It's good to see this topic is still generating some interest. I notice some references to "real men," and presumably those writers were also thinking "real women." Those are examples of taking the moral high ground with language, although I suspect there's a better, more technical expression. It's like saying "real American."
And by the way, I'm still looking for the French viewpoint on the subject.
It is said that much risk taking by young men, including mountain climbing, biking, skateboarding (is that risky?) and so on, is a reflection that "real" jobs no longer have much risk or that one no longer has to serve in the armed forces, which can sometimes be risky. In other words, it's adventure, if not exactly romantic. Being a cowboy is romantic, though not particularly risky, mountain climbing on weekends is not exactly the same. But maybe no one here ever wanted to be a cowboy.
To working men of the past and mostly of the present, "real" work did not necessarily involve risk. It did involve "real work," meaning manual labor, a varying amount of skill, and a lot of sweat. Oh, I know, horses sweat and men perspire but if you work like a horse, you can sweat like one. I mentioned skill because most work involves more skill than is generally appreciated.
I have mentioned elsewhere that there was a sort of distinction between men's work and women's work. Women have always worked, you know, a fact that somehow slips between the cracks in discussions like this. I have wondered what Jenn does for a living, for example. Maybe she's a lineman for the county or something. But working in a factory was mostly woman's work. Being a miner was a man's work. However, miner's work was desirable because it paid fairly well, not because it was man's work. It was better than trying to farm poor land and it also paid better than "working cattle," as my father called it. Zero on the romantic scale, however.
I tried looking up statistics about marriage and it's difficult to find beleivable numbers that go back far enough for them to mean something. But I think the statistics will be too technical about being married. I've been reading Genesis. There's no mention of marriage through the point I've gotten through so far. Man and wife, husband and woman, yes, but no weddings, no licenses, no rings, and so on. If a man and woman live together, they're married. Back in the hills it's called a common law marriage. There is no such thing as a common law divorce for some reason.