I’ve watched and read a lot of content from various speakers and critics of men’s movements, in particular those that emphasize the keeping of distance from female relationships. Within this content are a lot of philosophizing or attempting to offer scientific-sounding theories such as basic eternal male and female behavior being expressed within the modern context of equality. The men’s movement emphasize the female traits such as hypergamy or Briffault’s law that theoretically have roots in evolved female behavior. The critics point to similar male traits such as aggressive behavior, or possessiveness that are incompatible with modern relationships. I don’t know if these are valid, but at least these seem reasonable depictions of the condition.
These topics interest me because I qualify as a member of the group of men who have avoided close relationships with women. While part of me is seeking a better understanding of myself, the main motivation is to see if like minded people reside in these groups. I’ve been disappointed on both counts.
While there is a generally vocal community philosophically defining, describing, or even prescribing MGTOW (men going their own way) or MRM (men’s rights movement), I believe they are describing a minority of the larger trend of increasing number of men who are less engaged in the economic aspects of society in general and less committed to women in particular. Their descriptions are incomplete.
Personally, I have no objection to a close relationship and no real fear of it. Despite that, I have not had a relationship. At this age, I’m accepting of the fact that I will never have a relationship. In my case, the reason is that each time there was at least a possibility of a relationship, I could not see how it would work in my life. The reasons it never felt like it would work are probably due to my own mental health. Maybe I’m too socially awkward to maintain a relationship or I have some kind of mental deviancy. I don’t expect my condition represents a significant section of the broad trend of men reducing their economic participation and limiting their interaction with women.
But I can generalize away from myself and see something that is missed in many of the discussions on these topics, discussions that focus on some type of hostility between the sexes. The generalization is the growing irrelevance of partnering for sexual or pair-bounding reasons.
Coming at this in a different way, consider the current state of social media with people participating in multiple networks of people on each of multiple social media platforms. I believe social media relationships are no substitute for the physically proximate relationships, but they are competitive relationships nonetheless. Time spent on social media relationships is time not spent on in-person relationships. At some point, the clock runs out, the day is done, and all of the interactions of the day were virtual ones. Virtual relationships can be very emotional. Some may involve sexual topics, but most probably do not, and for me, none of them do and I don’t even think about it. There are more relationship options available in the social-media / teleworking era and these are superior competitors to a lasting committed daily physically-close relationship.
All of the world is a couple degrees of separation from social media connections. Most people do not need to be connected to the entire world, but it is almost trivial to fill out ones daily planner with social media contacts, which include being passive a YouTube subscriber or a twitter follower.
The above is not an original observation. An old criticism of MGTOW or MRM is the excesses of video-gaming or social media obsession. However, this is not a description of an active avoidance of the intimate relationships or of a hostility to the opposite sex. It is merely a substitution of a deep commitment to a pairing relationships with a large number of shallower relationships with many, where many of those will never lead to face-to-face meetings. My impression is that these are roughly balanced overall, each offering benefits that come at the loss of benefits from the other.
My observation is deeper about human nature.
In recent times, there is a lot of interest in something called evolutionary psychology and in particular the evolution of differing natures of men and women. For the sake of argument, I’ll grant this this true. I don’t have any doubt that there is a difference in behavioral proclivity between men and women, and I’ll accept for argument that the various descriptions of the behaviors are accurate.
Among the base-level evolution-defined stereotypes are that women seek men who can protect them and provide for them while also offering good genes for children. There is no contradiction that different men may serve each role. For men, the stereotype is of aggression in obtaining resources and in defending his property as well as his attachment to his mate.
In terms of children, the evolution-defined stereotypes are that men are interested in sex that happens to result in children while women are interested in nurturing the children. At some point, the man becomes more invested in educating or training the maturing children in his philosophy or culture. This is a ridiculously trivial description and you can fill in other traits or cross out my suggestions for what fits within this idea that evolution defined the differences between men and women.
The one trait I want to focus in on is the interest of the man on influencing the development of the maturing adolescent or young adult.
At this point, I’ll state that I don’t believe that inheritance of naturally selected behaviors for the two sexes. The sexes do have behavioral differences but they come from a plan or a design that may include traits with no historic precedent the determined survival or reproductive success. This may be by some divine designer, or it may be by some natural-world mechanism modern science has yet to discover. I discussed earlier where I think passing my genes to the next generation is a distant second in importance than passing on my ideas or philosophies. Actually, I stated it in the reverse direction, where ascribe more of my self-identity to thought-leaders of the past than to ancestors who lived at the same time.
There is more distracting men’s attention away from women than just passive video games or mundane social media interactions. The greater distraction is the effort to master some aspect of the rapidly changing modern reality with the intent that we can pass our skill, wisdom, or vision to the generation behind us.
I often think about what it would have been like to have had a family with children. One thing that always bothered me is the impossibility of me doing what could have been done a few centuries ago: I could not engage my children in to gradually learning of a craft I had learned from my father. For one thing, my craft was learned just recently. For another, my children would have to be in their mid to late 20s before I could realistically share my work with them.
In this reality, my children may have propagated perhaps half of my genes but virtually nothing about my skills, wisdom, or philosophy. I don’t find my genes to be particularly outstanding to preserve in future generations, but I do find something in my philosophy and approach, neither of which (I believe) will not be in my genes.
In this context, a committed relationship offers very little to me. The relationship itself will cost my time and money to maintain that relationship, and the possibility of offspring will not offer me a way to pass along my ideas to my children.
Here there may be some overlap with the MRM. In particular, the argument that modern family laws make divorce easy, difficult to contest, and more often than not giving primary child rearing time to the mother. The most valuable time of fathering children is during the later part of their childhood, when a divorce would likely have been in place.
I may regret not having a family, but I’m grateful that I managed to avoid the divorce and separation from my children except for a couple entertainment days a month.
I don’t really regret not having a family, because early on I’ve found it more rewarding to focus on my interests that I can only vaguely describe as a career. It has been rewarding to understand a current challenge and impart my own perspective to the task. That perspective has always been to pass that on to someone else.
I don’t know when exactly, but at some point of my career I came up with the idea that my job is to put myself out of a job. It is my job to figure out how to do something new and then to hand that over to someone else to take over.
Among those who have families or commitments to spouses or outside interests, there may be a tendency to master a skill and build a niche or mini-empire that guarantees job security. That makes perfect sense because there is that obligation to be a provider.
I take a different view, and one I suspect is not rare. I don’t have such obligations at home to require job security. Meanwhile, I gain pleasure in the thought that I’ve giving something created from my being to someone who could use it for their job security or their advancements.
In doing so, I’m satisfying my fatherly instincts by contributing to the human hive rather than to my biological offspring. Even if I had children, it is almost certain they would not have benefited as much as the unrelated people who happened to be in the right position for me to influence.
An unintended consequence of this approach to my life is that I ended leading a life of intermittent employment and low consumerism with no bonding relationships. It looks like MGTOW, but it is merely expressing my male instincts with the opportunities presented in the present. In my case, this worked out probably better than if I had done otherwise.