The crisis of straightness

For a long time now the base assumption of the homophobic, theocratic, evangelical types—whose priorities are always religiously partisan, not (as they claim) partial to religion—has been that homosexuality is a socially constructed lifestyle. They argue that if we just got all those godless socialists out of the schools, the gay blight could finally be cured.

If only homosexualists themselves were privy to such wisdom. Many chemical castrations and hangings could have been prevented if they tried not being such queens about it all.

But within all of that ill-tasting ignorance there is an insight to be excavated: Sex and society go hand-in-hand; or more aptly, expletive-in-expletive. We are all animals—even if we are more than just animals. The reality of this biological truism has far-reaching consequences. First and foremost, at least as far as the genes which govern us are concerned, everything and anything that doesn’t involve the making of more of us is pretty much beside the point.

Importantly, as we change our relationship to this ancient biological mission so too do we change everything about ourselves and our culture. The power behind homophobia has always been potency of the accusation that same-sex relations are unnatural. (This is an odd position given that there is clearly no reason for any variety of sex whatsoever except for nature’s intervention.) But people still intuitively categorise any kind of sex that cannot lead to procreation as vaguely wrong in some sense—as being contrary to our eternal mission to populate.

Hence why our taboos originally included even male-female sodomy on the no-go list. This lasted as long as it took the priesthood to discover oral sex, then sodomy was promptly redefined to only include anal affairs—a misconception that continues to this day. The new discovery made more recently is that only explicitly homosexual acts are worthy of the name of Sodom. (The lesson here is that no autocrat’s finger or legislature’s pen possess even half of the moral authority wielded by the pleasure seeking whims of the lower male member.)

The obvious failing of this viewpoint is that our genes are easily fooled, so even the most reproductively unproductive means of sexual discharge will relieve us of our sexual impulses. And now we are coming across an unforeseen danger in a world where those needs are able to be fully catered for without the slightest hint of the reproductive at work. Well, less unforeseen and more thought to be impossible.

The assumption of many experts in the field has been that since sexuality ultimately comes from within, no degree of social change will ever eliminate the fundamental desire of other-sex attracted humans to pair with the opposite gender and connect in the classic fashion. But recent trends have begun to reveal the naïveté of this perspective.

Reality is darker. Men and women are segregated from birth and have wildly different interests. Now add in a few thousand years of explicit exploitation of one sex by the other due to an arbitrary difference in average physical strength: It really should come as no surprise that increasing numbers of young men and women want nothing to do with each other.

Intimacy is on the sharp decline among other-sex attracted persons, but not same-sex attracted persons. The fundamental assumption held for generation upon generation that men and women have an unmovable need to have sex with one another is being rapidly exposed as too simplistic.

This is not to say that society is making anyone gay, of course it is not. The reality is far more depressing. You are born with a preference for being gay or straight, of course. But it is also self-evident that society plays a role in determining the rules of act of sex itself. It takes two to tango, after all.

If women and men openly antagonise each other, and various technological and social changes provide alternatives to traditional intimacy it comes as no surprise that straight men and women are beginning to simply opt out of traditional straight relationships. Whether this means delaying sex later and later, or outright rejecting the act altogether. This phenomenon is already emerging in multiple forms. Or perhaps it is better to say has emerged in the case of Japan. Japan is currently tackling the demographic challenge of a complete collapse in traditional reproductive norm.

Rather than some abstract shift in economics or sociology, the dominant cause is well known: Men and women just don’t want to go through the pain of having sex with the other gender when they don’t get along outside of that arena. This is cutely known as the phenomenon of “草食男子,” or Herbivore Men. The name is currently a misnomer, however. Although the trend started with men first, women are now also reporting disinterest in their male counterparts.

But there are plenty of less fully realised manifestations of these shifts in other cultures. Ironically, the increased attention surrounding a particular LGBT+ category has opened up an avenue for examining this shift in the straight community.

Asexuality refers to those who lack the standard sexual drive that leads to classical gay, straight or bisexual classifications. About 1% of adults are asexual. However, almost 10% of adults are now living as though they are asexual. This in essence means that tracking behaviourally asexual persons forms an important proxy for the decline of classical sexual behaviour more broadly.

The asexual (or, colloquially, ace) community’s attempts to document their own demography has also provided valuable insight into the changing role of sex in society. Within the ace community, distinctions are made between various levels of asexual desire and behaviour. (Please refer to a recent copy of their own self-reported demography statistics for more context.) Although the community is predominantly classically asexual (over 60%), those who self-report as questioning their possible asexuality (11%), as being partially (grey) asexual (11%), or as the less classically understood category of demisexual (9%) are all sizeable and growing categories.

It is not a stretch to suggest the same causes that have pushed heterosexualists toward increased celibacy have contributed to some of this growth in the ace community at the margins—especially in ambiguous and questioning cases. Particularly in situations involving ace-like behaviour in absence of an explicitly ace orientation. It is no surprise, then, that our awareness and understanding of the ace community has exploded in conjunction with across the board declines in straight intimacy at every level of sexual interest.

What will eventually make this issue an unavoidably social concern is the rising emergence of true sex replacement technologies. An onahole here, a vibrator there and porn everywhere has done the job for now, making us aware of the potential for massive declines in intimacy; but Virtual Reality (VR) and the draw of increasingly catered fetish porn threaten to fundamentally shift our assumption that sexual desire alone is reason enough for dating at all. The barbarians are already in the gates when it comes to VR sex (or more accurately in Steam). And Japan, the land already in the midst of this crisis, is already trying to solve loneliness itself for their celibate populace.

Some would argue this is all for the better. The globe’s population is growing rapidly as is, and if the consequence of tearing down harmful and restrictive sexual taboos is less straight couples that is surely something we can live with. Gore Vidal made this argument on numerous occasions with exquisite articulation.

But it is hardly so simple. The reality is that men and women want to have sex with each other, but are abandoning the possibility due to perceived failings of the other sex. This is on the face of it a signal of a problem. In fact, this emerging crisis is a symptom of a larger disgrace: Women and men hate each other because we have built a cultural paradigm that relies on sex as the only reason for peace between the sexes.

The gender relations which have led to this are toxic and unacceptable. Of that at least, I hope men and women can agree, come together, and begin to repair the damage.

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