Maybe the West's low birth rate arrived when sex was defeated by boredom? One writer's offbeat reflection on how sexuality overload has backfired.
SAO PAULO — Moving house is a bit like Russian roulette. I know, I've just moved into a new flat myself. The first night, there was quite a festa next door. But I managed fine, plugging my ears with the appropriate material to be sure to get my ten hours of sleep, without which I look like an extra from The Walking Dead. And I bite too.
The following night, when I went to bed, it started again. I tried to meditate but to no avail. In the darkness of by bedroom, my eyes fixed on the ceiling, I pricked up my ears. I could hear laughing, shouting, moaning, objects falling on the floor.
I banged on the wall, once, twice, three times. Nothing. I got up, walked to my neighbor's door, and just as I was about to kick it down, I heard a sentence that paralyzed me, "Go on, Messi!"
Two possibilities: Either the world famous soccer player Lionel Messi was my neighbor, or he was the object of my neighbors' private fantasies. I put my ear against the door to try and crack the mystery. No, there was no one and nothing X-rated at all: My neighbors were playing PlayStation.
I went back to my flat carrying the world's sadness on my shoulders. I laid down on my bed. The laughing, shouting, moaning, objects falling on the floor, continued. Later, much later, I finally was able to fall asleep.
What the hell is wrong with boys these days?
The next morning, I heard my neighbor opening his door. I opened mine. He was visibly exhausted, looking rather gaunt. He shook my hand with all the vigor of someone on death row. He introduced himself: a university student. I seized the occasion to raise my grievance: the noise at improper hours, especially for someone who needed to get up early to work.
He blushed like a child and promised to "control" himself. See, it was all the addiction's fault, video games with buddies and even female friends (oh, the horror). He chuckled, ashamed. I chuckled too, defeated. I told him, "Nice meeting you, son," before shutting the door with one worrying question on my mind: What the hell is wrong with boys these days?
I called science to the rescue. A study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior claims that young American adults (the so-called Millennials, born in the 1980s and 1990s) seemed to have no great interest in sex.
It gets worse when you compare new generations to their parents, born in the 1960s or 1970s. Based on current patterns, the parents look promiscuous, debauched even. Even worse: for 15% of those aged between 20 and 24, sexual activity is so non-existent that they might perfectly well donate their private parts to science.
Back in the days, we used to laugh with the classic joke, "No sex please, we're British." Now, it seems the whole world (even Brazil!) has become British. Brazilian writer Millôr Fernandes once wrote that the best aphrodisiac was prolonged abstinence. It's one of the rare occasions in which Fernandes was both optimistic, and wrong.
The best aphrodisiac is not prolonged, but forced abstinence. If "sexual intercourse began in 1963," as Philip Larkin wrote in one of his poems, it explains the people's enthusiasm for flowers and bees in the sixties and seventies. There were excesses, to be sure. But these excesses are comparable to the sickness a starving man might feel after stuffing himself with too much meat in one go.
When the sons arrived, sex had become so omnipresent that the whole mystery was lost.
Oh, how I miss my grandpa's joy as he remembered the first time he'd seen a woman's knees. "The knees!" he used to say, with tears of gratefulness and nostalgia filling his eyes. After he'd married my grandma, came ten children.
Nowadays, the West is in a demographic crisis. The reasons are widely known, from contraceptives to job insecurity, all delaying the age of motherhood (and fatherhood) beyond 40 and leading to the absence of generational replenishment.
But I always felt that it might go deeper than that. The West stopped making babies because sex was defeated by boredom. Before the sexual revolution, our grandpas used to dream of knees. After the revolution, our fathers threw themselves at the flesh. When the sons arrived, sex had become so omnipresent — in cinema, on TV, on the Internet — that the whole mystery was lost along the way.
Meanwhile, child production remains strong in the Muslim world. Even Turkey's President Erdogan, to take revenge on Europe (and the Netherlands) has called on Turkish people abroad to make, at least, five children per family. That's easy, in a culture that still cultivates the mystery surrounding knees and breasts.
So, what's my suggestion to save the Western world? Maybe wearing a burqa at home. Then young singles can trade in their PlayStation or other games and buttons to get their hands on.
*This article was originally written in Portuguese by Worldcrunch iQ expert contributor João Pereira Coutinho, a journalist with Folha De S. Paulo. It was translated by iQ language contributor Marc Alves.
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