Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Decline Of The Emissionaries

     The “Battle of the Bulge” effect has been prominent in the entertainment media of late, specifically with regard to the promotion of promiscuous, loveless, and dangerous sex. It’s a good sign, for very few such “bulges” result in the victory of the “bulging” side.

     Significant symptoms are detectable by anyone who pays attention to media developments. The deterioration of Hugh Hefner’s “Playboy empire,” the swift ejection of “Sex Box” and “Neighbors with Benefits” from the TV schedules, and the steady demise of “soft-core” magazines such as Cosmopolitan all point to the increasing marginalization of the “sexual emissionaries” and their outlets. In their frantic haste to shore up their positions, many of those who back such productions have been “doubling down.” This gives them the appearance of renewed strength where declining circulation and viewership figures proclaim that there is none.

     Demographics play a part, of course. Ours is an aging society. As we age, our interests turn away from “the things of youth.” The delights of sex are among those things. As little as we like to dwell on anything that compels us to reflect on our physical deterioration, as we age we grow less competent sexually...and less interested in demonstrations thereof.

     There are other factors as well. The one that I find most important is the prevalence of guilt over wasted years and opportunities.

     As I wrote long ago:

     Time is the ultimate gift.

     Time is the medium within which we temporally bound creatures must work. Time is the dimension within which we plan, and execute our plans, and reap the rewards or the lessons they generate. But time is not ours to command....

     This is the forward edge on the sword of time, the somber face of the ticking clock, that two-handed engine which will one day strike, and strike no more. We cannot bottle time. We are forbidden by the laws of the universe to know how much time we'll have. Though memory suggests otherwise, the only instant we can be sure of is now -- and it slips from our grasp before we can even finish pronouncing its name.

     The three most recent generations of Americans have spent more of their youth and vitality pursuing sexual gratification and variety than any previous ones. As we’ve aged and acquired a modicum of perspective – I hesitate to say wisdom – it’s become ever clearer to us that a moment, like a dollar, can be spent only once, and only on one thing. The youth and energy we put to sowing our sexual oats cannot be reclaimed for pursuits we later come to regard as better investments.

     Yes, yes, it’s just a higher-browed way of saying “Ve get too soon old und too late schmart.” That doesn’t mean it isn’t so.

     The emissionaries, however, have founded their business model on a never-ending obsession with sex – and if present trends are a reliable indication, it’s costing them heavily.

     I was drawn to this topic this morning because of this article about Cosmopolitan magazine. It warns frankly about the hazards attendant to promiscuity and sexual deviancy. It’s worth a read, as much for its forthright, unapologetic tone as for its factual assertions. The increase in the frequency of such articles correlates strongly with the current in the attitudes and conduct of young Americans. Yes, some of that current can be attributed to the increasing legal hazards that pertain to casual sex, but perhaps not the greater part. Young people, whatever their diction or educational attainments, are hardly stupid...and they learn from watching their parents and grandparents, an unprecedented percentage of whom are lonely and bitter.

     Few persons can be happy alone. Even fewer hope to spend the second halves of their adult lives that way. But a totally casual “love ain’t nothing but sex misspelled” attitude toward sex and love will get you there more reliably than any other.

     This is not to condemn all premarital sex. (I know, I know; I’m at odds with the Church on this. Don’t tell them, please.) It’s just an observation of the consequences of the all-stops-out / sexual gratification uber alles attitude the past fifty years have inculcated in so many...and which the emissionaries are straining to the limit to reinforce and perpetuate.

     The approach to sex most likely to lead to a lifelong, loving partnership with a member of the opposite sex is more reserved than Cosmopolitan and similar organs would have us believe. (Not totally reserved; as Star said to Scar Gordon in Glory Road, it’s best to sample the wine before you buy the barrel.) Fortunately – and I find myself mildly surprised to be saying this – the increased caution about contact with young women that’s arisen among young men in the wake of recent events on college campuses militates in this direction. But it’s no fault of the emissionaries, who are pushing their “bulge” as hard as they can, for the sake of their business ventures.

     The appropriate countermeasure to that “bulge” can only be applied by parents willing to talk candidly about their own pasts. God knows, most of us from the Boomer and GenX cohorts have plenty to talk about. Just as with drugs, being open about the missteps of one’s own youth can be a great aid to guiding one’s children toward more constructive, less destructive practices.

     It’s not about screeching that “I won’t have that trash in my house!” It’s not about immediately changing the channel when a starlet in a low-cut gown appears on-screen. It’s about honesty and humility among parents. Granted that one can’t be certain to have steered one’s progeny away from foolish behavior; the assumption of invulnerability has been a characteristic of young Americans since our earliest generations. It’s about contrasting the consequences of one’s own youthful decisions with the insouciance of emissionary outlets, highlighting the business model that propels the emissionaries, and suggesting that Junior think about that just a little before he goes out hunting pudenda scalps.

     Of course, if you’re a 26-year-old mother of a 13-year-old daughter, you might need a little help with this, perhaps from a more prudent friend or neighbor.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if I got the full point of this post, but I'd say that my problem with sex and promiscuity in culture and media today ISN'T so much about sex and promiscuity, but about the fairly- to highly-explicit airing of things that should remain private. It's the same argument I have with the gay agenda. Yes, premarital sex happens. Yes, gays will pursue their "thing". So be it, it's been happening since the dawn of time, and it's not my place to cast stones. Nor do I think that these things should be regulated or restricted in a puritanical attempt to control personal moral choices. That's what conscience and religion are for. I just don't think they should be first-tier, front-and-center topics in a civilized society. E.G. not on the news stand, not on primetime, kept behind a literal or figurative curtain. I direct this at the sex-obsessed media and culture, not at you Fran. I agree with the validity of the discussion.

Dr.D said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John said...

While I rarely find myself disagreeing with you, Fran, I'm not sure the decline in businesses like Playboy has anything to say about a decline in interest, but is more a reflection of the widespread availability of much more explicit sexual material, largely for free, all over the web.

tz said...

The problem with sampling the wine is that you have to open the barrel. Both become "used merchandise", or with "open box" labels.

Biologically, women come "sealed for your protection".

How many open and partially eaten or drank containers do you normally finish? Or do you just throw them away and get something new?

One economist traced the rise of the engagement ring to the rise of "sample before you buy".