Liberated modern culture is awash in sex — but more and more people are starving for love and intimacy. What’s worse, most people seem to believe sex and intimacy are the same thing.
I feel increasingly hopeless about the direction of this culture. There was a time when I believed the worrisome things I was seeing were just minor excesses, but I’ve come to believe the culture is irredeemably dysfunctional.
As a result, most modern Americans are bumper to bumper on a highway toward metaphorical hell — and they’re willing to pay any price to get there, because they believe they’re heading toward a paradise of pleasure.
This is destroying lives. And it’s leaving confused people feeling empty as they find that the life of success and pleasure they were promised has turned into a living nightmare.
Three recent stories have me thinking about this tonight.
First, I saw a HuffPost article this week which was headlined “Here’s When We Can (Probably) Have Casual Sex Again.” It was all about when quarantine restrictions will be sufficiently lifted to allow “normal” people to once again resume having sex with complete strangers they randomly meet.
The subtext of the article makes it clear that casual sex — random physical coupling for nothing more than pleasure — is the only way normal people would possibly want to live.
“…[T]here’s been a significant shift towards ‘slow’ dating,” the article reports with alarm, “with users getting to know their matches on a ‘deeper level’ before meeting. In other words, no nookie.”
But this terrible burden — of waiting until you at least know a person as more than just an attractive body — seems to be a horrible thing to be overcome. Is it any wonder that people who think in this way (and live this way) are confused about what intimacy is?
The article even quotes an “intimacy coach,” the very existence of which is pretty strong evidence that culture has modern people confused. In emotionally healthy people, love and intimacy are natural experiences, but sex is a subset of intimacy, not an empty substitute for it.
Second, a story came out Friday about allegations going back almost 10 years about behavior of former LSU football coach Les Miles, who now coaches at Kansas. An extensive internal report for the university at the time — which was just released — documented all the ways in which the married Miles brought attractive female LSU students to his place off campus and tried to have sex with them.
We don’t know of cases in which he succeeded, but a number of women who were upset by his behavior went on record to testify about how he had behaved. Miles denies the behavior, but given the number of accusers with very specific stories — who complained to the university when the events were going on — their stories are credible to me.
That would be bad enough, but men in positions of power have been using their money and success to take advantage of women for millennia. The thing I found even more disturbing was the attitude taken by men online who defended Miles.
“Miles didn’t do anything that real men haven’t been doing for a thousand years,” wrote one typical poster on a sports message board. “Who hasn’t chased some tail when they were at college? That’s what real men do. Soy boys wouldn’t know anything about it. Sure, he was a little older while at college…and married…and the coach. But asking chicks back to his place is what every guy wishes they had the balls to do. This whole thing of ‘he made me feel uncomfortable’ is such a scam. Nothing to see here.”
Someone responded to that by saying, “Agree. Sometime you just have to grab them by the pussy. America used to be filled with men. Now, it is filled with safe spaces.”
“Yep, at least he asked,” wrote another. “Glad he’s not forceful. Gentleman.”
So we should be grateful that he didn’t rape any of the women? That’s a pretty low bar for a “gentleman.” And a number of posters gleefully mentioned that Miles’ wife is unattractive, so that makes this behavior understandable in their minds.
“You know damn well he was banging any young arse that would let him,” another poster wrote. “Frick, we both would do the same thing, and I can’t fault him for it as a man.”
The powerful attitude presented by a lot of people in public today is that “real men” — and presumably “liberated women” — are having as much casual sex they can get away with.
The third incident that has me thinking about this was something I overheard in a restaurant Saturday afternoon.
Three men who appeared to be in their 30s were sitting together and talking loudly. One was telling of a problem he had just had with his wife. He said his wife had started piecing together how extensive his life of casual sex had been before they met. She had been pressuring him for details and he eventually decided to admit at least parts of what she had figured out.
“But I got it handled,” he told his buddies. “I gave her a lot of pathetic [BS] about how I was ashamed of myself for how I’d been before I met her. And I told her that meeting her had changed me for good and I truly regretted my past.”
His friends roared with laughter and then ridiculed what he had told his wife.
“But you didn’t tell her about our trip to Gulf Shores last spring!” one of them said as he made a gesture that I couldn’t see.
They all laughed.
“Oh, she thinks I’m a good little boy now,” the first guy said. “I’ve got her snowed.”
For much of our culture, it’s just accepted that cheating and meaningless sex are normal. These people seem to be the ones who have trouble having healthy relationships with others. They don’t seem to know what healthy intimacy is — and even though they’re having plenty of sexual pleasure, their hearts are shielded from the love and intimacy they really need.
Sex is a great and healthy thing. But if sex is your substitute for intimacy — and you don’t know how to be emotionally vulnerable to someone with whom you can trust your heart — you are missing out on one of your basic needs in life.
If you’re on a path like what I see for so many today, you’ll never know that. In fact, you’ll assume you’re getting what you need — and you’ll chase even more sex as a way to fill a need that will silently gnaw at your heart.
We can have different opinions about sexual morality and when sex is appropriate in a relationship. I have no interest in dictating to other people what their standards ought to be. I have no desire to force my decisions on them. But those of us who do still understand the proper role of intimacy ought to be more open with our psychological and emotional understanding.
More than anything, we need to hold those around us — in our personal lives — to higher standards.
We need to teach our children what’s appropriate and healthy. We need to teach boys and young men that what they’re pressured into — treating girls and women like sexual objects to be treated as prizes — is not a healthy approach to life.
We need to be more careful about what we expect from the people we choose for relationships — and this is especially true for women. If you accept a man who has these sorts of attitudes and history, he’s almost certainly not going to change. He might lie to you because he knows it’s the smart thing to do, but deeply ingrained attitudes of this sort simply don’t change.
Modern culture teaches that meaningless casual sex — purely for pleasure — is normal and good. Those who understand what real intimacy is need to offer a different point of view. And we need to provide different voices in the culture to say so.
I fear that our culture is too depraved and dysfunctional to change, and this is just one tiny point of its dysfunction. But unless somebody is willing to provide an emotionally healthy alternative, this will continue to be the world that we’re sending our children out to be a part of.
And the worst of it all is that we’re sentencing our sons and daughters to repeat this dysfunctional behavior as they go out into the world. This needs to change — starting with us.