In my post Modern Romance, reader K notes that a possible explanation of "Dating Capital" can explain the disparity in dating outcomes. That men with friends who give them pickup pointers, and provide "wingman" services, can create more success for their buddies in the way that girlfriends can for their female friends, with make-overs and better haircuts and the like.
In order to test this hypothesis, it's probably useful to look at how two hypothetical 19 year old men would fare, in different eras, and compare their "dating capital" or skills gained by social networks to be able to attract women in a relationship. Let's create a hypothetical 19 year old man in Greeley, Colorado, in 1949. Create another, hypothetical 19 year old man in say, Boulder, Colorado, in 1998. Let's compare the two, their resources, and their hypothetical outcomes, to explore how they pass through the dating and relationship market.
First, let's examine the 19 year old man in 1998's Boulder Colorado. If he was lucky enough to mature early, physically, in High School, and have or create enough status for himself as an attractive male, he will have plenty of success with women and need very little "game" or "Dating Capital." He will have experienced early success with women, feel no anxiety or social fear (of rejection) in approaching them, and making conversation. He is likely to do well in College with the opposite sex, particularly if he maintains a high social status. With sports, particularly football or basketball, giving him high social status and appeal, or inherited wealth that affords outward markers like fancy cars, and the like. At no point, of course, will he find his grades reflect dating success. Grades and academic success are quite irrelevant, if not harmful. A successful young man with women will note that his contemporaries who do well in school, have in general very poor success with women. Principally, because lower levels of testosterone are associated with higher intelligence, and women avoid "smart men" who are "nerdy" like the plague. One study even showed that only 65% of MIT graduate students ever had sex. Further illustrating that process: 0% of Studio Art majors were virgins, but 83% of Biochem and Math majors were virgins. Any dating savvy young man with high status among women will conceal above average intelligence, or channel it into "high testosterone" activities such as fighter pilot, etc.
After College, a High Status, "Alpha" male will continue, quite likely, to find success among women, as long as he retains his status, by working in occupations that are found "sexy" by women, including occupations such as lawyer, advertising, media, and so on. Avoiding professions such as engineering, computer programming, accounting, and the like which women find "nerdy" and associate with lower testosterone men. Ten years later, at age 29, the young man is likely to have little problems finding dates, approaching women, and is likely to be quite comfortable with his romantic life.
However, there are unlikely to be very many men like this. The increase in divorce and single motherhood means less chance of inherited wealth. A few genetic lottery winners with early puberty and athletic success are likely to define this crowd, and those naturally handsome and tall. Probably, we are looking in the neighborhood of 10% of the 19 year olds from 1998.
But what of the hypothetical 19 year old in 1998, who did not mature early, physically,or find high status through athletics, or inherit wealth and status, or some combination? If he has an older brother to mentor him, or various friends who are able to teach him the trick of appearing high status, certainly he can do better for himself. It's likely that the increase in attendance in College is at least as much the desire to be around girls more. A blue collar auto mechanic of 19, competing for the same girls in a bar, as a 19 year old sophomore at the local college, is likely to lose out, all things being equal. Meanwhile, lots of alcohol and various social events, allow young men and women to intermingle, often inebriated past social inhibitions (and good judgment). Even young men who are not particularly "Alpha" or socially dominant can be "lucky" enough, in the words from the movie "Superbad," to be one girl's "mistake."
Increasingly, College, and particularly non-elite colleges, serve as social intermediary institutions to match young people, though only temporarily. The way Church and town dances and social events did, to bring young people of the opposite sex together. Elite Colleges, of course, like Harvard or Yale, have admissions generally balanced equally among men and women, while lower tier schools such as say, Syracuse University, have 56% women, and 44% men as their student body. The higher percentage of women in less elite schools pretty much requires the words of John Lovitz on "Saturday Night Live," ... "Ladies, lower your standards."
Naturally, competition for the most "Alpha" of men at most colleges is fierce. Conservative women commentators such as National Review's Mona Charen, or City Journal's Kay Hymowitz's finger men as a whole as the reason young women "act slutty" in their words, with more explicit behavior (compared to the past), clothing, and more. Young women clearly would prefer not to lower their standards, and the conduct condemned is not that of young women just mindlessly acting like robots to young men's demands as a group, but rather the need to capture the most Alpha of men in competition with many, many other women. It's a numbers game — the pool of Alpha men is smaller, and the pool of female competitors is larger. Hence the need to up the ante with more available sexual behavior, more revealing clothing, more consumption of alcohol and so on.
Exacerbated by the lack of any larger social context, of course. College years are conducted mostly in social isolation, with peers as the standards of conduct. Parties, and other socialization, do not take place among friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, and the like. That is a massive shift over time from the world of 1949.
But it's after College that the lack of "Dating Capital" does in the romantic success of the non dominant, non-Alpha male, in the case of the 19 year old from 1998.
The hardest problem is meeting young women. As reader K noted, young men and women in large organizations might well be suited for each other, but would never meet in socially appropriate ways to conducting romance. A young male computer programmer might never meet other than a casual pass in the hallways, a young female human resources officer. However, the young woman, assuming she is attractive on some baseline, will have no problems meeting young men in bars. Increasingly, women are opting for single motherhood and rejecting the messy compromises of marriage. One might even argue that a man would have to have a much larger premium over a woman's status and wealth and position in life in order to be considered for marriage. Given women's ability to form single mother families on their own.
Let's examine our hypothetical young man, who was 19 in 1998, after College. Let's assume he had little "game" but was lucky enough in College, fueled by lots of alcohol, "mistakes," and the imbalance in the sex ratio. Suddenly, in the big city after graduation, his partial success in College comes to a screeching stop, and he's back in High School again. His dating success and failures are entirely dependent on his ability to impress his female peers in bars, within a few seconds. If he has friends who are successful with women, and are inclined to teach him how to proceed successfully, he has hope. If not, he has none, and soon falls into substitution with pornography and video games and other entertainments.
Meanwhile, young women have a large cultural resource available to them, in how to become more attractive. Their dating capital, besides their friends, resides in magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Glamor, and the like. Movies, television shows, books, and daytime talk shows like Oprah are filled with make-overs designed to maximize attractiveness. Young men, on the other hand, have the "lad" magazines such as Maxim, with pictures of young women and not much advice on how to approach them. Their dating capital is essentially, their friends and the Pick Up Artist books, seminars, and websites. It's catch as catch can, with most young men likely to lose out. There is no systemic effort to clue them into the requirements of women. Part of the problem is that "excessive" interest in women, including much effort spent in picking them up, is considered "unmanly," in the way that Don Juans are considered, still, unseemly and effeminate. A common complaint among the Pick Up artists like "Mystery" is that their fathers and larger society did not teach them the skills they needed to attract women.
Which is precisely the point. In 1949, mediating institutions such as Churches and local organizations in towns and cities put young men and women together. "Game" was not needed because women's selection criteria included what their friends, family, and community would think and approve of their choices. Anonymous hookups were not very common, and young women already knew well of a man's character, relatives, and conduct before he ever approached her at a dance. The world of 1949, Greeley Colorado, did not have anonymous strangers meeting in a bar, based on purely physical attributes and "Game." Let's now examine our hypothetical 19 year old in 1949.
Assuming the young man matured early, again like his hypothetical counterpart in 1998, and had relatively high status, he would have had little problem with women in his life. It's quite likely that he would have married relatively early, compared to his counterpart in 1998, given the relative marriage rates derived from the US Census Bureau below:
[Click on Graph to Enlarge It]
But of course, it's not him we are interested in. Rather, it is the 19 year old in 1949, who probably would not have had great success in High School with girls, but after High School would have had a far different world in front of him.
That world, would include far greater "Dating Capital" because of social intermediary institutions. In Greeley, that would include the staid Baptist socials and dances that Sayyid Qutb found to be a hotbed of lust and depravity. Game was far less a determinant of success, because each young women knew well each potential suitor, besides his demeanor and appearance. While he might be smooth and suave, in his approach (or lacking), she would know who his parents were, how much money he was likely to make, if he had any major character flaws, what his brothers and sisters were like, in other words a fairly complete picture of the man and his relatives, not to mention his standing in the community and what most of her family and acquaintances thought of him. Any choice a young woman made would not be an anonymous, one-time hook-up, but taking place in front everyone. Including, her parents, possibly even grandparents. Young men who were of "good character" but lacked Game had lowered success, perhaps, compared to those who had better Game, but not decisively. They got married in far greater numbers than those of today.
Lack of anonymous, consequence-less choice, available contraception that was both cheap and reliable, and far more information to both men and women, made the young man of 1949, far different. Not only did he marry earlier, and in greater numbers, but there were not penalties for lacking College degrees as there is today in the dating market. Partly that was because of cheaper real estate, higher real incomes for blue collar men. But more because there were a host of institutions that served to bring young men and women together after they already had a good idea of who they were. Even in big cities, people lived in fairly intact, stable, ethnic neighborhoods. This was as true of New York as it was of Chicago, or Pittsburgh. Neighborhood dances, often sponsored by neighborhood churches, were the primary means of finding a mate.
It's only fairly recently, after all, that the Pick Up Artists have become a feature in Western life. In 1949 they would have seemed as out of place as a Rap video played before the staid burghers of Greeley. Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne and Humphrey Bogart were considered the models of masculinity. A man was supposed to be stalwart, loyal, true, and tough, not smooth, highly verbal, and attuned to women's moods. Today, we have "sensitive" screen stars such as Josh Hartnett, Shia LaBeouf, and Leonardo DiCaprio. That cultural shift seems to be part of the huge change in what women selected for, over time.
In the world of 1949, it seems that many other aspects of a man's character and personality mattered as much as Game, effectively neutralizing the Dating Capital advantage, or alternatively, spreading out Dating Capital by making other aspects besides smoothness, power/status, and confidence matter.
The world of 1949, however, is unlikely to ever return. Is there a systemic way to spread out Dating Capital to most young men? It doesn't seem possible, because no matter how well known "Game" becomes, there will always be a race to be the one with the "most" Game, as women simply choose the most Game-worthy candidate. Moreover, much of the spreading of game seems haphazard. Those with friends who have it, and are willing to share, and teach, benefit, those who do not, largely remain outside, clueless. It would seem almost impossible for women's choices to be informed by factors other than Game in a bar, given the largely rootless, anonymous urban culture most young people live within. The world of 1949, where even those who lacked "Game" (most men) had a good chance at romance and marriage, depended after all on stability, community, and social connections. All of that, is just gone.
After all, a man in 1949's Greeley Colorado would be astounded to learn that a bit more than fifty years later, men would pay $50 an hour just to have someone alongside them, giving them tips on how to pick up women. That's what the Church dances were for!