The Upside-Down World of James Taranto

This is unintentionally funny:

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 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.

7 thoughts on “The Upside-Down World of James Taranto

  1. Dear God, it’s like he didn’t even read what he’s quoting. Maybe a little typography will help: “…there is reason to believe that teenage boys are becoming more CAREFUL and more romantic about their first sexual experiences.” “I could be screwed for the rest of my life” is not what passes for a romantic sentiment, it’s what passes for being CAREFUL.

  2. Basically Taranto is dismayed that there are 15 year old boys who are far more mature than he’ll ever be. All Amy Schalet is doing is citing some data suggesting that teenage boys are having, or at least reporting, less sex than two decades ago, and she’s trying to figure out why. Rather than making any assumptions about what’s going on, she hits upon the ingenious stratagem of interviewing teenage boys. Taranto, meanwhile, doesn’t see why she would waste her time when everybody already knows it’s because of feminism

  3. Maybe the sexual experiences of teenaged boys and girls haven’t changed so much as the way they now answer questions about the subject. Maybe they just don’t feel the shame and pressure to lie about it as much these days. If this were to be true, the stats for girls’ sexual activity will likely increase and boys’ will likely decrease.

  4. Not necessarily. After all, if adults abstain from sex too, mankind is doomed:

    Seriously? A professional writer actually used a transition like that in a piece intended for publication? Was he showing off his skill at a new rhetorical trope, the strawman ad absurdum?

    Isn’t going outside for fresh air a good thing? Not necessarily. After all, if evil space aliens invade, you’ll be the first ones zapped by ray guns.

    Isn’t the trend toward improved food safety a healthy one? Not necessarily. After all, if we eat all the food, mankind is doomed!

    (OK, I admit, coming up with these things makes you chuckle and it’s kind of amusing, but that’s not an excuse for sharing them in a published commentary.)

    I think we can all agree that a small marginal increase in the level of concern some American teenage boys have for the consequences of their actions poses no threat whatsoever to the continued ability of the human race to follow one of its primary biological drives.

    The good thing about Taranto’s absurdism is that it signals that there is no actual point in eviscerating the logic of his detour into male/female legal power imbalances, because he isn’t actually writing a respectable, thoughtful commentary at all.

    He’s basically just farting online.

  5. Also from the article:
    “Given that nature imposes the physical burden of pregnancy on the female of the species, that sounds counterintuitive. And it’s possible that some of the boys in the survey, mindful of what Schalet quotes another sociologist as calling “the stigma of virginity,” are rationalizing away their lack of success with girls by chalking it up to prudence.”

    My bet is that Taranto was “prudent” until well into his 20’s, when he realized that the only chance he had of ever getting laid was by handing out pardons in a women’s prison.

    And, after all, this WAS written in the WSJ – so what can you expect except the ramblings of minds lost to anger, jealousy, sociopathy and syphilis?

  6. So he’d rather 15-year-olds were out there engaging in joyous copulation unfettered by any awareness of consequences and divorced from relationships? Wait! Wasn’t that a Republican talking point some years ago? I really think Obama should come out in favor of breathing. That would put an end to so many Republicans! At least the unthinking knee-jerk crowd! Can’t you just see the Faux commentators reporting on the new “non-breathing-rights-assertion” party? The interviews would be painful to listen to, but they wouldn’t last too long! I also think Obama should come out in favor of job creation, but let’s just go for one thing at a time.

  7. So let me get Taranto’s twisted logic straight:

    (1) Teenage boys sowing their wild oats, having sex with girsl is OK,


    (2) teenage girls having sex is bad (= “slut”),


    (3) in order for teenage boys to have sex with girls, they would have to have sex… um… with girls.

    …and to top it all off, if the girl gets pregnant, abortion is a big no-no.

    The bottom line: boys should get to do whatever THEY please, sowing their wild oats, all consequences be damned, while the girl should just shut up and taking, shouldering all those consequences. S.O.S.

    And if you find any of Taranto’s logic questionable, that makes you an “evil feminist”…? What an idiotic barbarian.

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