Connect with us

Substacks

The Dating Pool Dropouts Olivia Reingold

Published

on

Photo illustrations by The Free Press

If you’re a regular reader of these pages, you know we believe in having tough conversations out loud. Which is why I’m thrilled that tonight, we are hosting our first-ever live debate, focusing on the crucial question: 

Has the sexual revolution failed?

The relationship between the sexes and our epidemic of loneliness are two topics we find ourselves continually returning to at The Free Press. Over the last few weeks, we have brought you a range of essays on these themes—from Jenny Powers on the surprising rise of phone sex operators to Rob Henderson on the decline of marriage. Kat Rosenfield introduced us to the new female pickup artists, while our high school essay finalist Isabel Hogben revealed how she discovered porn when she was just 10 years old. 

Now, Free Press writer Olivia Reingold reports on the increasing number of young men dropping out of the dating pool. This is a hugely important subject, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments.

Meanwhile, if you’re coming to our debate tonight at the Ace Theatre in L.A., we can’t wait to meet you in person. (About 20 tickets are still available, grab one now!) If you can’t make it, don’t worry—we’ll send out a recording soon. And stay tuned for more live events from The Free Press in the future, because while this is our first, it most definitely won’t be our last.
—BW

“Are you religious?”

The question made Jammall squirm. The answer was no, but he could tell his date wanted it to be yes. And after the hour-long drive to get here, to a Caribbean restaurant in Orlando, Florida, he could tell it wasn’t working. 

“I think we should just be friends,” the 36-year-old security guard remembers telling the girl he had dinner with last month after they met on Facebook.

That was his first date in three years. He says he once went six months without getting a single match on a dating app, even though he pays $30 in monthly fees between OkCupid, Bumble, and Hinge. If you count high school, when he went to the movies with a classmate, Jammall says he’s been on a total of three dates his entire life. 

And now, driving home from his date, it hit him like a ton of bricks: Why do I even do this at all? 

He walked into his apartment near Cape Canaveral, greeted the cats, and slumped down on his couch. 

“I’m so far out of the loop,” he told me he realized at the time. “Compared to my peers, who have gone out with women, and know how to interact with them, I’m too far gone. I can’t learn that stuff.”

He trails off, then adds: “I’m just not going to try anymore. It’s not worth it.”

Jammall, who asked me to conceal his last name to protect his reputation at work, is one of a growing number of young men who are withdrawing from the dating pool. More than six in ten men aged 18 to 29 are now single, up from about five in ten in 2019, according to data from Pew Research Center. Respondents give a range of reasons for their singlehood, including having “more important priorities,” the fact they “just like being single,” or that they’ve gotten “too old” to keep trying.

But part of it also boils down to this: it’s hard for men to find partners at a moment when women are outpacing them both at school and work. Young women now hold 1.6 million more college degrees than men, and in a growing number of cities, including Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and New York, they make as much as—or more than—their male counterparts. And even if they become mothers, odds are four in ten will become the breadwinners of their households. 

“What discourages me so much is that most of the women that I’ve seen on dating sites, they want a man making as much as them and they’re making upwards of like, $100,000,” said Jammall, who tells me he makes $55,000 a year. 

“A lot of men are checking out,” he adds. “We’re just tired. We’re just tired of being told that we don’t measure up either physically or financially.”

I found Jammall on the online Reddit community r/TrueUnpopularOpinion, where men often vent about the dating scene. On another subreddit, r/PurplePillDebate, male commenters bemoan that they’re held to the “666 rule,” which mandates they be six feet tall, make six figures, and have six inches—or more—downstairs. (Jammall describes himself as a “straitlaced guy” who is 5-feet-5-inches tall.)

The men I spoke with—ranging from ages 17 to 33 and living in rural New Jersey to Austin, Texas—said they felt overlooked in a competitive dating market, where women often list salary requirements and height preferences on their profiles. 

To see if things were as bad as they claimed, I joined two major dating platforms—Tinder and Hinge—and posed as a hip, 30-year-old business owner with a full head of hair and a degree from NYU. A few swipes in, I spotted a busty blonde leaning over in a halter dress with the caption, “Together we could find out if you’re lying about your height.”

Then, a 22-year-old, captured in a selfie at her work cubicle with her cleavage resting on her desk, wrote: “Don’t superlike me if ur ugly I already have a lot going on.”

Another woman, a five-feet-two-inch bombshell named Ashly, warned men: “If you [are] one of those ‘split the check’ or not wealthy. . . NEXT.”

That financial pressure is what screws men over most, said Jess Carbino, the former in-house sociologist for Tinder and Bumble.

“The traditional markers of adulthood like buying a home, completing college, and getting married, are all becoming far harder to achieve,” Carbino said. “Many men perceive themselves to be far less marriageable. And in turn, many women perceive them to be less marriageable, too.” 

She says it’s never been easy to be Joe Average on the dating market but things are rougher now that the average man’s salary, which hovers just above $61,000 in the U.S., is hardly enough to afford rent in most major American cities. Yet still, many women hold out for men who make not just as much or more than they do, but are also wildly attractive. 

While the sexual revolution freed women from depending on men for income or stability, it also means they can privilege more “frivolous” qualities in a mate, says Rob Henderson, a psychology PhD with a Substack on social mores.

“People used to care a bit more deeply about moral character and hard work, and whether the person was an ethical and upstanding citizen,” he tells me. “And now, you don’t have to worry about that quite as much. And you can sort of focus on things that are just, like, more immediate, like attraction.”

The result? Men at the tip-top of the dating pool get everything. And the men who don’t have it all get nothing. 

But even the alphas are feeling the squeeze. 

One New York City–based psychologist, David Gordon, says many of the high-powered men he treats—including doctors, lawyers, and financiers—fret over their ability to attract a woman, despite their enviable salaries or careers. 

“It’s kind of sad or tragic, but some guys will look at their bank accounts, stocks, or credit score every day, as if it’s some sort of measure of their value,” he says. “We can look at the numbers, and I’m like, ‘Dude, looks pretty good to me.’ ” 

Still, he says, “There’s this anxiety around—is this enough?” 

That’s the insecurity that keeps Santiago, a 25-year-old from Albuquerque, New Mexico, up at night. The last time he dated anyone was in 2021—but that ended when he suspected she was cheating on him. Now, with the wounds still raw, he fears he’s “not worthy” of a girlfriend anymore. 

“After being depressed for so long, I feel like it’s a handicap,” says Santiago, who works at a department store and has been on one date only since his breakup. “It makes me feel like, ‘Oh, he’s damaged goods.’ ”

And then there’s the problem of not knowing how to approach a woman. He suspects his coworker might have a crush on him, and yet he worries that one wrong move and he’ll be labeled “creepy.”

It’s a common worry for men in the post–#MeToo era. In a 2016 study, over 95 percent of respondents replied that men were much more likely to be “creepy people” than women. One twentysomething on Reddit, who wanted to ask out an employee at his local pet store, groaned that men are “expected to be the hunters but are shunned for doing so in public unless it’s on a stupid app.”

So Santiago does nothing. 

“I’m a very insecure person—I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble or break their boundaries,” said the third-generation Mexican American.

And then there’s the cost of romance. The average date in the U.S. comes with a $159 price tag, which costs more than ten hours of work for those making a $15 hourly wage. It started getting so expensive for one bachelor, a 26-year-old banker, that he moved from Los Angeles, where rent averages around $3,000, to an apartment in Appalachia, where he and a friend now pay $500 each a month.

“I just found it’s a lot of time, and frankly, money,” he says about dating back West. “We’re risking so much for so little.”

But the dating scene in Appalachia, he says, is “not good” either, partly because he’s working remotely. 

“Everyone is double my age and lives in, like, the Midwest. There’s just none of that cohesion or fun. The world has changed.” 

Some men insist they haven’t checked out of dating. Rather, they have virtual girlfriends who satisfy all their needs.

Over the past few years, start-ups like Replika, Character.ai, and Inflection AI, have rolled out a universe of virtual companions that users can customize to meet their every desire. One alluring chatbot, Eva AI, woos customers with the promise: “Build relationship and intimacy on your terms.” And one influencer, ​​Caryn Marjorie, says she created an AI version of herself—so far with more than 18,000 “boyfriends”—to “cure loneliness.” 

And then there are the real-life sirens of OnlyFans, where its 240 million users can purchase the “girlfriend experience,” and get a constant stream of sexts and loving messages in return for cold, hard cash. 

Aella, a top OnlyFans performer who makes $100,000 on “a good month,” says a large part of her job is doting upon her admirers like a lover would, listening to them moan about their tough days or absent girlfriends. 

“It turns out the thing that men want is not just sex,” she told The Free Press. “They want sex with a woman that likes them.”

Only a minority of her customers are interested in just physical pleasure, she says. An overwhelming majority reach out to her for companionship, or simply to feel desired by a woman. A “big part” of her job, she says, is tending to men who are lonely. 

“An important component to a sexual dynamic is to feel valued,” she told me.

Ethan King, a therapist who “treats 90 percent men” in Austin, Texas, says he often has to convince clients to look beyond the girls they see in porn.

“People say they’re totally happy with their porn girlfriend,” he says. “They’re like, ‘It’s too risky. I’d just rather be online.’ ” 

But Ian Soltes, a 33-year-old overnight gas station attendant in Bridgeport, Connecticut, doesn’t want to look past his online “friend with benefits.”

He says he first met his online girlfriend on GameFAQs, a video gaming website that hosts message boards, when he was 13 or 14. They play video games together and message each other all day long (he told me he sent her a “hug emoji” during our interview). 

“She has been more than willing to be very close and intimate with me online,” he said. “So any sexual urge I’ve had has been handled by that.”

There’s just one problem: they’ve never met in person or spoken on the phone. Soltes said she can’t because she’s mute.

“I’m pretty convinced it’s a lie,” he admitted. “But at the same time, if I challenge her on it, what’s going to happen? I’m going to find out the one person I’ve been close friends with for decades now is a guy? I don’t want to say I already know that, ’cause I don’t.”

He stumbles to find the right words.

“I’d just be losing a close friend, and I don’t want to risk that.”

The U.S. marriage rate is the lowest it’s been in over a century, with a quarter of adults under 40 having never married (in 1980, only 6 percent of adults fell into that camp). It’s a trend that continues even though research shows married people are happier. 

Americans today “discourage commitment now,” says Steven Mosher, the lead demographer at the Population Research Institute. “The expectation 50 years ago was that everyone would eventually get married and have children. Now, that expectation is gone.”

Already, an increasing number of women are going it alone as mothers, freezing their eggs and using sperm donors to procreate. At some point in the future, Mosher says the family—“the fundamental unit of society”—could completely break down. “We’re going to have children born from sperm donors, with no fathers, eggs and embryos frozen suspended indefinitely until someone wants to add a child to her life.

“This is not a happy future for most of humanity.”

Jon Birger worries about the future, too. Not just for men but for women, who he says aren’t being served by the current dating dynamic—or dating apps, which about half of American “never married” adults say they’ve used at some point. 

“Their business goal is to retain users,” says Birger of apps like Tinder that want daters to keep searching for love. The day you settle down is the day their profits die. 

His advice to America’s young women is to get off the apps and try “mixed-collar dating.”

“When college-educated women restrict their dating pool to college-educated men, they are effectively limiting themselves to a too-small dating pool,” said Birger, the author of Date-onomics: How Dating Became a Lopsided Numbers Game. “And if you exclude firemen, electricians, plumbers, and other folks that don’t have a college degree, you may be excluding people that you would actually really click with romantically.” 

Jammall, the security guard in Florida, says he is open to dating someone more educated or successful than he is, and he believes he could bring a lot to the table. Sure, he doesn’t have a million dollars, but he wants to do “the little things,” like cook dinner for his partner and leave love notes around the house. “I’m trustworthy, loyal, and very direct. I’m also very protective, and I’m not afraid to try new things.”

But still, he knows that many women toggle their apps so that men like him—those without a bachelor’s degree, without a six-figure salary—never appear on their feeds. 

And he says they’re “missing out” on a lot of good guys.

“The problem isn’t that I don’t have anything to offer someone—I do,” he says. “But I can’t even get my foot in the door. And if they don’t talk to me, what can I do?”

Olivia Reingold is a reporter for The Free Press. Read her piece about the decline of warriors among a tribe in Montana, and follow her on Twitter (now X) @Olivia_Reingold.

Become a Free Press subscriber today:

Subscribe now

 

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

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

Substacks

Your Constitutional Right To Zyn Kiran Sampath

Published

on

By

Photo illustration by The Free Press

According to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, they are a “sinister new threat to the health of young Americans.” Vox says they explain “the new ethos of conservative young men.” Business Insider frets that its users belong to “a subculture on the right that doesn’t just tolerate nicotine use, but venerates it.” 

A new front has opened up in the culture war, and the fight is over inch-long nicotine pouches called Zyns. The product was developed as a cleaner, healthier alternative to “Snus”—moist tobacco pouches tucked inside the gums. Zyn pouches offer all the nicotine without the sticky mess. In other words, Zyns are to Snus what Juuls are to cigarettes—and the latest wave in the push for ever more refined, automatic, and hassle-free nicotine delivery.

And they are popular. Nicotine pouches debuted in the U.S. in 2016 and sales grew by over 540 percent between August 2019 to March 2022. Brands like On! and Velo have played their part, but Zyn, the brand born in Sweden in 2014 and acquired by the tobacco behemoth Philip Morris in 2022, commands 75 percent of the market share as of 2023.

“Part of the appeal is the name.” says Wilson Nesbit, an economics student at Yale University. “It’s short. It’s sweet. And you can put it in a lot of words.” 

In other words, it’s memeable. “Monica Lezynsky,” Nesbit offers. “Zyn-Manuel Miranda. Qui-Gon Zyn.”

Nesbit lives on Lynwood Place, a small street just off Yale’s campus in New Haven, Connecticut. Lynwood is home to two churches, three fraternities, two secret societies, one Chabad house, and a boatload of nicotine. Hence the block’s new nickname, Zynwood. 

“It’s been known as Zynwood for two years,” says Nesbit, who lives with six boys in a house on the street. “The guys who lived here before us had a tent with the Zyn brand stamped across it.” More recently, he underwent an artistic project to solidify the community’s identity, collecting the empty Zyn tins from throughout the neighborhood—277 of them—and spelling out ZYNWOOD on the wall of their living room. 

The Zynwood sign. (Photo courtesy of Wilson Nesbit)

But Zyns aren’t just for college kids. Twentysomethings in corporate jobs now see them as a sophisticated way to get a nicotine hit.

“Vapes are unprofessional,” Andrew Schuler, a consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, former vaper, and Zyn user, tells me. “We need nicotine to cope with our jobs because they are extremely stressful,” says Schuler, who goes through three to four pouches a day. “But you’re not going to rip a clunky-looking, purple-colored vape at your desk.”

It’s also about optimization, he said. “Smoking a cigarette requires a break.”

“The guy who used to work at the desk next to me used to take meetings with a Zyn in his cheek,” says one friend, a former Goldman Sachs banker. 

For some, nicotine delivered via Zyns isn’t a nasty addiction, but something of a macho life hack. Arch-techbro Peter Thiel claims nicotine raises your IQ 10 points, while Tucker Carlson (Carlzyn?) proclaimed on Theo Von’s podcast, “Zyn is a powerful work enhancer” as well as “a man enhancer.” (Last December, the Nelk Boys podcasters gifted Carlson the world’s largest Zyn, delivered via helicopter.) But it isn’t neccessarily just right-wingers who use Zyn: a recent picture of Squad member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez showed a Zyn pack-shaped bulge in her white jeans. 

Tucker Carl-zyn with the world’s largest Zyn, and a regular-sized packet for scale. (Image via X)

In January, Chuck Schumer called for a crackdown on Zyns. “Amid federal action against e-cigs and their grip on young people, a quiet and dangerous alternative has emerged and it is called Zyn,” Schumer said, warning that Zyns “lock their sights on teens and use social media to hook them.”

As part of his crackdown, Schumer wants to investigate how Phillip Morris has marketed Zyn, and whether the firm has targeted minors. In 2023, Juul agreed to pay $462 million to settle lawsuits into the marketing of vaping products to children. But, rather than investing in social media influencers or extensive advertising campaigns, Zyn has relied on organic viral traction in the U.S. 

A spokesman for Zyn says the company’s marketing practices “are focused on preventing underage access and set the benchmark for the industry.” 

But even Nesbit says Schumer is right to worry about young people getting hooked on the pouch. “It’s an easy introduction for youths that haven’t used nicotine,” he told me over the phone from Zynwood. “Mitigating youth usage should be a top priority, but finding the right approach is another story.” 

Others see ingesting Zyns as a constitutional right, and Schumer as an enemy of freedom. As Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene recently exclaimed on X about his crackdown : “This calls for a Zynsurrection!”

Kiran Sampath is a researcher and reporter. Read her last piece about the temple in New Jersey that took 12 years and $96 million to build.

If you’re Zynterested in more fun takes on the culture, become a Free Press subscriber today:

Subscribe now

 

Continue Reading

Substacks

South Korea Is Running Out of Kids. Is This America’s Future? Anna Louie Sussman

Published

on

By

In January, more than 150 schools in South Korea had no new first graders. (Photo by Busà Photography via Getty Images)

If you’ve been on TikTok in the last few weeks, you might have seen that American women are talking about 4B. The South Korean feminist movement gets its name from the “Four Nos” its adherents commit to: no dating, no sex, no marriage, no childbirth. In short, 4B, which began around 2019, encourages women to actively avoid men as much as possible. That it’s now trending in the U.S. raises an uncomfortable question: Are our gender politics starting to look like Korea’s? And if so, will the demographic consequences be as extreme?

Right now, South Korea is running out of kids. Last week, it was reported that the Education Ministry plans to reduce the number of teacher training places, citing the precipitous decline in students, which is so extreme that in January of this year more than 150 schools across the nation had no new first graders. Six years ago, the average number of children a South Korean woman had in her lifetime was 0.92, a figure rarely seen outside wartime; since then, it’s fallen all the way to 0.78, with a projection of 0.65 in 2025. In Seoul, the capital, it’s already at 0.59

When I visited Seoul in 2022 to report on why Koreans aren’t having babies, I often found myself wondering: Could this happen in America? Our nation’s fertility, though significantly below the replacement rate of 2.1, is currently higher, at 1.8. But, in the course of dozens of conversations with Koreans of reproductive age, I heard more extreme versions of sentiments I’d started to observe at home. 

Today, Americans who want a good old-fashioned heterosexual relationship struggle to find someone who shares their values. Analysis has shown a gigantic mismatch in the nation’s dating pool: for each single liberal woman, there exist 0.6 single liberal young men. Conservative young men have it even worse, with just 0.5 single conservative young women available to choose from. At the end of last year, the pollster Dan Cox found that this divide is particularly intense among American members of Gen Z, whose oldest members are now 27, the average age of a first-time mother in 2022. 

In Gen Z, Cox showed, women and men are much further apart on fundamental questions of gender equality than the generation before them: whereas 52 percent of millennial men say they’re feminists, compared to 54 percent of women, the equivalent figures for Gen Z are 43 percent and 61 percent. In 2019, a third of adult men under 30 said they face discrimination based on their sex; only five years later, that number has increased to almost half.

Recent data suggest this gender divide is global—and growing. In January, a Financial Times report showed the wide, and widening, divergence in political values between young women and men. This is true in South Korea and the U.S. but also in China, Germany, and the UK.

Americans haven’t given up on having a family to the extent that South Koreans have. In 2023, about 35 percent of Koreans said they don’t think having children after marriage is necessary, a figure that rose to more than 57 percent among 19- to 24-year-olds. By contrast, a recent Gallup poll found that the vast majority of Americans under 30 “either already have children (21 percent) or hope to someday (63 percent).” 

But young American women haven’t just been making TikToks about 4B out of curiosity—an increasing number are genuinely swearing off male partners, with the hashtag #celibacyjourney racking up tens of millions of views. A New York Times op-ed published in February described going “boysober” as “this year’s hottest mental health craze.” Meanwhile, men who identify as “involuntarily celibate” are retreating to online echo chambers that, one 2022 study suggested, now harbor eight times as many instances of degrading language toward women than they did in 2016. In the twelve months after December 2022, self-described misogynist Andrew Tate’s following on X increased from 3 million to 8.5 million.

Conservative politicians across the globe are capitalizing on these divides. Not long before I arrived in Korea, the president Yoon Suk-yeol had coasted into office in May 2022 on a wave of anti-feminist campaign promises, in what multiple observers described as an “incel election.” For the first time, young men describing themselves as anti-feminist were seen as an influential voting bloc, with Yoon promising to abolish the nation’s Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. (He has not yet succeeded.)

In the U.S., the Republicans also appear to be aggressively courting the male vote. Since the fall of Roe, the Republican Party has become actively hostile to women’s reproductive rights, pushing female voters left. And some of the party’s most influential members are now stoking a war between men and women.

In a breathtakingly offensive comment last January, Florida congressman Matt Gaetz called for the Republican Party to all but forget about female voters, saying that “For every Karen we lose, there’s a Julio and a Jamal ready to sign up for the MAGA movement.” Fox News host Jesse Watters has been even more explicit in singling out liberal single women as the GOP’s nemesis, alighting, somehow, on matrimony as an electoral strategy. 

“Single women are breaking for Democrats by 30 points,” he said after the 2022 midterms. “We need these ladies to get married,” he warned, following up with an order: “Guys, go put a ring on it.” 

And yet a recent poll found that 40 percent of Republicans said they don’t believe marital rape should definitely or probably be prosecuted, suggesting the party’s not overflowing with eligible bachelors. 

All signs point to an ever-widening rift between the sexes. And if women and men become sworn enemies, America is going to start running out of kids, too.

Anna Louie Sussman is a journalist covering gender, economics, and reproduction. She is a 2024 Alicia Patterson Fellow

For more on America’s gender divide, read Rikki Schlott’s piece, “When It Comes to Sex, My Generation Is Screwed,” and become a Free Press subscriber today:

Subscribe now

 

Continue Reading

Substacks

April 15, 2024 Garamond

Published

on

By

 

Continue Reading

Shadow Banned

Copyright © 2023 mesh news project // awake, not woke // news, not narrative // deep inside the filter bubble