Tuesday, July 05, 2011

postlude regarding the disposability of the single man


Ms. Hvistendahl argues that such imbalances are portents of Very Bad Things to come. "Historically, societies in which men substantially outnumber women are not nice places to live," she writes. "Often they are unstable. Sometimes they are violent." As examples she notes that high sex ratios were at play as far back as the fourth century B.C. in Athens—a particularly bloody time in Greek history—and during China's Taiping Rebellion in the mid-19th century. (Both eras featured widespread female infanticide.) She also notes that the dearth of women along the frontier in the American West probably had a lot to do with its being wild. In 1870, for instance, the sex ratio west of the Mississippi was 125 to 100. In California it was 166 to 100. In Nevada it was 320. In western Kansas, it was 768.

There is indeed compelling evidence of a link between sex ratios and violence. High sex ratios mean that a society is going to have "surplus men"—that is, men with no hope of marrying because there are not enough women. Such men accumulate in the lower classes, where risks of violence are already elevated. And unmarried men with limited incomes tend to make trouble. In Chinese provinces where the sex ratio has spiked, a crime wave has followed. Today in India, the best predictor of violence and crime for any given area is not income but sex ratio.

It is popular in certain conservative Protestant circles to say that a blight on the church is its feminization. It would appear that though the church is historically and canonically called the bride of Christ that it needs doses of testosterone to ensure that it is manly enough to attract men. Concerns get expressed about how churches fail to connect to men by being too feminine either by surplus of actual estrogen or because church leadership is characterized by men who are, in the bluntest of all possible formulation of the objection, pussies or eunuchs or queers.

Problem, the solution to this perceived problem is probably not going to be getting more men into churches. It may help and certainly it is good for men to love the Lord and serve others; but when there are far more men around then there are any possible wives this means that men may act out their disposability on an epic scale. To insist that men in lower income brackets take responsibility and go get married does nothing to make their burden easier. There are a lot of guys who already know they can't afford to be fathers but do not take the trouble to refrain from sexual activities that lead to children. The solution to this problem may not be merely to insist that men solemnize their fornication by way of marriage or get real jobs to support the bastards or legitimate offspring they brought into the world but, as Bonhoeffer so bluntly suggested, reminding people that as terrible as abortion is there are some couples who would do well to refrain from child-rearing because they lack the financial means to responsibly care for the kids.

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