thereby forfeits the right to complain that guys treat her like trash.
But the very next sentence is where McCain gets it wrong. He frames women’s preferred form of promiscuity as more moral than men’s preferred form of promiscuity, confusing serial monogamy with commitment:
One of the worst things feminism has done is to attack the sexual “double standard” by encouraging women to lower their standards, to screw around heedlessly and to view short-term “relationships” as an acceptable substitute for actual commitment.
Serial monogamy has no moral advantage over “hit it and quit it”. There is also no commitment involved, only public displays of investment and perhaps romantic love. There is an inescapable logic to the idea that when playing a destructive game, one where someone is going to get hurt, playing by rules which maximize your own chances of coming out on top makes sense. But this doesn’t confer morality, it is purely practical advice on how to behave immorally. Yet very few in our society understand this.
Mixed in with this is the lie that women are wired to “commit”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our divorce revolution is driven almost exclusively by women feeling “trapped in marriage”. Likewise, the push to delay marriage is coming from young women far more than young men. Young women are the rock-stars of the sexual marketplace, and as such they are the ones who (collectively) determine the rules of the road. McCain understands this, which is why he is coaching them to not listen to the feminists who want them to play the promiscuity game in a way that puts them in a disadvantage.
The problem is the lie that McCain is telling women (the same lie our society at large is telling them) is even more harmful than the one feminists are telling women. Women are extremely vulnerable to believing that promiscuity on their terms is inherently moral. Reinforcing this delusion is cruel, and we have an obligation to speak the truth here. Sexual morality requires true lifetime commitment. Everything else is (pick your word) fornication or promiscuity. Misusing sex and love is not more moral than misusing sex alone.
In McCain’s defense, this is the lie we have all been told, and very few would question it. But this is also why it needs to be called out.
*Robert Stacy McCain is a thoughtful writer on the topic of feminism, and I enjoy reading his blog. I encourage my readers to click on the link to his blog from my blogroll to see for themselves.