Female Aggression is All About the Menz

A recent NYXs article by John Tierney:  A Cold War Fought By Women (H/T: about 20 HUS readers!) takes a new look at female intrasexual competition, confirming what girls figure out at about the age of three. It’s all about the menz.

According to the 2008 study The Myth of the Alpha Malewomen vie for social dominance via intrasexual competition.

We argue that overt competitiveness and resultant social dominance in females have been traditionally underrated by biologists and psychologists.

Our motivating theoretical perspective suggests that females of high social dominance are less different from dominant males in terms of behaviors and motivations than is commonly believed, and that these socially dominant females enjoy similar social regard as dominant males do, gender stereotypes notwithstanding.

Not surprisingly, dominant or “popular” females mate with dominant males. There’s a popular misconception that mating is easier for women than for men, according to the Times:

[Read more...]


Why Women Should Share Dating Expenses



Kate Taylor Pimps Penn’s Hookup Culture

Kate Taylor’s article describing the hookup culture at Penn has attracted a lot of criticism, most notably from Penn students themselves, including some who participated in her research. They disagree with her characterization of women as fueling a no-strings sex norm, and reject the featured “mysterious A.” as typical of Penn women. They appear perplexed by her motives, which are rather transparent upon inspection. 

However, Taylor’s article is useful in that it does tap into a very real subculture on campuses that offers little support and sometimes actively discourages the formation of relationships in college. Her error is in failing to realize the full array of female attitudes, which offer a nuanced and diverse view of sex and relationships on campus. 

Taylor begins by highlighting the largest obstacle to long-term relationships in college, the peripatetic nature of the contemporary college education:

They envisioned their 20s as a period of unencumbered striving, when they might work at a bank in Hong Kong one year, then go to business school, then move to a corporate job in New York. The idea of lugging a relationship through all those transitions was hard for many to imagine….Moreover, by senior year, the looming prospect of graduation and job applications made many students leery of dating…These women said they saw building their résumés, not finding boyfriends (never mind husbands), as their main job at Penn.

While Taylor exaggerates by focusing on the top 1% here, it’s true that many college students – both women and men – face the threat of a looming expiration date on any serious relationship. Couples are often from different parts of the country, and have limited say in where they may work or live once they graduate. In addition, they prefer to keep their eyes on the prize; they are getting an Ivy League education to maximize their future options and opportunities. Amanda Wolkin, a Penn student who responded to the article in Philadelphia Magazine, remarked:

$50,000+ a year would be a pretty hefty price for a dating service. Sorry, Susan Patton.

It’s no wonder that students feel ambivalent about commitment:

There’s this hypothetical, ‘I would like to be in a relationship, because it’s like comforting and stable and supportive,’ ” a senior, Pallavi, said of her friends’ attitudes. “But then, the conversations that I’ve had, it’s always like, ‘Well, then what do I do when we get to May, because we’re graduating, and so where do we go from there?’ That uncertainty is a huge sort of stop sign.

…Hypothetically, if I were to enter into a serious relationship with someone right now,” she said, “would I honestly say to them: ‘We’re going to spend two years in Philadelphia, and then with some kind of crazy luck I’m going to spend eight years somewhere else? And God knows what you would have been doing for the two years that we were still in Philadelphia — you either would have to up and leave with me, or we’d have to do a long-distance.’ That’s just too much to even ask anyone to commit to.

These concerns are real and shared by a large number of students. However, there are some students, including women, who are clearly not wired for commitment in any case, and here is where Taylor goes seriously off the rails. By generalizing from A., an alpha female who appears to meet the criteria for the Dark Triad cluster of personality traits, she mischaracterizes the culture. Consider the commentary of A., her “typical” female student, as she describes her casual sex arrangement:

“We don’t really like each other in person, sober,” she said, adding that “we literally can’t sit down and have coffee….But there are so many other things going on in my life that I find so important that I just, like, can’t make time, and I don’t want to make time…As A. explained her schedule, “If I’m sober, I’m working.”

“‘I’ve always heard this phrase, ‘Oh, marriage is great, or relationships are great — you get to go on this journey of change together,’ ” she said. “That sounds terrible.

“I don’t want to go through those changes with you. I want you to have changed and become enough of your own person so that when you meet me, we can have a stable life and be very happy.”

“I definitely wouldn’t say I’ve regretted any of my one-night stands. I’m a true feminist. I’m a strong woman. I know what I want.”

“Ten years from now, no one will remember — I will not remember — who I have slept with,” A. said. “But I will remember, like, my transcript, because it’s still there. I will remember what I did. I will remember my accomplishments and places my name is hung on campus.”

As I highlighted in my most recent post, only 5% of college graduates identify strongly as feminists – A. is anything but typical. That doesn’t mean she’s a problem, though. I see no need for hand wringing and fretting that women like A. are present on campus, or that they enjoy their sex drunk and without small talk. A. and her hookup buddy sound perfectly matched –  it’s true assortative mating. Neither would be a suitable relationship partner in any case.

Researchers have found that certain women are prone to seek casual sex from the time they arrive at college. Here is the key finding from a recent study of 500 female freshmen:

Our findings suggest hooking up during the first year of college is influenced by pre-college hookups, personality, behavioral intentions, the social and situational context, family background and substance use patterns – particularly marijuana use.

In my experience speaking with hundreds of college women, a typical sentiment mirrors the one offered by M. to Taylor:

“I could be here for four years and not date anyone,” she said she realized. “Sometimes you are out, and there’s a guy you really are attracted to, and you kind of want to go back home with him, but you kind of have that underlying, ‘I can’t, because I can’t just lose my V-card to some random guy.’ ”

“It’s kind of like a spiral,” she said. “The girls adapt a little bit, because they stop expecting that they’re going to get a boyfriend — because if that’s all you’re trying to do, you’re going to be miserable. But at the same time, they want to, like, have contact with guys.” So they hook up and “try not to get attached.”

In particular, the fear of not having a boyfriend or even a date for the whole four years is one I’ve heard many times. As M. notes, this is precisely how the experimentation with hooking up begins, particularly among freshmen.

Most women find the casual hookup experience unsatisfying – in a recent study of 14,000 college females, women in relationships were much more likely to say they enjoyed their most recent sexual experience “very much,” perhaps because they are far more likely to orgasm than a woman in a casual sexual experience.

How many women in college get to experience relationships? In a 2013 “love” survey of Penn students, about a third of seniors and 20% of freshmen described themselves as “taken.” 


Interestingly, Penn students starting out feel optimistic about entering relationships. They certainly don’t appear to be trying to avoid them:


Arielle Pardes, a Penn student who was interviewed by Taylor, responds in Cosmo:

Plenty of us do have boyfriends, or sex lives that we consider meaningful.  In fact, when Taylor interviewed me, I told her about how I had been seriously dating someone I met at Penn for the past two and a half years (and I still made the Dean’s List). Weirdly, Taylor doesn’t include any examples of girls with boyfriends in her piece, despite the fact that relationships definitely exist on campus.

Another recent college survey found strong evidence of relationships on campus. At Georgetown, 267 women and 250 men responded to a survey about sex and relationships there. 77% of men and 65% of women reported that they were sexually active, defined as having had sexual intercourse within the past year. 

 A full 64 percent of Georgetown students report that they are either “often” or “always” in a committed relationship with their sexual partners. Only 11 percent report engaging in exclusively random hookups, although this is a more common phenomenon among men than women. 

Near the end of her article, Taylor hedges her bets with this caveat:

For all the focus on hookups, campuses are not sexual free-for-alls, at Penn or elsewhere. At colleges nationally, by senior year, 4 in 10 students are either virgins or have had intercourse with only one person, according to the Online College Social Life Survey. Nearly 3 in 10 said that they had never had a hookup in college. Meanwhile, 20 percent of women and a quarter of men said they had hooked up with 10 or more people.

While Pluralistic Ignorance remains a problem, increasingly students are becoming aware that women like A. are outliers, the alpha darlings of the feministas. (Though the feminists have little use for the alpha douchebags who objectify A. and women like her, and who regard her as slutty even as they bang her on request.)

It may not be easy to find a relationship in college – both women and men fear sitting on the sidelines as the years go by. But the desire is there – plenty of women and men want something real, and meaningful, and all that good stuff. 

Let A. and women like her do what they gotta do. Because they probably are well suited to focus primarily on career achievement, their strategy makes sense for them. They probably are the future Sheryl Sandbergs and Melissa Mayers, and more power to them. But when it comes to relationships, they’re a sideshow. 

An editorial in Penn’s student newspaper sums up the student response:

We are not challenging every aspect of Taylor’s article, or declaring any of her anecdotes to be fabricated. Some of us may agree with, or fit, the fraction of responses she included in her article. But in the end, we cannot let her depiction of Penn slide, considering the choices she made in selecting the voices to feature in her story. We refuse to allow Taylor to misrepresent Penn students in this way because we each hold unique experiences we have — or haven’t — had with the “hookup culture.” We can play that game, too.

The truth will out, despite efforts to spin and distort it for political purposes.


Feminism’s New Marketing Strategy

Feminism's elephant in the room

There’s no room left for feminists!

Yesterday’s fascinating piece in the New York Times Styles section, Sex on Campus: She Can Play That Game, Tooreveals much about hookup culture and the choices of young women today. I’ll address it in some detail shortly, but first it’s important to understand the context for the article. It’s the latest salvo in Feminism’s marketing strategy. That may sound a little nutty, a little conspiracy theory-ish, so let me explain. The Women’s Movement was one of the most successful marketing campaigns in history, but feminism has lost its luster among Americans. According to Google Trends, web searches for feminism declined 60% between 2004 and 2014 (est.).

A recent poll by HuffPo/YouGov found:

Who identifies as feminist?


Strong feminist: 6%

Feminist: 14%


Strong feminist: 5%

Feminist: 18%

Ages 18-29:

Strong feminist: 9%

Feminist: 14%

College grad:

Strong feminist: 5%

Feminist: 15%

No doubt feminism is unpopular in part because it is now primarily a platform for sex-positive feminism, which holds minimal appeal for most women. Feminist hands are being wrung. There have been recent attempts to change the message.

Don Draper


Here’s a graphic history of Feminism’s marketing strategy for it’s Sex-Positive Product, a basket in which they have many eggs (click graphic for larger image)


Strategy #4 may be a winner in one sense – it separates out the 20% or so of women likely to enjoy no-strings sex as they aggressively lean in  and fantasize stepping into the shoes now occupied by Sheryl Sandberg. To the extent those women decide later that they want marriage and family, they’ll face longer odds, perhaps, but my guess is that most of them won’t lean that way. 

These are the alpha females, and that’s who feminism serves best. 

In my next post, I’ll discuss the continued bifurcation of the female population, which is feminism’s real legacy. 



The Unspun Truth About Marriage in the U.S.

It’s very difficult to get accurate information about marriage trends in America today. Or at least to get it free of political spin.

In one camp we have feminists exhorting women to prioritize career and delay marriage well into their 30s. They want you to Lean In and preferably skip the babymaking altogether. They’re invested in a narrative that says alternative family arrangements, e.g. “friend families,” are every bit as personally rewarding and beneficial to society as traditional families. They’re not worried about the future of marriage, and they welcome new role definitions.

In the other camp we have social conservatives who believe “the earlier, the better” when it comes to marriage. They don’t see  any value in education for females, who should instead be focusing on fulfilling traditional housewifely duties. They view marriage as being in serious trouble, with rates rapidly declining and the wrong people reproducing.

MRAs are also in the “marriage is dead” camp, being invested in the idea of a marriage strike as a rebuttal to feminism. They exude a sort of sadistic glee when the data is spun as indicating declining male interest in marriage.

Who’s right?

Stephanie Coontz’ latest article, The Distestablishment of Marriagesummarizes much of the data and research of recent years. Her citations, along with other recent findings, support the narrative that marriage rates are not declining (much). Rather, people are postponing marriage, viewing it as a “capstone of adulthood” rather than a launch into adulthood. This means that overall, people will spend fewer years of their lives being married, assuming static life expectancy. Whether you think that is a good or bad thing depends on your point of view. However, I find little support for the claims that men (or women) are reluctant to marry. 

Here are the facts, unspun:

The Marriage Rate Data

Coontz highlights the research of sociologist Philip Cohen, who has noted that the marriage rate has declined 66% (!!!) since 1950. Cohen compares the number of marriages each year in the U.S. per 1,000 unmarried women. In 1950, there were 90 marriages per year, but by 2011 the number had dropped to 31. At the present rate of decline, according to Cohen, no women will be getting married in the year 2043.

Coontz points out that the marriage rate automatically falls as the average age of marriage increases. In 1960, the majority of women were married before the age of 21. Today the average female age at marriage is 27. The table below shows the dramatic shift toward more 30-something marriages occurring during the past 50 years.

% Married after 30 Females Males
1960 8% 13%
Today 33% 40%


In terms of marital longevity, the optimal age for women to marry is 25, which decreases the risk of divorce by 24% compared to women 18 or less.

According to Andrew Cherlin, a professor at Johns Hopkins and author of The Marriage Go-Round, the CDC’s National Survey of Family Growth reflects the postponement:

  % Married, 15-44
2010 40%
1995: 49%
1982: 52%


The decline may have stopped in recent decades, Mr. Cherlin said, as lifetime marriage rates have changed little since the 1990s.

The figure of 4 in 10 women currently married may seem stark, demographers say, but it is simply a reflection of the fact that women are marrying later in the age spectrum. 

…The story, Mr. Cherlin said, is more about postponement than abandonment. Marriage has declined precipitously among young women, both college graduates and women with less education. But most women do eventually marry.

According to the report, 82 percent of women who ended their formal education after graduating from high school will marry by the age of 40. Among women with a college degree the figure is 89 percent.

Female Education and Income

Increasingly, people marry assortatively with respect to education. There are three primary reasons for this:

  1. Individuals often prefer to associate with equally educated partners.
  2. Educational expansion increases contact opportunities for equally educated men and women at an age when young people start to look for partners and form couples.
  3. Women’s changing economic role in dual-earner societies increases the importance of women’s education and labor force attachment.

Until the 1970s, college educated and high earning women were less likely to marry. Today, women born in 1960 or later are as likely to marry and much less likely to divorce.

Young adults with greater earning potential, who can afford the capstone celebration, are still marrying in large numbers, while those with poorer economic prospects are holding off. According to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research, 88 percent of 35- to 44-year-old women with four-year college degrees have married, compared with 79 percent of those without high-school diplomas.

In addition, education is highly correlated with marital success. Consider the four subgroups at the greatest risk for divorce, according to Coontz:

  1. Poor minority women
  2. Women who have given birth OOW
  3. Women raised by a single parent
  4. Women with a history of numerous sex partners

Less educated women are far more likely to be in these subgroups. For example, only 8% of college educated women give birth outside of marriage, while 57% of less educated women do. 

Based on the frequent alarmist articles I read re the rise of single mothers, I was stunned to see Cherlin point out that nearly all OOW births in the U.S. are to cohabitating couples:. 

Young adults without college degrees are increasingly likely to put off marriage and have their first children in cohabiting relationships, sometimes years before they marry. Nearly all of the increase in childbearing outside of marriage in the last two decades is from births to cohabiting couples, most without college degrees, rather than to single mothers.

Coontz points out the for most of the 20th century, cohabitation predicted divorce. However, since 1996 no correlation is evident, and cohabiting with definite plans to marry decreases divorce rates, compared to direct entry into marriage. 

In addition, education predicts female fidelity, according to the National Marriage Project:

  Marital Infidelity
College 13%
HS or some college 19%
HS dropout 21%


According to sociologist Leslie McCall, income homogamy is also becoming more prevalent (emphasis hers):

As the marriage rates of most women declined, the average marriage rate of women with high pay increased  — from 58 percent in 1980 to 64 percent in 2010.  The most economically successful women are now more likely to be married than are other women, whereas the reverse was true in 1970.

Second, top-earning women often form dual-income households with top-earning men. So high-earning women and high-earning men double their earnings advantage when they marry, while the lower the earnings of a woman, the more likely she is, if she is married at all, to be with a low-earning man. The rise of income homogamy in marriage reinforces the widening gap in earnings.

Coontz believes that increasingly, men seek a spouse who will “pull her weight” financially. Economist Gary Burtless of The Brookings Institution does not believe that male preferences have changed, but that the environmental incentives have:

The tendency of like to marry like has remained roughly unchanged over time. What have changed are the labor-market opportunities and behavior of women.

In fact, Millennial men and women expect virtually the same things from men and women in marriage:

good spouse


According to Pew, Millennials still value marriage highly:

Even though their generation has been slow to marry and have children, most Millennials look forward to doing both. Among 18- to 29-year-olds who are not currently married and have no children, 70% say they want to marry and 74% say they want to have children. Among those who have never married and have no children, 66% want to marry and 73% want to have children.

(Note: Millennials are currently only age 8-28. There is little data on actual marriage among this generation. Additionally, the Millennial data is not segregated by education.)

Of course, none of this data says anything about whether you will marry, when you might do so, or with whom. My biggest concern is not decreasing interest in marriage, which I suspect will thrive, albeit in changed form. I’m more worried about the lopsided sex ratio in college. That’s going to result in a shortage of “marriageable” men, ready to set that capstone on adulthood. 

The optimal strategy for women who wish to marry well in their mid- to late 20s and stay that way is clear.

  • Earn a college degree in a subject with concrete, marketable skills.
  • Avoid incurring debt.
  • Say no to casual sex.
  • Dedicate yourself to the search for a life partner in your early 20s at the latest.
  • Filter husband prospects aggressively for character, intelligence and drive, as well as the explicit desire to marry.

 So few women are smart and strategic about marriage that simply following these five rules will put you way ahead of the competition.