Human sexuality can be confounding, mysterious and even frustrating. For all of our increasingly progressive ideas of sexuality and cultural acceptance, sex still is a primary motivator in our daily lives. Either consciously or subconsciously many of us, especially for those in their sexual prime, do things everyday to enhance sexual value and attractiveness. The biological imperative, the foundation of all species, is to procreate and ensure survival. However, sex in post-modern life has added complications, but also the opportunity for increased excitement and pleasure.
To understand how we got to now or where we are going it is important to know where we have been. Our species is approximately 200,000 years old. The exact hardware we are walking around in is thought to be about 50,000 years old. Parts of our brain, including the part that governs sex is much older than that. The biological urge for sex is a product of lower brain functioning, it is not cerebral. Our sexual desires are baser and do not coincide with the higher functioning parts of our brain that govern logic, morality, judgment etc. However, our higher brain is employed to achieve the desires of the lower brain; romance is one such example.
Species, including humans, evolve and adapt over time but not particularly fast. Modern people live in a very different environment than our ancestors. For most of our species existence we lived as nomadic hunter and gatherers. While the high-minded of today may believe that 185,000 years of evolution is of little consequence in the post-modern world, it seems naive. This was by far the longest period of our species evolution that still instructs us today. The sexual behaviors of our hunting and gathering ancestors were based on survival. Gender roles were not a construct, but a necessity. Men with greater brawn and a proven ability to provide resources had greater sexual access, i.e. endurance and strength to hunt, build and protect. Women who showed signs of good health, which also equals beauty, were selected to ensure higher quality genetic material was passed to the young. Women nurtured the young and fostered community. The roles were different but egalitarian; having equal status to ensure survival. There was competition for the best mate selection and monogamy was not paramount, as sharing resources in general was the norm.
As humans transitioned in to agrarian societies approximately 15,000 years, this marked a significant shift in sexuality toward pair bonding. As agrarian societies developed so too did civilizations and the rise of the family unit. Since child rearing takes resources it is believed this resulted in sexual restrictions being placed on women through moral, cultural and religious beliefs. Men simply did not want to toil to provide for another man’s genetic heir. Even in modern times it is believe that 2-10% of fathers are raising children that they do not know is not theirs. In JD Unwin’s Sex and Culture, he shows that there is a direct correlation between sexual restrictions placed on women and what he called expansive energy of a civilization. In short, it is believed that pent up sexual energy is put into other constructive and creative work. As sexual attitudes become increasingly liberal this marks the decline of a civilization or culture. Out of the 80 cultures and six civilizations that Unwin studied, none reversed course and ultimately collapsed. Until now, the most dramatic shift in sexuality was the agrarian revolution which resulted in civilization.
We are once again experiencing a dramatic shift in sexuality and only time will tell what comes of it. The first major shift occurred with the novel idea of marrying for love which became popularized after the industrial revolution in the 19th century. Prior to this, marrying was pragmatic and seen as far too important to be left up to the young. The most important changes have happened more recently as a result of modern technology and social policies. Until the advent of birth control, modern medicine and easy access to abortions, female promiscuity was not a particularly wise strategy. For obvious reasons short-term mating was lifestyle choice few women made. However through the advances in medical technology, independent career oriented lifestyles and social safety nets women now have plenty of options. The world of online dating has further opened the realm of possibilities. The popularity of Tinder and other apps which encourages hook-up culture, sugar baby and daddy websites are increasingly becoming common as a way for young women to supplement their incomes, voyeuristic sites and others are reducing sex to a commodity. Social media has also skewed our reality and culture. Attention seeking and conformity has largely replaced intimacy and critical thinking, straining the ability to connect in meaningful ways. The full attention of a single person is rarely a match for the fleeting notice of dozens. The “pornification” of culture is also having its affect. Young people are growing up awash in pornography and a media culture that is increasingly debasing itself for viewers’ with short attention spans. Our brains have been flooded with imagery and ideas of sex that was once left up to the imagination and beyond. Sexuality is changing, but is our ability to adapt and evolve keeping pace?
It is important to keep in mind that we are in the early and experimental stages of this new sexual frontier. Parallels between what we are witnessing can be made with “Brave New World” and “Idiocracy.” Perhaps we are leaning in to a world where sex is no longer about procreation or intimacy, but is commonplace and it is relationships that are odd. A future where children grow up under the watchful eye of the state and parenting is no longer valued. Pornography may become prime time viewing,and robotic sex dolls, in increasingly single person households, serve and please. We may only be a generation or two away. Then again, we may tire of the meaninglessness of it all and seek to rediscover intimacy, family and virtue. It is clear that we are in a confusing period, one where children are being forced to deal with sex, gender, and conform to complex ideas early in life, possibly before they are equipped to do so. Early data is not siding with the progressive sexual agenda. So far we can not say that Western culture has overall benefited from the new shifts in sexuality. Family, children, and the sexes are less happy and healthy than they were 50 years ago. Time will tell, but being honest about where we came from, our biological and psychological make-up, and paying attention to the social sciences and data cannot hurt.