Don’t Buy Cow If Milk Is Free

cow-milk-for-freeA male reader, I’ll call him Jed, wrote in with this warning:

There is a price to be paid when women have casual sex. It might be unfair. It might not be unfair. But there it is, be it biology, socialization, patriarchy…whatever… If women give sex away for free, men won’t marry them.

Put more grossly:

Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?

But sex and relationship are two different things. Even when a guy can get sex, most still want relationship. Even marriage.

Bachelors yearning for more

Meet the bachelors who are yearning for more” is a New York Times piece that surprised a lot of people when it came out. Men, it turns out, often want relationships. Even if they can get sex.

After a long day at work New Yorker, Jean-Marc Choffel, wonders, “Who do I call?”

Tonight I’m doing nothing. I could go out, grab a girl, have sex, have fun. But the sense of life is to have kids and try to give them as much as you know. I believe in the power of the universe. I believe (…in…) falling in love and having babies.

Ryan Wallace added,

People think that if you are gay and you are single, particularly in the city, that there is this sort of unbridled freedom, that you’re at the gym, you’re at the office, you’re at happy hour, and it’s just a constant on-the-go lifestyle. That may be true for part of your life, in your 20s. Gender identities aside, as everyone gets older, your priorities change.

Men care deeply about love and relationships

Andrew Smiler studies men and masculinity, and he discovered that – despite stereotypes – most men care deeply about love and relationships. In fact, he explained to the Good Men Project,

Nearly all guys have and want relationships, even the guys who screw around.

Regardless of their sexual history or interest in having random sex, when a guy has a sweetie, that relationship is important to him, even if he’s not very good at respecting it or making it work. Dudes like knowing they have someone to talk to, someone who will be there for them, and someone who will “have their back.” Men in long term marriages receive a slew of benefits from those relationships.

In fact, most guys are romantics, preferring long-term relationships over casual sex. Only about a quarter of men want to be in constant pursuit of sex with random women, he says.

And, most men marry — and are quicker than women to remarry after widowhood or divorce — even though they could just keep having casual sex.

Plus, when sociologist, Lisa Wade, asked college students about hookup culture she learned that 70% of women and 73% of men preferred sex in committed relationships.

Women — and men — want emotional connection

Lucy Brown is a clinical professor of neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She studies brain activity of people in love. Her research leaves her believing that,

The drive to find a preferred mate is extremely powerful. It’s a reflexive urge, like hunger and thirst… romantic love can produce feelings of euphoria similar to the effects of cocaine or heroin…

And Justin Garcia, an evolutionary biologist at Binghamton University, says,

Having deep relationship with someone can be really magical and people all over the world experience that… (it) can really change someone’s life.

Now, marriage rates do seem to be declining. But there is no indication that this is simply because men don’t want to get married. The HuffingtonPost points out,

Some theories point to the economy (people feel they can’t afford to marry), some say that Millennials don’t feel the same societal pressure to marry as generations before them had. Others suggest that the younger generations simply doesn’t need marriage anymore, instead choosing to cohabitate and raise children outside the institution of marriage.

We can argue over whether casual sex or longer-term relationships are better. Or whether marriage is better than cohabitation. Those are questions for another time.

But luckily for Jed, he really needn’t worry so much.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on February 13, 2017, in men, relationships and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. very interesting article !!!

  2. Well, you’re assuming that the “milk” is just the sex. If you’ve got a girlfriend giving you the sex, of course she is giving you the relationship too. You’re getting the whole deal! Now men in their nature might be inclined to go the marriage route but then they’ve seen what a raw deal they get from the legal system, and think why should I bother, I’m getting everything already.

    • Well I’m not assuming that. The saying assumes that. And the guy who wrote in assumed that.

      And a person who gets screwed by the legal system isn’t necessarily the man.

      If you’re talking about alimony, it’s the person who makes the most money. If you don’t want men to be screwed you should fight for gender equality.

      If you are talking about child custody, the courts rule based on “Best interest of the child.” Because women usually sacrifice their careers to devote themselves to children more than men do (downsizing their jobs, quitting their jobs) women are more likely to get physical custody, since judges worry that being ripped away from the person they are emotionally closest too would be hard on them. If you don’t like that, then fight for gender equality so that men and women are equally likely to care for their children and make career sacrifices for them.

      • “The saying assumes that. And the guy who wrote in assumed that.”

        I don’t think so. Sex is just the final piece of the puzzle, the only one that traditionally you would have to wait for marriage for. Do you deny that men who won’t commit to marriage with their girlfriend are getting the relationship already?

        “And a person who gets screwed by the legal system isn’t necessarily the man. ”

        If you measure it in terms of outcome if you had remained unmarried vs getting married, then it’s overwhelmingly the man who gets screwed.

        “if you’re talking about alimony, it’s the person who makes the most money. If you don’t want men to be screwed you should fight for gender equality.”

        What sort of gender equality, you mean wage equality? That’s not going to help if your partner is unskilled. Take my example, my ex never worked a day in her life (barely at home either). I got custody of the kids (she didn’t want custody) . She started taking drugs at the end of our marriage. So who should get the most money, the responsible one with the kids who contributed everything monetarily, or the dead beat drug addict? Turns out it’s by far the dead beat drug addict because she is a poor thing in the eyes of the court.

        At the end of the day, perception is reality as far as human behavior. If men see that they get screwed by the legal system when compared to remaining unmarried, then economic reality and rationalism takes hold.

      • You are arguing for a system that privileges men over women and children.

        If men don’t want to “get screwed” by the legal system we need more gender equality so that men and women have equal pay and equally care for children. Otherwise women won’t want to get married and have children because they will get screwed. Women will make a lot of sacrifices for their children and then end up with nothing if their husband leaves.

        And children will also suffer if judges don’t take the children’s interest as primary.

        And the thing is, Almost all men want to be in committed relationships anyway. Most men do get married despite any perceived loss by the legal system.

        Which as I said, would strongly favor men over women and children if things were set up the way you want them to be.

  3. Pertinent narrative for the times we are in, Georgia. The ‘why-keep-a-cow-when-milk-is-freely-available’ syndrome. Well researched opinion going around these days holds out that milk is of two kinds, A1 and A2. While one type is good, the other is indicated to be bad for human health. How can you be assured of a steady supply of the healthy milk? Well the answer is to keep your own cow of the right breed the lineage of which is certified by a qualified vet. That is as far as cow-milk and cows are concerned. To come out of the metaphor, for humans what matters is the relationship where sex is only part of the mix though a vital one at that as it catalyses attraction and bonding. While the catalyst is important, it is always subservient to the larger process of relationship.

  4. ‘…as everyone gets older, your priorities change.’- Indeed.

  5. “It seems that no single man can make it through his 30s without feeling a pang of regret for the life he could be having, even if it conflicts with his desire to do exactly what he wants all day long.

    In the Netflix series “Master of None,” the single protagonist, Dev Shah, played by Aziz Ansari, sometimes feels envious of his married friends, even as he fights the desire to settle down.”

    This is from that article that you posted the link to of the bachelor. Yeah I think a lot of guys can feel it in both directions. The men who want to settle down and are older and feeling that pressure like he says life he could be having. But also the one’s who maybe settled down to early and wish they had more youthful fun too when they were younger. You post triggered feelings inside me, because I relate to the some of this, but more so the latter. It sucks getting older to where you don’t want to miss out on great women as time goes on. And the pool might be getting smaller, but you still don’t have closure and haven’t done the wild things you wanted to experience like other guys have. So you really feel the pressure of time, which is not the best thing when you are a person who can be analytical, therefore, have anxiety and get wrapped up in it. Which only causes you to procrastinate or wheels spinning without actually moving.

    Like I copied there of the Dev guy, he’s envious of his married friends but still fights the desire to settle down. I’m not jealous of married friends as in I want that now, but perhaps jealous of some, knowing they did the fun things when they were young with girls and then found their wife, and just the ideal way I want or would have liked things to go. Just finding a wife without the prior stuff feels bitter sweet to me.I’m very stubborn, unfortunately and once I set my mind about how I want my life to be, it’s hard to budge even a little. I need to have my cake and eat it too like many other guys seem to have with the fun times in early 20s, mid 20s and then find someone special and settle down after. I’ve always felt there are steps and stages in life. Chapete one, chapter 2, chapter 3, etc. No one wants a vacancy. I’d say chapter 1 is childhood a very important time. Then chapter 2, the youth and maybe represent the immature, wild, meaningless, fun times of youth, which maybe meaningless, but meaningful in it’s connection to life. The different layers, the faster times, to me it perfectly transfers to chapter 3 or like a photo album. If filling up the “photo album in your mind and experiences of chapter 2” then it beautifully transitions well to the next chapter. How are you supposed to want chapter 3 or move to that, when chapter 2 is incomplete?

    • While “Why buy the cow when the milk is free?” is a saying that doesn’t seem to fit reality, this other saying — “The grass is always greener” does fit oftentimes, doesn’t it?

      They say that happiness is more “wanting what you have” than “having what you want.” And that makes a lot of sense to me.

      There’s nothing wrong with aspiration. But even aspirations need to be concerned with making distinctions between what we want and what we need. No matter how much you want something, if it’s not what you actually need it won’t really satisfy.

      And a lot of our wants are socially constructed. They aren’t real things we want or need, But they are made out like the “end all.”

      Then, to get to the exact example you’re using, create a society where men score points by nailng as many women as possible, And create a sense that those guys have such an amazing life (even though some of these guys can’t even focus on the sex because all they can think about is bragging to the guys — according to Michael Kimball’s book Guy Land). And at the same time punish women’s sexuality so that it becomes repressed and women actually lose desire for sex… And you’ve got quite a mess.

      Now add frustration and anxiety to the mix. Not a good recipe for happiness, is it?

      • Well some guys I know didn’t do such things to brag but just got to enjoy themselves and just for the thrill. Like you know living up the social life when young.

        While “Why buy the cow when the milk is free?” is a saying that doesn’t seem to fit reality, this other saying — “The grass is always greener” does fit oftentimes, doesn’t it?”

        It’s funny how both sides could be wishing they did things differently. The grass seems greener to a guy who didn’t do much with the single life and envys the married guy who did that before. But it’s interesting like you said, it could go the other way and maybe human nature. My best friend who basically is the opposite of me. He’s always been the life of the party when he was young. Always very extroverted, the ultimate risk taker in everything in life. He was pretty wild in his younger days. I’m more cautious, introverted and analytical so I don’t typically just do whatever and not care. He;s a good looking guy too, but he;s always had the gift of gab so to speak. So in highschool and his early 20s, he had parties and all that stuff and had a man whore period and was with a lot of girls. And he would tell me how it was stupid or not cracked up what it’s claimed to be.

        Because I’d talk and he knew this regret I’ve dealt with every now and then. I still wouldn’t like buy it though not because he’s lying, but because i;m one that has to experience something to decide myself. It’s funny because since mid 20s or younger he wanted a serious relationship and have girlfriends but none that never laster for too long. And wanted more it bothered him as years went on without someone special but trying with relationships. But like it goes in reverse, he kind of regrets his man whore days, because there was a girl that he loved or felt slip away or was immature and a jerk and to wrapped up in being with girls and cocky. So like he;s told me that I haven’t missed much since he’s experienced it.

      • Well it can be helpful to hear from the voice of experience. Do you know anyone with the opposite experience? Was a man whore and enjoyed it? I can see enjoying it for a time, but probably not for your whole life. Just curious.

        But being on the more monogamous side myself I don’t get the appeal. Most guys like sex and can have those amazing orgasm feelings even without a lot of women. Because I don’t get it I find myself wondering if at least some of them do it more for personal identity. They feel like a big man because they get lots of women. But most guys say that relationship sex is better.

      • ” Because I don’t get it I find myself wondering if at least some of them do it more for personal identity.”

        I don’t think so. I asked my niece who is long time married but also a swinger why she does it, and she said for variation, to avoid boredom. I think that’s why men do it too, it’s more interesting than the same person every day, that you’ve heard all their stories 100 times over, there is no possibility of surprise.

      • Thanks for sharing about this. It seems that some people are more monogamous and some people are more polygamous and that they can have a hard time understanding each other.

  6. “Well it can be helpful to hear from the voice of experience. Do you know anyone with the opposite experience? Was a man whore and enjoyed it? I can see enjoying it for a time, but probably not for your whole life. Just curious.

    But being on the more monogamous side myself I don’t get the appeal. Most guys like sex and can have those amazing orgasm feelings even without a lot of women. Because I don’t get it I find myself wondering if at least some of them do it more for personal identity. They feel like a big man because they get lots of women. But most guys say that relationship sex is better.”

    Some probably do it to feel like a big man. Unfortunately society has set it up for men to be very ego-centric. So happiness tied to ego and success. And I’m an example of that.Yeah well the reason of feeling missed out is even though my best friend said it wasn’t what it’s cracked up to be. My other friends, mutual friends, I remember times hanging out years again like a bon fire or the typical “bro story telling”. It wasn’t bragging, my friends never bragged about that stuff. But even if you’re not bragging, if you’re telling stories of the wild night you had because of the humor that came with it, but also ending up having a hook up from it. And it seemed like a crazy, funny, fun night. Well then me having not done that and hearing that, it;s easy to feel having missed out. So none having said it was great literally, but hearing stories, it gave the impression they enjoyed it at the time, idk.

    But I don;t mean to generalize, but it seems like, perhaps because of how men and women are socialized differently. That women not being a sex drive, lustful, and ego tied to getting laid. As well as men being the pursuers that part of the meeting new girls or desire for it for guys i believe is the quest and adventure it can be in seeing how the night goes, if the guy can sleep with the girl or something comes out of it. Since men are “easy”, there isn’t this having to have “game”, do the right things, say the right things, and this high perhaps of getting lucky or something spontaneous happening. I’m sure relationship sex is better because of love and the woman knowing the man better. People who know each other well, will have better communication, passion and maybe more willing to try new things or kinks. That’s not something you’re interested in trying or opening up to with someone new or you don’t love. I wouldn’t, I need to trust a woman if I want to open up about things to try sexually. But you see, atleast to me. It’s not about sex or orgasm, that’s why I don’t want or see hook ups as equal. Going to a bar and taking a girl home. That feels boring. It’s great to get off when you’re horny, but it’s just you and the girl and you wake up and blah. Like for me, it’s about “excitement, novelty, adventure, taboo” .

    For me the social aspect is huge, it’s the icing on the cake for something big. That’s why the bar thing feels boring, because you may go out with friends, but at the end of the night of you get laid, it;s you taking the girl to you place or you are her place. I don’t know why it’s so important to me, well I think I know why. But like sharing something with friends, which is why like a big college like party with new girls, new people and meeting a hot girl and sneaking in a room or the car and having sex. Or threesome or something wild fun happens. And then waking up the next day and thinking what a night because of the fun social stuff prior, but that topped it off. And your friends are aware and something to laugh about and sure with guys. But it’s not for me about bragging, but like this wild fun, youthful night. Meeting a girl at a bar, just doesn’t do that. So you see, for me its the social aspect big time, Like 90% that, but it sucks to be horny and not get laid on a fun night so if having nights like that but dont get laid, it becomes bitter sweet.

    • Human beings seem to have a real need for connection. And men are kind of socialized not to seek it out, except in relationships, which is why I think they need relationship so much. Men are less likely than women to leave a partner without already having someone lined up. And the breakups seem to be harder on men. They’re quicker to remarry after death or divorce. Women on the other hand are more likely to have close friends who can provide much-needed connection.

      Keep in mind that men are prone to exaggerate their sexual exploits — so even they probably aren’t having the great sex they say they are.

      It reminds me of women and Photoshop. Even the models don’t have the amazing bodies that they appear to have. But a lot of women still feel bad about themselves that they can’t have bodies like that (since women’s words is so judged on their looks).

  7. I think there is a natural human tendency to want to connect. So, wanting a relationship, however defined, is just a human need. It simply reflects a connection beyond casual.

    Most men crave female attention. Why? Because it is so lacking for so many men. The same goes for sex. As I have argued, if this were not true, then we would not see as many prostitutes as we see today. So, when I hear and see men saying they want a relationship, I can believe it. When you are starving, you want food.

    As a man over 50 and divorced I can flat out tell you that it is far easier to find and enjoy a relationship with a woman than when I was in my 20s and 30s. Again, we can abstract for the moment about the nature of the relationship, but things get a lot easier for men as we age (providing we are in good shape and health).

    There is conflicting evidence regarding marriage and its benefits to men. I know you like to offer the studies that evidence all the positive benefits. However, when it comes to sex I flatly disagree. Most married men are dissatisfied with their sex lives, period. The longer they have been married, the more dissatisfied they usually are with their sex life. So, for those men who are looking at marriage as a cure for a lack of sex, you are barking up the wrong tree.

    Perhaps the new order to emerge in the future is one serial monogamy or some variant. I don’t know. I see a lot of unhappy young men and women. However, each seems to selfish and narcissistic to get of their own way.

    My personal advice to a young man today would be to first and foremost work on being the very best version of yourself. Lower your expectation of women. I know you need to have sex and sex is wonderful. But, just do not put so much time and effort into chasing after women and sex. If you don’t have a moral issue with using sex workers, then by all means use them. If you want a relationship, that is OK. But, again, I would not expect much. I would also expect it to be of short duration. So, don’t get all emotionally connected and bonded with a woman that more than likely will discard you in short order anyway. Your primary focus should be on building the best and strongest masculine version of you. That includes mind, body, spirit, education (the best), and a passion for life.

    • You have some good advice for men.

      If we had a society that didn’t punish women sexuality so much men wouldn’t have such a hard time getting sex, married or not.

      • “If we had a society that didn’t punish women sexuality so much men wouldn’t have such a hard time getting sex, married or not.”

        As I have said before, this is NOT the issue. Women are literally f*****ing their asses off today. At no time in history have women been as readily available and accessible for sex as they are today. It is just that they are NOT available and accessible to MOST men.

        I challenge you to take an informal survey of the young women in your classes. Simply ask the one: What percentage of guys on campus do you find attractive? See how they answer. Think about their answers and HOW their answers would impact their availability and accessibility for sex with MOST of the guys on campus.

        Recall your piece last week or so about why people became sex workers? Remember the average looking blonde who decided to have paid sex but only with the men who were attractive? So even here a woman opting to have paid sex with attractive men only even though she was average looking. Imagine…Attractive men having to pay an average woman for sex. How novel (being sarcastic of course).

        When I was in my 20s and 30s few women even wanted to talk me. If so, they typically were foreign. I am not blaming the women, per se. I was shy and not very confident with women. But, I think my experience 25-30 yrs ago is quite similar to a lot of men today.

        Hence, I really don’t see sexual repression as having hardly anything to do with any of this. A woman can swipe right, go on a website,……it is fairly easy. The only real risk is safety which is a huge concern.

        Even in very gender equal Nordic countries, we still see LOTS of prostitutes. Why? Using your logic, one would NOT expect to observe large numbers of sex works in gender equal countries. Right?

      • “As I have said before, this is NOT the issue. Women are literally f*****ing their asses off today. At no time in history have women been as readily available and accessible for sex as they are today. It is just that they are NOT available and accessible to MOST men.”

        What evidence do you have that “Women are literally f*****ing their asses off today”?

        The way things look in pornography? Men’s stories?

        Sociologist, Michael Kimmel did research and found that because of those two things most men believe that women are literally f*****ing their asses off today” when in reality they are not. They are far too punished to do that. But it makes memories and women because they think that they are doing that with other men but not themselves.

        My students still talk about slut shaming. One of them was on suicide watch and taking out of school because of it. Another young woman who lives a few miles away for me did kill her self because of it.

        And one survey of college campuses found that while everyone believed that everyone else was having sex every weekend, in actuality over the course of four years students had an average of only seven partners. And that average is affected by a few people who have a lot of partners, so seven is a bit of an exaggeration.

        Plus, most women who have a lot of partners do it more for self esteem them because they enjoy sex. Some of my students have written about their experiences with this:

        Sex with Men, Hoping to Feel Beautiful
        https://broadblogs.com/2014/02/17/sex-with-men-hoping-to-feel-beautiful-2/
        I Wallowed In Self-Pity, Yet I Was A Bombshell
        https://broadblogs.com/2013/11/13/i-wallowed-in-self-pity-yet-i-was-a-bombshell/
        Using Men for Money, Sex and Self-Esteem
        https://broadblogs.com/2015/08/19/using-men-for-money-sex-and-self-esteem/

        Meanwhile, nearly half of American women experience sexual dysfunction: low interest in sex, difficulty climaxing, painful sex (one or more of these). And an off a lot of women need a vibrator to climax – that is another symptom of sexual dysfunction but not one that is counted.

        When sex typically seems boring, painful, and just not that enjoyable, it takes a lot for women to want to have sex. And punishing women sexuality is behind this. You don’t find this in sex-positive societies. So punishing women sexuality has everything to do with it.

        Now onto your other point:

        “Even in very gender equal Nordic countries, we still see LOTS of prostitutes. Why? Using your logic, one would NOT expect to observe large numbers of sex works in gender equal countries. Right?”

        I don’t know what the numbers are or who the clients are. Oftentimes clients are married men who want to keep their relationships but want variety. And even Nordic societies are patriarchal (if more weakly so) and more sex-negative than pre-patriarchal cultures.

  8. This is a wonderful write up!

      • Sure sex is better in a relationship I’m sure, because of the loving and knowing the person and trying to please each other the best. But atleast for me it;s the social aspect. I don’t think girls get it usually because of how society makes men more lustful and women pickier so it’s more of a conquest for men to hook up with a girl. But for me it’s the social aspect, which is why I don’t see all hook ups as equal or the same. Hooking up with a girl at the bar and you going to her place or her at yours. blah.. But some huge college like party, maybe outdoor one.

        Out in the woods, nice weather. And some funny stuff, just memory filled night and then meet a girl and sneak off in you car and have sex there or say a house party like highschool, and sneak off at the friends room having the party while people there. Or sneaking a blow job in the closet. I don’t know it feels exciting and memory conducive. It’s something you can laugh with friends “not brag”, not for me. But having heard stories, not as in bragging, it does feel like you’ve missed out on a fun, youthful, past that others got to do which perfectly transitions to wanting something serious after. But like need to sow some wild oats and get that youthful, wild, fun out, because YOLO, you only live once right?

      • Okay. I can see how that could seem appealing to people. Not everyone but maybe to a lot of people.

  9. “What evidence do you have that “Women are literally f*****ing their asses off today”?”

    I think you need to get out more…..maybe you don’t live in and around a major urban city with lots of single educated professional women?

    You did an article once that referenced the work of Lisa Wade. I cannot recall the piece or exactly when. In this piece, Lisa even mention that women in college had on average around two different lovers per academic year. I think these were the numbers, if I recall correctly. Does that sound like sexually repressed females to you? Now, I would be more likely to believe your sexual repression argument when you talk about say baby boomer women.

    Btw, I don’t watch porn. Or use sex workers. Or go to strip clubs. Neither have appeal to me. Nor are they morally acceptable.

    While we disagree, I must say that I have learned some things from you and your blog.

    • Thanks. And I appreciate your thought-provoking comments, even when we disagree.

      (But I’m basing this is on survey data — asking people how much sex they’ve had — and not personal experience. Personal experience can lead you astray. I know your ex-wife was like that but all women aren’t.)

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