Reading this piece on what the world looks like 20 years from now and my interest was caught by Kate Julian’s prediction “There Will Be A Lot Less Sex and More Masturbation”
In the future, the ebbing of romantic and sexual connections will continue. People will have sex less frequently than they did in the pre-internet era, which will be remembered as a more carnal time. They will have fewer lifetime sexual partners, and they will be more likely to be abstinent. Only a minority of teenagers will have sex of any sort. Masturbation and other varieties of solo sex will continue to be more prevalent than they were before; porn aficionados will enjoy VR sex and sex robots. Like many other aspects of our world in the decades to come, the gap between the haves and have-nots will continue to grow. Those who have many advantages already will be disproportionately likely to find romantic and sexual partners if they desire them and to have fulfilling sex lives. There will be good parts of this: Nonconsensual sex will be far less common than it is today. There will be little to no social stigma attached to being unattached. Those who approach singledom with psychological and financial advantages will flourish. It will be the best time in human history to be single. But there will be less unambiguously positive developments as well: For better and for worse, the birth rate will continue to fall, and those who are less suited to solo life will suffer from profound loneliness.
I think that, if this is likely, we’re probably heading for a culture where polygamy is legalized and normalized. The legalization will come in time (both from people who come from countries where polygamy is legal and from the polyamorous who want legal protection and benefits, like health insurance, for their multiple partners and children).
Once the legalization is here, normalization will come simply because there aren’t enough men to go around. Men will, I think, opt for the life of individual single-ness with a plethora of sexual options that doesn’t require another complicated person to be involved. Women will not look very kindly on these men (they already don’t) and will want more healthy, responsible, social men than are available.
This will lead to a tipping point where these kinds of men are at such a high premium that women eventually decide, in the spirit of “something is better than nothing” it’s ok to share a man.
I don’t think this is a particularly happy or healthy future, but it’s the one that I think flows from this prediction.