Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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The value paradox

In the tail-waters of feminism, women have, decade after decade, increased their demands on what a man needs to be and bring in order to be “worthy” or a “good catch”. At the same time, however, they themselves have brought less and less to the table—and changes in legislation concerning e.g. divorces, domestic violence, whatnot, have severely increased the risks involved in a relationship for a man. This to the point that many men are extremely reluctant to enter long-term relationships, let alone get married.

The rising criteria, in and by themselves, need not be bad: If a woman prefers to be single over compromising, then that is her choice—and the same choice that so many modern men have made. The problem: Every now and then there is a newspaper article, a forum post, or similar, that proudly exclaims that men better look out, shape up, and get with the program, lest they become unable to find girlfriends. This while the exact opposite happens in real life: Those women who raise their standards have increasingly larger problems of finding someone; while almost all men (at least above a certain age) willing to compromise can find the kind of female companionship they prefer (be it sex-oriented or with a view towards marriage); and while even a woman willing to compromise can have problems finding a husband.

In many ways, they remind me of the claim

You better shape up,
’cause I need a man
and my heart is set on you.

(Sandy in Greasee)

to which my immediate thought is always: If you need a man, and have already set your heart on me, why would I need to shape up? Should not you be the one to improve and convince me? (Further, unlike Danny, I preferred the “naive” Sandy over the “naughty” Sandy.)


With hindsight, I may have misinterpreted the intents of the song: Something along the lines of “You better shape up, so that you have the stamina for me.” would make better sense than “You better shape up, so you can win me.”.

Compare the situation between a typical marriage today and say a hundred years ago:


Beware that the below contains some amount of idealization and stereotyping, and that it ignores e.g. that a less than loving wife could wreck havoc in many a marriage, irrespective of age: That men feared their wives or saw them “wear the trousers” has happened since time immemorial.

Further note that I do not necessarily say that the past was more just, certainly not that everything should be made as before—only that it was more advantageous for men and/or that a man’s benefit of a wife was greater than today.

  1. Then: Reasonably high-quality sexual stimulation and satisfaction was only to be had within the marriage. (Notably, even masturbation was often not allowed for religious reasons.) Sex was on the man’s terms, in that he could focus on pleasing himself and that he chose the time and place.

    Now: Pre-marital sex is a given, pornography abounds, and masturbation is considered normal—all of which makes a man less reliant on having a wife. Further the focus of sex has shifted: A man now typically has to spend half-an-hour on foreplay (which depending on the woman and the circumstance can be nice, boring, a nuisance, or a “Gee Gods, do I have to!?!”). If his wife refuses, there is not much he can do about it—and if she wants to have sex when he is not in the mood, he often has to go through with it anyway to avoid problems.


    Notably, with an Internet access, a man can access a practically endless supply of free porn, even outside the mainstream. Only for specific fetishes can payment be an issue—and that too is likely to change as time goes by.

    Speaking for myself, the only thing I have ever paid for is the fees charged for the Internet access, it self.

  2. Then: The wife cooked, cleaned, took care of the kids, ... After the man got home from work, his day was over, he had dinner waiting, could relax, read the paper, whatnot.

    Now: A man who does not do “his” half of the household chores in addition to his (usually) longer working hours is often considered a lazy-ass sexist. At any rate, his workload has been increased by tasks traditionally done by his wife.


    Note that this is a statement about the man’s situation: It may well be that that the average woman works the same number of hours (with the extremely conflicting statistics, I will not judge this). This, however, is irrelevant to the particular point I am making.

    The question can arise, however, whether the influx of women into the work-force has lowered the working week in a manner that results in a net-benefit for men—or whether a drop of similar size would have happened anyway.

    Personally, however, I would likely be happier in a system where I work x extra hours in the office rather than x extra hours in the household. (Then again, people in heavy manual labour or with boring jobs may see this differently.)

    Further, consider that many men, only semi-jokingly, ask the question: How come the household chores went from five hours/week to forty as soon as my girlfriend moved in?

  3. Then: The wife was a means to secure the line, take joy in the children and grand-children, ...

    Now: Disturbingly often, divorces reduce the man’s rights to and opportunities with his children severely. At least in the US, they can be entirely obliterated.

  4. Then: If a woman did not obey, he could put her over his knee.

    Now: If a man hits a woman, even in self-defense, he can end up in jail and lose the right to see his children. Worse, in some cases, even saying something that she does not like can lead to charges of domestic violence (which, insanely, are sometimes successful).

  5. Then: Getting a divorce was hard, but a man with sufficient influence could get rid of a too poor wife if he really wanted to. His risk of being abandoned was small, and his economic situation rarely threatened.

    Now: About half of all marriages end in a divorce (depending on country), the clear majority of divorces are instigated by women, and the man is often taken to the cleaners. Not only does he often lose a very considerable part of his assets (even pre-marital assets), but he is also forced to pay continuous child support—in many cases so much that he cannot both pay the full amount and keep himself afloat. Worse, when he is not able to keep up with the payments, legal sanctions, even “debtors prison”, follow.

While I am far from certain that I, myself, would have been married even “then” (due to many issues as a young man and unusually large incompatibilities with women), the probability would have risen considerably—as would my interest to change my situation had I not been married by now.

Add in to this that women bring very few advantages for a man outside of the above: Other men tend to be better company, more fun, share more interests, be significantly more intellectually stimulating. Emotional support (and related) is a near one-way street of the man supporting the woman. Etc.