This is an expanded version of a comment I left on Megan McArdle’s post
Listen to the ‘Bad Feminists’ in which she muses on the “Grace”-vs.-Aziz-Ansari scandalette and wonders why younger women report feeling so powerless and used.
It’s not complicated, Megan. You actually got most of it already, but I don’t think you quite grasp how comprehensive the trap is yet. Younger women feel powerless because they live in a dating environment where sexual license has gone from an option to a minimum bid.
I’m not speaking as a prude or moralist here, but as a…well, the technical term is ‘praxeologist’ but few people know it so I’ll settle for “micro-economist”. The leading edge of the sexual revolution give women options they didn’t have before; its completion has taken away many of the choices they used to have by trapping them in a sexual-competition race for the bottom.
“Grace” behaved as she did because she doesn’t have a realistic option to hold out for romance before sex; women who do that put themselves at high risk of not getting second dates, there are too many others willing to play by the new rules. So she has to do sex instead and hope lightning strikes.
Couple this with the fact that as women get on average more educated there are fewer hypergamically-eligible males at every SES, and you have the jaws of a vicious vise. It’s especially hard on high-status women and low-status men. The main beneficiaries are high-status men, who often behave like entitled assholes because the new rules tilt the playing field in their favor even more than the old ones did.
(That last is not aimed at Ansari, who seems to me to have behaved quite like a gentleman, acceding to every request “Grace” actually made. It’s not his fault he couldn’t read her mind.)
I don’t have a fix for this problem. As you imply, if women were able to coordinate a retreat to withholding early sex they would regain some of their lost bargaining power, but I don’t see any realistic possibility of this today. The problem is that the refuseniks from such an agreement trying to form, and the defectors after it formed, would be rewarded with more sex with high-status men, which is exactly what every player on the female side is instinctively wired to want.
I’ve noted before that, as separate issue from hypergamy, women seem to be wired to want more sex on more casual terms than is actually good for their prospects of landing a parenting partner. This makes the defection problem more difficult – it means that coordinating a change wouldn’t just be fighting instrumental rationality with too short a time horizon, but some kind of holdover from the environment of ancestral adaptation that makes women irrationally willing.
So the fix, if there were one, would have to be imposed on all women. Good luck with that; religion has lost the power to do it and there is no other institution even positioned to try. Ironically, the most vociferous opposition to such an imposition attempt would come from…feminists. And there’d be little help from high-status men, either.
This all makes some sense of the extreme repressiveness of many traditional societies, including our own until recently. The old ways had features we now find ugly and unacceptable, but maybe that was the best adaptation they could manage to a hard problem! It is unlikely we can go back…”How ya gonna keep ’em down on the farm”, and all that. But what do we do to go forward?