Oversexed and Undermarried

Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy Mark RegnerusOxford University Press, 2017; 280 pages, $29.95 Marriage has been on a steep, decades-long decline in the United States. Some have worried about this decline; others have simply attributed it to inevitable changes. Marriage is outdated, they say, soon to be replaced by cohabitation or other forms of companionship.  But the reality is that many, many young Americans still claim they want marriage—eventually, and with the right person—but that it seems ever further out of reach. Why? Much has to do with the state of American men. As Hanna Rosin has pointed out in The End of Men, the American male is, compared to American women, undereducated, underemployed, and unwilling to commit to a lifelong partnership. What happened? What few are willing to say outright is the simple truth that Mark Regnerus, no stranger to conflict, is more than happy to point out in his latest book, Cheap Sex. Regnerus writes, “My central claim in this book is that cheap sex is plentiful—it’s flooding the market in sex and relationships—and that this has had profound influence on how American men and women relate to each other, which in turn has spilled over into other domains.”  This is controversial stuff, because we like to believe nowadays that men and women are essentially the same. Men like sex, and so do women, just as much and some even more. Regnerus argues that this idea of sameness, particularly in the pursuit of sex, is a delusion. There was once such a thing as the “marriage market,” in which men valued attractiveness and sex, and women valued stability, commitment, and earning potential. Sex was the “bargaining tool.” It used to be that the only way to legitimately access sex was within the bounds of marriage, because sex outside of those bounds was too risky. It brought shame, social stigmatization, disabling diseases, but most importantly, babies. And no one
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