So — for all that softening — there's still one strong word: "advice." I stand accused of giving "advice," but I don't see that I gave advice in that statement of mine that he quotes at the link. He introduced my quote with the opinion that I'm speaking "kind of social-connishly." "Kind of" is more softening — but the reader is told to see me as giving socially conservative advice.
Now, I don't think I'm giving any advice other than to say: You are free, you need to think about how you use your freedom, and don't just think about your own perspective as you make arguments that law and society ought to be arranged to facilitate your choices. I'd say I'm being quite libertarian. And as for social connishness, I support abortion rights, same-sex marriage, and — it's right there in my quote — I'm not out to punish those who decline to channel their sexuality into committed relationships with child-rearing. I'm just defending legal and political decisions that center on protecting the interests of children rather than the ability of males to avoid the consequences of procreation, consequences that occur even though the male power over reproduction ends — because he controls only his body and not the woman's — at an earlier point in time than the woman's. This leaves some men aggrieved that a woman didn't abort a baby he didn't want, and I'm just not too sympathetic about this male plight. So maybe I am giving "advice" in the form of saying: Don't expect sympathy.
But Glenn must think I'm advising everyone to form stable, committed, child-rearing couples, because he goes on to say, that my advice is "of course, advice one dare not give to women in today’s society without facing a huge backlash." Of course? Dare not? Oh, come on. How daring do you need to be to tell women they'll be better off in stable relationships? I'll say it now, and I think this advice is given all the time. Huge backlash? I take it he's referring to the "war on women" politics that permeated the 2012 elections, because he goes on to say:
When Rush Limbaugh suggested that Sandra Fluke should at least pay for her own birth control, he was savaged.Rush was savaged because he made a joke that was easily portrayed as ugly (and stupid). He set up the false premise that if insurance covers a woman's birth control expenses, she's being paid to have sex and therefore she's a prostitute. And, on a roll, he went ahead and said that if we — the people paying into the insurance pool — were paying for a prostitute, we ought to get the sex, so she should at least give us video of herself having sex.
Now, I listen to Rush, and I get his humor, which is sometimes over-the-top — being absurd to illustrate the absurd, he likes to say. But that was really too nasty, especially since it named and targeted a specific woman, who wasn't — especially at that point — much of a public figure. Sandra Fluke was a women's health-care advocate — still a student — who had testified about how difficult it is for young women to pay for their birth control expenses. Whatever you think about Obamacare and covering the ordinary health-care expenses that young people have, you've got to concede that Limbaugh was not savaged because he "suggested that Sandra Fluke should at least pay for her own birth control."
So Glenn begins with a distorted picture of my "advice" and a bizarrely exaggerated claim of how difficult it is to give women advice. He goes on:
But to suggest that a man should pay child support for 18 years because a woman lied about birth control is fine. You can’t say “she should keep her legs closed,” but you can say, “he should keep it in his pants.” That’s fine.I certainly will say that fathers owe their children support, and I don't want he said/she said legal battles over women who supposedly lied about birth control. I agree that it's socially acceptable to say that, and I even suspect Glenn would agree with me about most instances of men who failed to take responsibility for their own birth control and have sex with women who might be deceitful.
But I don't agree that you can't advise women to withhold sex. I'd give that advice, although I would not say it in the crude and old-fashioned "keep your legs closed" form. (I would talk about valuing your own body and your own long-term interests.) And as for telling the man to "keep it in his pants," the main "it" that has concerned me in these recent discussions is sperm. Not the penis. Not even the seminal fluid, since I offered the option of freezing sperm and having a vasectomy. But I think it's ineffective to just tell people — males and females — not to have sex. Women will have distinctive feminist answers to any anti-sex pressure. You'll be accused of wanting a return to the archaic subordination of women. Men can only say you're puritanical or anti-freedom. So what? The pro-free-sex arguments are out there for both males and females.
Over the past several decades, women have asserted a right to make all the judgments in matters of gender and sexuality.All the judgments? You mean all the judgments about their own bodies. Men can't control women's bodies anymore. Women have won that argument in America (except to the extent there are some limits on abortion). But I don't think too many women are asserting a right to control men's bodies, unless you think the sperm that has escaped from the man's possession and merged with an egg inside the woman's body should be reclaimable by him somehow. It's the woman — under American law — who gets to determine the significance of that growing entity, whether it's a human being deserving the chance to live, because pregnancy happens inside her body, dependent on her bodily organs. The man doesn't have the right to force her to have an abortion. I doubt if Glenn would favor a man's right of that sort.
And, in fact, we do “facilitate” destructive choices, when they’re by women. We subsidize unwed mothers, we give women a pass on sexual behavior that would be considered predatory if it were done by males, we give them all sorts of “choice” that men don’t have and then absolve them, culturally and legally, from judgment over the way they exercise those choices. No similar dispensation is given to men.Not even if the male has the primary child-care-giving role? I don't think the line is between male and female here. I think it's about children. I think our welfare policies are neutral about passing judgment on sexual behavior. If men want a "similar dispensation," let them take an equivalent role with respect to children. Do they even want that? It looks like they just want out of child support. They are treated differently because they are doing something different. I know many will want to repeat the complaint about the male's loss of decisionmaking power at an earlier point in the reproductive process, but this is a blatant biological difference, and it's why the man needs to watch where he lets his sperm go. That's his big opportunity to control his destiny.
Glenn returns to his idea that I'm prescribing a behavioral norm for everyone:
A society that ran according to Ann Althouse’s views on marriage and commitment might, in fact, be a better one than the one we live in now, but it is most definitely not the one we live in now.I'm not an ideologue about how everyone ought to live. I like individualism, autonomy, freedom, and personal responsibility. I'm not yearning for an old-fashioned society where everyone channels their sexuality into marriage and child-rearing. So what I'm saying doesn't require the society to change into something else. I'm talking about the world as we find it and recommend that people face it as it is and figure out how to live. This is an individual's choice. You can be a good person in a completely evil world, which is obviously not a description of America today. Our society has some problems, but that doesn't change the call to the individual to be a good person and to find a way to live a moral and worthy life. (You can decide to be a completely selfish and unproductive person, but there are consequences, and it's not necessarily easy.)
Referencing the imperfections of modern life, Glenn goes on to say:
Observing that, and noting the unfairnesses involved, is not “victimology” — though given how successful women have been in obtaining power via victimology, no one should be surprise [sic] if men start to give it a try.So, Glenn is both resisting the breadth of the "victimology" label and toying with the notion that it might be a good strategy for men to use that label. That is, he's contemplating the rhetoric and seems ambivalent. Let's think about this more: Should men move in this direction in the political discourse, portraying themselves as victims? The absurd version of this is claiming to be victims of the way women have gotten so much out of claiming to be victims. Maybe Glenn wants to say since women have gained so much out of claiming to be victims, men should rebalance things by showing that they too are victims. There are costs to that strategy. I prefer to call everyone — male and female — to greater clarity in thinking about how he or she can live a good life.
Next, Glenn disagrees with a belief that I don't think anyone has:
But I do not believe that women deserve a monopoly in determining what views on gender and sexuality and parenting are acceptable. Why would they?A monopoly on what views are acceptable? Many people state a view and act like it's the only acceptable view. That's typical of political argument. That doesn't stop their opponents from doing the same. But I don't hear anyone saying that men aren't even allowed to participate in the discussion.
And yet Glenn says:
What’s funny is that so many women seem genuinely perplexed that men would even dispute that monopoly.I'm only perplexed at the claim that there is a monopoly!
Ann is a thoughtful and open-minded and smart woman, but at some level I feel like she doesn’t really get it.What, exactly, is the "it"? Is it the original subject: that men who left their sperm somewhere out of their control are expected to support their own children? I certainly get that men would rather hold onto their money and that they feel ripped off. I just understand why the legal and political decisions put a relatively light weight on that particular preference.
But then, that’s what women have been saying to men on gender issues for decades: “You just don’t get it!” Maybe the not-getting goes both ways.Okay, then, I've given Glenn some material to get. We'll see how that goes.
The problem is, if society is to accomplish the goals that Ann sets out above...Again, I did not set goals. I only called individuals to clear, moral thinking about their own lives.
... it needs to be a reasonably attractive proposition for both men and women.With my clarification of what I am doing, this clause makes no sense. I know Glenn is, at this point in his post, building in the thesis of his wife Helen Smith's book "Men on Strike." In order to offer up the idea that marriage needs to be a deal that both men and women will accept, he's using me for premise that marriage is the goal. I don't like that.
He then says:
How are we doing with that? At the risk of stepping on my wife’s turf, I’d say not so well.At that point he links to this video summary of Helen's book. The book is "Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream - and Why It Matters" — which I have read — and the video is called "Six Reasons Why Men Are Avoiding Marriage":
Does this video show that men are not doing well? Glenn's "I’d say not so well" actually doesn't refer to whether men are doing well, but whether marriage is "a reasonably attractive proposition for both men and women."
In the video, Helen gives 6 reasons why a man today might analyze his personal interests and decide against marriage. So men are doing what suits them. Helen is not saying they're misjudging their situation. She's saying they are behaving rationally in their own self-interest. The implication seems to be that women are losing out on the opportunity to have marriage partners. That would mean women ought to make concessions and, in their self-interest, offer men a better deal.
Are men "on strike"? The labor union analogy implies that these men who are choosing, rationally, not to marry are somehow organized, acting together, and making demands and that women are somehow the management, the boss. But these men are individuals, and — if we're talking about marriage — they only want one woman.
I'm not the social engineer type. I've always only been talking about individual decisionmaking. Decide for yourself what you want. I do see the problem that if the sex drive is easily satisfied outside of marriage, it becomes difficult for any given woman to ask for much in a marriage, but I don't see this as a reason to lower her standards.