Monday, April 27, 2009

When Spring Is In The Air

The Washington Post gives us an opinion piece on the importance of women marrying young. Amanda at Pandagon took the piece apart in a nicely surgical manner, and Atrios drily noted that "our elite media seems to love to publish creepy old dudes who are obsessed with what young women spend their time doing."

Now, I haven't checked if Mr. Regnerus indeed is a creepy old dude, but he's certainly not a feminist, so I'm going to call him a creepy old dude. He begins as he plans to go on:

Spring is here, that glorious season when young men's fancies lightly turn to thoughts of love, as the poet Tennyson once suggested. "Lightly" is right.

The average age of American men marrying for the first time is now 28. That's up five full years since 1970 and the oldest average since the Census Bureau started keeping track. If men weren't pulling women along with them on this upward swing, I wouldn't be complaining. But women are now taking that first plunge into matrimony at an older age as well. The age gap between spouses is narrowing: Marrying men and women were separated by an average of more than four years in 1890 and about 2.5 years in 1960. Now that figure stands at less than two years. I used to think that only young men -- and a minority at that -- lamented marriage as the death of youth, freedom and their ability to do as they pleased. Now this idea is attracting women, too.

He's a very outspoken creepy old dude, is he not? He doesn't really care what age men marry. As far as he's concerned, men just get better and more erotically enticing with age (as you can see by reading the whole piece). It's women who go bad, like peaches, losing first that gentle bloom and then those eggs (or whatever peaches have). You better hurry up, girls, if you don't want to be left on the marriage store's shelves.

Just for the sake of facts, have a look at the actual median age at first marriage in the United States, from 1890 to the present time. Notice something odd about that age difference between the spouses? I think Mr. Regnerus is interpreting the data in a rather ham-fisted manner.

Mr. Regnerus's Ode To Spring (And The Sell-By-Date of Ovaries) is not something new. I have heard the very same arguments over and over from the American wingnuts, though the exact form does vary. Often the theme is the harm higher education does to women, leaving them unweddable and all alone, except for cats, or the fear of infertility (which never affects men: neither the fear nor the infertility, it seems). Funnily enough, the theme is never the desire of the wingnuts to have control over female fertility, and it's never men who'd prefer to see very young women eager and willing for marriage, preferably with much older men. It's also funny how these explanations never account for the men who don't get the young peaches as wives, being too young to be really attractive to women (according to the evo-psycho rules, at least). How do these men satisfy their sexual needs? Whatever, I guess.

I'm not attacking this crappy piece as light-heartedly as I should. The reason lies in the eery echoes that still toll in my skull after reading several articles on what the Taliban plans for young women in Pakistan: No education allowed, early marriage obligatory, with no real say over whom the girl is supposed to marry, then a lifetime of incarceration within the house.

This coincidence makes the Regnerus article come across as obscene.