Skip to content

Stop sliding. It begins to settle.

The relationship between the sexes and ours epidemic of loneliness these are two topics we keep coming back to at The Free Press. It’s a big reason why we’ve chosen the legacy of the sexual revolution as the topic of our first live debate, which will take place in LA on Wednesday, September 13. The event, moderated by yours truly, will pit musician and producer Grimes against writer Sarah Haider. against Red Scare podcast co-host Anna Khachiyan and author Louise Perry. (Get your tickets here.)

We know many of you won’t be able to make it to the debate (don’t worry, we’re recording it). In the meantime, over the next few weeks, we’re bringing you a few essays that explore these ideas.

Today we’re pleased to introduce Rob Henderson on the decline of marriage and why he thinks our current dating scene is making singles less happy. —BW

When my adoptive grandparents met in the 1950s, after about two weeks, my 21-year-old grandfather proposed to my 18-year-old grandmother. She replied that she had three requirements for him : stop smoking, stop drinking and stop gambling. My grandfather agreed, immediately gave up the three habits and never went back. They were married for over sixty years and raised four children.

Today, it is laughable to imagine such a scenario in the United States

Earlier this year, the American Outlook Survey was collected data from a representative sample of more than 5,000 US adults aged 18 and older. Some of the findings are predictable. Other results are surprising. Few of them would make sense to my grandmother, a devoutly religious homemaker.

New Deal-Breakers: Politics and Feminism

Unlike my grandmother’s red lines, the deal breakers singles have today depend less on a person’s actions, like smoking or drinking, and more on their beliefs.

Sixty-five percent of Democrats and 62 percent of Republicans say they would be less likely to date someone from the opposite political party. Interestingly, conservatives are less willing than liberals to date someone with “extreme” views, even if they’re on the same side of the political spectrum; only 26% of conservatives would date someone who was “extremely conservative,” while 45% of liberals say they would be willing to date someone who was “extremely liberal.”

The survey also found that being a feminist is more of a liability than a benefit. Forty-two percent of Americans say they would be less likely to date someone who is a feminist compared to 15 percent who say they would be more likely to date a feminist, while 40 percent say they would not it would influence them one way or another. Being a feminist or feminist, in other words, is unlikely to get you a date.

Also, feminism has changed the rules of dating. Relationships used to start with courtship: meeting families, spending a lot of time together, including in public, marriage, and eventually sex. Today, relationships between young people usually start with sex, and then turn into a “situation,” then “seeing each other,” and then maybe a discussion about monogamy: “Are you seeing someone else?” and then, maybe, exclusivity. But many relationships don’t even go that far. They get stuck in a pattern of casual sex, which often benefits guys more.Women don’t want to appear vulnerable, so they don’t bring up the possibility of commitment and hope that maybe the guy likes them enough to bring up the subject themselves.

A recent to study found that after casual sex, women, on average, report high levels of loneliness, unhappiness, rejection, and regret. Conversely, men report greater satisfaction, happiness, contentment and improved mood.

This is one of the few dynamics where social progress was supposedly intended to benefit women instead of ending up benefiting men.

Men are happier than women

In the 1970s, when there was zero maternity leave and the pay gap was at an all-time high, women reported have more well-being than men.

Over the past few decades, however, this has been reversed. Women’s self-reported happiness has plummeted. While both men and women are less happy today, men report greater well-being than women.

How can this be, when you give now they make up 59.5 percent of college students and earn the majority degree, master’s and doctorate? Today, almost half of opposite-sex marriages in the US, women earn the same or more than their husbands. A survey conducted by researchers at the Brookings Institution Found that American parents, regardless of political affiliation, are now more concerned about their sons than their daughters.

Perhaps the reason is the fact that marriage, over the past five decades, has he fell by 60 percent. In fact, nine research of the University of Chicago found that marriage is “the biggest differentiator” of who is happy in America, and that falling marriage rates are one of the main reasons why happiness has declined nationally. The study revealed a staggering 30 percentage point happiness gap between married and unmarried Americans. As the American Perspectives Survey notes, “No social change has altered the fabric of American life as profoundly as the decline of marriage.”

One of the reasons for the decline in marriage is the increase in cohabitation. The number of Americans who live with their romantic partner has more than doubled over the past three decades. A recent survey Found that cohabiting men are as satisfied in their relationships as married men, but cohabiting women are 13 percentage points less likely to say they are satisfied compared to married women.

Here’s another one example: Today, a record 44% of women under 30 consider themselves liberal, compared to just 25% of men in the same age bracket. But the evidence suggests that both liberal men and women are less interested in committed relationships than their conservative counterparts. For example, a poll from the Institute for Family Studies found that 58 percent of single Republicans are interested in marriage, compared to just 47 percent of single Democrats.

This gap is exacerbated by the fact that as women become more successful, their standards for an acceptable romantic partner tend to rise.

Relative to men, a higher percentage of women say that “not being able to find someone who meets their expectations” is one of the main reasons they are single. If you are a woman and you decide to rule out everyone who has the right to center and you want someone with a proportional qualification (young men continue give up of education and labor force), then your dating pool will be very small.

That is, if you decide to go on a date.

Little interest in dating

According to the American Perspectives Survey, 43% of young women say they have no interest in dating, compared to 34% of men. This is consistent with other survey data indicating that 55% of women now say that dating has become more difficult in the past 10 years, compared to just 39% of men. Among young women, the new survey shows that just under half are single. Among young men aged 18 to 29, 6 out of 10 are.

As young men continue to drop out of education and the workforce, educated and successful women will find it increasingly difficult to find a decent male partner. And once sex robots and hyper-realistic virtual reality arrive, forget it. At this time, even many of the smart and talented men in your life will disappear outright.

My grandmother had four children by the time she was 30. One of them eventually adopted me. But if he had been born in a different set of circumstances, or a little later, none of this would have happened.

The story of how my grandparents got married feels like a relic of a bygone era, when demanding more from your partner was reasonable and expected.

The previous generations didn’t have many options, so they stuck together in difficult times and made it work. Now, abundance (or the illusion of it on dating apps) has made people less satisfied. People are now more worried about making a choice and less sure that the one they made was the right one.

A classic to study found that consumers were more likely to buy a jam when presented with six flavors compared to 30. And among those who made a purchase, those presented with fewer flavors were more satisfied with their choice.

These two factors, demanding more from your partner and understanding that abundance is not always favorable or desirable, should be a lesson that will guide us towards healthier and more fulfilling relationships. Shutting down dating apps and narrowing down our options will make us want more love.

A version of this essay first published in Rob Henderson subpile. Follow him at @robkhenderson.

Don’t forget we want to see you at our first live debate on Wednesday, September 13th at the Ace Theater in Los Angeles! Has the sexual revolution failed? Come to discuss and have a drink. We can’t wait to meet you in person. You can now buy tickets at

And to support more of our work, become a Free Press subscriber today:

Subscribe now


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *