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Huffington Post on the Male “Need” to Cheat

commitment, family, MARRI, marriage, men, monogamy, pornography, sexuality No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

The Huffington Post’s Vicki Larson writes:

Monogamy is failing men.

Not only is it failing them, but it’s a “socially compelled sexual incarceration” that can lead to a life of anger and contempt, or so says Eric Anderson, an American sociologist at England’s University of Winchester and author of the provocative new book, The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love, and the Reality of Cheating (Oxford University Press, $49.99).

Cheating, however, serves men pretty well. An undiscovered affair allows them to keep their relationship and emotional intimacy, and even if they’re busted it’s a lot easier than admitting that they wanted to screw someone else in the first place, he writes.

In his study of 120 undergraduate men, 78 percent of those who had a partner cheated, “even though they said that they loved and intended to stay with their partner.” Contrary to what we may think, most men aren’t cheating because they don’t love their partner, he says; they cheat because they just want to have sex with others. And society shouldn’t pooh-pooh that.

Monogamy’s stronghold on our beliefs—what he calls monogamism—brings ostracism and judgment to anyone who questions or strays from its boundaries. That doesn’t make sense to Anderson, who wonders why we stigmatize someone who has a fling more than couples who divorce—throwing away a marriage rich in history and love, upsetting their kids’ lives—over something like sex.

Monogamy isn’t the only “proper” way to be in a relationship, and he says it’s time that society finds “multiple forms of acceptable sexual relationship types—including sexually open relationships—that coexist without hierarchy or hegemony.” It’s especially important for today’s young men, for whom monogamous sex seems more boring than in generations past because of easy premarital sex and pornography.

I’m dubious, to say the least, about Anderson’s research. His study consisted of interviews with 120 undergraduate males, a rather bizarre sample for a study of monogamy and commitment. The article itself is too long to address point by point, so I’ll say just two things:

1. Anderson writes, “Humans are largely lousy at controlling our bodies’ desires. We say we don’t want to eat that Snickers bar, but we also really do want to eat it. We eat it, we feel guilty about it, and afterwards we promise ourselves not to eat one again; but we nonetheless do.” His analogy is positively ludicrous. Marriage is not a diet. Marriage is a covenant. And whereas the occasional candy bar will not destroy the human body, the violation of the necessary marital commitment to fidelity will absolutely destroy a marriage. Furthermore, the difficulty that self-denial poses is no reason to completely eschew the discipline of fidelity. And though Anderson rationalizes that the sex is “just sex” and not an emotional relationship, the reality is that the divorce of sexual relationship from emotion and intimacy is deadening, when it is not impossible.

2. “Premarital sex” is, as the author says, “easy” to get. Pornography damages not only individuals’ perceptions of monogamous, married sexual relationships, it damages actual people. (For more on the harms of pornography, see the MARRI synthesis paper “The Effects of Pornography on Individuals, Marriage, Family, and Community”). The fact remains, though, that married persons enjoy the most sexual fulfillment. Don’t believe me? Check the following resources: Robert T. Michael, et al., Sex in America: A Definitive Survey (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1994), 124-129; Edward O. Laumann, et al., The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 364, table 10.5; Andrew Greeley, Faithful Attraction: Discovering Intimacy, Love and Fidelity in American Marriage (New York: Tom Doherty Association, 1991), see chapter 6 (as cited in Glenn T. Stanton, “Why Marriage Matters”).

What do you think? Do men need to cheat? Is monogamy an unrealistic and unnatural demand to apply to a partner?

It Takes a Family Structure

abortion, family, fathers, marriage, men No comments

By Julia Kiewit, Staff

There are many factors that influence an individual’s views on life and family, particularly the sense of duty that men have when it comes to children. One study has found that men who father a child out of wedlock have varying responses to that child, based on their own family of origin. If the father grew up in a family that was on welfare, he is less likely to marry the baby’s mother.1 However, if he came from a family that did not need to receive welfare, he is more likely to marry her. Additionally, marriage makes a difference in deciding whether or not to keep a child, and presumably affects the amount of responsibility men are willing to accept. Married couples are much less likely to seek an abortion compared to other relationships. A Guttmacher survey found that cohabiting women accounted for 20.2% of women having an abortion (but make up only 5.8 of women of reproductive age). In contrast, married women only accounted for 18.4% of all induced abortions (but make up 49.9% of reproductive aged women).2

Region is also a predictor of a man’s response to life. The Intergenerational Panel Study of Parents and Children found that 18-year-olds who said that religion was important in their lives were less supportive of abortion, as well as premarital sex, than their peers who said religion was less important to them.3

MARRI’s series “Mapping America” looks at the effects of marriage and religion on various sociological outcomes, including the likelihood of fathers encouraging an abortion.
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1 Madeline Zavodny, “Do Men’s Characteristics Affect Whether a Nonmarital Pregnancy Results in Marriage?” Journal of Marriage and the Family 61 (August 1999): 764-773.
2 S.K. Henshaw and K Kost, “Abortion Patients in 1994-1995: Characteristics and Contraceptive Use,” Family Planning Perspectives 28 (1996): 140.
3 L.D. Pearce and A. Thornton, “Religious Identity and Family Ideologies in the Transition to Adulthood,” Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (2007): 1227-1243.

A Few Good Men

crime, education, marriage, men, religion, women, youth No comments
By Julia Kiewit, Staff
A recent Wall Street Journal article highlights the plight that many—if not most–young black women face: the literal dearth of potential marriage partners. Ralph Richard Banks, himself a black man and law professor at Stanford University, spent time traveling the country, interviewing black women to hear their story and why black women have fewer marriage options. He ultimately concluded that there is a lack of competent and suitable black men to go with the numbers of educated and successful black women.

The two main problems with black men, Banks concludes, are incarceration and lack of education. Of the more than two million incarcerated men in the U.S., 40% of them are African-American, with more than 10% of this number made up of black men in their 20s and 30s.

Educationally (and, in turn, economically), black men also fall behind black women. According to Banks, by the time graduation rolls around, black women outnumber men 2 to 1. And for graduate school in 2008, there were 125,000 African-American women enrolled—compared to 58,000 men.

That there are too few black men who are the social equals of black women answers the “why” of the marriage situation. But there is a further, deeper reason behind why there are too few marriageable black men. This answer goes into the families of the black men themselves.

According to the General Social Survey, youths from always-married families are only 10% likely to be picked up or charged by the police, compared with 17% of youths from non-married families. Children from always-married families are only 13% likely to steal something, compared with 22% that only live with one parent, and 18.8% who live with never-married parents. Similarly, according to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, children who live with two married parents are 7.7% likely to shoplift, compared to 12% of children who live with only one parent.

Children from always-married families do better in school, as well, with a combined math and English GPA of 2.9, compared to 2.5 GPA of children from never-married families.

The religious attendance of families also makes a difference for children’s educational attainment. MARRI’s synthesis paper “Religious Practice and Educational Attainment” looks at the tremendous benefits of religion for education.

If children from married, two-parent families are less likely to commit crime, and more likely to have better educational outcomes, it is no wonder that the black family is falling behind. Only 17.4% of black children grew up in married, two-parent homes (compared with the national average of 45.4%; for comparison, 62% of Asians grow up in married, two-parent families). Statistically, these 17% of black children are the ones who will have the best life outcomes, but it is no wonder that there are so many black women looking for husbands. While the article suggests interracial marriage as a temporary solution for black women, if things are going to turn around for the long haul, the simple recipe is parents who keep their promises to one another.