Legal, Social Dis-Incentives Push Men Away from Marriage

June 23, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

I recommend this article by Dr. Helen Smith, and not just because she touts Ned Holstein and the National Parents Organization, nee´ Fathers and Families (Huffington Post, 6/20/13). Smith is a psychologist and author of the book Men on Strike which I also recommend. Her HuffPo article is a quick and blunt take on the decline of marriage in the United States, but it could refer to any English-speaking country. Smith’s bottom line is simple and oh so accurate.

In the course of researching my new book, Men On Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream – And Why It Matters, I talked with men all over America about why they’re avoiding marriage. It turns out that the problem isn’t that men are immature, or lazy. Instead, they’re responding rationally to the incentives in today’s society.

I’ve written about the awful state of divorce and custody for many years now, and so have countless others. Courts and legislatures don’t seem to much care, but it turns out that men are starting to listen. Probably more important, too many men either are somebody or know somebody who’s been partly – or completely – destroyed by the anti-father/anti-male family court system. From adoption and alimony to child custody and support, the courts have for decades been hard about the task of alienating men from women and children. Now it turns out men are starting to get it – marriage and procreation are bad deals for men. There are few reasons to do either and many not to.

It seems that fewer and fewer people in general are getting married these days, and even fewer men seem interested. Men no longer see marriage as being as important as they did even 15 years ago. “According to Pew Research Center, the share of women ages eighteen to thirty-four that say having a successful marriage is one of the most important things in their lives rose nine percentage points since 1997–from 28 percent to 37%. For men, the opposite occurred. The share voicing this opinion dropped, from 35 percent to 29 percent.”

I say that reflects a couple of pretty obvious trends. First, women are finally rejecting the misandric feminist narrative that’s always claimed that marriage was bad for women. From at least the early 70s, feminists have claimed that living in a married relationship with a man was dangerous to her, that all he wanted to do was control every aspect of her life with violence, and that she and her children would be emotionally, psychologically and financially better off without him. That of course has always been wrong. Social science showed the opposite to be true on all counts and now women are starting to understand that the feminist narrative was always based far more on a misandric political ideology than it was on fact. After all, just a few weeks ago, a Huffington Post survey revealed that only some 20% of Americans call themselves feminists. In short, women have figured out that the feminists were wrong and that marriage isn’t such a bad deal after all.

But while women have started to get it right, family courts and family laws haven’t. They still treat men and fathers as at best unnecessary impediment’s to the welfare of women and children and at worst just what feminists have always claimed – dangerous ogres. That’s during marriage; post-divorce, those courts and laws are happy to consider men and fathers ATM machines with a body temperature of 98.6° F, and to ignore whatever vestigial rights they may claim.

Given that, as Smith shows, it’s no wonder that women’s desire for marriage is on the rise and men’s is on the wane. It’s the latter that’s Smith’s topic.

She asked men who are avoiding marriage why they were doing so and received some perfectly cogent answers. Officeholders, who often pretend that marriage and family are important, should take note. Here are some of the reasons men gave for staying single.

1.You’ll lose respect. A couple of generations ago, a man wasn’t considered fully adult until he was married with kids. But today, fathers are figures of fun more than figures of respect: The schlubby guy with the flowered diaper bag at the mall, or one of the endless array of buffoonish TV dads in sitcoms and commercials. In today’s culture, father never knows best. It’s no better in the news media. As communications professor James Macnamara reports, “by volume, 69 percent of mass media reporting and commentary on men was unfavorable, compared with just 12 percent favorable and 19 percent neutral or balanced.”…

5. You could lose your kids, and your money. And they may not even be your kids. Lots of men I spoke with were keenly aware of the dangers of divorce, and worried that if they were married and it went sour, the woman might take everything, including the kids. Other men were concerned that they might wind up paying child support for kids who aren’t even theirs – a very real possibility in many states. On my blog, I polled over 3200 men to ask how they would react to finding out that a child wasn’t theirs after all. 32 percent said they would feel “anger and fury at the mother,” 6 percent said they would feel “depression,” 18 percent said “anger and depression,” 2 percent said “none of the above,” 32 percent said “angry at the system that forced them to pay,” and only 2 percent “didn’t care.” One man commented that his ex-wife had taunted him with the knowledge that his 11-year old son wasn’t actually his: “I was angry at the mother…I severed all ties to the boy. Some may see this as a failing. I see it as self-preservation, and to those that ask the question of whether or not the courts will make a non-biological parent pay child support, pay attention: YES THEY WILL! They see you as nothing more than a source of cash for the child. It seems that a person in these situations should be able to sue the real father for child support.”

6. You’ll lose in court. Men often complain that the family court legal system is stacked against them, and in fact it seems to be. Women gain custody and child support the majority of the time, as pointed out in this ABC News article: “Despite the increases in men seeking and receiving alimony, advocates warn against linking the trend to equality in the courtroom. Family court judges still tend to favor women, said Ned Holstein, the founder of Fathers and Families, a group advocating family court reform. “‘Family court still gives custody overwhelmingly to mothers, child support overwhelmingly to mothers, and courts still give almony overwhelmingly to mothers and women,’ he said. ‘The family courts came into existence years ago in order to give things to mothers that mothers needed,” he said. ‘The times have changed and the courts have not.'”

7. You’ll lose your freedom. At least, if you’re charged with child support that you can’t pay, you can be put in jail – and if you can’t afford a lawyer, you don’t have the right to have one appointed because, according to the Supreme Court, it’s technically a civil matter, never mind the jail time. Fathers and Families found that it’s the men who are jailed rather than women: “A new report concludes that between 95% and 98.5% of all incarcerations in Massachusetts sentenced from the Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts from 2001 through 2011 have been men. Moreover, this percentage may be increasing, with an average of 94.5% from 2001 to 2008, and 96.2% from 2009 through 2011. It is likely that most of these incarcerations are for incomplete payment of child support. Further analysis suggests that women who fail to pay all of their child support are incarcerated only one-eighth as often as men with similar violations.”

No one should be surprised by this. As Smith accurately says, men are just responding rationally to the incentives society offers them. What should be the obvious lesson is that if we give them different incentives, they’ll behave differently.

Feminism’s false narrative of male brutality and corruption and female innocence and virtue has always misrepresented the truth. For the sake of societal stability and decent relations between the sexes, that narrative must be seen for what it is – hateful, divisive and deeply damaging to society. We need a better one, one that’s honest, one that’s based on fact and one that promotes healthy instead of toxic relations between men and women.

Helen Smith helps us to do that.

The National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

The National Parents Organization is a non-profit organization that is educating the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents and extended families. If you would like to get involved in our organization, you can do so several ways. First, we would love to have you as an official member of the National Parents Organization team. Second, the National Parents Organization is an organization that believes in the importance of using social media as a means to spread the word about shared parenting and other topics, and you can visit us on our Facebook Page to learn more about our efforts. Last, we hope you will share this article with other families using the many social networking sites so that we can bring about greater awareness of shared parenting. Thank you for your support.

#holstein, #marriage, #divorce, #Huffington, #Pew

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