An odd recent New York Times op-ed by sociologist Amy Schalet touts the rise of, as the headline puts it, “Caring, Romantic American Boys.” Schalet, who studied American high school sophomores (along with Dutch ones) for a forthcoming book, reports that “boys [are] behaving more ‘like girls’ in terms of when they lose their virginity,” by which she means they “are becoming more careful and more romantic about their first sexual experiences.”
Maybe her book will flesh out that claim, but in her op-ed the boys sound downright terrified: “American boys often said sex could end their life as they knew it. After a condom broke, one worried: ‘I could be screwed for the rest of my life.’ Another boy said he did not want to have sex yet for fear of becoming a father before his time.”
If “I could be screwed for the rest of my life” is what passes for a romantic sentiment at the New York Times, the editors’ Valentine’s Day cards must be a laugh riot.
Without checking out Amy Schalet’s piece, as I’m pressed for time, I assume she defines “romantic” in some sociological way that makes more sense in context, or else Taranto is just picking up the word from the headline writer and Schalet didn’t use it at all.
But let’s consider that U.S. teen pregnancy rates are lower right now than they’ve been in decades. Well, except in Texas. I’ve been saying for years that if you really want to put a dent in teen pregnancy, stop slut-shaming girls and put some Fear of Real Consequences into boys. Sounds like this is happening, which IMO is a positive development.
It’s called “responsibility,” Taranto.
But Taranto is blaming feminists for making boys “afraid” of girls. “Respect” might be a better word, I say. Taranto continues,
Since most people agree that teenagers should abstain from sex anyway, isn’t the trend Schalet notes a healthy one? Not necessarily. After all, if adults abstain from sex too, mankind is doomed:
Just ask young women about men today. You will find them talking about prolonged adolescence and men who refuse to grow up. I’ve heard too many young women asking, “Where are the decent single men?”
That’s Bill Bennett, in a CNN.com column we criticized two months ago. Our surmise is that the “decent single men” are missing because Schalet’s “romantic” boys do not overcome their fear of sex, a fear whose rational basis is no less powerful after the age of majority. Women’s trouble finding husbands is only part of the problem: Men who aren’t interested in marriage also have less incentive to be productive workers or responsible fathers.
And, of course, there’s the usual bilge about how women can duck parental responsibility through abortion, but if she chooses to carry the baby to term, he’s on the hook to help pay for it. Like the fact of an actual baby that needs taking care of is just a technicality.
The business about boys remaining perpetual adolescents and refusing to commit has been a common complaint for a few decades now. It didn’t just happen. It’s a long-standing trend. It’s even been a common gag on situation comedies since at least the 1980s. Only asshats like Bennett and Taranto could have gone this long without noticing it before.
If you go back a few more decades you find all kinds of books and magazine articles about “frigid” wives. Seems our per-feminist mothers were afraid of sex. And sociologists proposed this was because women spent their adolescents being taught that sex is shameful, and that deeply ingrained attitude couldn’t be turned off by marriage. So fear of sex can be a real problem.
However, the reality is that if you have sex, a baby might result. For way too long males have been allowed to not be concerned. Again, there’s a big difference between being “afraid” of women and sex and being “respectful” of women and consequences. And that respect, and acknowledgment of consequences, might be just what’s needed help some of our perpetual adolescents to grow up.
Probably too late for Taranto, of course.