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Gen Z’s Erotic Failure

Why is the least religious, most sexually permissive generation in US history not mating?
Closeup female eye iris burning
The Flaming Eyeball surveys the bleak world of Gen Z sex (Canbedone/Getty Images)

Someone blogging as The Flaming Eyeball wrote a long essay responding to a blog post I wrote back in October, in which I reported data showing that 30 percent of American women under the age of 25 consider themselves to be LGBT. I wrote, in part:

Has anything like this ever happened to any society, ever? Three out of ten women under the age of 25 consider themselves to be gay or transgender. Five percent, sure. Maybe even eight percent. But thirty? Will they always think that? Maybe not, but these are their prime childbearing years.  The US fertility rate is at a 35-year low, and there’s no reason to think it will rise. Some critics blame structural difficulties in the US economy that make it harder for women to choose to have children, but European nations make it vastly easier for mothers, and still cannot get their fertility rates above replacement.

What’s behind this is primarily cultural. We have become an anti-natalist society. And further, we have become a society that no longer values the natural family. We see everywhere disintegration. Yesterday, on the Al Mohler podcast, I talked about going to a conservative Evangelical college a few years back, and hearing from professors there that they feared most of their students would never be able to form stable families, because so many of them had never seen what that’s like.

And now we have 30 percent of Gen Z women claiming to be sexually uninterested in men. There is nothing remotely normal about that number. It is a sign of a deeply decadent culture — that is, a culture that lacks the wherewithal to survive. The most important thing that a generation can do is produce the next generation. No families, no children, no future.

The Flaming Eyeball (henceforth TFE) has a lengthy response. This is from the first part:

I write this essay as a Zoomer university student. In many ways, I am one of the most successful of my generation. I got a near-perfect SAT score, and earned a BS in a STEM degree from a major university in only 3 years. Although I am not an incel, I have had to give a lot of thought to the question of my generation’s sexuality in the past several years, because a large fraction of the guys I have met in high school and college seldom or never went on dates, had sex, or had girlfriends. Many of them still hung out with girls, but a lot of them never connected romantically or sexually. All of it seemed very ominous to me: if one guy can’t get laid, people can write him off as a loser, but if a large percentage of young men are sexually frustrated to the extent that they rarely get any attention from women, there is something very odd going on. So I found myself forced to theorize about what exactly has befallen us, and what are the roots and implications of mass sexlessness in America.

Why, overall, do men and women desire one another less?

What follows is a long, heavily linked analysis in which TFE talks about the effects of being acculturated by social media, the large, measurable decline in testosterone, neuroticism, learned helplessness, and the collapse of religion. I find the last one the most interesting, because it’s in my wheelhouse. TFE discusses how his generation is filling the God-shaped hole in their souls with politics — but it’s not a positive politics, but rather a politics of negation. They are fanatically against what they hate, not in favor of what they love. And because they are hysterically intolerant, few who disagree will say anything about it, because as socially isolated as they already are, they don’t want to get even moreso by outing themselves as thought criminals.

I hope you’ll read the whole thing, and weight TFE’s argument. He concludes:

To sum this up, the relationship problems of my generation illustrate two far greater trends, which will intertwine and play out in various ways over the course of the next few decades. The first, which played out in the Mouse Utopia, is that Generation Z on balance is the weakest generation, having been raised by a micromanaging and decadent society to be soft and utterly dependent on the system. The second is that they are thoroughly spiritually bankrupt, atomized, and lonely, leading to corresponding longings, confusion, and rage which will at minimum unbalance the system. Rod Dreher is one of the few mainstream thinkers to ever touch on these issues, and for this is met with consistent mockery and denial by his commenters that these constitute problems at all. I have witnessed, in both statistics and personal experience, the widespread destructive trends of poor mental and physical health, inability to socialize or pair-bond, and loss of faith and spiritual values. They are very real, and they have caused and will continue to cause such tremendous suffering and destruction that unchecked, they threaten the US’s ability to continue as a nation.

Here’s a link to TFE’s whole post. Again, I hope you’ll consider his argument seriously. It seemed plausible to me, but I am a Gen Xer who has little interaction with Gen Z. What I thought about when I finished it is how I felt when I finished archaeologist Bryan Ward-Perkins’s 2005 book The Fall Of Rome. In it, Ward-Perkins, who teaches at Oxford, discusses the material collapse of Roman civilization when the state fell. He documents that the knowledge of how to do basic things required for the continuation of civilization disappeared; some of these things (like, say, how to build a roof) did not return for centuries. The things Ward-Perkins talks about are skills you wouldn’t think people would forget. But that’s not how it works, shockingly. I think it’s entirely possible that we are losing the skills for how to reproduce. I’m not talking about “how to have sex,” but I’m talking about the human skills needed to form families and perform the basic task of every human generation: produce the next one.

So, Gen Z readers: Is TFE’s post an accurate description of life as you know it among your generation? I put the question to my son Matt, who is a 21-year-old college student. He responded skeptically:

I fail to understand why these people have to blame some amorphous evil Marxist soyboy ray for all this when the explanation is simple: most peoples’ lives consist of being plugged into a screen, driving, and sleeping. Like my roommate last year — desperately trying to work out why no girls are interested in him when he has no life outside his computer. This is what it means to be alienated from the world by the horrible suburbanized existence we’ve made for ourselves. Amateur endocrinology doesn’t enter into it. We could all be chiseled muscle hunks and just as miserable as we were before.

Hmm. I think that he and TFE are actually closer than he realizes.