You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act--that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let every one see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us?So, according to Prof. Lewis, our age is one of sexual gluttony, since our appetite for sex is keen even in the presence of bounteous access. I have never fully agreed with Lewis' above quote and even now find myself siding somewhat with his unnamed critic. Lewis' wrote his work in the middle part of the last century. I highly doubt he could have foreseen the wreckage that feminism and the Sexual Revolution has wrought on our cultural fabric.
One critic said that if he found a country in which such strip-tease acts with food were popular, he would conclude that the people of that country were starving. He means, of course, to imply that such things as the strip-tease act resulted not from sexual corruption but from sexual starvation. I agree with him that if, in some strange land, we found that similar acts with mutton chops were popular, one of the possible explanations which would occur to me would be famine. But the next step would be to test our hypothesis by finding out whether, in fact, much or little food was being consumed in that country. If the evidence showed that a good deal was being eaten, then of course we should have to abandon the hypothesis of starvation and try to think of another one. In the same way, before accepting sexual starvation as the cause of the strip-tease, we should have to look for evidence that there is in fact more sexual abstinence in our age than in those ages when things like the strip-tease were unknown. But surely there is no such evidence. Contraceptives have made sexual indulgence far less costly within marriage and far safer outside it than ever before, and public opinion is less hostile to illicit unions and even to perversion than has been since Pagan times. [C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Macmillan, 1973), pp. 89-90]
Sure, the socially dominant and the unscrupulous may be getting more sex, but others are finding themselves increasingly isolated in a depersonalizing culture. The burgeoning online dating industry, as a case in point, is indicative of how intimacy has become elusive for many souls. Moreover, if we are to believe, as some do, that married people have more sex than singles, then a decline in marriage itself can point to sexual starvation.
Some fellow bloggers tackling men's issues also point to the haremization of our culture. It could be the Government Harem of Marriage 2.0 and family law. It could be the Cultural Harem of women chasing a tiny pool of "Alphas" or women holding out for idealized mates that don't exist. Either way, men are getting locked out.
So I think Lewis' appraisal of our situation is deficient. I am not surprised that porn has mushroomed and been normalized. I am not surprised that some are now talking about the next phase of technologies in the sex industry (teledildonics, haptic technology, sexbots, whatever). What else could have happened? The relationship between the sexes is highly dysfunctional. Men are told that they can't live without sex or women. The Pink Wurlitzer plays that tune non-stop. So when people don't get any intimacy in a healthy way, its understandable when they scrape around in trash cans for poor substitutes.
Social conservatives just don't get it. They are following C. S. Lewis' line of reasoning. They typically think gluttony is the problem, when in many cases, desperation borne out of deprivation is the problem. If they do acknowledge an intimacy famine, their "solution" is Marriage 2.0. That is no real solution. The institution of marriage must be fixed in our culture, shorn of its misandrist elements before it can be taken seriously again. I have consistently preached that men can do without intimacy with women if only for the sake of their dignity and sanity. Indeed, sensible men will do without if the medicine is worse than the ailment. In many cases, it is.
Yet the problem remains. Men don't really have a lot of good options, so many of them take poor ones. The solution to our sexual ills cannot be reduced to theological and political soundbites. The religious pundits will yammer on and rail against men, but more male-bashing will accomplish very little. The hungry are still hungry. We've only just made them feel guilty about it. The Mutton Chop Tease Show will continue.