DOASKDOTELL BOOK REVIEW of George Gilder’s Men and Marriage, and Sexual Suicide


Author (or Editor): Farrell, Warren, Ph. D.

Title: Men and Marriage   and Sexual Suicide

Fiction? Anthology?  

Publisher:  Pelican;  Quadrangle (respectively)

Date: 1986; 1973 (respectively)


Series Name:

Physical description: hardbound ; paper

Relevance to doaskdotell: Psychological polarity and gender roles

Gilder has an interesting hypothesis, the subtlety of which is not always obvious. He believes that the greatest danger to our prosperous civilization is not simply "immoral behavior" as we usually perceive it (sexual promiscuity, drugs, etc.) but the actual denial of sexuality as a civilizing force.

Most men of average talents, he believes, need families to support and wives to civilize them, to give them a purpose for an adult life and for any sense of individuality at all. The blurring of gender roles is harmful to many men. It' s not so hurtful to women who, because of their biological ability to bear children, are "sexually superior" and able to develop self-concepts without external socialization.

But underneath this is the underlying reluctance of modern young adults to couple sexuality and real human emotion with adaptive needs (child-rearing and priority family personal support). Instead, sexuality has become a vehicle of very personal self-expression (compare with the views of Rosenfels. This amounts to "sexual suicide."

There is also the "sexual princess" problem ¾ the tendency for people to choose partners for purely narcissistic reasons. The best example is the young, nubile woman who busts up a prosperous older man's marriage and alienates his affections from his wife.

Gilder minces no words on homosexuality ("the Perils of Androgyny" chapter). He views male homosexuality as a caving in to enjoyment of a sense of abasement, something potentially tempting to any man. .” He minces no words when he writes, “Intercourse remorselessly sets the bounds of androgyny,” and that one must perform competitively like a man in order to feel like one.  The "upward affiliation" of homosexuality makes it more "rational" to many men than heterosexuality. Male courtship of women (and not "going Dutch") is, after all, somewhat "irrational." He also believes that the tendency for some men to have many female partners tends to encourage homosexuality among the remaining males with no girl friends.  At one point, he also maintains that most “mature” homosexuals prefer to remain rather private and have no desire to publicize the values of their lifestyles to others!  He really sounds like a don’t-ask-don’t-tell proponent.

Gilder incorrectly assumes that the narcissism present in the male homosexual world precludes long-term relationships. Men need the taming influence of women to have stable marriages and even to discover true "individuality," he believes. Gilder is getting at some moral problems but he seems too focused upon conventional sexuality to really understand the implications of the debate he is trying to start. There is, after all, this constant tug-of-war in our culture between the narrowest way to interpret individual rights and responsibilities (consequentialism) and the idea that some inclinations and behaviors (however well they may work out in some individual circumstances) become morally and communally unacceptable when set up as examples for most people. Why doesn't he focus upon the appropriateness of the way people set their own priorities, and the problems that happen when people lose sight of caring about others while they seek their own ends? The ultimate implication of his line of thought is a moral imperative that any adult needs to know how to take care of others besides himself in order to be credible as an independent person at all.

Gilder is indeed the ultimate aesthetic realist, and spokesperson for the socially conservative side of the cultural war. Indeed, he is one of the few conservative writers who is willing to speak of a near moral obligation for adults to get and stay married. Ironically, gay conservative author Jonathan Rauch (contributor to Bruce Bawer's anthology Beyond Queer) has said similar things in the context of same-sex marriage.

Gilder’s ideas are reinforced by the article, “The Emperor’s New Woes,” by Dean Elder, in the April 2005 Psychology Today. Elder argues that most men need the socialization that lineage, fatherhood and therefore marriage provide (they become more stable and earn more when they are providers) but may be uncomfortable with modern wives who expect more emotional subtlety. (Gay men, perhaps, are wired differently, not to need this kind of complementarity.)


See review: Longman’s The Empty Cradle and Santorum’s It Takes a Family


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