The redistribution of sex is rape.
That’s because sex isn’t a commodity. Even commercial sex isn’t a commodity. Sex, of both the amateur and the professional variety, is an activity performed by people, and the only way to “redistribute” it is to compel someone to perform it when they otherwise wouldn’t. And compelling a person to perform sex when they don’t want to is…
If you’re thinking, “Wow, what an obvious point. We shouldn’t even have to talk about this,” you’re right. It’s ludicrous. The thought that, say, it should be presented as a harmless but intriguing thought experiment by a George Mason University economist and a New York Times op-ed columnist is absurd.
Two weeks ago in Toronto, Alek Minassian drove a rental van into a crowd of people, killing 10 and injuring 14 others. He’d written on Facebook, “The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!” Some might read that and think, “Wow, that is some fucked up shit, and maybe we need to be paying more attention to this group of people who believe they’re entitled to sex from the women of their choosing.”
But if you’re GMU economist Robin Hanson, you read it and think, “Sounds valid. Since being involuntarily celibate is essentially like being impoverished, the obvious answer is to get these guys the sex they want. How can we get women to fuck them, so they won’t kill again?” And if you’re NYT columnist Ross Douthat, you read that and think, “Sounds legit. Definitely worthy of consideration.”
The problem is that no, being “involuntarily celibate” — “unable to get laid,” for the rest of us — isn’t the same as living in poverty, and “redistributing sex” isn’t worthy of consideration because it’s rape.
I want to make the distinction between sex and sexual gratification, because they are distinct. The former requires two (or more) willing participants, and the latter can be a solo affair. Redistributing sexual gratification is no problem — universal healthcare and subsidized pocket tooties should take care of it. And you know what? I’m all for it. Checkups and sex toys for all! (Caperton for President 2020.)
But sexual gratification isn’t what the incels are on about. They aren’t complaining because they can’t get off — they’re complaining because they can’t get it on. And specifically, they’re complaining because they can’t get it on with the women with whom they want to do so. They want to fuck “Stacys” — hot chicks — and are horribly, unfairly put-upon because said Stacys want to sleep with “Chads” instead. The only sexual partners they want are the status symbols.
And that’s just one reason that sex workers or Douthat’s proposed sex robots aren’t an answer to the problem. A sex robot is just a super-advanced, interactive version of a Fleshlight (or, of course, the classic dominant-hand-and-a-bottle-of-lotion). If all a guy wants is a woman-shaped figure to make ecstatic noises as he pounds away at it, even though he couldn’t find the clitoris if it lit up and played music (note: On the LS-model ‘bots, it lights up and plays music), a sexbot would be fine. But that’s not what these guys want. They don’t just want the sexual gratification — they want status. Neither a paid sex worker nor a non-sentient sex robot carries the prestige of an honest-to-God Stacy, and if Stacys are who the Chads are fucking, then nothing short of a Stacy will do.
Discussing redistribution of sex as a thought experiment is tricky enough because it validates the idea that sex is something that can be considered separate from the people who are having it. Discussing it in this context is straight-up gross because it validates the idea that “incels” really are being moved to violence because they’re pathetic, lonely figures longing for a woman’s touch and not creepy, dangerous fonts of toxic masculinity who feel entitled to the vagina of their choice presented without complaint. A man murders people with a van, while celebrating a man who murdered people with knives and guns, and the discussion immediately goes to, “How can we get women to have sex with guys like this?” Because instead of working these men through their dangerous sexual entitlement, it’s better just to indulge them in it, as if throwing women under the bus is better than letting them be mowed down with a van. (Required reading: Vivian Kane at The Mary Sue discussing the “Incel Rebellion” as misogynist terrorism.)
To be clear: Plenty of people go without sex for long periods of time, voluntarily or involuntarily, without turning to resentment and/or violence. Plenty of people long for sex with someone they can’t have sex with, say gosh what a pity, and go have sex with someone else. Plenty of people have friends-with-benefits hookups to take the edge off. Plenty of people make eye contact with the only other person in the bar right before the lights go up at two in the morning and think, “Eh, I guess you’ll do.” Only incels turn it into a movement laced with hatred and violence. And then, somehow, the Robin Hansons and Ross Douthats of the world are, like, “We shall be their champions,” even as the bodies of their victims aren’t yet in the ground.
Sex can’t be “redistributed” without coercion because at some point, the person on the other end is going to say no. The government can hand out money-and-plastic-surgery grants until every incel in the country is basically a slightly richer Hemsworth brother, and there will be women — paid and unpaid — who will not want to fuck them. And it is their right to not fuck them. Because for all that incels believe women are only motivated by money and looks, there’s also a thing called personal agency that can’t be legislated.
Sex is not a commodity. Women are not a commodity. Sex workers are not a commodity. Women’s agency is not a commodity. And if Robin Hanson and Ross Douthat want to pretend it is, they can go fuck themselves. That is a redistribution of sex I can get behind.