A controversial new book argues that the triumph of feminism has meant men are now second-class citizens. Why men won't get married anymore? Women complain chaps today won't settle down. Sorry, ladies, but it's all your fault.
George Clooney, Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne may have all taken the plunge recently — but they are a diminishing band of brothers, for the number of men marrying in the West has plunged in recent decades.
The state of matrimony is not just ailing. It is dying out faster than a mobile phone battery.
According to the Office for National Statistics, marriage in Britain is at its lowest level since 1895. In 2011, there were just 286,634 ceremonies — a 41 per cent free fall from 1972, when 480,285 couples tied the knot.
For an army of women, Mr Right is simply not there, no matter how hard they look for him. And the reason? When it comes to marriage, men are on strike.
Why? Because the rewards are far less than they used to be, while the cost and dangers it presents are far greater.
‘Ultimately, men know there’s a good chance they’ll lose their friends, their respect, their space, their sex life, their money and — if it all goes wrong — their family,’ says Dr Helen Smith, author of Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood And The American Dream.
‘They don’t want to enter into a legal contract with someone who could effectively take half their savings, pension and property when the honeymoon period is over.
‘Men aren’t wimping out by staying unmarried or being commitment phobes. They’re being smart.’
When British businessman Alan Miller married his first wife, Melissa, in 2003, he thought it was for ever. She immediately decided to give up work, including her £85,000 salary, to become what is known as a ‘Harvey Nichols wife’ — spending her time shopping and lunching.
When they separated just two years and nine months later, he was forced to pay her a £5million divorce settlement, which included his £2.3million home in Chelsea and a £2.7million lump sum — despite the fact they did not have children. That’s £5,000 a day of marriage. Ker-ching!
Or take former Arsenal footballer Ray Parlour. When he wed girlfriend Karen in 1998, it all started out rosy. But by the time the relationship fell apart in 2004, the former optician’s nurse didn’t just get two mortgage-free houses, £38,500 in annual support for their three children and a £250,000 tax-free lump sum...
Oh no. She also got personal maintenance of £406,500 a year from her ex’s future earnings. This, she said, was because she had ‘encouraged’ him to be a good midfielder.
This is precisely why the WAG culture rages through our country like an aggressive disease. Girls of 16 aspire to be glamorous girlfriends because it’s an easy life — not because they love the game or even the men playing it.
Young women who wear so much make-up they have to tip their heads back to get their eyes open are encouraged to hunt in packs until they snag a rich footballer.
Why? Because it beats getting up at 7am, doing the daily commute and actually thinking about something other than themselves.
And then, when the marriage is over, it’s time for the wife to make what Mayfair-based divorce lawyer Camilla Baldwin calls ‘some real money — more than the average person ever dreams of’. Especially as some judges, particularly those in London, are renowned for favouring the wife in the division of assets.
So, what’s a man to do? ‘If he’s determined to get married, then he must get a pre-nuptial agreement,’ says Baldwin. ‘Otherwise steer clear altogether.
‘Be in a relationship, even live together. But don’t get married. Especially if you have any prospect of making money.’
American social commentator Suzanne Venker agrees. The problem with divorce settlements, she says, is women want to have their cake and eat it.
‘We messed with the old marriage structure and now it’s broken,’ she says. ‘Back in the old days, stay-at-home mothers got a financial reward because child-rearing doesn’t pay cash.
‘Now we want total independence from men, but if we divorce — even without having children — we expect to get alimony for ever. We can’t have it both ways.’
Along with the prospect of endless domestic criticism, this is why men are saying ‘I don’t’ rather than ‘I do’. Men need marriage like a fish needs a bicycle.
‘Many women have been raised to think of men as the enemy,’ says Venker. ‘It’s precisely this dynamic — women good, men bad — that has destroyed the relationship between the sexes.
‘After decades of browbeating, men are tired. Tired of being told there’s something fundamentally wrong with them. Tired of being told that if women aren’t happy, it’s their fault. The rise of women has not threatened men. It has just irritated them.’
But by far the most negative aspect of marriage is the likelihood of being edited out of your children’s lives — if it all goes pear-shaped — by a state that has relegated the role of father to its lowest point ever.
It wasn’t always this way. In the 1800s, men typically got custody of the children in the event of a split — not as a result of privilege, but because they were solely financially responsible for them.
They got the children, but they also got the bill. Benefits Britain didn’t exist, encouraging single mums to go it alone.
Now, 200 years on, women get the children, but men still get the bill. Sometimes, men even pay for children who aren’t theirs.
The Child Support Agency has 500 cases of paternity fraud a year, where a mother names a man as the biological father of her child, even when she has a good idea he isn’t. And that’s just the cases we know about. According to a YouGov study, 1.2 million men doubt they are the fathers of their partners’ children.
The recent case of Steven Carter, from Devon, is not unusual. The CSA deducted £50,000 from his bank account between 2007 and 2014, even though a DNA test later proved the child in question wasn’t his.
TV MAKES MEN LOOK LIKE IDIOTS
Men have long been considered aggressors and threats to the safety of children, but getting it wrong is a human trait, not a male defect.
In fact, in the past few years, some high- profile perpetrators of child abuse have been women: Karen Matthews, who staged the kidnap of her daughter Shannon; Amanda Hutton, whose son’s mummified body was found two years after he died; and Baby P’s mother Tracey Connelly.
‘There is absolutely no magic ingredient that women have when it comes to being parents,’ says Adrienne Burgess from the Fatherhood Institute. ‘Men are equally innately hard-wired to care for children.
‘The only difference is that the rest of the world thinks they’re dangerous, uninterested and lacking skills mothers are born with. That is a total myth.’
The problem is exacerbated by the way fathers are portrayed in countless films and TV shows as being utterly inept and untrustworthy. Off the top of my head, I can cite Men Behaving Badly, Last Of The Summer Wine, The Simpsons, Everybody Loves Raymond and Friends as examples, plus Three Men And A Baby — the highest-grossing box office hit of 1987.
They acknowledged this, but the Department of Work and Pensions still will not refund him because the ‘child’ is now 22, thus an adult, and so the case is officially closed.
Then there’s Mark Webb, who raised his ‘daughter’ for 17 years, only to discover she was not biologically related to him. When he sued his former wife for compensation, county and appeal court judges denied his damages claim, brushing it off as ‘a man’s obligation’. To this day, no British woman has been convicted of paternity fraud.
This set-up is no accident, though. Since Harriet Harman and her pals entered politics, the laws that govern family life have been re-jigged to put women on top and men on the back foot.
They decided that families aren’t society’s natural, balanced building block, but a cunning plot to oppress mothers while placing men in undeserving positions of power (when many men were breaking their backs in jobs they hated to keep everything ticking over).
To avenge this, they squeezed men from the home and hit them where it hurts: the heart.
Don’t believe me? The Children Act of 1989 specifically declares: ‘The rule of law that a father is the natural guardian of his legitimate child is abolished.’
A year later, a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research called The Family Way saw Harman declare: ‘It cannot be assumed men are bound to be an asset to family life or that the presence of fathers in families is necessarily a means to social cohesion.’
Even now, the Children and Families Act of 2014 doesn’t mention the word ‘father’ once. Not once.
Sir Bob Geldof was one of the first high-profile men to challenge the legislation after losing access to his daughters Peaches, Pixie and Fifi when Paula Yates left him in 1995.
‘It was beyond expensive,’ he told me. ‘I had to borrow money and was close to losing it all. In the end, my circumstances changed, but it could have been very different.
‘Men still spend thousands getting court orders that aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. The whole system is disgusting.
‘I remember a court clerk telling me: “Whatever you do, don’t say you love your children. Family courts consider men who articulate this as extreme.” It was madness.’
According to the Office for National Statistics, one in three youngsters have no access to their fathers, which equates to four million children in the UK.
But there is a ray of hope, says Dr Craig Pickering, from the charity Families Need Fathers. ‘The Children and Families Act says, for the first time in English law, that both parents should be involved in a child’s life after divorce,’ he says.
‘The trouble is that its effectiveness depends on what the judges make of it. It wouldn’t be the first time that they came up with their own bizarre interpretation of something straightforward.’
Pickering says sanctions should be imposed on mothers who fail to co-operate, such as passports and driving licences being confiscated.
‘The Government consulted on this, but stopped mid-way through,’ he says. ‘We don’t know why.’
I put this to Edward Timpson, Minister for Children and Families. Eventually, I was told by the Ministry of Justice: ‘The consultation concluded we should not introduce further punitive enforcement elements. There are already punishments available.’
Hmm. Perhaps someone needs to tell them they don’t work.
Considering that the annual cost of family breakdown is reportedly £44billion — that’s more than the defence budget — you’d think curing fatherlessness would be a priority for a country haemorrhaging money. But it isn’t.
Instead, everyone is petrified of inadvertently apportioning blame to single mothers, even though it’s not about them. Only recently, in a bid to woo the female vote, David Cameron said deadbeat dads ‘should be looked at like drink drivers’, yet said nothing about the mothers who deliberately steer them off the road.
Here we had the head of the Government telling men to raise children properly, yet offering a law that actively keeps children and fathers apart as the solution. So much for family values.
Meanwhile, single-parent organisations such as Gingerbread — supported by children’s author J. K. Rowling of all people — casually dismiss studies that suggest a lack of male role models at home increases the likelihood of crime and mental illness.
This is despite a study conducted by Oxford University, which followed 20,000 children from 1958 and found those with a father were far less likely to break the law or suffer from psychological issues. Young boys with involved fathers also performed better at school.
Dr Paul Ramchandani, of Imperial College London, conducted a study that found ‘disengaged and remote father-child interactions as early as the third month of life’ often lead to behaviour problems in children when they are older.
The logic is simple — not having a father leaves a hole in the soul.
WE DO HAVE LESS SEX AFTER MARRIAGE
Think your wedding day will be the happiest day of your life, chaps? You may need to think again. The quantity — and quality — of sex dwindles after marriage, say researchers.
A recent survey of 3,000 couples found those who had sex four times a week before their wedding did the deed just once a week afterwards.
Then there’s the cost of bankrolling the average wedding — a burden that is increasingly falling on couples rather than their parents.
It’s not called the ‘big day’ for nothing; the latest stats say you’ll need to have saved up around £18,000 to pay the bills.
For the same amount, though, you could get an amazing holiday with first-class flights round the world, a nice car, a deposit on an apartment or a wardrobe of Savile Row suits.
Makes you think, doesn’t it?
A void that young people frequently fill with drugs, alcohol or intimacy. This might not sit well in the feminist family framework, but sometimes the truth hurts.
In 2012, the substance misuse charity Addaction published a report that proved father deficit to be real, causing anger, self-loathing, addiction and identity issues.
It saw young men compensate with a ‘counterfeit masculinity’ of strength, anger and violence, often combined with sexual prowess.
Meanwhile, young women ‘act out a skewed version of femininity that prioritises the use of sex and relationships with men above all else’.
Cruelly, this creates the cycle all over again, with teenagers jumping into bed with each other without a thought for the consequences.
The Trust for the Study of Adolescence recently proved scores of teenage girls in Britain are deliberately becoming young mothers as a career move because, with the state and the father contributing, it offers more guaranteed security than a job.
Even 13-year-old girls admitted this, which might explain why Britain has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe, at an annual government cost of nearly £63million.
Perhaps the law-makers need to think about radical action to break the cycle. Maybe men could be allowed to have a financial abortion from a child to which they didn’t pre-consent.
In a specified time — say, legal abortion guidelines — men could be allowed to formally relinquish all monetary obligations, rights and responsibilities if duped into fatherhood. The woman still wants to proceed? Fine, that’s her choice. But not on his salary.
Controversial? Yes. But overnight we would see fewer acts of conception by deception. And that can only be a good thing — for men and for society.
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