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None of this means that men universally seek to avoid real, sustained relationships.Enough of the exaggerations; the data show marriage in retreat, not utter collapse.But sex that yields babies — and then marriage — is not sex. Akerlof, Yellen, and Katz famously detail contraception’s role in curbing “shotgun” marriages.In other words, regular sex meant eventual pregnancy, which enjoined men’s commitment and curbed women’s educational and career trajectory. In the sexual exchange model — which is and will remain social reality — men now need to provide less to their partners to access sex (because it’s cheaper).(More education is consistently associated with recent sexual frequency among young men, even after obvious controls, including marital status.) On the other hand, only one-in-three high-school-graduate men report pornography use in the past week, compared with 61 percent of college-educated men and 46 percent of those with graduate degrees.(This fits the “replacement” theory of sex and masturbation I’ve written about elsewhere.) Lest we presume these are uneducated braggarts overly subject to social-desirability bias, they do not report far greater numbers of lifetime sex partners: Only 11 percent of high-school-graduate men report more than 15 partners.That which enabled women to finish college, have careers, and delay childbearing — all the while navigating relationships — gave men more say over those relationships, especially over the timing of first sex within them, and now increasingly .In this exchange, England and I debate the relative role that the wider “jobs” economy and the sexual economy have played in the post-1970s marriage slump.
The advent and uptake of the pill was “the biggest game-changer” for relationships and marriage in the 1960s and 1970s, as England notes, and not just for women.And women require men’s resources less than before because the pill has enabled them to finish college and have careers.What’s happening is what we should expect when such a revolutionary technology is injected into the relationship economy.At best, porn will augment — or compete with — sex, and stall marriage. It’s the air we breathe — the culture of the mating market — and there’s no variability in that unless you opt out altogether (which is very difficult).At worst, sexual technology threatens to undermine coupled sex altogether. We have a historically new system that gave women control of their fertility at the cost of men’s having a greater say over (1) their ability to have sex in less committed relationships and (2) the pace at which those unions proceed.
We agree that the most pronounced decline in marriage is among those without college degrees. I will presume from her argument (and logic) that women consider such men less marriageable — bad bets — because the prospect of future earnings still matters to women.