Rerunning this from two years ago.
It seems my recent post The Waning of Desire: Thoughts on Modesty and Its Opposite is in danger of being summed up by a familiar phrase: “Modest is Hottest.” My fault, I did put “modest” in the title. My main aim was not to focus on the dangers of improper dress, although it was a piece of the story.
On the “M is H” social campaign, I find the phrase irritating, the sloganeering insulting, and the reasoning confusing…To dress modestly is hottest? Then are we aiming at being “hot”, sexually provocative, after all? But to do this by covering up is OK? It’s alright to want to turn on our observers as long as it looks like it’s unintentional? As long as we don’t technically break any dress code rules?
I don’t think that’s what they mean to say either. Must remember to think about popular slogans before we repeat them.
My real point was that a lot of people in our society have lost their connection to something primal and instinctual, so much a vital part of our glorious design, that it is intrinsic to being human and being alive. It is the natural drive to desire and seek sexual satisfaction.
It would be almost impossible in a given day to completely avoid not only explicit sexual images and situations, but even remotely suggestive sexual ideas. We are washed with waves of generic public sexuality almost everywhere. And our media culture no longer arranges its schedule so as to spare children from things they won’t understand. There can be little doubt that children are indeed the object toward which much sexually-infused content is aimed. Just trying to create an uncritical and trusting market.
But the result of all this constant sexual stimulation is not what was intended. There is evidence that some young people are bored with sex.
It is hard to believe possible. Some documentation needed?
The day after I posted, I read this article: Bearing New Images about iconic acclaimed anime filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. He has been writing for years about the condition of popular culture in his beloved Japan. There are people under the age of 25 in my life, so I read it. Miyazaki has been sounding grave worries about Japanese culture and its effects on Japan’s society. And here is the notable piece:
“…on one point he is surely, but sadly, right: Japan is in peril. Indeed, it’s dying. In its 2013 survey of the sexual habits of Japanese, the Japan Family Planning Association (JFPA) discovered that a catastrophic number of Japanese teens and young adults, aged 16-24, have lost the desire for sex. A quarter of Japanese young men were “not interested in or despised sexual contact”; 45 percent of women reported the same.”
This is astonishing. These young people are bored not only with media-image sex, but are bored with real sex.
I believe we are seeing evidence of similar things right here. Young people flirt with one another by very graphically mimicking sexual situations. Dancing consists of a variety of pantomime sex acts. Near nudity is the only way to dress, and embarrassment over very personal contact has been lost.
To do so is still thought rebellious. Naughty, bad, cool, whatever. But it might just be a habit without a reason. It’s an act. The champagne cork doesn’t seem to pop. All that simulated stimulation leads nowhere. The normal human response doesn’t seem to follow.
Did you think it was possible to make young, healthy people uninterested in sex? I did not.
I could be wrong. Maybe all that focus on sex is real. Maybe there’s lots of it going on. But maybe it’s just a self-assuring pose.
Our young people are saturated in the popular culture to a degree not seen before. We could turn the TV off and leave the living room. They carry all TV, all media, all of human information, in their hands in one slim device. They have media coming at them from everywhere, all the time.
Add anime culture. Surround them with hero tales, romances, ghost stories, horror, all fractured and rearranged via postmodernism. Then remove all real human beings and replace them with cartoons. Imagine the possibilities. Heroes and villains drawn to order.
Imagine being totally submerged in this popular culture, cosplaying all the time.You identify with anime characters. You are someone else, and that person is digital, two-dimensional and totally imaginary. Imagine how boring cultivating real relationships with real people must seem.
We might have a generation, at least, whose ideal of masculinity and femininity is truly imaginary. Are young men learning what to seek in a partner from the anatomically-impossible standards set by anime women? How many times have you heard a young woman pining wistfully for a man like the hero in her favorite Disney movie? Our kids are looking for cartoon people to build lives with.
They may be disappointed.
The same article goes on to explain why it matters:
“Not surprisingly, in 2012, fewer Japanese babies were born than in any other recorded year. The consequences are clear: JFPA director Dr. Kunio Kitamura warns that Japan will ‘perish into extinction.’”
Will large numbers of young people lack the motivation to build enduring connections with other people, to work hard to support others, to build, to produce, to cultivate? Will they inhabit little solitary islands of self-interest and constant entertainment, wistfully looking for meaning? If so, we all lose.
Not so long ago, it was not considered crass or utilitarian to expect that young people would naturally be driven to seek marriage partners at least partially because they wanted a sexual relationship. Social consensus still agreed that sex was most honorable inside marriage.
And as I pointed out, when we attain a reliable sexual relationship in marriage, we get much more than we thought we were getting. The drive that motivates us to seek sex is also the drive to find faithful connection and sublime oneness with another human being. And then we get so much more than we asked for.
Sexual desire is meant to compel us toward important things like finding permanent mates, reproducing, creating families. Families and children need financial support, so people pursue careers and create homes. They cultivate unique cultures in their homes. They build an interdependent society. They pass on a heritage.
Sex (in marriage) requires you to be the right person, work hard and sacrifice, and maintain a committed loyal relationship. I need hardly point out that the formula marriage= sex has been lost, gone out of fashion like spats. Sex is no longer treasured as something special which only happens in the context of a unique commitment.
And when it’s regarded as common, easily obtained, meaningless…who is going to work for that? And why should you be excited about it?
We’re losing marriage. Maybe sex is going next. Maybe there was a real connection between the two.