The news comes to us from Great Britain, but I suspect that it is not just limited to Albion.
The more our culture is sexualized, the more we are open and honest about exhibiting sexual imagery, the less people have sex. Or, the less sex they have when married.
It reminds one of a line from an English poem: “Water, water every where/ Nor any drop to drink.”
Marital therapist Anthony Marshall is on the case:
While our culture becomes more sexualised than ever before, we’re less likely actually to be having sex, and we’re certainly not talking about it – even to professionals like myself. I call it the silent epidemic.
You could call it a crashing irony, but still, one recalls Augustine’s remark that there’s a reason why people have sex in the dark. Could it be that the supposedly repressive attitudes toward sexuality, the attitudes that kept sex out of the sunlight and out of the public eye were designed to enhance, not inhibit, sexual desire?
Culture warriors who have been tearing down the veil that has covered sex have now succeeded in producing a world where people seem to be having less sex.
On the other side, we should question how much of an epidemic it is. Marshall points out that the most reliable national survey has seen a decrease among married couples from six to five times a month. It’s significant in percentage terms, but it doesn’t feel like a precipitous decline.
Moreover, he does mention that quality is more important than quantity. It is devilishly difficult to measure the quality of anyone’s sexual experiences and to compare it to anyone else’s.
Yet, if depression has become a pervasive modern malady, we should note that it is often accompanied by diminished appetite, both sexual and alimentary.
Be that as it may, Marshall offers his diagnosis:
Of course, some of it is obvious – taking our phones and tablets into the bedroom (and catching up on work emails or playing games), as well as porn entering the mainstream and becoming more acceptable (so it is easy to satisfy the biological need without being intimate with our partner).
However, a greater obstacle with some is the demand we place on ourselves as parents to be ever present and always at the top of our game. Something has to give.
Obviously, porn stars are always at the top of their game. Not really, of course, but as they are presented to the public eye, they always perform at the highest level.
If people are trying to attain to porn star quality sex they will obviously become demoralized. Their sexual experiences will be accompanied with the feeling that they do not measure up to the porn standard.
It’s also true, for some people at least, that the openly sexual images that are saturating the culture, not to mention the constant talk about sex, make it feel more vulgar. Some human beings would be far more interested in performing an act that they consider to be loving than an act that they or their partners see as vulgar and debased.
Marshall identifies some of the myths about sex that make it a less frequent occurrence. How many of them derive from sex’s pornification:
Unfortunately, there are lots of myths about desire and sex that make this extremely hard. The most pernicious is that sex should be spontaneous. So when I suggest planning as one of the bridges from the everyday world of children, bills and chores into the sensual world of love-making, I meet plenty of resistance – even though we’re happy to book concert, theatre or plane tickets and arrange to hook up with friends in advance rather than on the spur of the moment.
The cult to spontaneity does not just derive from the way sex is portrayed on Youporn.
The culture at large has been at war with ritual and routine, to say nothing of conformity for decades now. It has extolled the virtue of spontaneity because it believes that spontaneous enthusiasm provokes and sustains romantic love.
Who could be against that?
It turns out that the demand for spontaneity diminishes desire and reduces the frequency of sexual congress.
So Marshall recommends that couples plan their sexual trysts, even work at sex, however much it violates our current cultural norms:
However, if you’d like to improve your frequency, instigate this simple plan. Flirt with your partner during the day – send sexy texts, exchange private jokes and compliments – so you build a sexual connection. Co-ordinate bedtimes and body clocks, so you go to bed and get up at the same time, to maximise the possibility of sex and, finally, switch off electronic devices in the bedroom (and that includes the TV) so you don’t undo all your good work.