James argues, among other things, that one consequence of the (overall clearly good) sexual revolution is that women increased their participation in the "sex market" and lowered their "prices," and men responded by shifting from the "long-term committed relationship (LTCR) market" to the sex market. Accordingly, because "[t]he characteristics that lead to success in the sex market do not overlap perfectly with the characteristics that lead to success in the LTCR market," the sexual revolution differentially changed the levels of sexual success of different types of men.
This seems obviously true to some extent, and obviously to what extent is the rub.
But James also argues that men responded to the sexual revolution by "investing less in suitability" for an LTCR. In support of this view, he links to a report indicating that men's participation in the labor force has been decreasing since the 1950s. The report is consistent with James's view, of course, but it obviously doesn't prove it. For instance, the report itself notes: "This decline has resulted from various factors. For example, the Social Security Act was amended in 1960 to make individuals under 50 years of age eligible for disability payments." Also, James himself points out, but I think downplays, the high rate of incarceration of men (insanely high among certain demographics), which is not a result of men choosing to invest less in suitability; rather, it is primarily a result of powerful social forces such as the drug war and America's decreasing investment in education. So, on balance, the government certainly seems to invest less in men's suitability than it used to.
That said, is James's view correct? Do men invest less in suitability than they used to? I'm inclined to think not, for two main reasons. (Like James, I'm ignoring gays to simplify and focus my argument.) To help me articulate these reasons, I want to draw a distinction between "suitable" and "unsuitable" men (given the crudeness of this distinction, you can guess which one I am). Basically, a suitable man is one who a reasonable woman would marry even if she didn't feel culturally or economically obligated to get married, and an unsuitable man is one who a reasonable woman would only marry if she felt culturally or economically obligated to marry him. (So I'm ignoring men who are so repugnant that no reasonable woman would ever feel culturally or economically obligated to marry them. You know who you are.) With this distinction in mind, here are my two reasons.
On balance, men have more of an incentive today to invest in suitability than they did before the sexual revolution. Before the sexual revolution, most unsuitable men were able to get married despite their unsuitability, because the vast majority of women were dependent on men for economic support. In addition to the various cultural pressures to marry, women had to marry in order to meet their basic needs, because they were systemically excluded from the labor force or grossly underpaid. Consequently, unsuitable men had no sharp incentive to rise to the level of suitability. Of course, they could increase their status in the marriage market by bettering themselves in relevant ways, but they didn't have to make themselves suitable in order to get married; sexist society took care of this for them. In contrast, most unsuitable men today would have to make themselves suitable in order to get married, because the vast majority of women are no longer economically dependent on men or culturally compelled to marry. Perhaps unsuitable men invest more in succeeding in the sex market, relative to succeeding in the LTCR market, than they used to, but the fact is, if they want to get married, they have to make themselves suitable. And presumably most of them do want to get married -- marriage is still part of the normal life path, perhaps especially so among the cultures is which most unsuitable men grow up. So, in sum, unsuitable men seem to have more of an incentive today to invest in suitability than the did before the sexual revolution. What about suitable men? I'm not sure, but I'm also inclined to think they have more of an incentive. On the one hand, I agree with James that suitable (and unsuitable) men have more opportunities in the sex market than they used to, so they have more of an incentive to increase their chances of succeeding in the sex market, and these increases may come at the expense of increases in their suitability (e.g., putting more effort into sports than school). On the other hand, women can afford to be more choosy than they used to be, so the suitability threshold for men has increased since the sexual revolution -- men who would have been suitable back in the day no longer are now, and presumably most women's individual suitability thresholds have increased.
On balance, the qualities that lead to a man's success in the sex market are not that different from the qualities that lead to a man's success in the LTCR market. James is correct that "[t]he characteristics that lead to success in the sex market do not overlap perfectly with the characteristics that lead to success in the LTCR market," but I think there is still quite a bit of overlap, especially for higher-class men. Certainly, I don't think many of these characteristics are antithetical. For instance, being in shape or being smooth may be more important in the sex market than in the LTCR market, but it's not like either of these qualities ever reasonably hurt someone's chances in the LTCR market. Of course, resources spent working on a quality that's more valuable in the sex market cannot be spent working on a quality that's more valuable in the LTCR market, so there is some tradeoff, but it's not necessarily significant. Furthermore, there's the possibility that men today invest more in both their suitability and their desirability in the sex market, relative to men before the sexual revolution, because women are more selective in both markets due to their empowerment.