Charlotte Allen has a long piece in The Weekly Standard that highlights the contemporary dating game and the pathologies—there’s really no other word—that drive it. From her conclusion:
The whole point of the sexual and feminist revolutions was to obliterate the sexual double standard that supposedly stood in the way of ultimate female freedom. The twin revolutions obliterated much more, but the double standard has reemerged in a harsher, crueler form: wreaking havoc on beta men and on beta women, too, who, as the declining marriage rate indicates, have trouble finding and securing long-term mates in a supply-saturated short-term sexual marketplace. Gorgeous alpha women fare fine—for a few years until the younger competition comes of age. But no woman, alpha or beta, seems able to escape the atavistic preference of men both alpha and beta for ladylike and virginal wives (the Darwinist explanation is that those traits are predictors of marital fidelity, assuring men that the offspring that their spouses bear are theirs, too). And every aspect of New Paleolithic mating culture discourages the sexual restraint once imposed on both sexes that constituted a firm foundation for both family life and civilization.
Allen’s basic point is that social Darwinism has triumphed in the urban dating scene: the beta men get left behind, while the alpha men get women and then teach others to do the same, deploying sales methods and psychological assumptions similar to the get-rich-quick movement (not to mention the pop-psychology, chicken-soup self-help movement).
Conor Friedersdorf takes on Allen for her hasty adoption of the “pseudo science” of the pickup artists. And while he’s probably right to do so, his rejoinder ignores Allen’s references to evolutionary psychology and to Rossie’s mentor, F. Roger Devlin. While she derides the form it takes among the pick-up artists, her basic argument seems to be that evolutionary psychology explains the behavior of those involved in the culture, even if it doesn’t work.
And contra Conor, I think the rising marriage age supports her case more than he is willing to grant. We don’t have to think that there was a golden age of marriage (as the marriage movement is sometimes thought to believe in) to see that something significant has gone on in how men and women relate to each other. Even if we decide that pickup artists are a fringe community, they are a more liberal fringe than that of fifty years ago. And while there could be other reasons for the rising marrying age (economic reasons, especially), people aren’t exactly remaining celibate while they wait to tie the knot—not to mention that our current concept of marriage is profoundly different that fifty years ago.
At any rate, Allen’s piece is largely descriptive of the current dating situation, and it’s illuminating insofar as it goes. But inasmuch as it stops there, it doesn’t go nearly far enough.