Would this be the solution to the crisis of the modern woman, as Bolick suggests? In practice, perhaps. But such a social order would be merely the flip side of the patriarchal social structure feminists love to hate. In a caricature patriarchal society, men have all the earning power, determine the structure of both the household and other institutions, and treat women as little more than domestic and sexual servants, often engaging the “services” of more than one (the “temporary marriages” practiced in some Muslim countries come to mind). In a caricature matriarchal society, men are little more than studs. In both cases, one distinctive need of the weaker gender is met effectively — the patriarchs address women’s need for stability and physical protection, while the matriarchs satisfy male desire for commitment-free sex with multiple partners. But this comes at the expense of every other, loftier, need and desire, and distorts the humanity of both the stronger and the weaker sex.
The only alternative to the objectification of one sex is marriage, premised on monogamy and love. When men bind together and hold power, women do not participate in decision-making as equal partners. When women rely on their own support networks instead of men, men are shut out of the family. Only in monogamous marriage, in which the heterosexual couple, rather than either gender, wields power and constitutes the basic unit of society, can equality and true companionship between the sexes be achieved. It is no accident that even the Old Testament, for all its emphasis on growing and multiplying, exalts not mere fertility but marriage. Only the life-long faithful bond between man and woman is worthy of serving as a metaphor for the relationship between God and His people.
Marriage is worth fighting for. And if that is so, Bolick’s fascination with matriarchal arrangements must be resisted, not explored. It contributes to the lowering of women’s expectations of men and men’s expectations of themselves. The sexual availability of unmarried women, which can only be exacerbated by a more matriarchal social structure, plays a key role in promoting male decline. Men who begin having sex in their early teens do not effectively absorb the lesson that they will need a job — or any accomplishment besides physical attractiveness or charisma — in order to have sex. By the time they are old enough to learn otherwise, many of them have fathered several children and failed to make themselves employable. Little wonder that men, particularly in low-income communities, are falling behind.
Women cannot raise expectations for men by retiring into all-female “families.” They can do so only by refusing to provide commitment-free sex — by treating sex not as a perk of dating relationships whose destination vis-à-vis marriage is unknown, but as a shared marital reward.
This cannot be undertaken by any woman as an effort to break the male spirit and force commitment from men desperate for sex. It must be coupled with a genuine attempt to remember and value why it is that men — qua men — are valuable, not dispensable, not “replaceable by another man or their child’s mother” for either the child or the mother. Respect for the bodies of women, and for their desire for family and commitment, must be accompanied by respect for the dignity of men. This would encourage men not only to commit to women, but to raise their standards for themselves, reversing the very problem leading to the supposed need for female support networks.
— Lea Halim lives in Northern Virginia and blogs at The Groom’s Family.