Can the last person to have sex turn the light off please?
We live in a society that is saturated in sex. In TV dramas (The Affair, Game of Thrones, Transparent) everyone is at it. And this isn’t standard, over-the-counter, missionary sex. No this is shoved up against a tree, bent-over-a-car- bonnet, passionate, athletic, imaginative sex. And it’s all become a bit like wallpaper perhaps. Our appetite for watching sex has increased exponentially but has this left us with less desire for the actual act itself?
There have also been some studies around the long term impact of online porn. Apparently it changes your brain chemistry (which is especially worrying if your brain hasn’t quite developed and you’re twelve). Studies show that a) it’s fiercely addictive because people watching porn feel a rush of dopamine each time they repeat the experience b) it dulls the response to sexual stimulation in real life.
The other dangerous thing is perhaps it goes one step further, and tricks the brain into thinking it’s living in a body of someone who DOES have a sex life (watching porn isn’t something to be ashamed of but how do we feel,as a society, if it becomes the preferred alternative? Is that significant? Does it suggest a more removed, less engaged relationship with people? Is it part and parcel of how our behaviour on a broader level? i.e. the fact that we choose to stare into our phones rather than into the tired eyes of our fellow commuters?)
People can familiarise themselves with fetishes that have only just been given proper descriptors. That’s a good thing yes! No need to feel alienated if you feel attracted to a woman in a rubber horse mask? It’s all good! And yes it certainly feels preferable to harking back to the old days when sex was shrouded in mystery and myth… but is total openness and access always a good thing?
If we look at the stats, there are definitely fewer people doing it than not doing it (of course this depends on demographic too). Boy George once famously said he’d rather have a ‘cup of tea’ than do the deed. Does this explain the rise in specialist teas and fascination with all things food-related? Are desires for other humans being replaced with crushes on Matcha lattes and the perfect rack of organic ribs? (there’s no doubt that food has become porn– perhaps it’s easier to project our feelings onto something that doesn’t talk and disappears after we’ve devoured it).
According to studies, millennials are now having less sex than their parent’s generation (scientists at Florida Atlantic University discovered that in the US 15% of 20-24 year olds still haven’t had a sexual partner- contrasting with 6% of those born in the 1960s). What’s driving these changes isn’t immediately clear. Could it be because there is less socialising in real life and more happening online? Is it the natural impact of a society where individualism and high expectations result in too many people striving for a perfect partner who doesn’t exist?
The stressors on parents and relationships are different but when we interrogate this target, they too seem to be throwing in the towel… in favour of box sets, takeaways and a much needed early night (where sleep is firmly on the agenda). For Mums specifically this can coincide with a shifting relationship with their body- a body that has now become a feeding/nurturing vehicle versus a conduit for pleasure. For some, it perhaps feels like sex has become a chore that needs to be accomplished alongside recycling, mushing up baby food, having a successful career, and being a fabulous parent.
Back in the 60’s the Baby Boomer generation came of age and opened up the possibilities of sex – it wasn’t purely about having babies anymore. Interestingly evidence suggests that perhaps this generation are still the most sexually active (there’s been a rise in STD’s with higher divorce rates and more casual sex). Is this because Boomers are more removed from technology? Is it because they grew up with certain attitudes and these have shaped their desires and norms (when looking in anatomical library books and hushed conversations with friends was the way you learnt about sex rather than porn).
Perhaps an over reliance on technology and the need to be constantly plugged in has meant that we’ve sacrificed some of that real life interaction. A 2016 report on smartphone addiction by Deloitte revealed that 1/3 of adults say they check their phone in the middle of the night (rather than checking on their partner perhaps?)
Whatever it’s time to stop theorising for now.
Have you heard there’s a really amazing new series on BBC all about a woman who has an affair? Apparently it’s very sexy and will reshape the way we look at older women and desire.
And also can the last person to have sex please turn the light off?
Image source: Vanity Fair
- Article by Anniki Sommerville