Hi reddit! I am a forensic psychologist who has been interested in why men aren't getting married, going to college, and doing other things society wants them to do. So I asked them! It turns out that they're not immature "man-child" types, but rather are responding rationally to society and its incentives. Ask me anything!

My blog is http://pjmedia.com/drhelen/

UPDATE: I have to go now, I had originally just been scheduled for one hour but stayed two as your questions and feedback were fascinating. Thanks so much to all of you for participating and I hope you will continue the discussion with each other and pop in at my blog mentioned above. You can also see my book video here:


Or you can read my recent article at the Huffington Post on" The Eight Reasons Men Don't Want to Get Married" here:


PROOF: http://pjmedia.com/drhelen/2013/07/23/iama-on-reddit-2/

Comments: 1662 • Responses: 22  • Date: 

ph2ll417 karma

Another reason men opt out is the unfairness of the system. In my situation the wife was the "breadwinner" with a salary 3X my own and yet I would have still been liable for support after our divorce. In short, it doesn't make sense for a man to marry.

helenphd394 karma

Exactly, unfairness of the system is another aspect of the legal problems that men have when they marry. I have heard from men who divorce and their ex has a high level degree and is able to work, but they are still held responsible for support. It seems that just by virtue of being male, that one is a walking wallet.

goliveyourdreams377 karma

I just read the introduction to your book and the beginning of chapter one on Amazon. It all sounds so familiar. I spent 15 years of marriage doing 90% of the work. I was the sole financial provider, but also got stuck doing most of the housework, cooking, cleaning, and so on. For my efforts, I was rewarded with disdain, emotional abuse and sexual manipulation.

When I finally hit my breaking point and left her, she fought like hell to stop the divorce, then took 2/3rds of everything I had and a substantial monthly child support payment when I refused to stay. This was last year. Today, while I'm working my ass off to make those payments and attempt to rebuild my savings, she's doing a part time gig at a coffee shop and taking $10,000 vacations. Oh, and the lawyers tell me I got off easy compared to other men.

My question for you: How would you suggest someone in my situation deal with the pressure of re-marriage? I'm dating a lovely woman who has been absolutely wonderful, but the dreaded M word has already come up. I feel like it is inevitable; if I want to be with her long term, marriage is expected. It scares the hell out of me. I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a large part of me that would rather spend the rest of my life alone than climb aboard that misery train again. Both the odds and the cards are all stacked against me.

helenphd225 karma

Can your lovely woman understand how you feel and what you have been through? Have you told her and how does she re-act? Does she dismiss your feelings? If so, be careful. If she does understand and tells you to take your time and takes the pressure off, then you may find that she is a good match for you.

If you feel that she is understanding and would be a good wife, what about a pre-nup? But remember, if you really don't want to be married, don't be blackmailed into it. It is your one and only life and you have to think of your happiness, not just hers.

Mankyspoon222 karma

So what you're saying is, American males don't see the "incentives" as being worth the effort?

helenphd536 karma

Yes, that's what I am saying. Men have basically told me that they feel a lack of respect in marriage, that they have little or no space in the family home after being sent to the basement, that the legal system is stacked against them in marriage and at the time of divorce. In addition, the culture expects men to help with housework, work a job, help with the kids and they are still not good enough. Hence all the male bashing between women and in the media.

Quarkster213 karma

Why do many women feel entitled to marriage? Statistics show many men opting out, and the media response is about how many women won't be able to get married now.

helenphd270 karma

Great question. Marriage has always been fairly important to women but it seems that in recent years it is becoming more important. A Pew Research study shows an increasing number of women who feel that marriage is the most important thing in their life whereas fewer and fewer men are feeling this way. The media and culture tell women that they are entitled to whatever men have and deserve to be happy. Men are told to make them so. The culture for the past fifty years has been about what women want and has forgotten that men are human too, that they need to get something out of the deal of marriage but as the rewards of marriage go down for men and the costs and dangers get higher, men are opting out.

porkchop_d_clown194 karma

What do you think of the "MensRights" movement ( /r/MensRights ), which many people believe is hate speech or misogyny?

helenphd460 karma

I like the /r/MensRights group here at reddit and read it. I like other groups too. I think that calling these groups hate speech or misogynists is a way of closing down the discussion. There are many groups benefiting from men not speaking up and being afraid of being called names. I can understand this but it is imperative not to let it impede on free speech. I was appalled when I saw that Warren Farrell, author of the Myth of Male Power, etc. was shouted down at the University of Toronto by a group of angry feminists and their Uncle Tim supporters. Men are committing suicide in high numbers, dropping out of school and have issues that must be addressed and anyone opposing the right for free discussion in my opinion is the hater here.

archeronefour158 karma

What do you think of the incredibly negative portrayal of marriage in entertainment like "Everybody Loves Raymond" and movies like "This is 40"? Does this push people away from marriage, or is the effect overstated?

helenphd293 karma

I think that it is extremely negative as Raymond is treated like a moron. Jim Macnamara, a researcher in Australia found that men are treated in a negative light in the media 69% of the time and only around 12% of the time were they seen in a positive light. This male bashing and negative portrayal of men makes women and some men suspicious of men and makes women feel all the more entitled since the men are such idiots or perverts. This can't have a good effect on marriage.

Gkrehbiel136 karma

Since complaining is inherently unmanly, it seems to me that any sort of men's rights movement has a severe disadvantage from the start. What do you think?

helenphd170 karma

I agree that complaining is viewed as "unmanly" but is fighting for justice "unmanly"? When men tell me they do not want to seem like complainers or whiners, I ask them if fighting for gun rights or for freedom of speech, etc.is unmanly. They usually say no. Isn't fighting against the lack of due process, lack of reproductive rights, or against involuntary servitude very similar to fighting for those rights I mentioned? How is that complaining? Or is it only complaining if a man benefits?

jonnyboy1544135 karma

You get a lot of laughter when you suggest something like this but do you think it's time that men started banding together in a group to advocate/educate about the issues that are holding them back? There are women groups, racial groups and religious groups but no national groups that focus on men's issues.

helenphd214 karma

Yes, think that a strong lobby for men is needed. I used to think that the problem might solve itself but it doesn't seem to be. Boys and young men are in schools where they are often subjected to a feminized culture where girls needs are at the forefront and boys are nonexistent. There are boys not learning to read, told not to make waves, told that competition, skill and mastery are too masculine etc. and this needs to end. It won't without a strong lobby. I would love to hear from commenters here what they think a good men's lobby would look like. We need ideas and action, not just talk.

noob_goldberg62 karma


helenphd163 karma

Yes, I think that part of the problem for boys in school is we do not have enough male teachers --only about 16% of elementary school teachers are men. A study at the London School of Economics found that female teachers give boys lower marks and base grades on their behavior rather than on merit. How do we rectify it? Maybe we need something like Title IX for male teachers! People say that not enough men want to teach kids but they said the same thing about women and sports when they enacted Title IX.

andreipmbcn86 karma

I'm not dr. Helen Smith, but here's the website for the National Coalition for Men in the US:


helenphd74 karma

Thanks for posting this link!

GCanuck128 karma

In your research, did you talk to any married men and hear their opinions on why they choose to get married? And what percentage was a variant of: "It's just what I thought I was supposed to do"?

Basically I'm curious how many men actually give premeditated thought to the concept of marriage and what it means to them.

FTR: I'm a huge fan of the fact that your book is making the news. It's time our society woke up to the fact that the modern institution of marriage offers little to no value to the modern man. Keep it up.

helenphd188 karma

Maybe that should be my next book! Asking men "why did you marry?" I did not ask men why they married, I asked why they didn't want to. I also am curious as to how many men really really thought through getting married. The younger men I interviewed seemed to have no clue about the legal aspects of marriage and some thought that in a divorce, the courts would treat them fairly if, for example, their wife cheated on them. They were shocked to hear this was not the case....

ThatLurkerWTGlasses114 karma

Reward something, and you will get more of it. Punish something, and you will get less of it.

What would you say are the top two or three "rewards" that men are getting less of these days, and what are the top two or three "punishments" that more men are getting now?

helenphd153 karma

That is the theme of my book. Men used to get respect and had more rights to their children in the past, and had more male space. This loss of respect, loss of freedom and lack of paternity rights are three punishments that men are getting now. I do think that concerning paternity, things have changed because of DNA testing and men now know whether they are the father of a child.

mariox19115 karma

and had more male space.

Have you ever read The Great Good Place, by Ray Oldenburg? He touches on this. At one point in his book, half jokingly, I think, he remarks that finished basements were the death of male space. When basements were dark and had exposed beams—and maybe some exposed nails as well—children weren't allowed there and women weren't interested. A man could pursue his hobbies in the basement, and his (male) friends could drop in through the basement door. Thus there was a "third place" even in suburban neighborhoods, to some degree.

Now, basements are carpeted and the entire family is given free reign.

helenphd86 karma

Yes, I read the book recently, it's a great book about male space and gave a good history of the decline of male space. I highly recommend it for those interested.

BirdistheWyrd92 karma

Hi Helen! Is society starting to not be so "freaked out" by unmarried couples who are in their 30s and 40s? What are some of the best reasons for men not getting married, getting jobs etc?

helenphd151 karma

Hi BirdistheWyrd and thanks for the question. I think that as fewer people marry, it will become more normal to our society to see people in their 30's and 40's not marry. We see this in Europe and they seem to adapt. However, is this a good thing? I don't know. Over 50% of babies are born to women under 30 who are unmarried. How will these kids do without fathers? The research shows not as well.

I think that the legal reasons are some of the main ones for men not wanting to get married--the child support, alimony, not getting custody of their own kids. Charles Murray, author of "Coming Apart" found that men were not working as often even before the recession and are engaged in more leisure time. This is because they are not marrying and don't need as much money to survive. They also have more time as they do not have families.

Poisoninthewound85 karma

Doctor Helen, you're obviously a proponent of equality. Do you, or did you at one time, consider yourself a feminist?

helenphd224 karma

Yes, in my teens and twenties, I was very much a feminist because I felt/saw that women had disadvantages in some ways in our society. However, the pendulum has swung too far the other way now, with women having privileges and men having responsibilities. This is as unfair as discrimination against women and must be changed.

alucidexit76 karma

Hey Helen,

First off just wanted to say thank you so much for all you do. I just finished reading Men On Strike a week ago, actually!

I am a senior in college and am really looking forward to getting out, because I'm sick of the rhetoric I have to put up with. That being said, I'd like to do more things on campus to stand up for Men's Rights even though I know this may see me ostracized by some of my peers.

I was wondering what you think the best way of approaching this would be? I doubt my school would allow me to start a Mens group on campus, and I'm not sure exactly what's within my rights to act out, whether it be posting flyers, opening dialogues, etc.

Thanks again for all of your work. As someone who has watched pretty much all the older men in my family crumble in divorce court, this is an issue really close to my heart.

helenphd105 karma

It pains me to hear that young men cannnot even have a group on campus to share their feelings, thoughts and ideas with other men. In my book, I talked to a Men's Law group who got started by going to the administration and telling them that they wanted to start a group and they were told they could. So the first step is to ask. If they say no, you might want to contact a group like Fire:


Tell them what you want to do and see if they can help you.

AndrewIsMyName70 karma

Do you find that men who drop out of school have an equal chance of getting married than men who go to and finish college?

helenphd165 karma

Women tend towards hypergamy (marrying up) so a man who drops out of school is probably not as good a "prospect" for many women. In men in middle age, those without a college degree marry less--about 18% of those men never marry. That is up 6% a quarter century ago.

HandicapNinja64 karma

Good afternoon Dr. Smith! I am a man, from my everyday observations I notice a lot of men holding much disdain towards women due to how they are treated by women as a whole, in general. I see fellow men losing trust in women and much complaining about the rudeness women project at them. Do you see this as a trend or a natural human reaction? And how might something like this be addressed and changed over time (womens actions towards men and the mens reaction)?

helenphd100 karma

Warren Farrell, in his book, "The Myth of Male Power" says that major movements have two core stimuli: emotional rejection and economic hurt. "When a large number of people feel emotionally rejected and economically hurt at the same moment in history, a revolution is in the making." I think that men are reaching a tipping point in how they feel treated in our society at this moment. Couple that with the recession and job losses and I think what you are hearing is the rumbling from men who realize that something is wrong and that change is needed.

equilshift46 karma

Dr. Smith,

Do you think that this situation is something that should be addressed on a societal level? Or is it something that needs to be solved on a grassroots, bottom-up level? Or does it really even need to be solved at all?

If it does need to be solved, how would you, as "Queen Smith of the Earth", go about doing it?

helenphd86 karma

Queen Smith of the Earth, hard to imagine that title....

In my opinion, I think that we need both grassroots--men and women who are willing to fight back at the state level against unfair paternity laws, etc. and then on national level, a lobby that fights back at the federal level to help men gain due process rights etc.

TangleRED41 karma

Hi Dr Smith, When did this phenomenon start?

helenphd81 karma

You mean men opting out? It seems to me this has been a gradual process probably beginning with the demise of traditional gender roles.

AgilityHobo36 karma

How does one get into forensic psychology? I just graduated with a bachelors degree in psychology and haven't decided where I want to go from here. Is this a field where grad school is necessary?

helenphd45 karma

Yes, forensic psychology requires a PhD generally in an applied psychology such as Clinical, counseling or school psych. There is additional training that you can do in a Post-doc and Continuing Ed classes and there are actual PhD degrees that have forensic psychology as a specialty. Here is a some more information:


ReverendDexter32 karma

What are your thoughts on what could be done to change this, and do you believe that any effort should be made to change it at all?

helenphd63 karma

Yes, I believe we all need to make an effort to change the way men are perceived and treated in society. As I note in my book in a chapter called "Why it Matters" and as another commenter here pointed out, our trust for each other is eroding and this is a very negative thing. Douglas Blaylock wrote a very good article called "Vicious stereotypes in Polite Society" where he points out that to "corrode these bonds is a dangerous thing." If some men get to the point where they no longer want to be involved in the society, we will have a less productive society and a more dangerous one. A society where men and women are treated fairly will result in a society where we are more productive and have a high trust level that allows for a society to flourish.