A newly-identified epidemic is lose in the land, reported by the Daily Beast’s Chris Lee in this week’s Newsweek, “The Sex Addiction Epidemic.” It is also the subject of a movie coming out soon starring Michael Fassbender entitled “Shame,” and a new reality show series on the Logo cable TV channel entitled, Bad Sex.
The addiction is real, and the epidemic is real, despite the American insistence that everyone is fully responsible for their own behavior and things like addictions, except in the case of the hardest of drugs, and things like brainwashing and mind-control, don’t really exist.
It is truly ironic that our culture teaches us that people are, on the one hand, individual units of free will, and yet at the same time, it has converted over into a consumer-based economy totally driven by endless wealth poured into advertising, the incredibly excessive use of intensely-studied psychological manipulation to get people to do what they might not otherwise.
What has made the TV hit series, Mad Men, so popular, in my view, is its competent demonstration of what proverbial Madison Avenue was like back when it was just getting started, when the post-World War II shift to consumerism in the economy was orchestrated in the 1950s. They were mere novices then, and look how far we’ve come, baby!
America’s production-oriented national economy, which was unleashed with such awesome power to crush tyrannies on two global fronts in World War II, was quickly reined in and tamed after the war. The influence of “Big Oil” caused President Eisenhower to make a fatal strategic error in the early 1950s to devote the nation’s resources toward establishment of an interstate highway system, instead of an interstate rail system.
We’ve been paying the price ever since, in inefficient gas-powered autos and suburban sprawl. The ethos of Ozzie and Harriet and dozens of other entertainment models persuaded Americans to put down their thinking caps and hard hats and instead to mindlessly waste their time in front of TVs and in long commutes.
Puttering around the house and yard, instead of building great new projects to turn the planet into a garden to feed everybody, American citizens were prevailed upon to think small, local and selfishly. Nothing did more to contribute than the invention of the credit card to make buying that new toaster so easy!
Grinding America’s scientific and industrial might to a halt was pressure brought from so-called neo-Malthusians, financiers and policy makers who calculated that serious measures to limit population growth were needed to exact maximum profit from global resources.
Control over the world’s natural resources was a matter of utmost concern since the days of Britain’s Thomas Malthus (1766-1834), who theorized that human population will always grow faster than resources, creating periodic crises. Empires succeeded best who could manipulate those trends to maximum advantage.
The study, use and manipulation of sex was central to this effort, because from sex comes people and population growth. There is a fascinating history of the development of theories and institutions of non-procreative sex among social engineers in the last 150 years.
In short, the “sexual revolution” of the 1960s and 1970s was not aimed at spurring population growth, but the opposite, especially as it could be exported to the Third World. Women were the most victimized, objectified and depersonalized as dumbed-down “sex objects” as pornography industries mushroomed and were shifted from the seamy margins to the center stages of society.
By and large, the effort has worked, with some “unintended consequences,” leaving in its wake the AIDS epidemic (urban gay communities in the 1970s evidencing massive sex addictions) and now, an increasingly sex-addicted American population, its numbers swelling to epidemic proportions, immersed in a veritable orgy of depersonalized Internet-enabled hook-ups, virtual and otherwise.
The greatest danger is not unwanted pregnancies or still-raging STDs, but the emotional lobotomies that sex addicts experience, cut off from a capacity for meaningful interpersonal relationships and reciprocal love.
Thus, this epidemic poses a profound threat to our nation’s most cherished core values, like generosity and compassion. It could wind up being our ultimate undoing.