On the 17th of July 2018, PS21 held a panel discussion on Sex, Identity and Society in 2030. After an introduction and welcome by PS21’s Executive Director – Peter Apps, the panel’s speakers began their individual analysis.
Joana Ramiro, freelance writer and commentator on the sexual and romantic experiences of women began by pointing out that almost one half of women between the age of 25 and 34 do not find intercourse with their male partners enjoyable, as statistically documented by Public Health England. Ramiro placed the blame for this on multiple facets, including the fact that many men do not take their female partners enjoyment into consideration and the fact that women are reluctant to tell their male partners what they desire in the bedroom.
Ramiro then argued that the problem is a collective one, caused by the status of women in society and societal inequalities that exist between the sexes. Ramiro argues that women are inherently taught to put up with bad sex. Looking into the future, she believes that reduced power imbalance between men and women through equality will encourage women to pursue more enjoyable sex.
Tom Whipple, Science Correspondent for The Times and author of ‘X and Why The rules of attraction: Why gender still matters‘ speculated two opposing predictions of sex in 2030; the first being that ‘sex will be the same’ and the second being ‘lack of inter-human sex, will destroy humanity’. To support the first prediction, Whipple argued that the behaviour and trends of sexual demographics do not change with time and technology. The evidence he provided where the results of a 1970’s experiment, which demonstrated that two thirds of male participants where open to casual sex with a stranger of the opposing sex while 100% of female participants where not. Whipple compared this to similar contemporary levels of male – female reciprocation found in analytical data sourced from dating apps.
Whipple forewarned of the rise of sex robots by presenting the popularity of sex aids with female consumers, suggesting that continuation of sex aid proliferation could mean future sex toys will provide a preferable alternative to human partners. Whipple quoted a study that found that two thirds of men and women would have intercourse with a sex robot if the option was available, a statistic that Whipple claims could be an understatement. Whipple concluded that humanity could face a slow and anti-climactic extinction if robotic partners become more favourable than human ones.
Jemimah Steinfeld, author of ‘Little Emperors and Material Girls: Sex and Youth in Modern China‘ focused on China’s one child policy and the generational/social implications is it has had on dating and sex in china. Due to the preference for male children during its enforcement, Steinfeld pointed out that there are currently 116 men to every 100 women in China, thus many men in China could go their entire lives without having a serious relationship with a member of the opposite sex.
Steinfeld also explained how this problem affects women. Women in China are labelled with derogatory terms if they are unmarried by the age of 27. Steinfeld ended by warning that with growing worries over falling fertility rates, China could well become very regressive in terms of limiting women’s choices as well as access to contraception and abortion. The LGBT community also felt increasingly pressurised, she said, even though it was hard to tell how this would play out in the future.
Jacqui Gavin, civil servant and advocate of transgender rights, spoke about the complex nature of the transgender space and, as a result, the issues around developing policy for the transgender demographic. Gavin, a transgender woman, explained that the main concern is that there are many numerous different identities within the community, each with its own varied characteristics. This means that the political needs of each gender are specific, making the development of objective policy that applies to the entire space problematic. To conclude, Gavin reasoned that a consensus must be met within the space as to what its’ members want, one such example could be continued integration into social norms.
Freelance writer Amna Saleem, author of ‘Why Interracial Relationships aren’t a magical cure to racism’ commented on the contemporary nature of interracial relationship in the UK, using her own relationship as an example of problems faced by interracial couples. Saleem opened by offering statistics on ethnicity in the UK, stating that in general, ethnic groups are becoming progressively more affluent and integrated with other societal groups, resulting in a growing number interracial relationship.
Saleem explained that problems faced by interracial couples did not frequently take the form of overt racism, instead it is frequently pre-conception and stigma that lead to incorrect assumptions about interracial relationships. A white man in a relationship with a non-white woman is sometimes seen to have ‘traded down’ and vice versa, she said, while even within ethnic communities, certain attributes such as skin colour and hair become the basis for judgments on beauty and worth.
Peter Apps, Reuters Global Affairs Columnist and PS21 Executive Director commented on his own personal experience of relationships and sex as a quadriplegic person. Apps said that modern mass-market dating apps appeared to increasingly marginalise many disabled people, with users making snap judgements that often excluded them. However, he also said society – and individuals – simultaneously appeared evermore open to a variety of relationships, speaking frankly of his own experience of being rejected, fetishised and everything in between.
The following discussion, moderated by Daily Telegraph Assistant Comment Editor Laurence Dodds, ranged widely in scope and topic. One audience member asked whether we should become much broader in our expectation of what sex robots might look like, with suggestions ranging from gelatinous sleeping bags to some kind of ‘sexy mist’. There was also discussion of the increased use of smaller sex toys, with little clarity on where the divide might be.
There was discussion on the potential for authoritarian states using dating apps for social control, as well as how changing technology had affected the dating scene over the last decade. Traditionally, women were seen as having the privilege of refusal, while men had the privilege of choice, but experience from the panel suggested that might, in some respects at least, be changing.
Asked what it would take for people to have significantly better sex by 2030, the panel highlighted communication, social openness and, perhaps most important of all, an effective, supportive broader society that provides the opportunity for its citizens to live and express themselves as they wish.
Photo credit: Larrissa Penny