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Stuffed rabbits copulating are on display at the Palais de la Decouverte (scientific museum) in Paris on October 23, 2012 as part of an exhibition.
Francois Guillot/AFP via Getty Images

Sex! Now that I have your attention, let's talk about an article. On Monday the New York Times published an opinion column with the headline "Have More Sex, Please!" In the article, Magdalene J. Taylor made the case that we should all be doing it more not just for our own health, but for the very health of society.

"Sex isn’t the sole form of fulfilling human interaction and certainly isn’t a salve for loneliness in all forms," Taylor wrote. "Still, it should be seen as a critical part of our social well-being, not an indulgence or an afterthought. This is in large part because the rise in loneliness closely parallels a decline in sex."

Taylor then cited some statistics showing that across the board, people of all genders are having less sex and spending less time with friends. This contributes to loneliness, which in turn contributes to poor social and health outcomes:

Estimates vary, but somewhere between a third and two-thirds of Americans report being lonely. Loneliness exists on a feedback loop: Fraying cultural bonds, damaged physical health and reduced social contact both exacerbate loneliness and are exacerbated by it, to the point that loneliness lowers life expectancy. Loneliness is a challenging phenomenon for researchers to quantify, but there are telltale signs — and they point to a society losing its way.

There are many reasons that combine to create this distressing lack of sex, friendship, and connection, and Taylor identified a few of them: "The loneliness epidemic has been brought about by myriad factors that have been exacerbated over decades. Social media is one culprit; the 20th century’s war of attrition against walkable communities is another."

I'm on board with this analysis, and especially appreciate the recognition that structural factors have ramped up the atomization of daily life. The destruction of public spheres and increasing rates of social isolation are both cause for concern and a call to action. So what can be done? What would it take to rearrange the components of our shared lives in such a way that people are empowered to pour energy into friendships, romantic partnerships, sexual relationships, and community? What would we have to do to help ensure that everyone's needs, including social and sexual needs, are met?

Maybe we legalize sex work and treat sex workers with respect and care. Maybe we shorten the work week, accepting a decrease in productivity and profit as a worthy tradeoff for increased social and sexual satisfaction. Maybe we provide free healthcare so people feel well enough to have sex in the first place, or invest in public childcare so adults have more time. Or cap rents, so people aren't as stressed about paying the bills. Or create real sex education programs that teach young people so they can be more confident that a sexual encounter won't leave them unsatisfied or worse. Or challenge the prevailing notions of what romantic love and sex can look like. Maybe we turn golf courses into public sex forests. This is a brainstorming session; there are no bad ideas!

Well, there's maybe one. Given the complexities and magnitude of this collective problem, which are carefully described in Taylor's article, exhorting individual people to solve society's loneliness by simply getting fucked comes across as silly. From the piece:

The loneliness epidemic may be a societal issue, but it can be solved, at least partly, at the level of individual bedrooms. Those of us in a position to be having more sex ought to be doing so. Here is the rare opportunity to do something for the betterment of the world around you that involves nothing more than indulging in one of humanity’s most essential pleasures.

Now, it is funny to imagine a reader getting to this part and saluting, freshly committed to the duty of getting it on for the betterment of the world. But the discrepancy between the thoughtfully stated problem and proposed solution is as frustrating as it is predictable. Pointing to a widespread collective issue and then assigning the responsibility of fixing it onto the individual is classic analysis for the Times. Consider this next part (emphasis mine):

Having more sex is both personal guidance — your doctor might well agree — and a political statement. American society is less connected, made up of individuals who seem increasingly willing to isolate themselves. Having more sex can be an act of social solidarity.

Are individuals isolating themselves, or is it the case—as Taylor suggested earlier in the piece—that they are being isolated from each other by a social and political economy that is hostile to collectivism and community? If it's the latter, what is the point of pretending otherwise?

Perhaps the headline "Have More Sex, Please!" alone is radical enough to the Times' readership to make their monocles plop into their snifters, but Taylor's column ends up as an enticing setup with no climax. It fits in with the newspaper's broader liberal ideology that the general state of things can get better without a change to the basic dispensation, at least in any way that might be uncomfortable for its readers. And that's the neat trick: The column identifies a problem with the status quo, and then proposes a solution that only serves to reinforce it.

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