April 30, 2009

"Three Victorian Questions" by Geoffrey Miller

Here's a 2001 Edge.com essay by Geoffrey Miller, author of the upcoming Spent, answering literary agent John Brockman's question: "What questions have disappeared, and why?"
"Three Victorian questions about potential sexual partners: 'Are they from a good family?'; 'What are their accomplishments?'; 'Was their money and status acquired ethically?' "

To our "Sex and the City" generation, these three questions sound shamefully Victorian and bourgeois. Yet they were not unique to 19th century England: they obsessed the families of eligible young men and women in every agricultural and industrial civilization. Only with our socially-atomized, late-capitalist society have these questions become tasteless, if not taboo. Worried parents ask them only in the privacy of their own consciences, in the sleepless nights before a son or daughter's ill-considered marriage.

The "good family" question always concerned genetic inheritance as much as financial inheritance. Since humans evolved in bands of closely-related kin, we probably evolved an intuitive appreciation of the genetics relevant to mate choice ‹ taking into account the heritable strengths and weakness that we could observe in each potential mate's relatives, as well as their own qualities. Recent findings in medical genetics and behavior genetics demonstrate the wisdom of taking a keen interest in such relatives: one can tell a lot about a young person's likely future personality, achievements, beliefs, parenting style, and mental and physical health by observing their parents, siblings, uncles, and aunts. Yet the current American anti-genetic ideology demands that we ignore such cues of genetic quality ‹ God forbid anyone should accuse us of eugenics. Consider the possible reactions a woman might have to hearing that a potential husband was beaten as a child by parents who were alcoholic, aggressive religious fundamentalists. Twin and adoption studies show that alcoholism, aggressiveness, and religiousity are moderately heritable, so such a man is likely to become a rather unpleasant father. Yet our therapy cures-all culture says the woman should offer only non-judgmental sympathy to the man, ignoring the inner warning bells that may be going off about his family and thus his genes. Arguably, our culture alienates women and men from their own genetic intuitions, and thereby puts their children at risk.

The question "What are their accomplishments?" refers not to career success, but to the constellation of hobbies, interests, and skills that would have adorned most educated young people in previous centuries. Things like playing pianos, painting portraits, singing hymns, riding horses, and planning dinner parties. Such accomplishments have been lost through time pressures, squeezed out between the hyper-competitive domain of school and work, and the narcissistic domain of leisure and entertainment. It is rare to find a young person who does anything in the evening that requires practice (as opposed to study or work) ‹ anything that builds skills and self-esteem, anything that creates a satisfying, productive "flow" state, anything that can be displayed with pride in public. Parental hot-housing of young children is not the same: after the child's resentment builds throughout the French and ballet lessons, the budding skills are abandoned with the rebelliousness of puberty ‹ or continued perfunctorily only because they will look good on college applications. The result is a cohort of young people whose only possible source of self-esteem is the school/work domain ‹ an increasingly winner-take-all contest where only the brightest and most motivated feel good about themselves. (And we wonder why suicidal depression among adolescents has doubled in one generation.) This situation is convenient for corporate recruiting ‹ it channels human instincts for self-display and status into an extremely narrow range of economically productive activities. Yet it denies young people the breadth of skills that would make their own lives more fulfilling, and their potential lovers more impressed. Their identities grow one-dimensionally, shooting straight up towards career success without branching out into the variegated skill sets which could soak up the sunlight of respect from flirtations and friendships, and which could offer shelter, and alternative directions for growth, should the central shoot snap.

The question "Was their money and status acquired ethically?" sounds even quainter, but its loss is even more insidious. As the maximization of share-holder value guides every decision in contemporary business, individual moral principles are exiled to the leisure realm. They can be manifest only in the Greenpeace membership that reduces one's guilt about working for Starbucks or Nike. Just as hip young consumers justify the purchase of immorally manufactured products as "ironic" consumption, they justify working for immoral businesses as "ironic" careerism. They aren't "really" working in an ad agency that handles the Phillip Morris account for China; they're just interning for the experience, or they're really an aspiring screen-writer or dot-com entrepreneur. The explosion in part-time, underpaid, high-turnover service industry jobs encourages this sort of amoral, ironic detachment on the lower rungs of the corporate ladder. At the upper end, most executives assume that shareholder value trumps their own personal values. And in the middle, managers dare not raise issues of corporate ethics for fear of being down-sized. The dating scene is complicit in this corporate amorality. The idea that Carrie Bradshaw or Ally McBeal would stop seeing a guy just because he works for an unethical company doesn't even compute. The only relevant morality is personal ‹ whether he is kind, honest, and faithful to them. Who cares about the effect his company is having on the Phillipino girls working for his sub-contractors? "Sisterhood" is so Seventies. Conversely, men who question the ethics of a woman's career choice risk sounding sexist: how dare he ask her to handicap herself with a conscience, when her gender is already enough of a handicap in getting past the glass ceiling?

In place of these biologically, psychologically, ethically grounded questions, marketers encourage young people to ask questions only about each other's branded identities. Armani or J. Crew clothes? Stanford or U.C.L.A. degree? Democrat or Republican? Prefer "The Matrix" or "You've Got Mail'? Eminem or Sophie B. Hawkins? Been to Ibiza or Cool Britannia? Taking Prozac or Wellbutrin for the depression? Any taste that doesn't lead to a purchase, any skill that doesn't require equipment, any belief that doesn't lead to supporting a non-profit group with an aggressive P.R. department, doesn't make any sense in current mating market. We are supposed to consume our way into an identity, and into our most intimate relationships. But after all the shopping is done, we have to face, for the rest of our lives, the answers that the Victorians sought: what genetic propensities, fulfilling skills, and moral values do our sexual partners have? We might not have bothered to ask, but our children will find out sooner or later.

60 comments:

dearieme said...

My own parents' advice was that I must avoid families plagued by insanity, boozing or gambling.

dearieme said...

Oh yes, and my father told me to study a potential wife's mother, since the daughter might turn out to be like her. Since my mother was a far better woman than her mother I decided to ignore that advice, especially since my father obviously hadn't paid it any heed himself.

rightsaidfred said...

Excellent article. I would add that our ever increasing legalisms have seeped into the social sphere. One can hardly ask a substantial question at a job interview anymore, or get anything but a bland personal reference, or give a test that might have an uncomfortable result, etc.

To the question "Was their money and status acquired ethically" I would add that the modern welfare state has put many on the dole, or in a sinecure, or in a subsidized setting, or in the embarrasing situation of carrying the workload of others, so let's not even talk about it.

Anonymous said...

Of course, one presumes it was mostly the Victorian middle class and gentry asking such questions.

The middle class has disappeared and taken its morality with it.

Anonymous said...

His essay reminds me of the late, lamented Christopher Lasch.

Anonymous said...

"I would add that our ever increasing legalisms have seeped into the social sphere. One can hardly ask a substantial question at a job interview anymore, or get anything but a bland personal reference, or give a test that might have an uncomfortable result, etc."

yeast of the Pharisees

Martin Regnen said...

Good stuff, but wrong about one thing. Being a part-time musician or painter is still enormously beneficial for your dating market value if you're good enough to reach the "exhibited in public" level. It's just that it's no longer the exclusive province of the upper classes so these people are spread out more throughout all of society's levels.

I thinik the "good family" question has declined in importance in part because we're more mobile and few of us really live near all that many of our relatives. There's just less opportunity to see what your potential mate's relatives are like.

Anonymous said...

As a younger person who lives the sex-in-the-city lifestyle, I can tell you that those three victorian questions still get asked out loud.

The more vacuous questions listed later or for your high school and/or college relationships which aren't expected to blossom into permanence.

Peter said...

Big deal. We've simply replaced these questions with one question - "what college did he/she go to?" If the answer is Yale, Stanford, U of Chicago, etc. then one automatically presumes "good family","accomplished", and "shares upper middle class values." College has taken a lot of the drudgery of research out of the upper class mating chase.

And this statement - It is rare to find a young person who does anything in the evening that requires practice shows that Miller simply doesn't know any upper middle class young people.

Tanstaafl said...

Cui bono?

Professor Hohum said...

I like how Steve always shows an affinity for modern Anglo writers who simply recycle many of the same observations of the Germans of 1890-1945, but usually deletes comments that in anyway point out the links in cultural and biological outlooks between the two.

TomV said...

Good article, but I can't help asking: Are the Kennedys a good family? And the Bushes?

Most women, and even some men, would be thrilled to marry into an aristocracy. The rest of us are resentful. Who's right?

Anonymous said...

I think these questions are still being asked. They're just framed differently. Just looking at the models and actors tells you this stuff is still alive. They love to embrace mandela, but would they marry his kids??

Dutch Boy said...

No wonder there were so many bachelors and old maids in the olden days!

Anonymous said...

rightsaidfred said:

One can hardly ask a substantial question at a job interview anymore, or get anything but a bland personal reference, or give a test that might have an uncomfortable result, etc.
I dunno what industry you are in but where I work we ask people to work through programming problems on a white board. Some of these can be quite tough, and anyone who refuses does not get the job.

Many people with what look like substantial resumes fall down at that point. Tough titties.

Peter said...

This post bothers me the more I think about it. Miller's criticisms of the modern age are deserved, but the picture he paints of Victorians is complete ahistorical bullshit.

1. The question "Are they from a good family?" had nothing to do with genetic inheritance. A good family was one with financial and/or political status - "respectability". Information was not as transparent - many "respectable" families harbored abusers and alcoholics to a degree that would be impossible today. Also religion played far to great a role in selection - "Catholic" could be a disqualification for a Protestant regardless of fitness, intelligence or moral virtue. Hardly a great way to breed eugenically, the Victorian method encouraged inbreeding. And 19th century Victorians obsessed about this far less than Miller thinks - the pool of eligible candidates for most just wasn't that big, upper class people are far pickier today.

2. I accept this as a criticism of modern life in general - Miller is correct that people today tend not to be "well-rounded" and have very narrow interests. But again Miller is exaggerating the importance this played to Victorians seeking mates.

3. "Was their money and status acquired ethically?" - Ha! Victorians were terrific hypocrites. One did not ask too many questions and "ethical" was certainly in the eye of the beholder. If one maintained appearances, that was all that mattered.

So yes, all Miller's questions are very good ones, but let's not pretend the Victorians were really any better than we are, and they were the first generation to really give free reign to "romantic" love so if anything most of the blame on our current romantic free for all should be laid at their feet. Before the Victorians it was still customary for the parents to really have a say in choosing their childrens' mates.

Anonymous said...

If I haven't mentioned it lately Steve, holy crap I love this blog, I love it so much I shant sully it with my subpar commentary. Outstanding post.

I do wish you had a forum or at least the odd open thread though. We - the few, the proud, the Steveosphere - need a place to cut loose every once in a while.

Anonymous said...

The lower classes always had one main question: does he have an all-day job at the factory?

Writers, composers, actors, designers, architects, scientists - they are scum because they don't work, says the lower class.

The second lower-class question is: Is he homosexual?

We caught him watching a highbrow movie, or playing a musical instrument, once. Very suspicious.

The final low-class question is: Is he on dope?

We are all moonshine-liquor-and-whiskey drinkers, but we WILL NOT TOLERATE anybody who took a puff of pot.

(But he gets extra points for having a "Support the Troops" sticker on his bumper or for killin' ragheads overseas.)

These are the "Born Fightin'" morons you like, Steve.

Jesse said...

The essay is filled with liberal cliches. Religiosity is a bad trait and working for an agency representing Philip Morris is worse than working for Planned Parenthood.

Rightnow said...

Things like playing pianos, painting portraits, singing hymns, riding horses, and planning dinner parties. Such accomplishments have been lost through time pressures, squeezed out between the hyper-competitive domain of school and work, and the narcissistic domain of leisure and entertainment. I'll play devil's advocate and answer as a typical post-modern Westerner:

"Anyone can become mediocre at planning a party, painting, or playing a piano. Who cares? Even if I was really good at these things I doubt it would be worth a single cent. What does matter is making enough money to do the things I want, like going on a vacation, getting a new car, or buying a bigger, more prestigious house.

The question is, 'What is the cash value?' of these activities. The answer of course is 'close to zero'. You can learn to paint or read a great piece of classic literature, while I'm earning money to a once in a lifetime trip to Europe, cruising in my Lexus, or just sitting back and enjoying some porn. In the end, we all take the dirt nap and if playing a piano floats your boat, fine. I'll be enjoying about 100 different forms of entertainment and driving a nice car until that time."

Ronduck said...

I like the Victorian questions, but the second half of the essay is too liberal. I especially dislike this characterization:

Consider the possible reactions a woman might have to hearing that a potential husband was beaten as a child by parents who were alcoholic, aggressive religious fundamentalists.

Anonymous said...

It's amusing how he was talking about Victorian morally based matchmaking, but he couched in modern whiterpeople concerns.

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

His essay reminds me of the late, lamented Christopher Lasch.

Lasch was a rare gem. An academic who genuinely cared about America, its culture and its people.

I think there are still large numbers of people who take good breeding into account - we're just not allowed to speak of it publicly. It's more acceptable to talk about watching porn than to talk about any criteria for selecting a mate that might touch on genetics.

We live in odd times.

If, when I was single, I met a girl's family and they seemed pretty much worthless I would quickly but politely dump her.

Thursday said...

A big reason these questions have disappeared is that people tend to go for short term hook ups first, then long term relationships later.

Anonymous said...

The bit about how few people learn to play musical instruments was something of a false note (no pun intended). First, he immediately backtracks and discounts those kids who learn an instrument for their college applications, and then he ignores the countless kids who have taught themselves guitar. Do they not get a sense of fulfillment from learning how to play their favorite rock songs on a guitar, or must this sense of satisfaction come only from playing a piano or violin?

Grumpy Old Man said...

In the abstract, arranged marriage always made sense to me, and if one wants to avoid the vices of sexual indulgence, earlier marriage is preferable to later.

Of course, I never id let my family "fix me up" with anyone.

Deckin said...

It seems to me that Miller is overlooking perhaps the salient difference between Victorian marriage and contemporary marriage and hence the underlying problem that is merely being solved by different means. As we here all know, the problem to be solved in mate selection (assuming fertility is on the table) is what are the 'goods' of the potential mate. In Victorian (and, indeed, virtually every other) culture, mate choice happened fairly early in life before much data on the 'goods' was in. Hence, selecters had to cast about for other data and in that case, owing to an intuitive appreciation of regression to the familial mean, 'what kind of people do you come from?' makes obvious sense.

In today's Sex and City world, however, mate selection happens much later on and, by then, at least the early results on the 'goods' of the mate have already come in. By 35-40, whether Jane or John is a loser doesn't need to be inferred from looking at their families; it's obvious to all. So why bother with the question? Obviously, with the our current innumeracy, regression to the familial mean is ignored, but then again, as Razib reminds us, if heritability is high, maybe that Jane overcame her loser folks to get that M.D. from Johns Hopkins is not the bad news it would otherwise be.

In short, our Sex and the City strategy puts all the efforts into an appraisal of the margin and ignores the regressed to mean. Victorians had to go about it in the converse way.

Anonymous said...

Victorianism is actually quite alive and well......... among Indian-American and Indo-British immigrants. Read any Indian matrimonial ad (almost all Indian marriages are arranged, quite frequently through paper or online ads) and what do you see?

1.) Income stats
2.) A blurb about the family i.e. the values, history, status, religion, etc.
3.) Education

Ironic that the core Victorian values (choosiness of marital partner, conservatism on sex and family, aspiration towards material wealth and status) are dead amongst the descendants of the Victorians, but flourishing among their former colonial subjects (and now neighbors).

Anonymous said...

What would the 19th century novel be without these questions?

Richard...London

testing99 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Captain Jack Aubrey said...

Deckin, that was an aboslutely spot on analysis. But if we're to get back to more traditional (and earlier) marriages (which I think is a must), then your strategy isn't going to work.

Consider the possible reactions a woman might have to hearing that a potential husband was beaten as a child by parents who were alcoholic, aggressive religious fundamentalists.

Yes, they're religious wackos and alcoholics and child beaters. Awesome!

Lucius Vorenus said...

T99 - things simply CANNOT be quite as bad as you think they are.

Look, I'll admit that they're bad, but they're not THAT bad.

Somewhere out there is a nice girl just waiting to cross paths with you - my question to you would be: When you do finally meet her, will you deserve to have met her?

Or will you shove your cynicism down her poor throat and leave her with a broken soul?

Anonymous said...

Thus we can't close the borders to Mexico because women who shape the cultural environment think it's "Mean" and critical taste makers like celebrities and so on think so also, shaping their opinions.This shows the danger in trying to explain the whole world by resorting to ones favorite topic. You are no different in principle to those who see an evil Jew behind all the worlds ills. And it's unfortunate because there is a kernel of truth in some of what you say, but you manage to discredit the entire theory by taking it to absurd lengths.

I Searched for the SWPL Reference said...

Testy,

You did it.

Kudos.

Anonymous said...

Somewhere out there is a nice girl just waiting to cross paths with you That may be, but it has nothing to do with what t99 was saying. It's maddeningly difficult to get men to even admit that there is a problem, let alone do anything about it.

Anonymous said...

test99,

I think you misunderstand women. The average woman who goes off to college would rather get married by the end of her freshman year to a graduating senior than work on a degree and have a career and spend years trying to find a mate when she is less attractive than she was at 18.

Unfortunately, parents of young people don't tell them that would be a great idea and would probably bring them more happiness than years of partying and going to bars. I blame parents for not encouraging young people to make choices that will make them happy. Instead parents pressure women to have careers which most women don't want. Just look at the silly degrees that are now offered because there are so many women in college. After four years and a lot of debt, probably 50% women are still really only qualified for jobs that don't require degrees. And plenty of business majors and accountants, even engineers get married and quit working after only a few years.

Anonymous said...

Hey Grumpy Old Man,

Don't you think parents try to "fix up" their kids with the best? You might be surprised at the fine babes and sweet things ole ma and pa would "fix you up" with.

All those novels and royal marriages from way back give arranged marriage a bad name. The people I know who were "fixed up" by their parents are very happy together. Ma and Pa used their social connections to help them find candidates faster and of better quality than they could find in their own limited social circles. Most parents really love and care about their kids and want them to be happy. They aren't just into selling off girls or trying to control their sons. They really don't want them to get involved with druggies or ne'er do wells.

Truth said...

Hey cool, new ideas from Testing99!

(just kidding.)

Anonymous said...

Mine is a minority view, but here it goes:

I believe in the Romeo and Juliet revolution and believe it is ideal for the future children if we allow people to marry who they fall in love with. This is because I believe, partially, our level of attraction is based largely on "what we need" to make children better than ourselves, and exists primarily at the subconscious level. Of course, there is mostly parity on religion and class.
It also seems we are better equiped to do this in our teens and early twenties as we fall "irrationally" in love then in a way we don't do as we age.

So, what about the women who choose badly? I don't know. Are we looking at the bad cases? I do believe, based on the latest science, that hormones, namely the birth control pill have altered women's hormones and greatly influence for the worse who they are attracted to. I sadly witnessed this in my own family. My sister's cad detector is broken, but it wasn't always that way. About the age of 17, she saw a gynecologist about her periods and he put her on the pill which is completely routine. Looking back, her two boyfriends before this were good, but suddenly she started picking abusive guys who always cheated on her. One guy even nearly killed her, making her seem like stupid white trash; we could not make sense of the drastic change in her choices.

Anyways, marrying whom you fall in love with is ideal so long as a young woman's body is unadulterated with hormones and the like. I myself am a happily married woman since 21, but would have married sooner had my fiance not been even younger (19)! He is also my one and only love.

Anonymous said...

I have followed Steve's writings on and off for the last decade (98-99) since I first came across his NR article "Is Love Colorblind", which I believe is one of the most intelligent and insightful pieces ever written on interracial dating. I am a relatively young black male who does not agree with everything he, or many other posters, suggest on these pages but I believe that it is important to consider all points of view, especially those as well developed as Steve's.

In that light, however I must state that Testing 99's concerns about white women, and their supposed dating attitudes towards white men, are completely out of touch with reality. By a wide margin, young white men are viewed as the most desirable mates of ALL white and asian women, as well as hispanic and black women with elite backgrounds (Tier I University educations, professional degrees, etc). Census statistics support my assertions about white and asian women, and personal observation in elite settings (a Tier I law school, a prestigious medical center) support my assertions about black and hispanic women. This does not imply that black women will not date black men, which is often true of Asian women wrt to Asian men It is just that in those kinds of institutions, single black women tend to outnumber black men by a wide margin.

I have lived in Houston and Austin for most of my life and I can state with some certainty that the kind of white women who date black men generally have "eccentric" backgrounds. Using Miller's criteria, you would be hard pressed to find a white woman in THIS STATE with the kind of background he considers desirable to prospective mates (strong family, intellectually gifted, attractive) who dates or would consider dating outside of her race. It just does not happen. If you do not belive me, ask R. Challet.

anony-mouse said...

I disagree with the idea that people don't ask about 'good families'. Its just that what constitutes a good family for their offspring has changed for many parents. Thus if a the father of potetial child-in-law was the owner of a successful auto body shop, this would be a bad thing, but if the father of a potential child-in-law was the manager of a struggling organic food co-op this would be a good thing.

David Davenport said...

Writers, composers, actors, designers, architects, scientists - they are scum because they don't work, says the lower class.

The second lower-class question is: Is he homosexual?

We caught him watching a highbrow movie, or playing a musical instrument, once. Very suspicious.

...

(But he gets extra points for having a "Support the Troops" sticker on his bumper or for killin' ragheads overseas.)

These are the "Born Fightin'" morons you like, Steve.
Gaydar at the iSteve cult bunker is currently tracking a very un-stealthy inbound target.

David Davenport said...

Anonymous Jesse said...

The essay is filled with liberal cliches. Religiosity is a bad trait and working for an agency representing Philip Morris is worse than working for Planned Parenthood.
Jesse makes a good point. Many Victorians of respectable social strata were very religious.

That essay does ooze into lieberal cant toward the end.

togo said...

Excellent article. I would add that our ever increasing legalisms have seeped into the social sphere. One can hardly ask a substantial question at a job interview anymore, or get anything but a bland personal reference, or give a test that might have an uncomfortable result, etc.What would stop Alaska-which still has a huge oil revenue fund- from dumping the whole AA regime and the related chains placed on the employer? In addition the state could shift to hiring and promoting employees using a cognitive test like the old Federal PACE exam.

The courts would strike all this down but Alaska could assert its rights under the Tenth Amendment and cite the plain language of the Fourteenth Amendment and politely tell the Feds to go to hell.

Alaska doesn't need Federal money(unless the Feds arrange a mass influx of illegal immigrants and Somali refugees)so what could BHO do? Send in troops to overthrow the state government?

But not even Sarah Palin has balls that big.

Bill said...

I think the Victorians were a big part of the problem. They put the mating game entirely in the hands of women, and we've inherited that mess.

This writer suggests that women essentially follow the neo-Victorian attitude of choosing the father based on a contemporary sense of propriety. What if the man's family was "racist?" Surely, in our modern aspiring upper-class he's out. What if they were fundamentalists? Too risky, apparently, because he's likely a repressed guy who will abuse children.

Miller isn't offering any solutions at all, but just suggesting putting the ball permanently in the female court. As we all know, women always make sound judgments about society, morality, etc....

This is just more of the same. I'm not terribly impressed with this view of women as a collection of Lucy Manette dolls stuffed full of perfume and spice.

Anonymous said...

David Davenport - Gaydar at the iSteve cult bunker is currently tracking a very un-stealthy inbound target.

Superb! I laughed out loud.

Anonymous said...

"The average woman who goes off to college would rather get married by the end of her freshman year to a graduating senior than work on a degree and have a career and spend years trying to find a mate when she is less attractive than she was at 18."

I know lot's of girls in that age range and most of them aren't really looking for a husband. For them to get married that young, the guy would have to be PERFECT. For girls from more affluent backgrounds, it would be considered humiliating not to finish college.

Anonymous said...

I do believe, based on the latest science, that hormones, namely the birth control pill have altered women's hormones and greatly influence for the worse who they are attracted to.Sounds interesting. Any links?

testing99 said...

Among the dataset of the professional, MBA women I know (classmates, friends, etc) the sort of attitude towards the Border, social standing, and so on was really striking. It's worst in education, but bad even among JD/MBA women, or women who are finance MBAs, etc. who are not that far off from most teachers. Most of my female friends and acquaintances got married well into their mid thirties. Anecdotal, true, but it seems born out by various studies showing the more education, the later the marriage age. Various PUA blogs report the same phenomena and the data from the Census Bureau on Families and Marriage don't have anything I can see that contradicts this and much that supports it.

I must say that Deckin's view that the Sex and the City model has provided "up-front" data on winners and losers correlates highly with what I've been told in confidence by the highly educated professional women I've known about their mate selection. It's generally been a checklist of first, height/masculine physique/face and activities (motocross or things like it a plus) along with outgoing personality, wealth and social standing second, third stability of income/standing. But competition also figures in. Whenever a prospective mate is the focus of attention of other women, it seems to goad the women I know into action. I.E. "I was not going to just stand there and let _____ have him."

So it's entirely possible that the Three Questions just have morphed into upfront data as Deckin suggests. There is also considerable female competition for the few "Hot" guys who meet this criteria as well. Even in the twenties.

Re: White female attitudes? Single motherhood went from 4% in 1965 to 28% in 2007. Add in divorced and separated and it jumps to 41%. In Britain, the rate is over 50%, not including divorced/separated. Marriage age is delayed, and the result is lower fertility, predictably. Working among both a very "male" tech workforce and female marketers, I can say this attitude is very, very striking. You certainly see this over and over and over again in PUA blogs. I see it among particularly the younger, twenties engineers who either marry a woman from another country or are dateless, there seems to be no middle of guys just dating. Guys in their thirties do better because by that time the phenomena of women having to "adjust" their preferences downward is notable. Most single female bloggers note this as well (the quality of the men they date in their thirties declines vs. their twenties). Single Women now outnumber married women, for the first time in Census Bureau history. So both anecdotally and through Census and CDC data, there IS a problem.

As Steve pointed out at TPM: control for the Single/Married status of women and the gender gap disappears. BUT most women are now single. What does that tell you?

Black Sea said...

I found this an interesting post, and am sympathetic to much of what it says. But of course, when it comes to marriage (or mating) every social strategy carries its own set of problems. For example, I believe that I've read that about 10% of single women in Victorian England engaged, at least occassionally, in prostitution. The vast majority of women didn't come from families which could afford to entertain the sorts of questions cited here, and prostitution offered a way to supplement the meager wages available to them. The figure I mentioned (if correct; I did a quick Google search but couldn't find exact verification) also suggests a considerable degree of frustrated male sexuality which no doubt produced its own social problems.

The much-derided Victorian prudery probably emerged from an awareness of the tensions implicit in a society in which many men and women were too poor to marry, or at least to marry young, and thus, during the years whe their sexual desires were at their height, were constrained to sexual activities sharply condemned by the social orthodoxy.

When it comes to sex, and by extension, to marriage, every society struggles to find a semi-workable solution. That's really all we can hope for.

Reg C├Žsar said...

Who cares about the effect his company is having on the Phillipino girls...? --Geoffrey Miller

********************

The proper adjective here isn't "Phillipino". And it is not "Filipino". Nor "Filipina". Nor even "Pilipina".

It's "Philippine".

Let's speak English, already.

Anonymous said...

Gibberish. Most people have never thought too eugenically about their mates, because irrational factors have always been uppermost. Miller is just projecting his fantasies onto the Victorian past. The younger sons of Britain went around the empire to acquire their fortunes, came back, and married well-to-do daughters -- no questions asked!

dearieme said...

"I've read that about 10% of single women in Victorian England engaged, at least occassionally, in prostitution." How could such a thing be known?

Anonymous said...

"I know lot's of girls in that age range and most of them aren't really looking for a husband. For them to get married that young, the guy would have to be PERFECT. For girls from more affluent backgrounds, it would be considered humiliating not to finish college."

Exactly! Who is going to humiliate them?

Their parents, society, etc.

However, after a couple of years, they do what they always wanted if they possibly can, which is marry have kids and quit working. I know these people. They conform to society's expectation and get the degree, then quit because they want to be home with their kids. Conversely, how many guys quit after a few years and stay home with the kids?

A minority of women really want a career either with or without kids.

The rest of them just want the money and would rather quit if they could. And a very significant number accept a lower standard of living so they can stay home, despite people relentlessly trying to humiliate them for that choice.

Truth said...

"I am a relatively young black male... young white men are viewed as the most desirable mates of ALL white and asian women, as well as hispanic and black women with elite backgrounds...you would be hard pressed to find a white woman in THIS STATE with the kind of background he considers desirable to prospective mates (strong family, intellectually gifted, attractive) who dates or would consider dating outside of her race. It just does not happen"

Damn, I thought T99 was depressing, I think you empathize with him more than you know.

As a matter of fact I might be able to suggest a nome de plume for you:

"Choclate Testing"

Let me let you guys in on a little secret, if you are interesting, outgoing, fun, entertaining, pay some attention to your appearance, aren't destitute, and know how to alternate between complete dick and gentleman with a heart of gold,and have confidence in all of that, you will get girls. It really isn't that complicated.

Anonymous said...

Do you have any connection with any religious culture at all? Many people still openly ask those questions, actually, more and more people are openly emphasizing them, to combat the increasingly hostile mental environment of pop culture. I certainly do discus these things with my own daughters, and with any family that are around when it comes up.

Corrects a Misconception said...

"Thus if a the father of potetial child-in-law was the owner of a successful auto body shop, this would be a bad thing, but if the father of a potential child-in-law was the manager of a struggling organic food co-op this would be a good thing."

Which would, economically speaking, be true, because the average age of American farmers is higher than 50 - ensuring that most young people engaged in any kind of agricultural activity at all will indeed be able to make a living off of it in the future -, while continuing automation and computerization will thin the ranks of those currently earning their money in the car maintenance business.

Maximilian said...

Anyways, marrying whom you fall in love with is ideal so long as a young woman's body is unadulterated with hormones and the like. I myself am a happily married woman since 21, but would have married sooner had my fiance not been even younger (19)! He is also my one and only love.You make some good arguments for your point of view. All things considered, it's always nice to have 2 young people who love each other. However, you overlook the purpose of marriage, which is the procreation and education of children.

Why are we even having this discussion? Because the system for the continuation of our race has broken down. No white nation is having enough children to reproduce itself. Adult men and women are unable to stay married to each other for life, which means that the coming generation of children is suffering from dysfunctions at level higher than we've ever seen before.

This is the problem that must be addressed, and to make your point of view convincing, you need to show how your defense of "Romeo and Juliet" is going to fix these problems, problems which are on an epic scale beyond the atom bomb or the fall of the Roman Empire.

Bill said...

dearieme said...

My own parents' advice was that I must avoid families plagued by insanity, boozing or gambling.
In other words: "don't marry an Irishman."

Anonymous said...

The average woman who goes off to college would rather get married by the end of her freshman year to a graduating senior than work on a degree and have a career and spend years trying to find a mate when she is less attractive than she was at 18.
Amen.