So. What’s new with you?
Once upon a time, back in the pre-historic days of dial-up internet connections, installing AOL from a DVD sent in the mail, and dot-matrix printers that worked only slightly more quickly than hammer and chisel on stone, Yours Truly used to give vent to what got me All Worked Up in a monthly column of that title right here on ERWA. You’re welcome to look through the archives if you’d care to follow my long, slow descent into madness and depravity.
This was back in the first decade of the century, during the moron-o-cratic Dynastic Age of Dubya II, the Dim-witted or, as I look back upon them now, the Good Old Days.
Since then, I’ve mostly stayed on the sidelines; simply observing, making notes, noticing trends, and otherwise just manning my post on the watchtower. However, like an obnoxious relative or an annoying skin rash, sometimes I’ve just gotta flare up again and cause an irritation to stay in practice.
So, what’s got me All Worked Up these days? Nothing less than the idea of sex and the possible end of civilization as we know it. How’s that for a conversation starter?
Being a student of the social sciences, I’m drawn to the study of utopias and dystopias; concepts of perfect or idealized societies and their antitheses; apocalyptic, catastrophic breakdowns of civilizations into chaotic, nightmarish hellscapes. Think “The Jetsons,” where George’s vehicle becomes a suitcase, versus “Mad Max: Glory Road,” where Max’s vehicle is a damned tank.
Not that the end of the world hasn’t been on peoples’ minds lately. Sometimes it feels like we’re all living in a cosplay scenario combining elements of The Stand, V for Vendetta, and Idiocracy. One pictures three ominous-looking Horsemen visible on the horizon, watching..waiting. One turns to the other two and says, “Where the Hell is Pestilence? We’re on a schedule here!”
“He had trouble getting a sitter, War. He’s on his way.”
Global economic crises. A global pandemic. Threats of clashes between the capitalistic exploiters of wealth versus the socialistic terrorists of redistribution. Violent authoritarian movements. Potential new shooting wars, between and within nations and alliances. And, oh yeah, global climate change not only wreaking havoc with the world of today, but also being seen as an omen of what could be one more mass extinction of most of the life on Earth. The frightening rate at which bees are vanishing these days. Bees! The most important living beings on this planet are bees, and they are DYING. If this isn’t apocalyptic, I don’t know what is.
Have I missed anything? If so, please don’t remind me. I’m depressed enough already.
Of course, no picture of the World of The Future would be complete without a snapshot of the World of The Future of Sex. Usually, these pictures are found in the dystopian societies, and sex in these societies is not pretty.
Picture Gilead in Margaret Atwood’s masterpiece, The Handmaid’s Tale, where fertile women are reduced to being baby machines in a Christianity-based theocratic dictatorship. Think of Oceania in Orwell’s 1984, where the protagonist Winston Smith’s ejaculation into his unauthorized girlfriend’s pussy—the very act of sex itself–constituted a “sexcrime” – a literal offense against The State.
The secret to creating a realistic dystopian hellscape is not a matter of inventing a new and unforeseen threat to society. It’s much more effective to simply take a current element of modern society and seeing it through to its logical conclusion.
Getting back to my previous examples, George Orwell wasn’t inventing the world of 1984 out of the whole cloth; he was using as a basis his experiences fighting Fascists in Spain and seeing the inevitable results of life in autocratic societies at that time, such as in Nazi Germany and the U.S.S.R. Ms. Atwood has repeatedly said her inspiration for life in Gilead of the future was reading contemporary stories about life and philosophies among the American Religious Right of today.
So, as I myself contemplate the future of society, inevitably my thoughts turn to the future of sex in society, also as seen through today’s lens. And today happens to be a time of potentially monumental change in how we see ourselves and each other; more so, I honestly believe, than at any other time in literally generations. Somebody, somewhere is looking at today’s sexual culture and stepping into the roles of the likes of Margaret Atwood or George Orwell or Thomas More or even Gene Roddenberry. Could an idealized futuristic society be found in the online annals of “Star Trek” erotic fan-fiction?
You might ask, “What do YOU see in YOUR crystal ball, J.T.? What will be the nature of sex and society after this critical juncture in history?”
I’m glad you asked. First, I think the distinction between a sexual utopia and a sexual dystopia is entirely subjective. I might be horrified that Offred, the protagonist in The Handmaid’s Tale is treated as a piece of property; as a broodmare. On the other hand, somebody somewhere might actually see Gilead, an autocratic theocracy with rigid gender roles and strict conformity to societal norms, and say, “Hmmm. Not a bad idea.” On the other other hand, if someone’s image of dystopia is a sexual free-for-all where consenting adults go at it like something out of a Dionysian tapestry as conceived of by Larry Flynt, someone else, (myself included), might say, “Sign me up.”
Secondly, one of the annoying things about monumental turning points in history is that the aftermath of such turning points is always impossible to predict. After V-J Day in 1945, could anyone have imagined the Cold War? The rise and fall of the Soviet Union? Rock and Roll? The Pill? Playboy Magazine? The internet? Nude selfies, revenge porn, HIV-AIDS, and Swingstock? Purveying and consuming porn through little hand-held devices that also tell time, connect us with “social media,” distract us with wordgames and even allow us to make phone calls?
Of course, the future typically means progress. And progress has been made. Not very long ago, the acceptance of homosexuality in open society, let alone same sex marriage, was simply inconceivable. The roles of women, of teenagers, and people of trans-gender and gender-fluid sexualities have greatly expanded, to mention a few examples. However, progress also usually means, “two steps forward, one step back.” Reactionaries fight to control women’s uteruses and cruel, bigoted parents demand laws trying to brand certain schoolchildren as perverts for wanting to use a different school restroom than the one they’re expected to use.
Getting onto my soapbox here, I think it’s safe to say that sex in the future will be very much like sex of today. Some people pursue an expansion of sexual mores and principles, some pursue a retraction, and both sides see their own efforts as the ones making the world better. A thesis is presented, which is responded to by an antithesis, or counter-thesis, and through the blending of the two, a “synthesis” is reached. In theory, anyway.
So, as I gaze into the future, my visions aided by some killer ganja called “Sumo Grande” and some “Mormon Girlz” videos on PornHub, (yes, that’s a thing. I refer to them for….uh…research purposes), what gazes back at me? What do I see in store? What will be the synthesis of the conflicts through which we write, read, and live every day? What will the sex of tomorrow be like?
I have no idea. Not a fucking clue.
What do you see?