Perhaps for that reason, or perhaps because sex outside marriage is now so readily available no one need buy the cow, the percentage of married people ages 35 to 44 has declined precipitously over the last 40 years: from 88 percent of men and 87 percent of women in 1960 to 66 percent of men and 67 percent of women in 2005. Since first marriages after age 45—when a woman’s fertile years are finished—are statistically rare, almost everyone who is ever going to marry is already married by that age. The percentage of children growing up in fatherless families—a chief risk factor for social pathologies—has risen concomitantly: from 9 percent of all households with children in 1960 to 26 percent today. On the plus side of the ledger, these negative trends don’t affect the college-educated as severely. College-educated women have significantly higher rates of marriage and lower rates of divorce than women without college degrees. The bad news is that such women, who tend to marry late, have far fewer children. In 2004, according to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, 24 percent of women ages 40 to 44 with bachelor’s degrees were childless, in contrast to 10 percent of women without a high school diploma. Marriage is slowly becoming a preserve of the elite, who pay a price in severely reduced fertility.
Our ancestors probably had their first sexual experiences soon after reaching sexual maturity. They would pass through a sequence of relationships of varying durations over the course of a lifetime. Some relationships might have lasted no more than a few days. . . . Many Pleistocene mothers probably had boyfriends. But each woman’s boyfriend may not have been the father of any of her offspring. . . . Males may have given some food to females and their offspring, and may have defended them from other men, but . . . anthropologists now view much of this behavior more as courtship effort than paternal investment.
That’s a pretty fair description of mating life today in the urban underclass and the meth-lab culture of rural America. Take away the offspring, blocked by the Pill and ready abortion, and it’s also a pretty fair description of today’s prolonged singles scene. In other words, we have met the Stone Age, and it is us.
Living in the New Paleolithic can be hard on women, many of whom party on merrily until they reach age 30 and then panic. “They’re at the peak of their beauty in their early 20s—they’re luscious—but the guys their age don’t look as good, so they say to themselves: ‘Why do I want to get married?,’ ” notes Kay Hymowitz, a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal, who is writing a book about the singles crisis. “Then they get to age 28, 29, and their fertility goes down and they’re not quite so luscious. But the guys their age are starting to make money, they look better, they’ve got self-assurance, and they’ve also got the pick of the 23-year-olds.”
Some argue, though, that it is actually beta men who are the greatest victims of the current mating chaos: the ones who work hard, act nice, and find themselves searching in vain for potential wives and girlfriends among the hordes of young women besotted by alphas. That is the underlying message of what is undoubtedly the most deftly written and also the darkest of the seduction-community websites, the blog Roissy in DC. Unlike his confreres, Roissy does not sell books or boot camps, and his site carries no ads. He also blogs anonymously, or at least tries to. (Purported photos of Roissy circulating on the Internet show a tall unshaven man in his late 30s with piercing blue eyes and good, if somewhat dissolute, looks.) The pseudonym Roissy derives from the chateau that was the setting for sadomasochistic orgies in The Story of O, the French pornographic classic of the 1960s which featured a beautiful young woman who couldn’t get enough of being violated and flagellated by masterful men. Roissy maintains that he is not an S&M-fetishist but picked the pseudonym because “chicks dig power.”