Whistling Past the Demographic Graveyard

man-droughtI keep seeing articles like We shouldn’t be worried about the ‘millennial man drought’.  As a libertarian minded man, I say to each his (or her) own, but if you’re a young woman who wants to marry and have a family, is this really good advice? Let’s see:

[Woman are] bombarded by media encouraging us to be strong, single and sassy independent women. Yet, the very same media also tells us that although being single for a bit is great, we also need to find a man eventually and that it’s going to be pretty hard to do that.

The first message is coming from feminists. The second one is coming from older women who see how hard it is, after devoting their youth to their careers, to find someone to settle down with.

A couple of weeks ago, Ellie Austin wrote an article for The Times, lamenting the what she calls the ‘Millennial Man Drought’. She describes how her circle of intelligent, cultured and successful female friends are desperately struggling to find boyfriends and husbands in a way that previous generations haven’t.

Previous generations of women didn’t wait until they were in their late twenties or early thirties to settle down.

Austin attributes this struggle largely to the disparity between the number of men and women who graduate from university.  In 2014, 29 per cent more women than men graduated from university than men.  If the gap continues to grow at the same rate, girls born this year will be 75 per cent more likely to go to university than their male peers.

Why don’t women who have graduated from university want to marry men who have not? Why are more women going to university that men?

This increasing disparity, combined with the fact that more people than ever before are favouring ‘assortative mating’ (which means choosing partners from the same social and educational background), means that, in theory, university educated women seeking boyfriends and husbands are struggling to find them, because there simply aren’t enough that meet our exceedingly high standards and expectations.

Women are notorious for wanting to marry up, whilst men are more than willing to marry down. This is nothing new.

Austin is describing a situation that we’re all pretty familiar with.  Women are constantly depicted in contemporary media as hopelessly seeking a man. Being permanently single has become a bit of a running joke for girls of our generation.  Phrases like ‘I think I’m going to be single forever’, ‘I might just become a crazy cat lady’ and ‘I’ve literally given up on boys’ are used on a pretty much daily basis in my friendship group.

And yet close to half of the population continue to be men.

But should we be worried? Are we really going to be alone forever?  To be honest, we’re probably not unless we choose to be.

This is true as long as the number of men wanting to marry is greater than or equal to the number of women.

Okay yes, there are less men of the same socio-economic and educational background to go round than ever before.  But there aren’t actually less men.  In fact, in the UK there are on average 1.3 men to every woman.  So no, numerically speaking there isn’t a man drought.


According to Austin, the ‘drought’ is also partially caused by men becoming increasingly commitment-phobic as a result of the rise of dating apps and media portrayals of masculinity as dependent upon promiscuity.

This is a load of bullshit. Bad divorce laws are the only cause of commitment-phobia I’m aware of. Lack of desire to commit is not generally a phobia. Rather, men commit to something that they want. The media hardly portrays promiscuous men positively. Look at how James Bond has been emasculated in recent years. The days of the “mans man” in Hollywood are dead and buried.

Pretty much every girl can attest that these things don’t make trying to date in the 21st century very easy.

Dating apps make dating harder. I buy that. Must be why they’re so unpopular.

So, there aren’t actually less men and they aren’t actually more commitment-phobic than ever before.  So what’s changed?

Yes, that’s the right question.

My Grandma said she thinks it is much harder for girls to find the right person to settle down with now, but she attributes that not to a lack of men, but to women expecting more and not wanting to rush into things.

Chalk one up for Granny.

The conclusion she reached was that … ‘girls aren’t so keen to give up their own freedom’ and that this is definitely a good thing.

So women choosing to wait to find a mate and then being unable to is a good thing? Sorry Granny, your logic is failing to convince me.

Essentially, the entire landscape of human relationships has changed since my grandparents met nearly 70 years ago.  People meet in different ways, have different expectations of relationships and different priorities.  Despite being married at 19 herself, my Grandma says she definitely wouldn’t want that for me and neither would I.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. If you find the right person at 19, go for it. Strike two for Granny.

The most important thing I learned from the conversation was that they think it’s foolish for girls to think they won’t ever meet someone.  My grandma reminded me that I ‘could go out tonight and meet somebody and that could be happiness for a lifetime’ and as much as that sounds hopelessly romantic, she’s right.  It’s true for me, it’s true for you and it’s true for every human being in the world.

Well, it’s also true that you may not meet someone tonight, and your fertility (not to mention neoteny) is a time limited resource. Don’t let Granny’s rose tinted glasses give you a false sense of security.

Dating and mating has always been a pretty tricky business and not just for girls.

Wrong. It’s only very recently that dating (as opposed to courtship) was a thing, and marriages have been arranged until a few generations ago.

The only difference now is that we have more freedom, as women, to decide what we want and how to live our lives.  Let’s stop joking about no one ever wanting to marry us and appreciate the opportunities we have to lead a fulfilling life without a man whilst knowing that realistically, there’s someone for everyone in the world.

As I said, that’s only true if equal numbers of men and women want to marry.

As my Grandpa said when I asked him if he thought I would ever meet someone: ‘It will happen without expecting it, it might be the chap next door’.

Wishful thinking is always the best plan. Thanks, Grandad.

My advice to women? You can work at most occupations while you’re old, but you can only have children when you’re young. Men know this instinctively, meaning that, when they want to have children, they will look for a young woman. If you ever want to have children, prioritize doing so over career. Once you’ve raised your young children, you will have plenty of time for work.

About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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1 Response to Whistling Past the Demographic Graveyard

  1. Pingback: Why Are Girls Losing the Relationship Game? | Jim's Jumbler

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