Back in the early ’60’s, the TV show The Twilight Zone ran an episode entitled, “A Stop At Willoughby.” In the episode, we witness a career-man in distress. Bullied on one hand by a bellicose boss at work, he comes home to a cold, emotionless wife.
Caught in a world that degrades both the workplace and the home, he fantasizes about a world past: one in which people are valued as individuals, surrounded by supportive familial relations and a healthy respect for the work a man does.
As working class women begin to assert their rights, or at least least to listen to feminist ideas, their husbands see in this turn of events another blow to their own self-respect, the crowning indignity heaped on the workingman by a middle-class liberalism that has already destroyed his savings, bused his children to distant schools, undermined his authority over them, and now threatens to turn his wife against him.
The Culture Of Narcissism, Christopher Lasch
While the episode ends on a tragic note—with the main character plunging to his death off a moving train—the episode speaks volumes about modern society, even back in the ’60’s. Women had already begun to ratchet up their demands of men, while also refusing to acknowledge or address male emotional or sexual needs.
Furthermore, the workplace had already become a game of sorts, where the promoted and lauded are not done so much for their actual workplace contributions, but rather for their appearance of competence, personal magnetism, and their ability to project a socially-acceptable level of ambition.
Many things haven’t changed
This episode aired almost a half-century ago. Things must have gotten better, no? We have had multiple presidents who considered themselves feminists; we have had serious legislation passed to ameliorate the social ill of sexual inequality. Further, we have had sweeping changes to the workplace. Issues of work-life balance are important public debates, as are issues of discrimination, sexual harassment and mental health. It gets better, right?
No. The average American is more disaffected then ever, men included. The workplace continues to under-employ people while overworking them and providing them less satisfaction for their work. Most importantly, however, is the fact that relations between men and women is more precarious than ever. As expected, this has a supremely negative influence on the most important institution in society: marriage.
This shift in marital trends hasn’t gone unnoticed by mainstream outlets. The Washington Examiner last winter ran an article on a study done by some German social scientists. The authors of the study concluded that an association exists between use of pornography on the Internet and the erosion of marriage.
They didn’t assert that pornography is certainly a significant factor in declining marriage rates and the dissolution of marriage. They asserted the data they collated suggests that it is likely that access to pornography is a significant factor in the erosion of marital relations.
What is most striking is the ignorance of the true source of marital discord: women’s lack of desire for true commitment and loving marriages. The researchers make the all-too-common assumption that issues of commitment between men and women necessarily stem from men’s decisions.
The marital issues faced by America today were spurred on by women, utilizing feminism at the political level. American women came to see marriage, family life, and domesticity as the ultimate form of oppression. The mindset is best summed up by Sylvia Plath in The Bell Jar:
It would mean getting up at seven and cooking him eggs and bacon and toast and coffee and dawdling about in my nightgown and curlers after he’d left for work to wash up the dirty plates and make the bed, and then when he came home after a lively, fascinating day he’d expect a big dinner, and I’d spend the even washing up, even more dirty plates till I fell into bed, utterly exhausted.
Christopher Lasch offers a critical bit of commentary on this passage:
If the man protests that he is exhausted too, and that his “fascinating day” consists of drudgery and humiliation, his wife suspects that he wishes to merely give her domestic prison the appearance of a rose-covered cottage.
The changes in social considerations of divorce, child custody and the formation of marriage and it’s maintenance revolve completely around this deeply-embedded feminine fear of commitment. This radical adjustment to considerations of marriage has greatly helped keep women interested in marriage.
Since women know that marriage revolves completely around them and their desires, marriage is a seen as a positive endeavor by them—most especially because they know they can indulge their fear of commitment and dissolve the “union” with a snap of their finger.
What this has resulted in for men, however, is men declining to lift a finger in the market of commitment. The aforementioned article mentions the access to sex as a primary driver of marriage, but that ignores that men have primarily valued a woman’s love and devotion over access to sex. Further, it ignores the plainly obvious fact that men are sons of their parents and many of them watched as their mothers behaved like petty tyrants in the home.
By turning marriage from a union based on love and mutually exclusive obligations into an institution that revolves around what women want to demand from men, it has caused many men not to withdraw from the institution, but to refuse outright to participate in any substantive sense.
That Washington Examiner article presupposes that without pornography, men would start dating and thinking about marriage. If you are watching it, it is for you. Nobody views media just to pass the time, but because whatever they are reading or watching is propping up their identity or fulfilling a need or desire. Regular consumption of the pornographic arts is about a desire to think about sex, but not actually pursue it in real life.
Male indifference to or outright avoidance of marriage has one—but not only one, of course—clear cause and that is the lack of interest they feel from the women around them. From their mothers and the women in their social circles, men pick up on this feminine fear of binding commitment.
While regular usage of pornography certainly isn’t healthy, it’s usage by so many men is merely a symptom of the larger problem of the decline of the family and loving marriages.