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A Latin proverb warns, "Excess of delight palls the appetite."
Shifts in language constitute one of the most revelatory ways to spot an incoming lifestyle, trend, movement, what-have-you. About four years ago, on a visit to the Getty Villa, I told an accompanying friend there would be an inevitable pushback against the sexual hedonism we were seeing, and that I personally welcome the counter revolution. This friend was a staunch acolyte of the Woke Church and found my assessment "too puritanical” and “weirdly fascist” and strongly opined that “nothing was wrong” with the culture, that both young men and women enjoyed how “fun” the market for partner selection was and that if indeed there were men who failed to find women, it was solely due to their “patriarchal and toxic concepts of cis hetero normative masculinity.”
Obviously these words mean nothing anymore and are embarrassing signals at best and rhetorical chains at worst. So I laughed. We carried on enjoying The Visitation by Jacopo da Pontormo. My favorite painting of Mary(am).
Four years after the Getty Villa trip, there is undeniable proof of increasing hostility to what is commonly described as “degeneracy” in some corners of the internet, “loss of innocence,” “extreme vulgarity,” “propaganda for obscenity,” and other fairly valid terms. Consider the increasing trends—however cringe they might be, they are sincere and yearn for something far more stable than hooking up with strangers—“cottage core” and “trad life” from young women (often anonymous for understandable reason) on Twitter. There is unmistakable caution exercised against Jezebel op-ed words like “empowerment” and “liberation.”
Young men are also encouraging each other to improve their lives. Apart from the Bronze Age Pervert advice to lift more, they urge to crush “coomerism,” which is a hilarious and damning meme based on the soggy lifestyle of someone (typically a male) whose religion is daily masturbation to porn, following nude accounts on social media, being turned on by anime (you know the type, the 40-year-old childless loner who has hentai on his Facebook, whose plaintive mother begs him to find a wife while his hair turns gray and his wrinkles deepen), and spending life in moral squalor. It is obvious that both sides, men and women, seek direction, structure, and social restraints on excessiveness, and the language they use demonstrates this need.
Put aside the collective trad life memes, Gen Z calling sex positivity “overrated,” the immense popularity of Twitter accounts like OnlyFans Girls Posting Their Ls, and crush-coomerism cris de coeur for a second. Consider the woman who tore down OkCupid posters on the D train in New York in September. “All of this is gross,” she said crumpling posters for polyamory, blowjobs, watering an erection, fingering apples, looking up a woman’s skirt, and open mouth tongue wrestling. “For kids to be looking at this,” she says, “is that OK?” As she carries on, another woman calmly tells her, “Nicely done. That’s what bravery looks like.”
I appreciated the video for several reasons. For starters, whether the lady intended it or not, it was a forceful condemnation of creative directors who have tarnished our public utilities with their “art” that historian Roger Scruton aptly said comes from the “modern cult of ugliness.” Such “art” is purposefully created, he wrote, to “demean and desecrate the human image.” When it isn’t boring like every MacBook ad, it relies on shock to demand our attention and thinning patience. This habitual befouling of life is then celebrated as "powerful.” A body of deliberate language is used to justify this assault on the senses.
“The official uglification of our world is the work of the ivory-towered elites of the liberal classes—people who have little sympathy for how the rest of us live and who, with their mania for modernizing, are happy to rip up beliefs that have stood the test of time for millennia,” Scruton wrote.
Secondly, I was drawn to the video because the woman appeared as tired as I am of transgression for transgression’s sake. It should be obvious by now that transgression has meaning only when there is strict demand for obedience. But in a society where libertine hedonism already permeates and controls the arts, culture, politics, and technology (since the 1960s roughly), “transgression” is toothless. Eventually it becomes invidious. A culture where the audience mindlessly celebrates the crucifix pickled in urine by the likes of Andres Serrano, for example, is a culture where transgression is already the religion. Pushing against it, thus, becomes the real offense.
But chiefly, the woman’s attack on the OkCupid ads spoke to my belief in the philosophical precept of childhood innocence, which is rapidly eroding in the name of liberal experimentation. Although there are people who insist there is nothing wrong with, say, children witnessing BDSM in the street and playing with irreversible body modifications (much like a video game character) to affirm their fluctuating imagination, I wager most people have yet to lose their minds. And some of them are willing to tear lurid ads to make a point.
In addition to this proof of an incoming and arguably needed counter wave to the cult of nothing-is-off-limits, there are—as is the case with any dogma—the worshippers who leave the faith. Consider the ex-converts of Hot Girl Summer, a movement that encouraged ladies to have a “hoe phase” without considering the repercussions of licentious activities, especially on women. In a now-deleted TikTok, a young woman stares at the camera and laments her Hot Girl Summer led to (naturally, I would add) a “Traumatized Girl Fall.”
A counter-wave is inevitable. Generational cycles, you know how it goes. But I argue this pushback against sex positivity, if conducted with calibration, could restore meaning and health to our currently maladaptive society. Since the 1960s, there has been an aggressive effort to divorce sex from consequence. The general idea among this type of free love movement is that sex can be rule-free. A bulk of feminist polemic and similar progressive activism has attempted to socially engineer this dangerous fiction. It’s a fiction that pretends that one can divorce sex from responsibility, risk assessment, power, children, love, tyranny, that sort of thing.
Instead of consequence being factored into these dynamics, the gold standard is then consent. So you can have adults engaging in objectively dysgenic behavior but as long as they both agree to it, the conversation simply ends there. One could argue this is the natural product of postmodernist sex philosophy.
Postmodernists believe that there is no canonical way to explain or understand phenomena. They don’t believe in an objective world because everything, to a postmodernist, is a function of language and everything, to them, is language-mediated. You will notice the most egregious forms of this style of intellectual dishonesty among the gender studies departments of our world, for example. It’s extraordinarily cynical. Naturally, postmodernism shuns necessary categories of right and wrong, good and bad, light and dark, healthy and sick. This extends to our culture of dating, partner selection, and self-actualization today.
After the 1960s, sex was forced out of the realm of the sacred to the domain of the marketplace. And the idea was that the fluidity of the market would sort out the problems, like high status males hoarding most females to low status males becoming risk tolerant and prone to isolation or violence or both. But it didn’t. Now young people are gradually expressing their contempt for these conditions. They may not articulate their unease in harsh fashion as, say, I do. But they know what’s going on.
These people certainly experience the very real effects of the modern dating market and most critically, the dishonesty around sex that dictates our culture. They are beginning to understand, at a skin-deep level, fundamental truths that benefited their elders, such as there are indeed differences between male and female mating strategies (sorry, feminists), that there is something corrosive about being sexually indiscriminate (both biologically and spiritually speaking), that visualizing end goals for a relationship is far better than dating indefinitely without a common dream, that sexual restraint has its advantages, that monogamy puts necessary constraints on female fecundity and male aggression, and that it is on average better to start a marriage and family during one’s biological youth (sorry, coomers).
On top of that, the young ones are becoming refreshingly impervious to the accusations of sounding “purist” and “reactionary.” So, among other things, it is highly possible we will see more youth support for traditional gender roles, starting families early, increased selectiveness in partner choice, and social discouraging of sexual prodigality.
Some call this sex negativity. I call it common sense. If ethnologist and anthropologist J.D. Unwin was alive, he would argue this was bound to happen. After all, the man studied 86 societies to understand if there was a link between sexual freedom and civilizational progress. Unbridled sexual culture (that is, where pre and post nuptial chastity is loosened) leads to the breakdown of society after three generations almost always, Unwin found. He admitted he didn’t know why that it was the case but the “monotonous repetitions” in different societies and civilizations came up eventually.
Societies where socially enforced monogamy was dominant—which is to say, where young human desire was meaningfully restrained and channeled into purpose by way of marriage—were where cultural production involving literature, art, science, architecture, engineering, and agriculture thrived. There is more in his book called Sex and Culture, which I recommend.
That said, if you don’t want to read the book, simply observe the younger folk. Unlike millennials who were bludgeoned to spiritual death by sex positivity and who in their haste to be seen as progressive and open-minded abandoned nearly all caution and judgment, certain cohorts of Gen Z have no qualms with rebuking Hot Girl Summer manifestos and aging coomer lifestyles, and they’re beginning to call for control in partner selection—both by quality and quantity standards. Their peers are starting to lend their support, too. Bit by bit, ounce by ounce. Maybe Evie Magazine will overthrow Bitch Magazine, Tekken style. You never know.
Of course, this is an ongoing conversation that cannot be adequately wrapped up in one Substack entry. I intend to write more on the subject of public morality and culture. For now, however, I encourage you to look around.
As the kids say, the energy has shifted.
Damn. Vindicated again
Oh I love the woman tearing down the OKCupid porn.