It seems like it’s harder than ever to be a single heterosexual person looking for love. Judging by the endless dispatches from my female friends in the dating pool trenches, finding a single man who is not An Arsehole is akin to staying cool during this heatwave: impossible. These friends report being patronised, fetishised or insulted by potential dates, who apparently think this is how they are going to find the woman of their dreams.
It should be no surprise, then, that an article going viral from Psychology Today has found that it’s a shift towards healthy relationship standards that poses the biggest hurdle for heterosexual single men right now. The article, titled “The Rise of Lonely, Single Men”, intended to highlight a growing problem – a 2020 study which found that loneliness is greater in men than in women, with young men most vulnerable to becoming lonely. But, as one Twitter user pointed out, one of the points in the article is that this loneliness has been exacerbated by the diminishing dating opportunities for men as women seek those higher standards. Cue the pile on.
Couples psychologist Dr Greg Matos, who authored the article, wrote that women are “increasingly selective” because dating apps offer a vast number of options. “I hear recurring dating themes from women between the ages of 25 and 45,” he wrote. “They prefer men who are emotionally available, good communicators, and share similar values.”
Now, this criteria hardly sounds impossible to meet. If we boil it down, desiring a partner who can be there for you when you need them and treats you with respect is the barest of the bare minimum. If these are “new relationship standards”, I dread to think how much lower the bar was before. But if this means that women are finally realising that they deserve better than toxic, narcissistic men, then more power to us.
The article has gained traction on social media, with many women pointing out that the increase in healthy relationship standards has led to a decrease in “dating opportunities” for straight men. Taking aim at the criteria listed by women for potential partners, one person said: “The bar for straight men is the literal ground and they will still tunnel underneath it.” Another added: “Women just aren’t desperate enough to settle for garbage men anymore.”
The problem is not that straight women have finally realised their worth and are demanding to be treated better in a relationship. The problem is that straight men have not come to terms with their own toxic masculinity and archaic patriarchal values. They will not find their romantic lives improving until they take it upon themselves to dig deeper and find out what it means to be “emotionally available”. Until they learn that being a good partner means being open with your thoughts, feelings and needs, while holding space for your significant other. And until they stop mansplaining and listen for once.
Straight men have not come to terms with the fact that the problem is seeded in their own toxic masculinity and archaic patriarchal values
The straight man’s reputation is not helped by people like Big Brother star and lifestyle influencer Andrew Tate, whose views about women being a “man’s property” are so misogynistic that a charity this week called for TikTok to remove him from the platform. In fact, the internet has done a huge disservice to straight young men, many of whom are isolated and told that their singledom has nothing to do with them and everything to do with the wrongness of women. This exploitation of loneliness is how incels came to be one of the most damaging movements in modern times.
Responding to the article via Twitter are a number of men who insist that women are “too picky” and have “double standards”. They claim that they actually have great personalities, and that women just don’t want to date them because they aren’t good looking. “Women are just too complicated,” these same men will proclaim, ignoring the dozens of women telling them exactly how they want to be treated; with respect, dignity, tenderness.
This sort of thinking is much more detrimental for men than it is for women. Research shows that men are at higher risk of isolation because they make friends less easily and don’t take part in as many social activities or community groups as women. It has also been suggested that men benefit from marriage more than women, with married men reporting being happier and healthier.
In contrast, women benefit far more from being alone. According to Professor Paul Dolan, a happiness expert and professor of behavioural science at the London School of Economics, the “healthiest and happiest population sub-group are women who never married or had children”. Men need women far more than women need men, it seems. So, single straight men, it’s time to look inwards, buck up and treat women right. At the end of the day, it will make for a better, happier society.