This week Washington lawmakers took up the historical debate on the Federal Marriage Amendment. But the good Senators appear to be blissfully unaware of the trend that overshadows the controversies surrounding gay marriage — the fact that millions of American men are marital no-shows.
Stripped down to its bare essentials, marriage is an enduring social contract between a consenting man and woman. Before they agree to enter into this sacred union, both parties must have the expectation of benefit. But the disturbing fact is, millions of American men have come to believe that marriage is a losing proposition.
News of the Marriage Strike first began to settle into our national consciousness in 2002. That year Barbara Dafoe Whitehead and David Popenoe of Rutgers University interviewed 60 men to probe their attitudes about marriage. And to their surprise, they discovered that some of these men were flat-out opposed to tying the knot.
So this year, the Rutgers researchers decided to launch a full-scale national survey of single heterosexual men, ages 25—34. These men represent almost 10 million of the nation’s most eligible bachelors. The report was just released last month.
Among those men, 53% said they were not interested in getting married anytime soon — the marriage delayers. That figure alone is cause for concern.
But this is the statistic that every American who wants to strengthen and protect marriage should be worried about: 22% of the men said they had absolutely no interest in finding their Truly Beloved. The report described these guys as "hardcore marriage avoiders."
When almost one-quarter of single men in their prime courting years — that’s two million potential husbands — declare a Marriage Strike, we’re facing an unprecedented social crisis.
Why are these men refusing to marry? Some of their reasons are spelled out in the 2002 report:
"Some men express resentment towards a legal system that grants women the unilateral right to decide to terminate a pregnancy…There is also a mistrust of women who may u2018trap’ men into fathering a child by claiming to be sterilized, infertile or on the pill."
“Many men also fear the financial consequences of divorce…They fear that an ex-wife will ‘take you for all you’ve got’ and that ‘men have more to lose financially than women’ from a divorce.”
Men’s fear of financial ruin following divorce is backed by research. In a soon-to-be-released book, Sanford Braver, PhD of Arizona State University notes that noncustodial fathers often spend considerable money when they are with their kids. But the child support guidelines don’t take this into account.
Plus, the custodial mother reaps a number of tax benefits, such as being able to list the kids as exemptions on her IRS return. Likewise, the mother does not pay any taxes on her child support income, while the father cannot list these payments as deductions. As a result, Braver suggests that the "guidelines have already become too generous" to the point that the father experiences a standard of living that is lower than his ex-wife.
Men have other reasons to resist the romantic urge. Domestic violence laws allow vindictive women to kick hubby out of the house based on the flimsiest of pretexts. And if divorce were to result, he would likely lose custody of his own flesh and blood.
Four decades ago, radical feminists, taking their cue from Marxist-Leninist theory, decreed that marriage was nothing more than gender slavery. Claiming to speak on behalf of American women, feminists set out to radically rework — or even do away with — the age-old social contract of marriage. And women, mesmerized by the ephemeral promise of liberation and empowerment, opted to go along for the ride.
Now, feminists are succeeding beyond their wildest dreams. And women are left to wonder why their Prince Charming is nowhere to be found.
Carey Roberts [send him mail] is a researcher and consultant who tracks gender bias in the mainstream media.