Reconsidering sexual repression

The New York Post has an interesting article up on the price of sex. Summary; more women are giving it up sooner. Between a shortage of men who are marry-up material, competition from other women, and porn, withholding sex to get commitment is no longer a workable strategy Tellingly the article says “those who don’t discount sex say they can’t seem to get anyone to ‘pay’ their higher price. Consequently, younger women are doing an awful lot of first-date or even no-date fucking, and the marriage rate is steadily dropping.

The author doesn’t think like a science-fiction fan and encyclopedic synthesist, but I do – so a really alarming second-order consequence jumped out at me. But before I get to that, some historical perspective.

Before 1960, the price of sex was held fairly high by fear of pregnancy and social stigmatization. Then came the Pill; fear of pregnancy receded and social stigmatization of unwed birth effectively collapsed with it. But in the absence of these restraints, we found out something interesting; women, as a group, want nookie now more than is good for their marriage prospects. That is, the operation of female desire is poorly matched to their most effective reproductive strategy – they’re too easily pulled into casual sex and behaviors they can fool themselves aren’t pure hedonism.

I could go off on a speculative tear about how humans ended up with such miswiring. That would take us on a ramble through evolutionary bio and might even generate an interesting theory or two. But that would be a distraction, because the most interesting consequences of this observation aren’t in the past but in the future.

The first difficult thing to accept, after the sexual revolution, is this: sexual repression and the double standard weren’t arbitrary forms of cruelty that societies ended up with by accident. They were functional adaptations. By raising the clearing price that women charged for sex, they actually increased female bargaining power and raised the marriage rate.

Most people can process that one without wincing. But this next one is a hot potato: the ideology of sexual equality made the problem a lot worse in two different ways. The obvious one was that it encouraged women to believe they could and should be able to act like men without negative consequences – including rising to male levels of promiscuity. The less obvious, but perhaps in the long run more damaging consequence, was that it collided with hypergamy.

Women are hypergamous. They want to marry men who are bigger, stronger, higher-status, a bit older, and a bit brighter than they are. This is massively confirmed by statistics on actual marriages; only the “a bit brighter” part is even controversial, and most of that controversy is ideological posturing.

OK, so what happens when women get educated, achieve economic equality, etcetera? Their pool of eligible hypergamic targets shrinks; the princess marrying the swineherd is a fairytale precisely because it’s so rare. More women seeking hypergamy from a higher baseline means the competition for eligible males is more intense, and womens’ ability to withold sex vanishes even supposing they want to. Thus, college campuses today, and plunging marriages rate tomorrow.

The question becomes: what are we going to give up? Family formation? Sexual equality? Sexual liberty? (By sexual equality I mean the presumption that women should be legally, economically, and educationally equal to men. By sexual liberty I mean both an absence of formal legal sanctions and an absence of guilt and psychological repression.) It looks very much as through we can’t have all three of those sustainably, and (this is the thought that really disturbs me) we may not even get to have more than one.

If we give up family formation it’s game over; we’ll be outbred by cultures that don’t. So that’s off the table. Following out the logic, the demographic future will belong to cultures that give up either sexual liberty or sexual equality, or both.

But those options aren’t symmetrical. Because, remember, the problem with today’s sexual economics is not symmetrical. It’s not women who are bailing out of the marriage market in droves, it’s men. Accordingly (as the author of the NY Post recognizes) the odds of rolling back sexual liberty are close to nil. Men don’t have to play on those terms for fundamental bioenergetic reasons (release of semen is cheap), and women post-Pill are demonstrating an unwillingness to try to make them. Because, you know, more sex (see “miswiring”, above).

I am led to a conclusion I don’t like. That is: Sexual equality is unstable. If women can’t buy marriage with sex, they’ll have to bid submission instead. This tactic also combines well with hypergamic desire – if the mean social power of men is automatically higher than that of women, more potential pairings constitute marrying up.

I don’t have a submissive wife and never wanted one. I like strong and independent women. It therefore horrifies me to reach the conclusion that sexually repressive patriarchies may after all be a better deal for most womens’ reproductive success than the relative equality they have now is. But that’s where the logic leads.

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