The Strange 21st-Century Sexual Marketplace

The Strange 21st-Century Sexual Marketplace, by Christopher DeGroot.

On television, in the movies, and, most of all, on that vast, unpredictable, freewheeling medium known as the internet, our culture is absolutely saturated with sex — a reality that has long troubled social conservatives.

Meanwhile, attitudes about sex between unmarried adults have never been so permissive. People are likewise ever more accepting of gay marriage, nonmonogamous relationships, and polyamory. These things, though usually met with social stigma only a generation ago, are now widely considered to be normal and healthy. In short, in eros, as in everything else today, it’s increasingly taken for granted that people have a “right” to do whatever they want so long as they don’t harm others.

Of course, what this narrow, individualistic perspective altogether overlooks is what would be best for society as a whole. …

It used to be that a man of average or below-average attractiveness could nevertheless be fairly attractive to women as a provider. Today, though, women are making their own money, and thanks to technology, are flooded by male attention. So their options, and expectations regarding men, have changed. A man who can pay the bills, or at least contribute to paying the bills, is one among a great many others who can do the same. And some of those others are high-status, handsome, charming, witty, and so forth. Dear God, dear beauties, some even have lots of followers on social media!

Even though, for most men, the internet is a futile way to meet women, a study published last July in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that heterosexual couples are now more likely to meet online than through personal contacts and connections. In other words, the internet is now a greater matchmaker than the traditional social circle.

Consistent with this finding, Kate Julian quotes a teacher in Northern Virginia: “No one approaches anyone in public anymore,” she says, her words chiming with those of a 28-year-old woman in Los Angeles: “The dating landscape has changed. People are less likely to ask you out in real life now, or even talk to begin with.” After all, in the hysterical #MeToo era, such “going for it” is not easily distinguished from “sexual harassment.”

More and more, men and women are just not learning how to meet each other without the aid of technology — a cultural change whose significance it would be difficult to overestimate. Technology produces the illusion of rational control, making sex and love seem much simpler than they are. Technology allows us to deal with people at our convenience, to keep them at a certain comfortable distance. But notice the cost: Technology also exacerbates the natural selfishness and fickleness of human nature, and so internet dating is characterized by exceedingly unreliable characters, by things like ghosting and flaking, hell to men and women alike. …

Well, those Tinder hookups are a lot of fun, you might say, but their immense societal cost is seen in the inverse relationship between the number of such women in a culture and the number of women who are worth marrying. Such cost is also apparent in the quality of male long-term partners. The rich irony, waiting patiently for many a haughty internet beauty who passes over all those oh-so-nice and oh-so-boring average Joes, is that many in the tiny minority of men who can dominate the sexual marketplace prefer having a variety of sexual partners to monogamous marriage. Monogamous marriage gets damn boring, lots of people feel, but in any case, there’s abundant data indicating that this institution is what is best for children and families. …

[T]he internet,” writes the Z man, “has turned into a big stage where anyone can try out their act on the public. In the old days, a carny bimbo would have been confined to a traveling carnival, Hollywood, New York or community theater. Maybe she would have ended up in pornography. It was not an easy way to make a living. Today, she can have a twitter account where she flashes photo-shopped pics of herself. Thirsty losers send her money through PayPal or super chats on her YouTube channel.”

To this observation let’s add the “carny bimbo” types on Instagram, on sugar-daddy dating websites, and the women on internet dating websites who tell men to send money to their Venmo accounts. How are these women, who are more or less for sale, so different from pickup artists? …

The sexual revolution was supposed to “liberate” the sexes from “oppressive” norms and roles. In retrospect, it now seems clearer than ever that it was those very norms and roles that kept the sexual marketplace (and families) stable.

Last November, at the annual H.L. Mencken Club meeting in Baltimore, I was struck by a comment F. Roger Devlin made to me: “The final result of the sexual revolution,” he said, “is that nobody is having sex.” …

As past courtship rituals are supplanted by the shallow and transient interactions and encounters afforded by technology, the result is a lot of very horny and very lonely people who don’t know how to improve their situation.

Maybe that explains the political derangement we are seeing, especially on the left, especially on Twitter 🙂

Read it all.