Everyone knows that America is not quite a meritocracy, with a shameful glass ceiling not yet shattered. But the dividends of feminism cannot be denied, as author Liza Mundy highlights in her new book, The Richer Sex, just out on shelves, and the subject of a March 26 cover story in Time. Mundy argues in the book that, before too long, a majority of American households will see women as the main breadwinners, and the ramifications of that give pause. As Mundy points out, "Almost forty percent of U.S. working wives now outearn their husbands, a percentage that has risen steeply in this country and many others." 

According to the author, the period after World War II was the "highwater mark of the male-breadwinning ideal," but things have changed dramatically in the last sixty-odd years , as traditional gender roles have been upended. This is why, with the perspective of time, Mad Men's Matthew Weiner has become such an esteemed pop sociologist, catering to those fascinated by a time that seemed in denial of itself. 

Nowadays, women are besting men when it comes to real-wage growth and education, earning the majority of academic degrees by a clear margin. And with what she calls "the Big Flip" in gender roles on the horizon, we can expect to see a dramatic transformation in the dynamics of male-female relationships. 

So will we have more house husbands and Mr. Momism? Pretty much. Women now head companies like IBM, Pepsico, Xerox, Sunoco, etc., a pipe dream mere decades ago. Women's increased power and independence is changing the sexual landscape. Mundy writes that "Women are becoming the gender that wants sex more than men do." Successful women tend to be more open to sexual variety, and will often fly cross-country to establish relationships with equally-successful men, preferring long-distance love to settling for more accessible underachievers.

A good number of women Mundy interviewed said the available pool of men worth committing to is more like a puddle. She writes, "If sex, for women, were about nothing more than securing commitment, at present there would be very little sex going on, because there are relatively few men worth committing to." The author explains that women are putting the c-word on the back burner, as they feel less pressure to get hitched earlier, not needing a provider. 

Another manifestation of the creeping role-reversal pointed out by the author is the number of younger women interviewed having lots of sex with assorted partners, or "test-driving a lot of cars before you buy one," as one practical woman put it.

Somewhat amusingly, though many fellas are happy to embrace the golddigger role, Mundy suggests that men outearned by wives and girlfriends are often less interested in sex with those women, feeling emasculated by this economic cuckoldry, so to speak. Mundy writes, "Just as women are said to do, men in some cases withheld sex, strategically, as a way of exerting what power they felt they still had."

Commentarium (17 Comments)

Mar 24 12 - 7:04pm
bb

It sounds like she just made a lot of this up. Where is this her information coming from?

Mar 24 12 - 7:12pm
cc

I'm sure if take the time to look through the book, or even the Times article, you'll find more mention of the primary sources and surveys and statistics that she based her research off of. But basing your assumption off of a summary on Nerve.com is much more intelligent and reasonable. Way to go.

Mar 25 12 - 12:11am
ccwannaabb

wow you fuckin got cc! you're the winner! the snootiest reply is yours! pat yourself on the back. Did i make any errors in my statement or grammer you can zing me with???!!!

Mar 24 12 - 8:38pm
mclean's leghot

"Just as women are said to do, men in some cases withheld sex, strategically, as a way of exerting what power they felt they still had."

Sorry, there's no valid reason the words 'are said to' should have been employed in that sentence. It's not a matter of it being in question, it's a matter of it being a fact (some women DO do it). The only reason someone writing that line would employ those words would be because it's clearly not healthy, up front, emotionally 'clean' behaviour (be it employed by a woman OR a man, even thou it is UNDERSTANDABLE behaviour, given the dynamics that usually underpin it), and to admit it's a straight fact some women do do it (rather than are 'said to do it'), would be for this female author to be seen to be hanging dirty female laundry out on the line, for all men to see: 'Can't be honest, because I might get looked at sideways by any of my sisters who read this'. So instead it's 'Since I can't exactly outright deny it [or rather here, not mention it as a balancer to the fact I'm about to mention re men's behaviour in this regard], I'll just employ a few words that will let me (/all women) off the hook (I/We admit to nothing!), but my subsequent words about these particular males will be unequivocal'. But who said the men in these 'some cases' ACTUALLY witheld sex deliberately? How did the women on the receiving end of these behavioural instances they intrepreted as such a withholding, actually know that was the case for sure? Did they ask (did the author ask them how they knew)? Or were their answers taken at face value by the author? Would the author, if she saw fit to add the words 'are said to' for the instances of females employing this behaviour, not also have been more honest by writing... "Just as women are said to do, men in some cases ARE SAID TO HAVE withheld sex, strategically, as a way of exerting what power they felt they still had." (Keep in mind I'm in no way saying that's not exactly what the men in this example did do, for those *cough* females *cough* whose reading of this has run off the rails). It seems the words 'are said to' are, for this female author, good enough to employ for women when it comes to dealing with negative behaviours (that are, again, known to actually occur), but not good enough to employ for a few men whose similar acts (unless confirmatory evidence is presented in the book otherwise), are not actually known to have been the case.

Such a shame. An author that cannot be honest is one I cannot trust.

Mar 24 12 - 10:21pm
ml

The author of this summary is a guy and while I agree it could have been phrased better, it's hard for a man to state unequivocally that women strategically withhold sex. I'm female but if I were a man, that's a phrase I would avoid or attribute to someone else.

Mar 24 12 - 11:34pm
mclean's leghot

While you are correct, the specific line I've referenced from Jeff's article appears as 'Mundy writes, "Just as women are said to do, men in some cases withheld sex, strategically, as a way of exerting what power they felt they still had." '. So it's clear from that, that (unless Mills has taken liberties with rearranging the book's actual text then) Mundy is the one who 'could have phrased it better'. And I'm still going to stick with the perception that it was deliberate phrasing, rather than being the result of laziness - there's no way that it wouldn't have been known on the author's part that (some) women do do this, that employing any phrasing which even gave the hint of the reality as potentially being up in the air (true or not), would be to be disingenuous at best. It's a sentence that sh/could've started "Just as some women choose to do, ..."

Mar 25 12 - 1:20pm
nope

Man, I don't disagree with you at all that she should have written "Just as some women do," but you are extrapolating a LOT from this slight turn of phrase. And I think your anger is coming from your interpretation & projection, not the actual text.

Mar 25 12 - 7:31pm
mclean's leghot

You can disagree with my conclusions stemming from her use of langauage, but you can't possibly say they're not potentially accurate. The latter being the case, projections schmogections. (Oh, and someone's expression of intellectual criticism doesn't have to mean they're angry. I am capable of asking pointed questions without my blood boiling.)

Mar 29 12 - 8:12pm
J$

I understand your issue with the phrasing here. However, I think the statement should be taken in the context of the social discourse that the author is writing about in the first place. It is in fact often said that women withhold sex because it is somehow in their nature as women to do so. I think what the author is trying to do here is illustrate that sexual behaviors that society commonly attributes to women - such as "withholding" sex - can actually be viewed as a product of power relations and not some innate characteristic of being a woman, because apparently men do it too when placed in a comparable position. So essentially it seems like the author is really just trying to disentangle sex and gender, and make the argument that power dynamics have an incredible effect on sexuality.

Mar 25 12 - 2:55pm
JasonMNS

No one can understand this topic without considering the concept of "hypergamy":

http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2009/07/the_lens_of_hyp.html

http://www.hookingupsmart.com/2011/03/29/relationshipstrategies/its-a-sm...

Mar 25 12 - 3:35pm
Dewey

Been saying this for years: women are much smarter than us men in SO many ways and we're going to end up as second-class citizens unless 1st world society decays to the point where physical strength and aggression become as important in day-to-day life as they once were

Mar 26 12 - 5:17am
ridic

Wow, there's a claim in need of some evidence.

Mar 28 12 - 10:31am
eternity

prophecy fulfilled Jerimiah 31:22

Mar 26 12 - 5:36pm
Sergent Hack

Well in some ways I can agree with the article,certainly women are commanding in the earning field. I do object to a man who is not" Making money" being called "loser"as if money alone gives him status.Many men however have now been released from having to take on the role of provider and to many men going out to make lot of money for a wife and family just does not cut it anymore, they are beginning to do just what they want to do and they need freedom from commitment to do it. Woman now on the other hand do have to think of providing for themselves and possibly for their fatherless offspring, all on their own.It is just how the world is turning at this time, it is no big deal what comes around comes around

Mar 26 12 - 9:01pm
Thinkywritey

I think Sgt Hack is onto something: men are falling back socially and financially because they are supporting families less and less. Yay equality.

Mar 26 12 - 11:57pm
Hello

i predict women will continue to chase unicorns and delude themselves into thinking that they have ANY power at all.....hello santa claus meet the tooth fairy.

Apr 11 12 - 12:09am
wowjustwow

"The author explains that women are putting the c-word on the back burner, as they feel less pressure to get hitched earlier, not needing a provider." As a man I find this possibility very positive. I think it's great that women are thinking more about what they should desire in a relationship - maybe substituting things like security/protector/provider roles - which in my opinion men are growing less interested in-- with partner, friend and lover.