on July 6, 2000
Men and Marriage benefits the modern reader in a number of ways. Providing excellent data and analysis on males and females in modern society, the book enables its reader to better understand the modern controversy over men and women's respective roles in society. Gilder feels that one of modern society's key problems is its denials of the differences between the sexes and, as a logical corollary, its denial of appropriate roles. He writes, "Though rejecting feminist politics and lesbian posturing, American culture has absorbed the underlying ideology like a sponge. The principal tenets of sexual liberation or sexual liberalism--the obsolescence of masculinity and femininity, of sex roles, and of heterosexual monogamy as the moral norm--have diffused through the system and become part of America's conventional wisdom." Gilder has also performed an invaluable service by providing relevant material for couples and singles. Gilder wants the single woman to u! nderstand that if she decides to sacrifice her twenties on the altar of career, she could easily find herself a celibate priest serving that altar for the rest of her life. Gilder reports that Yale and Harvard sociologists, after analyzing census data, concluded that a woman who waits until her mid-thirties only has a 5% chance of getting married. The author also has much to say to the single man. Of the most unique and striking of Gilder's observations on the sexes is his contention that the average single man struggles with an inherent irresponsibility that only marriage can cure. While this assertion may have had a secure, albeit covert, place in yesterday's conventional wisdom, Gilder boldly presents the thesis with impressive statistical support. Single men are 30% more likely than single women to be unemployed. If they get a job, the single man will make very little more than his single girlfriend, in striking contrast to the substantial earning power of the married! man who takes home 70% more income. Single college gradua! tes will normally earn about the same as married graduates of high school. Gilder suggests, "It could well be more important for an ambitious young man to get married than to go to college" (p. 63). Demographically, except possibly for the divorced, the single most disturbed group in the United States is single men. Between the ages of 25 and 65 the single man is 30% more likely than single women to be depressed. He is 30% more likely to exhibit a tendency toward phobias and passivity. The unmarried man is three times more likely to experience a nervous breakdown and 22 times more likely to be committed to an institution because of mental disease. And these statistics are not just cause for sympathy for the single man, but a cause for concern. For 90% of all violent crime is committed by single men even though above the age of 14 they only make up about 13% of the population. The statistics and analyses that Gilder provides on singleness leads to another vita! l area that he addresses. A theme that Gilder resounds with great force is the degree to which a healthy society is in fact dependent on the health of its families. He writes, "As a social institution, marriage transcends all individuals. The health of a society, its collective vitality, ultimately resides in its concern for the future, its sense of a connection with generations to come" (p. 16). While the first six chapters of the Gilder's tome, which focus on sexual roles, are easily worth price of the book; its remainder is a tour de force on the relationship of modern sexual thought and the ghetto, welfare, homosexuality, the workplace, education, politics, and biogenetic engineering. While many will view this work as an anachronistic throwback to the 50s, it's empirical support of its major theses gives the reader pause.
on July 7, 2006
I agree with a lot of what previous posters have said but would like to add that Mr. Gilder is indeed a gifted writer. The book is replete with "laugh-out-loud" witicism interspersed between salient point after salient point. I loved it.
As an African American who grew up in a working class neighborhood which, over the 20 years since my departure, has deteriorated almost to the point of "ghetto", I can say unequivocally that whatever Gilder points out concerning the general population indeed goes triple for the African American community. If America has drunken the feminist "kool-aid" and relegated husbandhood and fatherhood to the trash heap of obselescence, the black community has taken said "kool-aid" intravenously...and it shows!
Thanks Mr. Gilder for you engaging contribution to sanity.
on April 12, 2008
This book received a lot of flack when it first came out. The demand for equality among men and women was finally being accepted as a proper ideal for a civilized society, and anyone who disagreed was deservedly shouted down. But amidst the great din, it was presumed with terrible shallowness that any thoughtful challenge was traitorous activity (This, unfortunately, is often still the case.) George Gilder was one of the first to point out that 'equality' does not mean 'sameness', that acknowledging the equality of women does not mean that men and women think, feel, or ought to act, in the same ways, or that it is 'bad' to examine the question of whether there might be gender roles that are indeed sensible, virtuous, and possibly even wonderful. As we look back over the years since the feminist movement began, we cannot honestly say that the changes we have made have made everyone happy. It is worth going back and taking a calm, thoughtful, fresh look at the challenges that George Gilder raised in this book.
on April 2, 2009
Years ago George Gilder published Sexual Suicide, then revised and expanded and renamed it Men and Marriage (Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, c. 1986). Gilder is better known for his work on economics, Wealth and Poverty, a supply-side manifesto widely discussed in the 1980's, but as a professional writer he has addressed a wide variety of social issues, including sexuality. And though his presentation has religious overtones, his argument is mainly philosophical and pragmatic.
First he focuses on "the facts of life." No issue needs more attention, Gilder argues, than that of men and marriage, for our hedonistic culture encourages men to behave irresponsibly. The oft-touted sexual revolution, praised in some circles for liberating women, has fundamentally freed men from family ties and obligations. Unattached, predatory males endanger our civilization--as do vandals and gang members on urban streets. Historians and anthropologists assure us that men, in every culture, have found their identity in providing for women and children. Women conceive and bear and nurture children as an inescapable biological reality. Their role is fixed. Men, however, need marriage to find their role. "The crucial process of civilization is the subordination of male sexual impulses and biology to the long-term horizons of female sexuality" (p. 5). Thus the health of any society depends upon the health and durability of its marriages.
Resisting those who willfully blur sexual distinctions, who naively assert (in highly utopian ways) that sexual differences are cultural rather than biological, Gilder insists there are indeed ineradicable differences which must be recognized and respected. Citing an "authoritative text on the subject, The Psychology of Sex Differences by Carol Jacklin and Eleanor Maccoby (who chaired the department of psychology at Stanford), Gilder contends: males' sexual hormones make them innately more aggressive; sex differences appear quite early in life and resemble those found in non-human primates; men crave leadership positions in groups. Men, for example, bond together in hierarchical structures, finding fulfillment in athletic teams, military units, street gangs, or revolutionary movements.
Divorced from women, men turn barbarians--"they rape and pillage, debauch and despoil the settlements of society" (p. 39). Only when their sexual drive is restrained by the structures of marriage, only when their bounty-hunting tendencies are overcome by the responsibilities of fatherhood, only when women say "no" to footloose males, can a men be "tamed."
That's not happening in our society. Consequently monogamy is crumbling. Couples "live together" rather than marry. Those who marry frequently divorce--the men moving on to other mates, enjoying a socially-approved "system of polygyny" (p. 76). Gilder notes that young women have no difficulty attracting males, but 15 or 20 years later they discover themselves abandoned or ignored. Shiftless males forever focus on "sexual princesses" who are most physically attractive. So, sadly enough, single women over 35 have only a five percent chance of marrying.
The collapse of monogamy most strikingly appears in America's inner-city ghettoes and--surprisingly enough--Scandinavian welfare states. Race is irrelevant. So is income. What is relevant is a welfare system which incubates fatherless families. Unneeded as a provider, the man seeks identity in a series of sexual conquests and violent adventures. "All civilized societies train their men to protect and defend women." When they abandon their post, when male aggressions turn against women, "the group tends to disintegrate completely and even to become extinct" (p. 136).
Like Weldon Hardenbrook, Gilder unapologetically calls for patriarchal families and societies. Alleged "matriarchies" have simply never existed; they never can exist. It's either patriarchy or anarchy. Experimental androgynous communities, such as the Communist communes and Israel kibbutzim, slowly and surely swing back to patriarchal structures. Certain segments of modern America, following utopian advocates of androgyny, illustrate what Michael Levin described as "'the feminist road to socialism'" (p. 150). The quest for "egalitarian marriages" in places such as Sweden, for example, has led to "the obsolescence of marriage itself" (p. 152). Tragically, "The United States is enacting many of the policies that brought sexual suicide to Sweden" (p. 153).
Nothing is more important than restoring the health and integrity of the family! Such wisdom typified ancient China, as is evident in this statement in I Ching: "The family . . . is the native soil on which performance of moral duty is made easy through natural affection so that within a small circle a basis of moral practice is created, and then is widened to include human relationships in general . . . ." (p. 165). In Men and Marriage, Gilder simply seeks to recover that ancient Chinese wisdom, declaring: "Most achievement in the world, I believe, reflects the force of family, first the patience and patrimony of parents and relatives, then the inspiration and support of husband or wife, finally the challenge and responsibility of the next generation. Some children can thrive in the absence of all this; but the society as a whole depends on family connections to succeed" (p. 193).
Gilder's message finds few adherents on soap operas or among the elite intelligentsia. But it certainly squares with the portrait presented us in Scripture and traditional cultures. Whether our nation can survive while ignoring it is a question only future historians will decide. This book's readable, challenging, irritating, fascinating in part because Gilder dares to take a strong, "reactionary" stance.
on July 4, 2011
I picked up this book immediately after turning away in disgust from Catharine MacKinnon's "Toward a Feminist Theory of the State" (see my review of that book), and I was delighted with the difference. MacKinnon attempts to restate Marxist theory in Feminist terms, but her work turns out to be a pathetically naive and tendentious assault on men in general. She sees every contribution by men to civilization as an attack on women. Like Marx, she sees no value in women other than as they produce monetary earnings, and she construes men as evil to the extent they do not cede economic and political power to women. Gilder, on the other hand, presents women as the enduring strength and viability of society, largely through their function of civilizing their men and diverting men's energies to socially productive ends. In Gilder's view, men become positive contributors to society to the extent that they take responsibility for the welfare of women and children they commit themselves to. By depending on a man for leadership, the woman creates a man deserving of leadership. The nuclear family becomes both the cause and the result of a well-structured and humane society.
Gilder's language is delightful, both in its serious and whimsical moments. Sometimes one feels he overstates his case, but on further reading down the page or through the chapter he justifies his reach with sound data and logic. He writes not just opinions, but relies on a depth of research far beyond what one normally expects in such a work. In all, I regret that I am only allowed to credit this book with five stars. It deserves more.
I grew up in a disfunctional family situation and I thought all through my twenties that I never ever wanted to get married. Marriage is where the misery starts, so I thought. The funny things though is I could never say I was happy, and I got less and less happy every years. I was in a downward spiral psychologically.
When I read this book, so many obvious things became clear. Things so obvious and common-sense that you might never think of it yourself and you certainly won't hear on the "news for entertainment" media or from Hollywood. Singleness is a problem, especially for men.
So, I had a change of heart toward marriage and was eventually blessed with a wonderful wife and now I can say, even with all the extra responsibility of a wife and kids, that I'm genually happy with my life. I owe a lot of it to this book.
on October 24, 2009
I have no idea why George Gilder's 1987 book, "Men and Marriage," escaped my attention until a copy was given to me this year (2009). While this is a revised and expanded edition of "Sexual Suicide," published in 1973, it sounds like it was written very recently.
My only bone to pick with the book is the title, since it's about much more than men and marriage, but about how the sexual revolution of the Sixties has impacted every facet of our society from gender roles and family structure, to government, military, economics, welfare, science, social science and education.
Gilder writes with a passionate voice, and this is what makes this book engaging reading. He has done extensive research, and each chapter, paragraph and sentence is packed with meaning. The only evidence that this volume was written over 20 years ago (other than the dates in the extensive endnotes) is the fact that much of what Gilder has predicted has been coming true all around us.
Evidence is seen in the continuing rise of divorce, unwed mothers, cohabitation, pornography, welfare, women in the military (in combat roles), "Don't ask, don't tell," immigration (both legal and illegal), in vitro fertilization, social manipulation by the government, and much more.
This book makes other volumes on traditional family values seem like baby food. If you care about these issues, don't let the copyright date stop you from getting this book. I just heard George Gilder on the radio, and I plan to read more of his books in the future.
on August 19, 2011
If you read it without prejudice, you will find one of the finest analysis I've ever read about men and women, and about the undisclosed hell in what we have turned the world of personal relationships
on August 6, 2012
The truth, as it pertains to male nature, hurts. If you're not prepared to hear it and from it deduce the morass "modern" society has sunk male identity into, don't read this review, and don't read Men and Marriage.
The truth is male and female natures are complementary, and therefore fundamentally different. Forget everything you heard in college to the contrary.
Furthermore, male and female natures are fixed. None of this evolution nonsense.
That's not to say society can evolve. It can and does, to its advantage or, as is often the case, to its detriment. When humans band together for survival, they form a society. The highest purpose of society is to channel male nature towards stability and family. If society fails at that, it implodes. Observe this implosion in America's black population, in which three-quarters of children are born out of wedlock, a cultural disaster.
Boys are naturally preprogrammed for society to mold them into family men. Women, who bear all the biological burdens of childbearing but the provisioning of sperm, have about the same longevity whether they marry or not. Unmarried men, however, die far sooner than married men. The reasons for the single man's abbreviated life are myriad--mental illness, (lack of) hygiene, risk-taking, etc.--but, Gilder writes, they have at their root the "lack of sustained commitment and lack of orientation toward the future."
To paraphrase, men by nature are socially inferior to women. Gilder doesn't use the metaphor of the blossoming flower, but my mind immediately seizes on it as the perfect illustration of how a girl becomes a woman. No one ever says a boy blossoms into a man. But people do say a girl blossoms into a woman. It takes no conscious act on her part for this to happen. It just happens.
On the other hand, being, or becoming, a man isn't a passive exercise. It takes conscious effort. Boys are exhorted to "be a man" and "act like a man," having little idea what that really means. It's up to society to inform them what that is. Writes Gilder: "A man's body is full only of undefined energies--and all these energies need the guidance of culture. He is therefore deeply dependent on the structure of the society to define his role. In all its specific expressions, manhood is made, not born."
To be sure, men are still being made in America, just in fewer and fewer numbers. Men's roles are being encroached upon on many fronts: by government, science, and women themselves. The welfare state and divorce courts usurp men's role to provide for what is now a burgeoning population of single mothers. Science has rendered the sex act, from which men draw their vitality, irrelevant to procreation. And the feminist movement has encouraged girls to be more like men--that is, to eschew having children and pursue careers instead.
This has a cumulative effect. Under such conditions, increasing numbers of men can offer nothing to women that they don't have already or can't get on their own. There is a measure of truth to vindictive feminists' declaration that a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle. But to women who aren't kidding themselves, who have perhaps tried to be more like men but are overpowered by the instinctual tugs toward wifehood and motherhood, this is bad news. Men are not just dropping out of college (about 60% of college students now are female), they are dropping out of society altogether, preferring the virtual worlds of computers and video games. Meanwhile, what attracts women to men has not changed. This divergence between modern society and biological nature results in a shrinking pool of marriageable men. "The man still has to perform--still has to offer something beyond himself, and beyond her reach--if she is to receive him."
That Gilder saw these trends in the early '70s, when he released the first edition of Men and Marriage, is to his great credit. Everything he observed 40 years ago is applicable today to the nth degree. Once you close the book, you will look at the world around you differently. When you read columns that sing hosannas to Title IX of the Civil Rights Act or stories about women's pay rising relative to men's while the childbirth rate declines, you'll question whether those really are good things.
on March 14, 2014
This may be the most compelling book I've read in the past decade. Originally published in 1973 as "Sexual Suicide", it was revised in 1986 and reads, at times, like fulfilled prophecy. Gilder combines penetrating analysis with forceful logic and skillful expression. I didn't find a boring sentence in the whole book.
If downright forced to identify some negatives, I'd first lament the occasional R-rated descriptions of deviant behaviors. I could have lived without those. Some will find the book too cerebral and may want to keep a dictionary on hand. Christian readers might balk at his references to evolution but, for reasons I can't go into here, I'm not even convinced he is a buyer. That's about it.
Gilder makes a case for sexual constitution. Men and women really are different. You would never know it from the reactions to this book--Gilder earned "Male Chauvinist Pig of the Year" honors, courtesy of Time Magazine and the National Organization of Women--but he actually asserts the superiority of women over men in several key areas: sexuality, morality, even emotions. Unlike (most) women, men in their natural state need tamed. They are legitimate barbarians who, if not cornered, caged, and duly domesticated, will turn their energies against society if they don't kill themselves first. It is futile to deny this, as any honest man will attest. Citing FBI statistics, Gilder reports, "Although single men number some 13 percent of the population over age fourteen, they comprise 40 percent of the criminals and commit nearly 90 percent of major and violent crimes."
For this reason and others, the philosophical foundations of the modern welfare state are relentlessly and mercilessly battered, chapter after chapter. It is suicide to enact policies which encourage the disintegration of families. Gilder condemns the delusion that the state can replace the father as provider and the mother as nurturer without inflicting irreparable harm on society and particularly on the "lucky" recipients of government aid.
You will need steel-toed boots if you are a liberal, an effeminate sociologist professor, a militant homosexual, an angry feminist, a self-serving politician, or a socialist. Sometimes sacrificing tactfulness for honesty, Gilder takes on subjects like sexual politics, education, women in the military and in the workplace. How blissfully refreshingly in this our age of ubiquitous liberal sanctimony to read a book that from cover to cover shows literally zero patience for political correctness!
We need real men; we need real women; we need marriages; we need children (and lots of them); we need traditional families in which the father/husband busts his tail and the mother/wife nurtures the children. We need to ignore the self-appointed experts whose criminal obliviousness to reality has translated into equally criminal policy disasters.
I considered attempting here to lay out the groups that would most benefit from respective chapters: "Those with children in public schools need to read chapter 11. . ." But, no. I found myself thinking, "Everyone needs to read this chapter. And this one too." In fact, may I propose we force a Congressional recess until those who write our laws can prove they've read and understood Gilder (leaving nothing but retirement as an option for some). I'd bet $100K of tuition that this single book packs a better education than a sociology degree. Is my enthusiasm obvious? Read this book.