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Back in the sixties, though, when less was known scientifically about sex differences — though it’s doubtful such knowledge would have helped — the sexual revolution “liberated” both sexes to enjoy recreational sex apart from marriage and children. The closely related ideology of feminism proclaimed that women were the same as men and should have the same goals and values. By 1999, 29 percent of American women aged 35-44 were unmarried (in 1960, it was 13 percent). Since 1970, women have been twice as likely as men to be depressed. Indeed, many women blame men for their plight; studies report sharply higher levels of resentment and even rage against men for not taking relationships seriously. Other women direct the blame elsewhere; a childless Australian newswoman reaching her forties writes that she’s “angry that I was foolish enough to take the word of my feminist mothers as gospel. Angry that I was daft enough to believe female fulfillment came with a leather briefcase.”
As Rhoads sums it up: “Since the 1970s … women have made dramatic strides in their access to and advancement in well-paid and traditionally male occupations. But in their intimate world, their desire for sex with emotional involvement and leading to permanence is much more difficult to achieve than it used to be.”
He then has the courage to say: “It is unclear that the career gains have compensated for the losses in intimacy and emotional security.” In my experience, even a tentative statement like that one is socially risky.
WOMEN, OF COURSE, ARE NOT the only ones to suffer losses under the new androgyny. Although many men find the sexual freedom much more to their liking, studies find that men, too, benefit from marriage and are much more prone to depression, addiction, crime, and many other ills in the unmarried state. But perhaps the biggest losers are children. If born at all, since the 1970s their chances of being raised by both biological parents have declined greatly — in America and throughout the Western world. On the other hand, their chances of spending much of their early lives in daycare or with other nonmaternal care are much higher. The problem is that all those things — nonintact families, daycare, nonmaternal care — correlate highly with physical and mental liabilities.
Yet society continues as if the androgynous-world ideology is a religion etched in stone. A study of social science textbooks found that they never portray motherhood “as a rich and meaningful way of life” and never show “any woman or girl with a positive relationship to a baby or young child” (!). In 1975, the California Department of Education rejected all reading textbooks “with any portrayal of women in a household role.” And Rhoads devotes an incisive chapter to Title IX, a law that was intended to get more girls and women involved in sports but has ended up dismantling popular men’s teams in colleges while inducing women to do sports like crew just to meet numerical quotas.
Can we get out of the mess that decades of “revolution” have left? Rhoads makes few policy prescriptions, and is not so simplistic as to claim that women would or should want to give up the broader opportunities they’ve gained. But he reiterates at several points that taking sex differences seriously, instead of dismissing them as an illusion or a tool of male oppression, is the key. That would mean, for instance, recognizing that men and women need each other, but in different ways; and that children need mothers and fathers, but need different things from them. It would mean regaining the ability to talk intelligently about what girls and boys, men and women, are like and what they seek in life. This book is a major contribution toward enabling us to do that.
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