Toxic masculinity, sexual frustration and puritanical laws that violate personal agency make for a volatile, deadly combo.
Until earlier this week I had no idea that there was a group of men online who self-identified as ‘incel’, as in, ‘involuntarily celibate’. Obviously I have always know there were guys who couldn’t get laid, and I also knew that such men could be bitter, toxic and even potentially violent as a result of their lack of affection. I just had no idea it had become a rallying point, but given the internet, it makes terrible sense.
The response I have seen in most of the media has been to do what seems intuitive to most people, and call these types out as creeps and pariahs with a rehashed friendzone complex. While there is certainly some truth to that, I don’t see that kind of self-righteous name calling doing much to fix the problem. Like most of our recent public discourse, the issue is getting drowned out in a blitzkrieg of signalling, equivocation and division. It has become yet another media storm of ill will and provocation that fails to address some underlying issues and work towards an actual solution.
The first thing to remember is that these men are victims of toxic masculinity themselves. Their own identity, desires and expectations were formed by socially constructed narratives that they had no control over. They apparently had nobody close to them to help them sort through these issues and ideas, and so just absorbed signals from their environment about manhood that made them feel cheated and deprived. Which is true. They have been cheated and deprived of the emotional complexity required to sort through these issues; while at the same time being prohibited from healthy alternatives.
Sex work is not just about copulation. It is about giving people a chance to feel worthy and desirable, something we all need in our lives. Individuals with eccentricities, personality quirks or lack of physical attractiveness can often find meeting those needs difficult. Nor is everyone relationship material. For some people emotional gratification and sexual release are necessities that must be handled outside of the normal channels of interpersonal relationships. And the people who adapt to meet their needs deserve compensation for providing such a critical service to not just the individuals served, but to societies who wish to avoid the potential violence of sexually and emotionally frustrated outsiders.
Removing legislative prohibitions against sex work is not just about removing legal restrictions, but about removing taboos and risks factors that prohibition creates. It is about normalizing the sex work industry and giving its workers protection and improved skill sets and sense of pride and dignity.
The line between psychiatry and sexuality has always been pretty thin. By combining their disciplines in a professional sex work industry, we can begin healing the damage done by toxic masculinity and other basic issues of human need and desire. In doing that we not only provide healthy choices to all involved, but remove risks to everyone else.
We must be careful not to equivocate sex work with sex trafficking. Legally supported professional sex work is about increasing the personal agency of workers and clients alike. Sex trafficking is the opposite of that, and we should continue to fight against those instances where personal agency is violated by sexual acts and human slavery. We cannot fight sex trafficking without clearly separating it from sex work, by understanding the role agency plays in each.
The sexually repressed ideologies of puritan politics is not just unreasonable, it is a threat to peace and prosperity. Prohibition is a recipe for violence that humanity can no longer afford.
Shoot loads, not crowds!