With the recent spate of horrific “Incel” (Involuntary Celibates) terrorist attacks, some discussion has been pointed at the “distribution” of sex so to speak. Ross Douthat got lambasted for an article cheekily called the “The Redistribution of Sex” and Jordan Peterson got taken out to the woodshed for using the term “enforced monogamy.”
The idea behind both Douthat’s and Peterson’s point, of course, was not to “doll out women” as many of their critics would claim. (Of course, this would also require “dolling out men,” though many of Peterson’s critics are silent on this matter.) Indeed, Peterson used the wrong term, the correct one is “socially imposed monogamy.” The idea being that when monogamy breaks down (as it is in the West, with close to 50 percent of marriages ending in divorce and 40 percent of children being born out-of-wedlock), that a state of de facto polygamy emerges. Polygamous societies have repeatedly been shown to be more violent and why wouldn’t they be? In such societies, many men are locked out of finding a mate and the “winner-takes all” stakes leads to hyper competition and thus, violence.
The argument as to why a society becomes de facto polygamous when monogamy breaks down is partly because men, particularly elite men, want to “spread their seed” will do so if permitted. But it’s also partly because many women will focus most of their attention on the top males. It’s well known that men’s sexuality is rather shallow, but it’s also true, at least to a degree, that women “want the best.” Indeed, an OKCupid study found that women rated 80 percent of men as being “below average” in terms of attractiveness and another study found that adding a zero on the end of a man’s income increases his attractiveness by 2 points on a 1 to 10 scale. Another found that “better-educated women still prefer higher-earning husbands.”
I don’t feel the need to cite any studies regarding men’s general willingness to have sex with multiple women as I don’t think I’ll get much pushback there.
And while both these men’s arguments have been misconstrued (although, in fairness to Peterson’s critics, he stated his position horribly), they miss the even bigger problem in my judgement. Sex has become a societal obsession.
Everywhere you look, sex is being thrown in your face. In movies, TV, the media, through random clickbait articles, etc. Porn is piling up on the Internet while porn romance novels are falling off the shelves of the local book stores Amazon. In this media-created world of make-believe, impossibly beautiful, skin-clad women are having sex with impossibly handsome, farcically charming billionaires over and over and over again. Everything is about sex and everyone is having sex all the time.
As far back as 2001, studies were showing the amount of sexual content on TV was increasing, with “68 percent of television shows during the 1999-2000 season [containing] sexual content.” It’s only gotten worse since then as we all know that “sex sells.” And the Internet has certainly exacerbated this. Indeed, social media seems to be linked to increased sexual risk behaviors.
Then add in the Fear of Missing Out problem with social media. Scroll through your feed on Facebook and you’ll see friends getting married, going on exotic vacations, starting a new relationship, getting that great new job, etc. You only see the highlights though, which wildly distorts the average. You’re almost certainly not actually missing out, you’re Facebook feed is just gaslighting you.
The Incel “community” of angry, misogynistic men who hate “Chads and Stacy’s” for having what they believe they can never have is basically irredeemable and deserves nothing more than contempt and mockery. But regarding literal incels who don’t describe themselves as such, I would say empathy is called for.
It sucks to be rejected and feel unloved, unwanted and uncared for. And rarely do these guys get anything but additional scorn from their peers while having their masculinity called “toxic” by some of their teachers. If there is a male equivalent of “slut shaming,” it would definitely be “virgin shaming.” Men get shamed for not having enough sex while women get shamed for having too much. Which makes some evolutionary since “males display and females choose,” at least most the time. If men are bad at displaying, well, they’re losers. If women take virtually any suitor that comes their way, well, they’re losers.
But just because it makes “sense” doesn’t mean this mindset isn’t extremely pernicious.
And the sense of worthlessness that literal incels (not the online group) feel is compounded even more by the sex that’s dripping from every pore of American society. There is this weird sense that “everyone is getting laid all the time, except for me.” Thereby, “I’m the odd one out. I’m worthless and the world has rejected me.” Often this leads to depression and self-hate. It possibly underlies the male suicide epidemic that gets far too little attention. But if these feelings fester, especially when mixed with a noxious online “community,” it can lead to an externalization of that self-hatred.
“The world hates me, so I hate the world.”
“Women have rejected me, so I hate women.”
“Chads get all the girls, so I hate chads.”
And on and on it goes which can only lead to a life a hateful, self-inflicted misery at best and homicidal terrorism at worst.
And it’s all based on a demonstrably false premise.
In the real world―not the glitzy world of Hollywood dripping with beautiful women and handsome men having sex with each other like rabbits―the amount of sex in society is going down… a lot! According to a study that analyzes the General Social Survey, in 1995, the average American had sex about 65 times a year. In 2014, that was down to 53.
And high schoolers most certainly aren’t just getting it on. A study by Dr. Cora Breuner found that “only 42 percent of girls and 44 percent of boys aged 15 to 19 reported having sex at least once.” Another study by the Guttmacher Institute, found that the median age people lose their virginity is “17.8 years for women and 18.1 for men.”
The number of sex partners people have is also wildly exaggerated. The National Health Statistics Report notes that the median number of lifetime partners for those between the age of 15 and 44 was “for women is 3.2 and 5.1 for men.” Finally, another study has shown that “hookup culture” is basically a myth.
Sure, sex is fun and intimacy is important, but they are not the only things in life. Lots of things are fun; rollercoasters, getting drinks with friends, going on a vacation, playing basketball, playing music, whatever.
And while it sucks to feel unwanted, it’s not a permanent state of being. To all the incels (who don’t describe themselves as such) out there, give yourself a break! There is no avalanche of sex out there that you’re missing out on and even if there was, sex just isn’t that important, despite what the media wants you to believe.
There are plenty of people out there that feel alone and unloved and virtually everyone does at some point in their lives. You’re not alone in this feeling and it gets better with time. After all, the changes people go through during puberty make it the worst time to deal with such rejection, but puberty ends.
Focus instead on improving yourself. Focus on your grades, improving your skills and finding enjoyable hobbies. And try making friends, especially with those of your own gender where you don’t have to worry and sort of sexual tension nor exclusiveness. People can only have one boyfriend or girlfriend, but they can have many, many friends. Don’t waste your life being angry at what you don’t have. And for the love of God, get off the Internet and have some actual fun!
Focus on yourself and what you can control. With time, your confidence will grow and maybe then you’ll be ready for a relationship. Or maybe not. What does it matter? Sex is just not that important!
"Every day is a new life to the wise man."
The Righteous Mind
Star Slate Codex
Consulting by RPM