Following the Toronto attack by a self-proclaimed incel (involuntary celibate), there was a lot of talk in the news about what could be done to prevent some men from becoming violent misogynists. One of the suggestions offered was the redistribution of sex. The idea is that – like money and property – sex should be evenly distributed so that no one will go without sex. And if incels can have sex, then they will not become frustrated, violent misogynists.
I have to say I rolled my eyes so hard at this proposal. What was staggering was that a number of opinion writers seemed to think that this was a good idea. Mind you, most of these opinion writers were men, which should tell you something. But the idea that sex can be redistributed the same way as money or property (although have we really ever seen an even distribution of either of those?) is of course ludicrous.
Sex as a commodity takes away the involvement – and enjoyment – of the other person. If you start thinking about sex as a commodity, then it is easier to feel entitled to it, irrespective of what the other person thinks of it. This then contributes to rape culture, as consent will no longer be important.
Sex is not a commodity. Despite the fact that a lot of the language around sex often treats it as a commodity, sex is an activity between two or more people. Sure, masturbation can be enjoyed solo, but in the context of this blog post, I want to focus on partnered sex, as this is what the “redistribution of sex” refers to. The fact that people think about sex as on the same level as property or money – something you can give and receive – is indicative of the problematic thinking about sex in our society. Sex as a commodity takes away the involvement – and enjoyment – of the other person. If you start thinking about sex as a commodity, then it is easier to feel entitled to it, irrespective of what the other person thinks of it. This then contributes to rape culture, as consent will no longer be important.
I find it very problematic to start talking about the “right to sex” in the same way as we would talk about the right to water, or food, or shelter. Of course everyone has a right to be sexually active, but that is different. If everyone has a right to sex, how do you then deal with situations in which a man wants to have sex with a woman, but she turns him down? Does she then deny him the right to sex? Would she be allowed to do so? That kind of thinking is all we need in a culture that is already rife with men who feel entitled to women’s bodies.
Redistribution of sex – as preposterous as the idea is – won’t solve the issue of violent misogynists. No one is telling these incels that they are not allowed to have sex. For one reason or another, no woman has been attracted enough to these men to have sex with them. While we might feel sympathetic for these men that they have never gotten laid, the solution lies not in forcing women in having sex with them. These men already feel entitled to sex in such a strong way that they are willing to carry out attacks on the women they feel “deny” them their right. Spouting theories about redistributing sex only reinforces this idea that they have been denied sex, when in reality there may be a million reasons why these men have never had sex.
We need to teach men – starting when they are young – that they are not entitled to sex. That sex is not a something women should give them.
One of the solutions I have read as being proposed was the use of sex workers and sex robots. If men (and this is almost exclusively aimed at men) can have sex with sex workers and/or sex robots, then this will take away the sex inequality and everyone will be much happier. There is so much wrong with this proposal, I don’t even know where to begin. First of all, sex workers and sex robots are not on the same level. Sex workers are human beings who provide a service for which they get paid. Sex robots are machines. I hope everyone can see the difference there. Secondly, forcing sex workers to somehow address sex inequality by forcing them to have sex with these men is a really bad idea. Will these men pay the sex workers or will this just be a service they have to provide for free? And will this not perpetuate the idea that sex is something men receive, not something they engage in?
Instead of these silly “solutions”, we need to teach men to deal with being involuntarily celibate differently. We need to teach men – starting when they are young – that they are not entitled to sex. That sex is not a something women should give them. I believe that a large amount of frustration of incels stems from the fact that they have grown up believing that at one point in their lives they will have sex. It is a guarantee, a birth right. We need to make sure that future generations are disabused of this notion and we need to teach them that sex is a wonderful activity between two or more people in which these persons should have equal enjoyment. It is a matter of mutual giving and taking, in which all parties should be concerned with the pleasure of the other person. Men should respect women as equal partners in sexual activities, partners they can please and have a good time with. This will not only lessen the frustration in men, but I firmly believe that men who grow up with this understanding will be more successful in finding a sexual partner.
Photo by Monica Melton on Unsplash