Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Sexual Revolution: Very Bad for Polar Bears

I have identified a cost of the sexual revolution that had not occurred to me: a massive increase in greenhouse gases and the accompanying global climate change, including both changes in weather patterns and in oceanic chemistry. When you add that to the huge increase in obesity, it actually starts to look as though the costs of the sexual revolution may exceed its benefits.

Now, one might say that you should isolate the effects of the sexual revolution from other changes that happened to coincide with it. For instance, if anything we might expect the sexual revolution to lead to a decrease in obesity, since people spend more of their lives actively looking for sex. So ceteris paribus the sexual revolution may have made us slimmer. And yet I count obesity as a cost - why?

Because obesity trends, as well as global climate change, are driven by shifting patterns of economic activity, without which the sexual revolution almost certainly wouldn't have occurred. Industrialization made us much richer and shifted people from the countryside, with its rural values and high search costs, to cities and suburbs. In cities, there are "thick" markets for sex, and non-traditional social institutions support sporadic, anonymous interactions (for instance, the rule of law replaces basic reputational control mechanisms in preventing cheating - necessary because in the urban environment, a lot of interactions are not "repeat games," whereas in small towns everything is a repeat game).

So industrialization facilitated the sexual revolution, but alas, it also caused a massive increase in our output of greenhouse gases. Likewise, the shift from manual labor to sedentary lifestyles contributed to the explosion of obesity, but it also promoted the sexual revolution (again, by putting people into urban areas where the sexual revolution could take off).

I will continue to think of negative trends that coincided with the sexual revolution and were in some sense connected to it, and hopefully what will end up happening is that our evaluation of the sexual revolution will boil down to, "Are humans better off now than they were 50 years ago?"

7 Comments:

Blogger Sarang said...

Really the problem is that your argument re sex workers was irrelevant to Alan's point. The demand-based model of the SR is that women's lib led to jobs which led to decreasing importance of husbands and thus to lower demand for husbands (+ decline of LTCR). Your statement that the SR didn't create the jobs is true but point-missing, as on this model the SR is a _consequence_ rather than a cause of women's lib. In other words, the sets "consequences of women's lib for sexual relations" and "consequences of SR for sexual relations" are almost exactly the same set in my mind, and I don't know what it means to talk about one without talking about the other. Perhaps you mean something very specific by the SR; if so you should write a post defining your terms.

2:48 PM  
Blogger James said...

By "sexual revolution" I just mean the shift in norms and patterns of sexual behavior that took place as the baby boom generation came of age. I do not mean to encompass things like women's suffrage, the admission of women to formerly all-male colleges, that sort of thing. If you don't think these things can be separately analyzed, then it doesn't seem to me that there is such a thing as a sexual revolution, for our purposes. Hence my point about the industrial revolution. If the sexual revolution is meant to encompass all of its causes, then we must cast our net very wide.

The other point I would make is that if we make this shift, then we are no longer really discussing the sexual revolution as such. One might say something like, "The loosening sexual mores that happened in the 1960s, which I emphatically do not wish to give the label 'sexual revolution,' were bad for some women." And we could all agree that this is true, since our defense of the sexual revolution has more to do with things like jobs and education than with sex.

2:57 PM  
Blogger Sarang said...

I'm a little confused about what you think this argument is about. As far as I can tell, there are two pretty separate questions: (1) Have recent changes in sexual norms been good for people in general? (2) Is your model of the SR reasonable/essentially correct? It's clearly possible to disagree with (2) without taking a strong position on (1); this is all that the demand argument does. Your reply re SR not being _responsible_ for jobs is point-missing because the point is just that your model of the SR is at odds w/ reality because it's missing the dynamics of demand for husbands.

Also, re (1) I think your arguments about the SR slosh over into the realm of the purely economic: take e.g. your defense of the utility of LTCRs as economic insurance. I don't know how to evaluate this separately from the obvious point that many functions served by the traditional marriage are now less important b'se women have jobs. This is related to my Q. about nonsense hypotheticals; I can just about imagine a society in which "women's lib" happens without SR (I should blog about this at some point) but it is a very different society in all sorts of ways.

3:48 PM  
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