Sex is the only one of the basic drives that a person can go without for a whole lifetime and not die. But if every human being goes without sex for a lifetime, the species will die. If a person doesn’t eat or drink or breathe or excrete -- all those other drives -- the person will die, but the species will not.
Lately there have been zombie stories in the media which purport to be about sex: people who kill and eat people, but that isn’t about sex at all. Nor is it about being bullied in childhood or somehow twisted by adolescence or perverted as an adult. It is broken machinery in the brain, probably at the reptile level. (You remember that the brain is an evolved accumulation of “brains.”) Killing and eating one’s own species goes back before mammals to when creatures were still laying eggs. It’s biological, not psychological. In time we will probably find out what is broken. What we will be able to do about it, aside from imprisonment, is going to be an even bigger mystery.
In the best of all possible worlds, the genetic drive for sex will be accompanied by the memetic drive for affectionately bonded eroticism. Enough people enough of the time will choose heterosexual relations to create babies and will stay together or in some other supportive arrangement (the family as nest) until the babies are able to take care of themselves. All subhuman babies get kicked out when they reach adolescence, but humans must consider “taking care of oneself” to begin after the brain surge in the early twenties. Some people kick their children out during adolescence anyway, especially boys. Not taking care of a fertile adolescent girl can mean having to take care of their offspring as well.
Like other prey animals, humans can produce more babies than they have the capacity to feed and shelter because a high proportion have always been lost to malfunction or death. This is the double side of the prey/predator equation: humans are predators, even against each other, but they are also prey, again against each other but also in terms of environment and other creatures. Our worst predators are those entities that hitchhike on our motives and practices, including sex and simple bodily contact: fleas, lice, mites, bacteria, viruses and prions -- which aren’t even alive. In fact, sometimes our composite bodies turn on ourselves and we become auto-immune. I suppose you could consider that a kind of auto-cannibalism.
So there had to be enough of an excess to compensate for the bad odds against humans. Only a hundred years or so ago the odds of raising enough babies to take care of two parents in old age were so tough that it took a man sometimes a sequence of two or three wives he could impregnate yearly. Not sequential because of divorce, but because the women died in childbirth or simply wore out. Men wore out as well, and were exposed to grave danger, including combat. We’re talking about my great-grandmother here. But now things have changed. The world has a great excess of children and a shortage of parents. My own parents and their sibs were careful to limit their children to two each. Among my cousins quite a few have not had any children, myself included.
There needs to be a separate specific word for sex that is not sex for reproduction, but the spin-off seductive magnetisms that compel nonreproductive sex despite all cautions or limits. That kind of sex has become not only a commodity in itself but the framework for selling other commodities: hygiene, clothing, music, transportation, furniture, scent and makeup, on and on. Just about everything these days is connected somehow to commodified sex, a measure of value and prestige. Children are also commodified, as well as pets which can be conveniently “put to sleep” or abandoned if one loses interest. But that’s a different post.
Look at the commodification of actual intercourse itself. Allowing one’s body to be used, particularly if one can convincingly portray pleasure, is a very old and irrepressible way of turning a profit. Owning someone who can be forced to provide this service, usually a female slave, maybe a male, sometimes a child, was supposed to have been ruled illegal. Guess again. Today some live in marriage that is bondage, some live in brothels as commodities, some are outright owned. Even American law presumes ownership of one’s children. Now that there is a huge worldwide excess of unwanted, unprotected children, it is said that a person can buy a child from a Third World country for less money than a puppy with a pedigree. The slightly older boys roam the streets like pye dogs.
We worry a lot about the individual desirable child being grabbed off the street by a stranger, some monster. Few of us are even aware of child “trafficking” which does not trouble Wayne Pacelle and the HSUS crowd as much as chickens being stuffed into cages too tightly. It is documented that children are bought and sold, used for labor or for sex. If they become troublesome, diseased, or simply too old to be attractive. they are casually killed as though they were livestock. The way in the 19th century illegally shipped slaves and Chinese brides were drowned at sea to avoid the law catching up with their sea captain captors.
Today’s level of commodification is new. The world has never done this on today's planetary scale of modern transportation and communication. This is organized industrial slavery and prostitution, unchallenged by any social entity, not even nations or United Nations. That’s not all.
These practices are synergistic -- several forces interacting together -- in the same way that the HIV-AIDS pandemic is several diseases that magnetize each other: TB, Hep C, all the STD’s, malnutrition, skin infections, bowel infections and disorders, brain malfunction. The synergy around sex slavery is violence, drugs, confinement, madness. Plus all the disease pandemics. It is a rising tide that does not stay within its natural population because the profits come from interacting with the rest of us.
The population of the planet is being reduced towards a lower carrying capacity in a very brutal way. At a certain point nothing individuals do counts because they are overwhelmed by the whole. Victims of the forces listed may not be able to physically reproduce or raise babies to functioning adulthood. Those who form a world-wide organized crime network do not care. They mis-calculate that they can protect themselves.
We associate evolution and emergent new abilities with progress and virtue. That which is “good” is that which supports prosperity and growth. But survival is not based on virtue. You’ve heard “the good die young?” Survivors do what they have to. They save themselves, not the larger group. The wicked think their wickedness will save them; the virtuous think their virtue will save them. They are both wrong. In the end we survive or die out together.
Most human beings have evolved a sense of empathy and compassion that is carried in the brain cells behind the forehead. Those people intervene if they see suffering. But there is a trick (maybe that’s a pun) that is not genetic but carried in the memes of culture. Thinkers call it “Othering.” It is the practice of pretending that those we can’t or don’t want to help and understand are “Other.” They’re not even our species. “It’s different for them. They don’t grieve like us.”
Any group can be “Othered”: women, children, people with a different appearance or preference or religion. It is a way of reversing evolutionary empathy. If enough people “reverse evolve”, there will not be enough empathetic people surviving to raise human children like themselves. The whole will survive by eliminating compassion. It will be simpler.