Will Baude   Amy Lamboley   Amanda Butler   Jonathan Baude  Peter Northup   Beth Plocharczyk   Greg Goelzhauser   Heidi Bond   Sudeep Agarwala   Jeremy Reff   Leora Baude

October 28, 2005

Why a Woman is Not Like a Cow

"Why buy the cow when you can have the milk for free?"

Meghan O'Rourke's latest Slate article has touched off another round of that sad, sad, debate on whether or not all women would be happier if they'd just get back to the business of getting married and making babies. As a result, that old canard, "why buy the cow..." has resurfaced to defend Leon Kass' argument that women who put out will result in the end of Western Civilization™.

It's very very sad that one actually has to make this point, but apparently one does. So here goes:


In particular, a woman is a creature capable of her own agency, one capable of making the decision every day as to whether or not she is getting a fair price for her milk. It's a decision, as Phoebe pointed out, that involves more factors than the presence or absence of a ring, including such factors her own sexual satisfaction, desire for companionship, and degree to which her partner helps out with the household chores.

Even no strings sex is not really free milk, as a woman makes the same sort of calculations (Will he be good in bed? Will my friends envy me? Does he actually mean it when he says no strings?) for a single encounter as for a series of encounters. So unlike a cow which will stay quietly in the barn for as long as it receives feed, a woman is free to take her milk elsewhere, should she find the payment unsatisfactory.

In fact, feminism has in some ways lowered the price of milk through premarital sex, but in other ways raised the price of milk by empowering women to demand more than simply a ring in exchange for it. It used to be the case that men were expected to provide women with the protection of their name, and the financial support of their children. Now, their financial commitment may typically be shared, but they're also expected to provide satisfactory sex, emotional support, friendship, and pitch in for their share of the household chores.

The issue is not, as Kass et. al. claim, that women really want rings and babies, but don't know how to get them, it's that women want more than simply rings and babies, and can now demand them.

And this gets to the essential root of the problem. For men who see women as existing solely to support and validate them, men who are unwilling to engage in the sort of negotiations and mutual sacrifices that women demand, the price of milk has gotten awfully high.

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://WWW.crescatsententia.org/cgi-bin/mt-tb.cgi/3201