A Power Shift?

Illustration from Slate's "Sex is Cheap"

Two of my best friends are celebrating important milestones. One is just days away from giving birth to her first child. The other got engaged on Saturday. So, I started reading this Slate article through the eyes of someone who is currently surrounded by evidence of other people’s major life commitments. While reading Slate’s “Sex is Cheap,” I kept thinking about an NPR show I listened to about “emerging adulthood” this morning, and couldn’t help but think of them as somehow connected.

The Slate article says:

The terms of contemporary sexual relationships favor men and what they want in relationships, not just despite the fact that what they have to offer has diminished, but in part because of it. And it’s all thanks to supply and demand.

Anyone who has been dating recently knows that much of this is true. There is nothing more stunning than young men’s complete unwillingness to put any real effort into dating. It’s spectacular really, and despite my friends who have clearly managed to get what they want out of the men in their lives, I see plenty of other friends who have floundered in this area. But I’m also someone who has many close male friends, some of whom have been debauched in mind-blowing ways. They never fail to make me cringe, but lately, I’ve seen a shift in even them. Perhaps their 30th birthdays facilitated a shift in thinking. Maybe they’re starting to think about settling down. Maybe they’re just starting to feel too old and tired to bother finding someone new whenever they alienate the latest fling. But as I started thinking about this change, I also started thinking more about the “emerging adulthood” show.

I listened to experts ramble about how young people are “putting off adulthood” by not getting married and having kids until, at least, their late 20s. I thought this sounded like bad science. I mean, if you’re 40 and have chosen not to get married or have children, but are otherwise a responsible member of society, are you putting off adulthood? Of course, there are plenty 20-somethings living in their parents’ basements and working at Taco Bell and actually avoiding all real responsibility. Still, the insinuation that I’m less of adult because I didn’t run out and get married and start making babies right after college was…well…insulting.

I won’t lie, though, my looming 30th birthday has me looking at my goals and saying, “Which of these should/can be accomplished by the big 3-0?” This certainly isn’t strange for me. I’ve always been a goal oriented person. But once I started thinking about this, I realized that some of the single fellas in my life are having the same thoughts. Guys who I used to have to pick up off the side of the road at 4 a.m. because they’d run out of gas on their way home from meeting some girl they barely knew (yes, I am a very good friend) are now telling me about girls they dated for 3 months without so much as a make-out session (I was utterly shocked).

So, I’m wondering if there is a point at which the sexual power, according to the Slate interpretation of it, shifts? Is it when the men look around them, realize the girls they used to call on a Friday night have paired off, and if they don’t get their acts together they’ll find themselves left out?

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