This post is part 3 of a 4-part series on the future of sexuality. Much of this discussion requires a mature approach, so handle with care. You can read Part 1 here. Part 2 can be found here. Next Monday, I will address the Church’s role within this storm.
When I started this series, I attempted to lay out a series of outcomes made possible by observing trends in Western society, particularly in regard to technological advances. Sex would look like this. Or that. Society would bend here or there to accommodate robotic and/or virtual sexual activity. But I left out one particular type of forecast: the big picture. If sex increasingly moves toward individual experiences with robotic or VR interfaces, what effects will be generated on a meta scale?
We naturally think of sexual activity as, first and foremost, an intensively private affair. Except in fairly rare cases (and let’s bracket out masturbation for the time being), the act is consummated by two individuals together—and while they may be a community in the tightest sense of the word, a society of two—you might be hesitant to call sex a communal act. No one is allowed (without our permission) to understand the intimacy of the actual act, for sex in every way is utterly unique. Unique bodies, unique chemistries, unique movements, unique reactions. I would go so far as to say that sex is truly creative in both form and function. Its form resembles free-form dancing; its function is to bring life from life. But both parts are accomplished behind a closed door.
Yet sex is utterly tied to community whether we like it or not, and not just communities like families, churches, or neighborhoods. I’m talking about community in the largest possible sense: Nation, People, Ethnicity, Humanity. Nations grow by one of two methods: Procreation or Conversion. One might add war/imperialism to this mix, but I think that’s just conversion through the application of violence. A nation grows when her people have children at a rate that exceeds her deaths (i.e., birthrate). Or alternatively, a nation can grow her population by allowing for immigration (passive) or exercising territorial expansion (active), then moving forward with an intense project of assimilation to create new converts, new citizens if you will. Birthrates are tied to the sexual views of a people, so…
…here’s the remaining prognostications regarding the future of sex:
Our geopolitical world will be altered drastically by the exodus from embodied sexual living to surrogate, solitary forms of sex. More specifically,
- Since anyone who could afford a technological sex surrogate has access to sexual pleasure (in the basest sense) anytime and anywhere, it could be reasonably expected that men, in particular, would withdraw from the courting community believing it to be too expensive, too emotionally draining, and too difficult to experience success. Not every man, of course, but enough men to do significant damage to national birth rates.
- The richer and more learned a society, the less children they have. While I recognize that this is not saying they have less sex per se, this demographic will experience an even sharper decrease in childbirths precisely because they have access to forms of sexual pleasure that do not prohibit them from pursuing their careers or life goals. The temptation will be to have their cake and eat it, too. Unrestrained individual fulfillment and sex without responsibility.
These things in mind, I’m inclined to believe that three particular regions of Western civilization will experience radical demographic change in the next 100 years.
- Japan is already neck-deep in a population crisis: The traditional marriage relationship is dissolving right in front of their eyes. Japanese men are withdrawing from the courting community, preferring online avatars and pornography to the commitment and social discomfort of wooing young women.
- In the United States, similar trends are developing though birth rates hold shakily around 1.9 (just below the number required to keep a population stable). The one demographic that is propping up the birth rates of American families is the Latin American community, who by and large come from poorer or less educated upbringings and live in urban environments. While white families are having less kids, immigrating families are picking up the slack. I would expect that birth rates alone will increase the Latino/a presence in the US, one that has been noted by many sociologists for some time. I would simply add that the move toward artificial sex partners in middle- and upper-class societies will have a multiplying effect – something very few people are talking about.
- In Europe, the traditional ethnic groups of native French, Italian, German, and Spanish are disappearing in remarkably quick fashion. Their birth rates all fall between 1.4-1.5 child(ren)/woman. Shockingly low. Yet, with the recent immigration push from Muslim countries (not just Syria), one can expect that these countries birth rates will skyrocket…solely on account of the Muslim families. It is safe to say that my children’s children will not know Spanish or French or German culture except through artifacts and museums, because the people themselves will have largely died off. Time and mathematics, folks.
What are the causes of these low birth rates? While many would argue (and rightfully so) that an educated society is more likely to use birth control and therefore, keep population growth in check…this surely cannot be the whole story.
Educated free societies also are more likely to encourage women away from home-making to the business arena.
Educated free societies tend to see children as a hindrance to personal fulfillment.
And, I surmise, educated free societies will be the most receptive to technological forms of sex—where an individual feels liberated enough to enjoy a sexual experience free from the emotional bonds of human-human relationships and even more so, free from the risk of getting (someone) pregnant.
Stir this pot together and what you have is a reshaping of the world, for better or worse. I repeat that this current trend is not due to a few dudes playing Destiny on their virtual reality headsets with their dorm buddies. But, I strenuously argue that the technologies coming down the pike in 10-20 years will parlay the gentle rise in the current tide into the monsters of Teahupo’o.
Sex won’t go out of style. Of course not. But if a society dislocates sex from its central purpose of building and maintaining family bonds and procreation, then sex becomes an affair of the individual in pursuit of simple hedonism: a physical pleasure that can be reconstructed through a variety of artificial means. It becomes an essentially selfish act: how to experience pleasure, how to explore one’s own sexuality without another person’s intrusion, how to play out personal fantasies without the vulnerability that human-human sex absolutely requires. Sex loses that which makes it sexy…the lack of control.
Sex builds kingdoms. Lack of it (or perversion of it) destroys them. It’s as simple as demographics. So what should the message of the Church be in the midst of such overwhelming sea change?
© Joel Oesch and Fishing for Leviathan, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Joel Oesch and Fishing for Leviathan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.