Background

Contemporary Sexuality, Relationships in West - History

Uploaded 1/2/2022, approx. 49 minute read

This is the first lesson in the contemporary sexuality class.

First of all, I extend a warm welcome to all the newbies from Nigeria and from Russia, postdoctoral researchers, PhDs, and so on. My name is Professor Sam Vaknin, and I will be your instructor and guide during this class. But I hope to learn from you as much as maybe I'm going to teach you, because you're in your early thirties, some of you are in your late twenties, you have just returned from the United States and a variety of other Western countries, and so you can teach me a lot about the way you live, the way you conduct yourself, and needless to say, your sexuality.

I therefore would welcome any input, any critical thinking, any corrections, anything we learn from each other. This is a mutual learning society. This is CIAPS, the Center for International Advanced Professional Studies, an outreach program of the CS Consortium of University. Again, welcome to all.

A few logistical things. There is a bibliographic pack available to you. It's a zip file. Please go to the resources section in your interface and download it and unzip it, of course, and read all the articles there, because these articles are the foundation of this class. You will also be subjected to cruel and unusual punishments, such as an exam at the end of a class. So you'd better do your literature review, get yourself acquainted with current thinking.

Otherwise, I will make the lecture available on YouTube, because YouTube provides a variety of tools which are easier to navigate and work with. And also, I will make it available on the portal, so you'll have two versions. The version of the portal will be directly linked to references through the HyperRef tool, so make good use of that.

And without further ado, let's plunge writing.

I want to clarify one thing. This first lesson is about the history of sexuality, not about the psychology of modern sexuality, not about the social, biological impacts or context of modern sexuality, not about the psychosexual motivations for common or contemporary sexual behavior, and not about the mental health and physical effects of contemporary sexual practices, sexual scripts and social scripts.

Each of these will be tackled in a separate lecture.


But today, we're going to focus on the history of contemporary sexuality starting in the 18th century and going forward.

I hope you enjoy the sweeping panoramic view, as well as the small, fascinating details embedded in this unfolding story of how humans interact with each other when it comes to sex, especially nowadays.

First of all, I want to make clear that there is nothing new under the sun. Every generation believe that they had invented sex. Every generation are convinced that they are doing sex, that the sexual practices they have adopted and they run with are unique, unprecedented, but nothing can be further from the truth.

Every single thing we are doing today as adults, adolescents, everything single thing we've ever done had a precedent somewhere, sometime in history. The history of modern love and the history of modern sex are about a locus of control, a locus of power, and the type of practice. This applies to every single period in human history.

You can analyze human sexuality throughout various periods asking these two questions. Who has the power? Who maintains the power and the control over the sexual interaction?

The second question is, what type of sexual practice is hegemonic, is dominant?

Every generation of course adds to the repertory. So today there's an enormous diversity of models and options, all of them available simultaneously, but I repeat, there's nothing new under the sun.

I'm going to start by describing the current situation of contemporary sexuality and then we're going to go into a time travel machine and regress 200 years of war. And I'm going to show you, I'm going to try to demonstrate how today's sexuality, contemporary sexuality is the ineluctable outcome of an accumulation of social, economic, and technological developments over centuries.

So what is the current state of affairs?

Starting in around 2010 or 2011, there has been a shift in sexual attitudes, sexual scripts, and sexual practices.

First of all, people had discovered, especially women, that casual sex is bad and oftentimes dangerous. Men had adopted behaviors which they had picked up from pornography. Men are exposed to pornography much more than women, or three times more than women. They are the major consumers of pornography. And pornography had become the main instrument of sexual education.

So men are trying to implement techniques they pick up from pornography, even in hookups, in one time sexual encounters. And this renders many of these encounters dangerous and bordering on sexual assault. Actually, sexual assault is pretty common in hookups and modern dating. Dating in today's parlance, dating in today's world is just a glorified term for hookups.

So women especially, but also some men, had discovered that casual sex is bad, is dangerous, and amounts to a form of self-harming, what I call self-trashing.

Now this led to a phenomenon dubbed sex recession. Sex recession was first described by Kate Gilliam in her article in the December 2018 issue of The Atlantic. Sex recession simply means that people are having less sex than ever before. The frequency of sex had declined precipitously among the young, especially adolescents and young adults. But it had also declined in marriages and committed relationships. And it is also on the decline among baby boomers, Generation X and so on. Sex generally is on the retreat everywhere and in some countries, notably of course Japan, but also for example Sweden and the United Kingdom. Sex had taken a big seat, pun intended. Sex is no longer practiced actually in a variety of settings and many many people have gone celibate for many many years. People have long stretches of celibacy anywhere from a few months to a few years in between sexual encounters and most of these encounters are casual sex. People are no longer having sex in relationships because there are no relationships anymore.

Well over 31% according to Pew Center, well over 31% of people for example in the United States are lifelong singles. Another 30% for example in Australia are singles at the time of the survey. So we're talking about something like half the population, 45% according to Pew Center, but about half the population who are not in relationships of any kind, they're not even cohabiting. And so they don't have the opportunity for regular good sex with an intimate partner who knows your body.

The outcome is that people are avoiding sex and celibacy is on the ascendance. This is coupled with another trend, technology empowered atomization. People increasingly avoid physical contact with other people. People stay at home, consume Netflix, play with their pets or play video games. Technology allows people, had allowed people to become utterly self-sufficient. People are do engage with each other but mostly via social media where relative positioning is all the rage. The aim of social media is not to foster sociability, is not to encourage contacts or communication, but to compare yourself to others.

The overwhelming vast majority of social media users are preoccupied with likes, comments and so on, always comparing themselves to others. And this of course gives rise to very negative mental health outcomes such as anxiety and depression.

Additionally, there's a process of fetishizing the devices. People go to sleep with their smartphones the way they used to with their lovers. They get attached to their devices. Their entire life is now in cyberspace. They live a virtual life.

So their existence is artificial or at least constructed and critically dependent on their devices.

I'll give you an example. Memory. Most people's memories are not stored on devices rather for example than in their brains.

Devices have become an extension of one's brain. These devices and their offerings in entertainment, social media, other types of options, they create addictive behaviors and even conditioning.

Now we can discuss all this in another lecture, but atomization, self-sufficiency, relative positioning, fetishization of devices, addictive behaviors, encourage people to avoid contact with others. And sex is of course the quintessential form of contact between people.

So this is a massive effect on sexual availability and sexual interactivity.

Another trend is infantilization.

People are, people are, pitter bands, there's the pitter band syndrome, puberty starts and ends about three to four years later, according to Jean Twenge.

So people are children for much longer and then they become adolescents much later. And then the adolescence extends up to age 25 or 30.

Between one third and one half of people under the age of 35 still co-habit with their parents.

There's the issue of continuing education. Education extends literally indefinitely. It's not uncommon for people to continue their education into age 30 or 31.

I mentioned living with parents, but this implies that people have no jobs. They are not self-supporting.

Many people don't engage in adult chores and responsibilities. For example, people postpone obtaining a driving license. This used to be the hallmark of adulthood well into the 1980s. But today people avoid issuing a driving license. People drink less believe it or not. Drinking is on the decline. Quantum consumption has been collapsing by four to five percent a year. There's no unsupervised socializing. People hang out with their parents or with their siblings. And when they do hang out with their friends, it's usually with parental presence, if not supervision.

There are no adulthood markers. There are no committed relationships. Marriage had been postponed in the United Kingdom till age 32, in the United States till age 28. And that's because the United States has a massive immigrant community.

Take out the immigrants. Take out the people from Latin America, Central America and so on. Take out the Hispanic and minority groups and so on.

And marriage actually takes place around age 35 or 36. Between the ages of 30 and 40, most people in the Western world, most people decide that they want to settle down. They want to put a stop, put an end to casual dating and casual sex. They want to have a single partner.

Some of them, not many by the way, want to start a family. Marriage had utterly collapsed as an institution. There's been a decline of 50 percent in marriages between 1990 and today.

So marriage is just one of multiple, many alternatives of residential arrangements of types of relationships.

Actually today each and every relationship is negotiated separately and is idiosyncratic.

And so when people, mostly women by the way, decide to settle down and have a family or at the very least find an intimate partner and start a long term committed relationship, there's a problem. Men want to commit. Men commit in their twenties. When they had crossed the threshold of 35, the majority of men, about 60 percent, do not wish to have a long term committed relationship anymore.

Conversely, the majority of women do not want to have a committed relationship in their twenties, but they do want to have a committed relationship in their thirties.

There is an age mismatch. When men want to commit, women don't. And when women want to commit, men don't. Men in their thirties, forties, not to mention fifties and above, are just looking for casual sex. No strings attached. They're not interested in relationships.

Ofrelationships. Of course, that's a generalization. About 40 percent of men are still interested in relationships in their thirties, but 80 percent of men are interested in relationships in their twenties.

So the decline is precipitous. Women try. They try to find committed partners. A sizable majority of them, between one third and half of women above the age of 30, fail.

And then they despair, they withdraw, and they become, many of them become celibate because casual sex is no longer an option when a woman is in her thirties and forties. And when and if it is an option, it's absolutely bad sex and even dangerous sex. So many women become celibate, they totally withdraw, and they become singles for life.

What used to be called in the Victorian era, spinsters.

Additionally, both genders, men and women, have no intimacy or relationship skills. They don't even know how to date.

The situation is so bad that in many universities there's a dating assignment, a dating class, how to date.

What modern men and women, especially the young ones, call dating is actually casual sex. Hookups. It's a glorified name for hookups.

Dating in the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s, sense is literally extinct.

So 31 percent remain lifelong singles. Another 30 percent are single most of the time.

And the rest cohabit or they have relationships, many of which are actually pseudo relationships.

For example, friends with benefits and so on. So they have relationships, so-called relationships, pseudo relationships, and a minority are married.

They said, an enormous effect on birth rate. Birth rate had been on the decline in all industrialized countries, from India to Russia to Germany to the United States. All industrialized countries are suffering a collapse in birth rate.

Now people say, why do we need children? I mean, the earth is overpopulated. We need children because we are aging. Populations are aging all over the world. In some countries, 25 percent of population is above the age of 65. People, older people, like me, need support, need health care, need retirement funds, and these are provided by the young. If they are not children, to take care of the old. If they are not children, children later to enter the workforce and provide for retirement accounts, everything is going to fall apart. Society itself is going to fall apart. So this is an existential species-level crisis, which I regard as much worse or much more dangerous, much more ominous and threatening than climate change.

I mentioned the depression, anxiety and suicide are on the rise among the young. This is a British understatement. They are not among the rise. They are supernova exploding. Depression and anxiety, for example, have gone up three to five times among the young.

Suicide is increasing by 50 percent a year among the young, especially by the way, among young women, and more specifically among consumers and users of social media. This is the contemporary, pretty dystopian picture.

Now, of course, there are nuances, subtleties and exceptions and outliers, and not everyone falls neatly into any one of these boxes.

Psychology is the science of populations. It deals with cohorts. Generalizations pertaining to populations rarely match perfectly any specific idiosyncratic individual profile. We all know this. We are all versed in scientific methodology and psychology in particular, but we could still make generalizations about the typical experience of the individual within society, society being the total of all populations and cohorts.

This generalization would usually fit pretty well.

How did we come? How did we end up here? How did we come to this?

It looks really, really seriously bad. Bad sex on the one hand, people choosing to have no sex, and no relationships. There's an utter dissolution of the social fabric, but it started well over 200 years ago, if not 300 years ago.

Observers, as early as the 18th century, let alone in the 1960s, were able to accurately predict and prognosticate on these developments, starting with Zsazsa, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and others.

So what's happening to us today is not a surprise. It's bad, but there's no shock value in it.

Many, many intellectuals, thinkers, and scientists had fully anticipated where we are at now. It's a dead end in many respects, and unless we reform some of our social scripts and sexual scripts and values, I think there's a danger of total crumbling of the social fabric so that people are utterly atomized, technologically self-sufficient, consume sex via possibly sex dolls or sex devices.

For example, the use of vibrators had exploded, the use of sex toys in Japan had replaced actual sex, and sex dolls and replica artificial intelligence apps are on the way. Pornography itself will be transformed when holography joins it.

So we're on the path to avoiding each other totally, even when it comes to sex.

Now, the new generations about to come may regard this as the normal state of affairs. All the people like me always have the propensity to castigate and chastise younger generations and to claim that the new normal is abnormal. The younger generations don't feel anything abnormal in their existence. They're used to it. They've grown up with smartphones and iPads. They don't feel that there's anything bizarre or unusual or dystopian or wrong in what they're doing and what is happening to them.

But all the people have the ability to compare, and that's a major advantage, because when you compare, you can see the bad sides and the good sides. Of course, there are good sides in the sexual revolution.

The acceptance of sexual fluidity and gender fluidity, the ability to express one's sexual preferences and orientation freely, the existence of multiple sexual options, by the way, including hookups. Casual sex is a stopgap measure as people postpone marriage. They still have sexual needs. Nothing wrong with casual sex. What is wrong with casual sex is that it is male-oriented, it's chauvinistic, and it's fed by pornographic stereotypes.

In other words, what's wrong with casual sex is that women are getting the short end of the stick. Women are mistreated, degraded, and disrespected in casual sex. It's a men's problem.

But casual sex, as it is, is a wonderful option because it allows people to postpone critical decisions, to experiment, to discover and explore themselves and others.

Unfortunately, it's been hijacked by pornography and by men who are less than respectful and sensitive and do not reciprocate in casual sex. Casual sex is a horrible experience for most women, according to most studies.


Let's go back to 300 years.

Until the Industrial Revolution, Industrial Revolution to remind you was in the middle of the 18th century, until the Industrial Revolution, all encounters between men and women were strictly regulated, highly structured, and conformist. Marriages were arranged for economic reasons. The family was a work unit. Everyone in the family worked, especially in the agricultural sector. There was no concept of a child. A child was simply a young adult, a young man.

And so the minute a child could exert muscle power, he joined the family production unit. There was no separation between family, work, sex, love, child, adult. Everyone worked together for a common goal. They said positive aspects, of course, and negative aspects. One of the negative aspects was the fact that women were considered to be chattel. They were considered to be the property of men. The wealth of the woman, her actual property, money if she had any, land, immediately became her husband's property.

So when she married, she gave up, implicitly, explicitly, and legally, on any form of agency, independence, and autonomy. The woman became the man's property, sometimes appearing in wills as property, listed in wills together with children in wills and testaments as property.

The man brought his own wealth into the marriage. And this wealth was usually in the form of land.

But inheritance laws throughout the world meant that only the first born men benefited, the first born son had benefited. He was the one who had inherited the family wealth. Other siblings had to simply walk away and find their own fortune in a cruel and demanding world.

So there was mobility, there was social and geographical mobility, but only for younger siblings.

These young men started to roam the earth. They didn't have a place to be in. They didn't own any land. They had nothing to offer to women in exchange for marriage and for having children. They couldn't, in other words, procreate. They couldn't form their own family units.

And these were the initial rumblings of the Industrial Revolution, because there was this itinerant workforce of young men, usually enraged young men, disenfranchised by hereditary laws by laws of inheritance, unable to form families and procreate.

And therefore, in many respects, they were pariahs, they were outcasts, because without a family in the pre-industrial age, you were nobody, you were nothing.

And these men exerted pressure on the social structure. Divorce was rare, sex was procreative, there was no recreational sex. And men, even in marriages, outsourced sex to prostitutes and the like.

Brawn, ruled over brain, muscle power was still dominant. So men were dominant.

But there was this discontent among men, amongI'm sorry, there was this discontent among endowed men, men with endowments, men with land or an annuity and disenfranchised men.

And then technology created the next shift in men-woman relationships and in sexuality. The Industrial Revolution involved a series of inventions such as the steam engine, the mechanical weaving devices like the loom.

So the Industrial Revolution automated and mechanized many functions and allowed for the first time to must produce.

There was this class of disenfranchised men congregating in urban centers, cities. There was the class of landed gentry, who developed a taste for consumerism and for consumer products. So this scene was set for the Industrial Revolution, which started more or less in the middle of the 18th century and lasted more or less until 1980 or 1990.

The Industrial Revolution was founded on the concept of a factory. A factory was a physical location where multiple people had converged in order to must produce products, goods. And this required people to dislocate.

The Industrial Revolution had removed people from the land. It dislocated people, men initially and women about 100 years later.

And so men and women found themselves all alone in crowded cities.

And the concept of the single was born or the bachelor, as it used to be called. The single is an artifact or singlehood is an artifact of the Industrial Revolution.

People needed to be single in order to work in factories and so on and so forth. And when they did form families, the families were intimately connected to the factory. The families were, in other words, just a way to provide workforce for the factory.

Gradually, factories took over families. Many of the functions of the traditional family were outsourced. Education, for example, now took place in factory schools. And the skills acquired by the students were needed by the factory owners.

Factory owners dictated the curricula and the syllabi of these schools. Similarly, health care was outsourced away from the family. And of course, work. Work used to be intimately linked with the family unit. And now it was divorced from the family unit. The family unit was anything that didn't have to do with work. The family unit provided leisure, decor, emotional support, and sex and love.

So the family unit became a kind of romanticized version of something utopian. The family became the opposite, the antonym, the antithesis of the factory, where the factory was impersonal, cold, very often brutal and nasty and an unpleasant place.

Work, even offices, the office, people went to the office nine to five, but the office was a competitive, demanding, pretty malevolent environment. So the family was the refuge, the sanctuary, the shelter. People returned from work to the family in order to feel loved and wanted and understood. And of course, in order to have sex with their spouses, the family therefore became the backdrop.

And it contradicted, it provided a useful contradiction to the work. But this divorce between work and family had created very unwanted consequences, which we will discuss later.

During the Industrial Revolution and well into 1920, when men and women wanted to interact, women were in control. Women were the gatekeeper.

Because women, the domain of the home, the domain of the family was allocated to women. Women had become the gatekeepers of romantic relationships, intimate liaisons, dyads, procreation, children, and anything domestic. Women, therefore, had accrued quite a lot of power over the personal, private, non-factory life of men.

And so women were the gatekeepers.

There was a concept of gentleman-caller. The gentleman-caller was a man who fancied a woman, and he would come to call, presenting usually a visit card, would just come to the house and knock on the door. The woman would meet the gentleman-caller in a parlor in a specialized room, and she would be chaperoned. There would be an aunt, an elderly aunt. Her parents would be there. Men and women were never left alone. Everything was totally supervised.

And at the end, a woman had the right to reject a gentleman-caller, and then he would never be seen again in her parlor.

So women had an inordinate power on family formation and procreation and the domestic life.

Gradually, as women had accrued this power, they began to dictate terms and conditions.

Women, now, were empowered for the first time, perhaps, in many, many centuries. Women had the power to say no to a man, to reject him.

So women began to dictate terms.

And one of the terms they had dictated is called romantic love or desire or passion. Women refused to consult with a man or refuse to team up with a man or refuse to marry a man if they didn't feel love, romance, passion, and desire in the air.

So there was this whole genre of romantic literature written mostly by women. And to this very day, by the way, most romantic novels are written by women. Women monopolize romance. They monopolize love, desire, and passion. And they dolled it out to men. Men had to conform. They had to play the game of romantic love. Although, of course, to what extent they were really committed to it is debatable and dubious because there was a flourishing prostitution industry where men went to satisfy their lust.

For the first time, there was a distinction between lust and love. One, lust was vile, denounced, renounced, hidden, secret, and shameful. Love was beautiful. Love gave rise to life, mediated through the institution. Of the family, controlled totally, environmentally, by the woman.

This was a good period for women.

Actually, exactly contrary to our stereotypical thinking that women are empowered today, I think actually women today are much less empowered than women well into the 1960s. And they are much less empowered because, in my view at least, because they have bought into male sexual scripts and male social scripts. In other words, women are trying to become men and to over men.

So this competition with men is detrimental to women because it leads them in to male territory where men are in control. We will discuss this a bit later.

At that time, up until the 1960s, more or less, women had their own domain where they were fully empowered.

Now, of course, they didn't have the right to vote. They didn't have equal access to opportunities. They didn't have proper education and so on and so forth.

And these were forms of disempowerment. And today it's known as the patriarchy.

And so in this sense, when it comes to the social sphere, women were disempowered.

But when it came to the private sphere, men were disempowered.

Now the situation is reversed. When it comes to the social sphere, women are empowered and men are gradually disempowered.

But when it comes to the private sphere, men are empowered and women, in my view, are totally disempowered.

So it's a question perhaps of priorities and preferences.

Many modern women, according to surveys and studies, many modern women claim that they much prefer career and self-actualization to intimate relationships and men.

So perhaps it was a conscious choice, a feminist conscious choice.

But it still remains a fact that the roles had been reversed.

And today women are disempowered in the private sphere, like never before, actually. Women are trashed by men, degraded by men. And men consider women as commodities.

And so that was a trade-off that women had done, had committed in successive ways of feminism.

And of course, one cannot generalize. One says feminism, one cannot generalize. It's not a single movement.

And there are very fierce and acrimonious debates within various strands of feminism, among various strands of feminism.

So one cannot generalize. But the trust of it was women had exited the private sphere into the public sphere and had become dominant there in many ways, but had sacrificed their control and empowerment in the private sphere and had handed it over, actually, to men.

Men resentful of this social change and are punishing women through the private sphere.

But again, we'll come to it in one of our future lectures.


Let's continue.

So this was the situation until 1920.

Women as gatekeepers, men as gentleman callers, a hollowing out of the family by outsourcing this function and the rise of factories and factory-like institutions, for example, modern schools.

Something happened between 1920 and 1950. Something cataclysmic. Two world wars had decimated generations of young, eligible men. This created an inordinate shortage of men.

So now multiple women were chasing single men. In some countries, the situation was so bad that there was a surplus of women anywhere between 50 to 100 percent. In other words, for every eligible man, there were two eligible women in the same peer group.

This was especially true among the younger generations, those who went to fight and those who were killed in the battlefields.

But this shortage of men had pushed women to desperate measures.

Women, for example, started to apply makeup. Now, makeup is not new. Makeup has been with us since ancient Egypt. But makeup was not a gender-specific thing. Both men and women applied makeup. Makeup was used to signal status and for a variety of other reasons.

But makeup, which is gender-specific and whose only role is to signal the other sex and to attract the other sex, that's a new phenomenon which started more or less in the 1920s.

Women, for the first time, had tried to become sexy, not sexual. Women, until the 1920s, did posit and present themselves as sexual. They were desirous. They were passionate. They were romantic.

So women were engaged in signaling that they are open to sex in its full-fledged form, including its mental and social implications.

And that is when a woman is sexual.

But starting in the 1920s, women were not signaling that they are sexual. They were signaling that they are sexy. In other words, that they are sex objects.

This was a period in the 1920s where women started to self-objectify.

Self-objectification is now at its apex.

In between 1990 and 2014, which are the latest massive studies we have, women had been self-objectifying like never, ever before.

The hookup culture is founded critically on the self-objectification of women through attire, the way they dress, makeup, the way they behave, and the way they present themselves to potential partners, sexual partners, not intimate partners, alas.

So self-objectification started in the 1920s and escalated time and again well into the 1920s. Self-objectification led to another phenomenon, spectatoring. Spectatoring is when you observe yourself having sex. You analyze yourself through the other person's eyes, through your partner's eyes. You see yourself through your sexual partner's reactions and you modify your behavior and even you align your body in order to conform to the perceived expectations of your sex partner.

Now, this is very common in pornography and it's borrowed from pornography, actually. Spectatoring has exploded.

Now, there are numerous studies that show that spectatoring leads to bad sex because you're not focused on the sex. You're not even focused on pleasing your partner. You're focused on being seen. You're focused on being noticed and observed. It's a form of selfie, selfie during sex. It's, of course, a kind of narcissism.

So spectatoring appeared there.

1920s was a watershed moment because in the 1920s owing to the shortage of men, owing to technological developments, owing to the fact that women had entered the workforce in earnest, in the 1920s women had moved from the private sphere to the public social sphere.

They started to move and they gave up. They relinquished their power in the private sphere, increasingly more so in order to gain power in the private sphere.

Now, this was aided and abetted by technology, as always. The automobile, the car, the phone, classified advertising in newspapers, lonely hearts advertising, the cinema. These technological developments led to a new phenomenon known as dating.

Dating was about fun, not about finding an intimate partner. People were dating for variety. They were dating as a form of entertainment.

In this sense, dating in the 1920s, 30s and 40s and even 50s, dating was a form of hookup.

And indeed, in most days, people engaged in sexual activity. It was first and second base sex. People rarely had intercourse, let alone anal sex. But it was still sex. And in the terms of that period, it was as egregious or as extreme as having intercourse today.

So people went on dates, they had fun and entertainment, popcorn in the cinema, and then they made out in the car. And they called each other on the phone to coordinate all these activities.

And women and men at that time had multiple partners.

Essentially, it was casual sex.

Simply put, only not foolishly.

Dating in college, for example, was described in studies in the 1930s as competing for status exactly as it is today. Women and men were drinking and making out in college, in college parties, in fraternities and sororities, in the 1920s, in the 1930s, in order to compete for status, to socially position themselves, comparative to others.

Now, this is exactly the scene, or has been the scene in colleges since the 1990s.

So as you see, nothing is new under the sun.


The 1920s to the 1950s were very, very similar to our period, starting in the 1990s.

There's been a break. We'll talk about it in a minute.

But all the seeds of all the modern phenomena, all the phenomena in modern contemporary sexuality, all the precursors, all the harbingers were already present full scale and in full force between the 1920s and the 1950s.

As women had exited the private sphere and entered the public social sphere, men had entered the private sphere, gradually relinquishing the social and public sphere, a process which took more or less a hundred years.

And one of the first signs of this reversal of gender roles and gender power matrix, one of the major signs was that men had to pay for the date.

Men had the power in the dating scene because they had to pay for everything.

It was the sexual and social script of the time.

So men were in control. Men had decided where to go, how much to spend, how long of a time to be together.

And women were expected to compensate men for their investment with sex, essentially.

First base and second base sex, but still sex.

So men gained control over the private sphere.

Men had overtaken sexuality and sexual interactions with their earning power.

Women had relinquished the gatekeeping function and handed it over to men, a move that many of them would regret, would come to regret to this very day.

This was the 1920s, the 1950s, a period very, very, very reminiscent of today's period between 1990 and 2020.

But then something happened. There was a backlash, a backlash which I believe is developing again nowadays.

There was a backlash against casual sex, dating as fun, men as gatekeepers.

There was a brief backlash. This backlash lasted more or less 10 or 15 years.

People stopped dating. They started going steady.

Women reacquired or reassumed as a kind of a last desperate attempt to regain control of the private sphere.

Women had reassumed the gatekeeper function. They started to refuse to have casual sex.

They insisted on having sex only in committed intimate relationships, and this was called going steady.

And they fully expected that going steady would lead to marriage.

This was the implicit and often the explicit contract.

So women stood on their hind feet and said enough is enough, we feel commodified, we feel abused, the sex is bad, it's leading nowhere, we don't have relationships, men are getting all the benefits, we don't get none, men are in control, we don't like it, so we're going to put a stop to it.

Even today in college hookup culture, men pay, men pay for the drinks, for example.

When you go on a party in college, men pay for the drinks and women are supposed to provide sex in return for a place to crush and drinks.

So today's college hookup culture is the continuation of the 1920s to 1950s sexual and social scripts.

There's been a brief interruption, a brief interruption between 1950 and 1960.

In other words, what I'm trying to say is up until 1920, women were in control of the private sphere and so everything was marriage oriented.

Then between 1920 and 1950, men were in control of the private sphere and so everything was fun oriented.

And then again in 1950, women took over the private sphere and tried to reinstate the pre-1920 state.

They tried to reinstate things as they were before 1920.

They demanded to go steady, they demanded to get married and majority of women stayed at home.

Women became much more conservative than previous generations including their own mothers.

Men were supposed to be stable, reliable providers. Men were breadwinners.

Women raised children and tended to the kitchen.

This was a very brief interlude, 1950 to 1960, but it was a last hurrah, hurrah, a last stand.

It was women trying to kind of rest back control over the private sphere from men, but it was too late.

It was too late because men had tasted casual sex and so to some extent did many women.

And although the period of the 1950s was very well entrenched and conformist and supported by the media and so on, it did not last even within the 1950s.

There was a concept of the rebel youth, James Dean.

Cracks were appearing in the edifice.

And so it took 10 years and the walls came tumbling down and everyone went full scale back to the 1920s.

So the tectonic shift, the break, the fault line in contemporary sexuality was in 1920.

The backlash of the 1950s did not last and there's another backlash developing today.

People are avoiding sex and so on.

And this backlash were not lost.

Whatever has happened before 1920 had to do with a transition from agriculture to industry, the Industrial Revolution.

And this transition had created numerous dislocated singles.

It is the force and power, the sexual needs of these singles has shaped the world.

It took 150 years.

It took 150 years.

But finally, singles took over the private sphere.

We are a world in contemporary sexuality.

It's a world driven by the needs, including sexual needs of singles, not by the needs or concept of the family.

The organizing principle nowadays is singlehood, autonomy, atomization, aloneness, not family, relationship, togetherness.

There's been a transition in the way we view reality, organized society.

And so this transition took place in the 1920s and is still ongoing.

Starting in 1960, so after a brief decade of conservatism and throwback and trying to revert to pre-1920 sexual and social screens, this failed.

It's been an experiment that failed.

Women again lost control of the private sphere to men.

They tried.

They failed.

Men regained the upper hand when it came to the private sphere.

Women were encroaching on men's turf when it came to earning power, voting rights, economic opportunities, health care, education.

And women finally had surpassed men in almost all these measures.

It is a woman's world today.

The public sphere is now feminized and we are entering the age of matriarchy.

So women are on the ascendance.

Men are on the retreat when it comes to the public sphere, economic sphere, even to power.

But when it comes to the private sphere, men are firmly in control like never before, like never before.

Women were in control during the Industrial Revolution and well into 1920.

Women were absolutely in control.

They were the gatekeepers.

They could tell men to go away and never be seen again.

They held the key to the kingdom of the family, to procreation and to wealth formation.

Then they gave up on it.

They gave up on it because they wanted to abandon home, abandon the family and self-actualize and pursue careers and gain power and become men.

So men gleefully and gladly took over the private sphere because they saw the potential for casual, no strings attached, sex.

Nothing motivates men more than sex.

Trust me.

I'm one.

Men come in.

Okay.

In 1960, the backlash of the 1950s was over and the golden age of sex had descended.

I was born in 1961, and so I remember the period when the golden age of sex, free love, college parties, feminism on the rise, women empowered by contraceptives like the pill, women becoming self-sufficient financially, gaining unemployment opportunities, breaking one glass ceiling after the other, women became more and more empowered, more and more dominant.

Sex with multiple casual partners became rampant and very common, but there was a very interesting difference between that period and today.

The number of sexual partners was higher in the 1960s to the 1990s than it is today, actually, the average number of sexual partners.

But casual sex was perceived as one option among many and always was meant to lead to abundant sex within committed relationships.

Most sex, most opportunities for sex exist within relationships.

If you don't have a committed long-term intimate relationship, you're very likely, you're very unlikely to have regular sex.

So during the 1960s to the 1990s, people were having a lot of sex with multiple casual partners, more so, much more so than today.

But the absolute aim was to find an intimate partner settled into a relationship where sex could be had regularly.

There were few singles, definitely few singles by choice. People absolutely gravitated towards long-term commitments and long-term structured residential arrangements and families.

Marriage was on the rage at the time. So while the frequency of sex was much higher and while casual sex was all over the place, the aim, these were tools, these were just instruments to secure a family.

But there were already harbingers of things to come.

In 1965, 1965 was the year that the first dating application had been released. Yes, I know it's difficult to believe, but the first dating app harks back to 1965.

And so at the end of the 1980s, by 1990, people were hooking up, they were having a lot of casual sex with multiple sexual partners. There was a lot of fun, there was a lot of drinking, college parties, free love.

Experimentation with sexuality, for example, group sex, various orientations were just emerging. Homosexuality, for example, had been removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and became widely accepted.

But this was about to end. I think the main reason it had ended is AIDS. AIDS created a mortal fear of sex. People started to scale back, re-evaluate, retreat, and they were not sure what to do.

The sexual scene came to a screeching halt at the end of the 1980s.

And then once the fear had abated, once the panic had abated, people had a few years of sexual self-denial.

This pent-up energy and needs, they utterly exploded. Between 1990 and 2010, we had a period which had combined aspects of the 1920s to 1950s and aspects of the period between the 1960s and 1990s.

So the 20 years between 1990 and 2010 are a combination of the 30 years between 1920 and 1950, and between 1960 and 1990.

Everything came into a head. Everything coalesced. All the aspects of both periods became one.

And so there was a shortage of men. For example, in colleges, the ratio of women to men was two to one.

So in many settings, there was a shortage of men. There was self-objectification of women, increasing, escalating self-objectification, which reached a crescendo nowadays.

There was spectators. There was technological upheaval, technological innovations. There was a lot of casual sex, hookups, or sometimes masquerading as dating. Dating in college was a marker of status and social positioning.

And so these were all elements borrowed from the 1920s to the 1950s, from that period.

And there was free love, college parties, feminism, women empowered by the pill, employment, sex with multiple casual partners, and dating apps.

It started to appear in earnest on the Internet. So these were elements borrowed from 1960 to 1990.

Elements from these two periods coalesced, converged, and shaped the period from 1990 to 2010.

But there was one massive, important difference.

While in the period between 1960 and 1990, people were looking for marriage. They were looking for long-term relationship and intimate relationship.

In the period between 1990 and 2010, they were not.

This period, 1990 to 2010, was somewhat closer in spirit to the 1920s, 30s, and so on.

So, 1990-2010 was a period much more similar to 1920-1950 than to 1960-1990.

Hookup culture in colleges, where women outnumbered men two to one, had evolved and had seeped out of college, had become normative out of college.

So the college hookup culture did not remain contained within the words of academe, but had become the norm among the young.

Casual sex today is normative, and it is encouraged by mass media, by social media, by messaging in a variety of ways.

Casual sex is encouraged until age 30, and this is much more like the 1920s to 1950s.

Relationships are perceived as a threat. They are perceived as obstacles to career and to self-actualization.

People are avoiding relationships assiduously, doing their best not to catch feelings, not to fall in love.

As Hannah Rossen says in her work, today, a lover or an intimate partner is as bad as unwanted pregnancy was in the 1970s.

To have a lover today, to have a partner, is to sacrifice your life, to stunt your growth, to destroy your career, to prevent, to eliminate opportunities.

So there's no bigger threat than an intimate relationship.

People today are much more self-centred, some say, like Twain and Campbell, much more narcissistic.

And so, self-actualization, career opportunities, having fun with friends, travelling, they all take precedence over intimate relationships.

People are also gender averse, so men increasingly are disappointed with distrust and dislike women, and women are returning the compliment.

There is a gap opening, Cold War, between the genders. One of the reasons is the gender roles are undefined, they're very fluid, and they are not agreed upon or society-wide social and sexual scripts.

So it's very difficult to know what is the right thing to do, how to behave, how to date.

The sexual harassment movement, Me Too, and the various sex scandals, Jeffrey Epstein, Bill Cosby, etc., they made dating and courtship threatening propositions, very dangerous propositions.

It's risk-taking today.

Today to approach a woman is to be a creep, so people confine their interactions to dating apps, because dating apps signal availability and interest.

Everything outside the virtual world, everything outside the cyberspace is dying, shriveling and withering on the vine, because people don't dare to communicate with each other, they don't dare to approach each other, lest they are accused of harassment.

So there's a convergence, a convergence of sexual and social trends that render relationships really very, very problematic.

I've mentioned the fact that people don't have intimacy skills, they don't have relationship skills, because they've spent the majority of their adulthood casual dating or having casual sex.

And when you date casually for 15 years, you have no idea what it means to be intimate, you can't tell the difference between love and infatuation or limerence, it destroys, 15 years of casual sex destroy the variability to engage in any long-term committed, devoted alternative.

There are many studies that show this, that demonstrate this damage to intimacy and relationship skills, but both men and women are committed to casual sex, because they regard casual sex as a compromise.

On the one hand, they get their sexual needs met, the lucky ones, and especially men, and on the other hand, they don't put their lives on hold for intimate relationships, they don't damage their careers, they don't obstruct their path to self-actualization, self-development and self-growth.

Now, one of the major problems is that people lack sexual education and they derive their knowledge about sex from pornography, mostly from pornography, or from the mass media, or from social media. These are very bad sources and they provide a very distorted picture of sexuality, including a very distorted picture of sexual techniques and sexual practices.

So you put everything together, you put dating apps that preclude and exclude real-life interactions, coupled with porn-related sex, knowledge of sex related to porn, or derived from pornography.

You put these two together and what you get is bad sex, seriously bad sex, especially where women are concerned, less than 10% of women orgasm in hookups and first date sex.

When relationships are perceived as a threat though, the only alternatives are casual sex or no sex.

So we have been transitioning from relationship sex before the Industrial Revolution, mostly procreation, so relational sex before the Industrial Revolution, and for a brief period in the 1950s.

We've transitioned from this to casual sex in lieu of relationships, as a substitute for relationships, and that started in the 1920s, not today.

Today we have technologies and we have awareness and we discuss things more openly and so on, but all these had existed in abundance in the 1920s, between the 1920s and the 1950s, and then again between the 1960s and the 1990s.

Between the 1950s and the 1990s, there was still an emphasis on relationships, a new emphasis on relationships, but this emphasis had waned.

So we can regard this period, a relationship-oriented period, as an aberration, as an aberration, a throwback to the pre-industrial stage of historical development.

We have relationship orientation before 1920, then no relationship or fun orientation, 1920-1950, no relationships, then relationship orientation, 1950-1990, then no relationships, fun orientation, 1990 onwards.

And the latest stage that is developing, with which I opened this lesson, the latest stage from 2010 onwards, is that people are saying, I don't want relationships. I don't want relationships because relationships consume a lot of resources, relationships are badly and are very hurtful.

People are not committed, not serious, and not mature, they're not adults. I don't want any of this. I don't need any of this in my life.

It adds nothing to my life and takes a lot. And it also hinders my personal trajectory towards growth and development, self-actualization, fun, and pursuing various interests and hobbies and entertainment and so on.

I don't need another man and another person in my life. So people are rejecting relationships so they can't have regular good sex because relationship sex is actually very good. It's three to five times better than hookup sex.

So they can't have relationships sex because they had rejected relationships as a structural organizing principle. They can't have sex within relationships, committed and intimate. They don't want to have casual sex anymore because casual sex sucks. It's really, really bad.

It's also becoming more and more dangerous as men adopt sexual scripts from pornography.

So women want out because they feel threatened and they feel dissatisfied. And without women, it's difficult to have casual sex. So casual sex is dying.

Relationship sex is a thing of the past. Casual sex is dying.

And so the only alternative left is celibacy.

We are in a period of backlash, backlash to the 1990s onwards. And this backlash involves celibacy.

Now, will this phase last? It's been ongoing for about 10 years now, 2011 to 2021.

Frequency of sex is declining. And I've explained why at the beginning of the lecture. But is it going to last?

Are we all going to end up celibate, atomized singles ensconced in our living rooms, not in touch or in contact with any other human being?

Well, the pandemic is pushing us. It's not helping. It's definitely giving us a nudge, catalyzing this kind of process.

But is it lasting? I don't think so. I think it's a backlash. I think the default option nowadays is the 1920s to the 1950s.

Non-committed sex, multiple sexual partners, fun, orientation, self-actualization, not so many, not an emphasis on relationships.

I think this is the shape of things to come for many, many, many centuries, actually.


If we go back a long time in history, we see similar periods and we need to understand, as I will explain in the next lecture, we need to understand that many of the institutions and even the language we're using to describe interactions between men and women, these are very new things, very modern things.

Monogamy has its history. Marriage is an institution. Having children. All these are new. Even if they're not new, even if there are equivalents in the ancient world and medieval times, they're still new in how we define them today.

Children, for example, it's a totally new construct. The concept of childhood, or a child, is a new construct. If you read Charles Dickens, there are children there. Only young men. So many of the ways we relate to each other and to the world are very new and many of them probably are not long-lasting.

The single thread that connects all of human history is that men and women always sought each other, always wanted to have sex in a variety of settings, institutionalized or not. It's a driving force and in the ancient world and in primitive societies, gender fluidity and sexual fluidity were much more common than they are today.

The Victorian era was an absolute deviation from the course of human history and is still having an enormous impact on the way that we perceive sexuality and social sexuality.

But the Victorian era was an outlier. It's an exception, not a rule. The rule is that people pursue sex any which way they can and with any partner who is willing in any setting that is available and that therefore sex or human sexuality is much more promiscuous and much less institutionalized than we believe it to be under the influence of Victorian mores.

If we look back, we will see that men and women had been having fun for eternity. Marriage and family and monogamy were actually decoupled from sex. People had lovers. People went to prostitutes. People were having casual sex all the time. Promiscuity was the rule, the norm, not the exception.

And so now we are returning to the baseline. We're putting the Victorian age behind us and we're returning to the baseline of human history and it feels alien because we've been educated to think of sex as dirty or non-normative or problematic.

And we've been trained to think of our bodies as production tools, instruments, instruments of manufacturing of children. And we've been trained to think of the family as divorced from the rest of our lives. And then we've been trained to think of our lives as consumers would. We need to consume, including consume each other.

These are all modern distortions and they cannot last because one, they don't reflect human nature and two, throughout human history, people have behaved differently.

These are the unfortunate outcomes. Our current attitudes to sex and our current struggles in contemporary sexuality are the unfortunate outcomes of the clash between the Victorian strait jacket, which was inhuman in many ways, not human. And our equipment, mental and physiological and psychological, our equipment is geared to do one thing and a certain period of history, which had been enormously influential, is telling us to behave differently.

And we are rebelling. We have rebelled in the 1920s to the 1950s. We had rebelled partly in the 1960s to the 1990s. We had rebelled again in the 1990s to 2010.

And now we are taking a break. We are contemplating what had gone wrong, what we could have done better. And hopefully there will be some synthesis between all these periods, taking the best, taking the best from each, putting it all back together, this humpty dumpty and incorporating gender fluidity and sexual fluidity and orientations with a lot of tolerance and seeing a world where if you want a relationship, you can get one easily. If you want casual sex, it's your thing. Go for it with mutual respect and reciprocity and a modality of intimacy.

And where sex education is equitable and focused on the pleasure and the needs of both parties to the interaction. We still have a long, long way to go.

But this class and several other classes like it around the world may be the start.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you. Any comments, any disagreements, any criticisms, feel free to send them to me.

I again am referring you to your bibliography pack and I'll put some references in the description part of this video on YouTube as well.

Thank you.

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