Future sex: a brave new world
The #MeToo panic could render sex dull and love impossible.
As the frenzy to report sexual offenders continues, with Louis CK now excommunicated from the entertainment world, I feel like I’m watching one of those global scourge movies – like Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion or World War Z, which is about a zombie apocalypse. We’re up to the scene where the white coats from the Center for Disease Control are gathered in the massive control room full of wall-sized maps and screens. ‘It’s just hit the UK’, mutters one.
By the end of those movies the contagion has been cured and society has begun to rebuild. So, when will this one end? Feminist writer Rebecca Traister says grimly ‘there are indications it is just beginning’. But perhaps the more important question is what will society look like after the witch-hunters have created a world in which finally ‘women can feel safe’.
Purely from a sexual point of view, it will end with men retreating to their bedrooms with their online porn and their Sex Bots. (Realistic-looking, life-sized female Sex Bots are already on the market.)
The problem with (fun) sex is there’s emotional risk. In the near future, if men and women still want to have sex with each other, it will be so boring as to not be worth it. Moves will have to be mapped out and approved beforehand (I imagine storyboarding panels); contracts will be signed; protective garments will be donned. To tamp down inhibition, participants will have to have consumed enough intoxicant to anaesthetise a Clydesdale horse.
It’s a good thing virtual-reality technology is getting so sophisticated. The next step is self-programmable porn on your virtual-reality headset, like the ‘Feelies’ predicted in Brave New World (only with computers touching you rather than humans). If you find a startup tech company working on virtual-reality porn, buy stock if you can.
Women who are younger than me, women who have not yet felt the first intimations of sexual-attractiveness mortality, don’t realise that they’re playing with fire. ‘Don’t you understand’, I want to tell them, ‘as women we are already inherently dangerous’. We are the Vagina Dentata. We are the Dark Continent. Men used to name hurricanes after us (until the custom was deemed sexist in the 1970s). They imagined us sitting on rocks and luring them to their deaths with our mermaid song. They rally ‘wing men’ to approach us in bars. Far from being powerless, we actually loom quite large. But adding career incineration to our armoury, for a touch on the knee (Michael Fallon) or leering (Leon Wieseltier), would not be good for us.
Many conservatives I know are also being short-sighted. ‘I want to grab a vat of popcorn, sit back and watch the downfall of another liberal icon’, gloats a conservative blogger. For one thing, this panic isn’t confined to liberal icons. It’s starting to affect everyone, even smaller fish. Last week, for instance, a small item announced the resignation of Billboard magazine’s chief strategy officer ‘24 hours after a former intern accused him of sexual harassment at a previous job’. Twenty-four hours doesn’t allow for much due process.
Gloating is short-sighted because this purge (and many other aspects of the new feminism) are ruining core institutions that are good for everybody. In her book Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream – and Why It Matters, Dr Helen Smith describes an American society where ‘men are sensing the backlash and are consciously and unconsciously “going on strike”. They are dropping out of college, leaving the workforce and avoiding marriage and fatherhood at alarming rates.’
And this panic won’t help women looking to climb the corporate or showbiz ladder, either. Silicon Valley is obsessed with its dearth of women, and feminists have attempted to correct the sexual imbalance with legal crowbars. The industry has been battered with lawsuits and now the New York Times reports that in Silicon Valley ‘male investors have declined one-on-one meetings with women, or rescheduled them from restaurants to conference rooms’. No kidding!
What about men and women co-workers who spend long days together on business trips, where much alcohol is necessarily consumed and tempers flare? Are those to become too dangerous for all concerned as well? Film producer Roy Price’s job at Amazon ended in the wake of the Weinstein scandal when the press learned of a single incident two years ago when he muttered a couple of propositions in the ear of a female producer at the end of a long day, in a cab on the way to an industry after-party.
Yes, there are rather sadistic men out there who delight in making female companions uncomfortable if they sense that talking dirty will mortify them. Perhaps Roy Price is one of these. Except the incident was in 2015, when firings for sexual harassment in the workplace were a well-established phenomenon. Why would an intelligent man commit such a crucial mistake with a co-worker? Maybe there was some business-trip drinking involved.
Meanwhile, female drunks get a pass in the sexual arena. Men are now charged with evaluating the degrees of a female companion’s inebriation, and then somehow become the one responsible for obtaining the necessary consent for sex. It’s like adult women are now the wards of men.
I’m not so sure the armies of young women who basically keep cities like New York moving really want a workplace that’s so desexualised. New York is full of millennial-age people who basically live at their jobs. They stagger out to grab a few drinks after work, take the subway home and crash for a few hours to get ready to do it all again. Of all the places to meet the love of one’s life, work is probably the best. The population is prescreened for age, health, education level, even shared values. If we are not going to meet Mr Right or even Mr Right-For-Now at work, where are we going to meet him?
Oh brave new world, where we can only meet men on Tinder.
Stephanie Gutmann is a journalist based in New York. She has written for dozens of publications including Playboy and the Wall Street Journal. She is the author of two books: The Kinder, Gentler Military: How Political Correctness Affects Our Ability to Win Wars and The Other War: Israelis, Palestinians and the Struggle for Media Supremacy.
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