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Davis, California

Monday, May 20, 2024

Column: Sex and society

There’s entirely too much sex happening on this campus.

Or better put, the wrong kind of sex, with the wrong implications for our society. Allow me to explain.

In a recent issue of Slate Magazine, author Mark Regnerus discussed the issue of why young men generally have more control in premarital sex. He began by reminding us of several very interesting statistics on the failures of young American males.

“Their financial prospects are impaired – earnings for 25- to 34-year-old men have fallen by 20 percent since 1971,” Regnerus wrote. “Their college enrollment numbers trail women’s: Only 43 percent of American undergraduates today are men. Last year, women made up the majority of the work force for the first time.”

I was aware that our nation’s young men are not performing as well as our young women, but I became curious about my own juniors and seniors in my U.S. history class at a nearby high school. Though the key studies of gender gaps I am referencing focus on college-aged folks and 20-somethings, if there were a trend it would probably already have manifested itself at the high school level.

I averaged the grades of the boys and girls in the two periods I have as a student teacher and found the results were even wider than I expected. The girls made up an average of 83 percent, while the boys were a paltry 74 percent.

So it seems clear that in both my classroom and the nation at large our young men are not putting in the work, in their schooling or in their careers, compared with our young women.

Yet, because of the particulars for our generation and our society, young men often find it easy to get sex. The advent of the pill and the feminist movement of the 1960s and ’70s reduced the cost of premarital sex for women, as many feminists asserted that the more aggressive and “manly” women became about sex, the more equality they would achieve. Social condemnations of promiscuous sex were correspondingly diminished.

Female college students outnumbering males gives the latter the upper hand in both romance and sex, as the demand for men goes up when their “supply” goes down. As has become increasingly clear, men need to accomplish less in order to get more.

A perfect example is the new hit single from Bruno Mars, The Lazy Song, in which the speaker/singer outlines his philosophy toward life. He brags about doing nothing all day, ignoring his father’s wishes to go to college, alternately putting his hands in his pants or walking around naked and taking muscle enhancements in order to bed women.

Of course, he succeeds with “a really nice girl” midway through the song, despite his incredible lack of ambition, and she even screams “Oh my god, this is great.”

In what is seemingly a microcosm for the predicament of our generation, the young man gets exactly what he wants with no commitment to his parents, the girls he has sex with or the community and country he lives in. To me, the song embodies the approach too many of our young men have to life altogether.

Of course, I must emphasize that I am speaking in broad terms. There are plenty of dedicated, ambitious young men, as there are equally young women who demand more from their lovers than others of their generation.

But speaking as a man myself, sex is a huge part of the goals we have in life. In general, we will do what it takes to get it. If it takes less to get it, then we will do less. If it takes more, we will do more. We are hardwired to reproduce, and as long as that is being accomplished, we tend to take the path of least resistance.

What’s fascinating is the connection between the non-sexual achievements of a young man’s life (work, education, commitment, etc.) and whether or not he is getting the sex he craves. Young women literally have the power to make half of our population more driven to make a contribution to our economy, schools and homes. I think too many of them just don’t realize how much control they really have.

The result of the last several decades is that young men have achieved the upper hand in premarital, heterosexual relationships, whether we are willing to talk openly about it or not.

“Don’t forget your Freud,” Regnerus concluded in the article. “Civilization is built on blocked, redirected and channeled sexual impulse, because men will work for sex. Today’s young men, however, seldom have to.”

Gentlemen, get it together. Ladies, don’t settle for less. The well-being of society depends on it.

Reach ROB OLSON at rwolson@ucdavis.edu.


  1. freud also said that all men subconsciously want to kill their fathers and screw their mothers – do you buy that as well?


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