This is the Monday Medley, a newsletter that goes out, you guessed it, every Monday. I republish it here for sharing and referencing, but if you'd like to sign up you can do so right here:
Last week I published my annual birthday article, Lessons from Year 28. Publishing those reflection articles each year has been one of my favorite writing habits, and if you're interested I have ones from 25, 26, and 27.
Alright, on to the Medley!
This week's theme was inspired by this research paper: "Why are fewer young adults having casual sex?"
The authors explore some of the reasons why we're seeing sexual activity decline so dramatically, especially among young men:
"...the percentage of adults ages 20 to 24 who did not have sex in the past year increased from 11.67 percent in 2000–2009 to 15.17 percent in 2010–2014... the percentage of sexually inactive men ages 18 to 24 increased from 18.9 percent in 2000–2002 to 30.9 percent in 2016–2018, and the percentage of sexually inactive young women increased from 15.1 percent to 19.1 percent over the same period."
They point to three primary factors creating the decline. For women, a significant part of it is driven by drinking less alcohol. For men, it seems to be driven by more time spent on video games and living at home longer.
One thing that stands out in that data is that male attractiveness seems to be a big source of the decline. Women haven't really changed in their desirability, they're just less likely to get drunk and lower their standards. But with men spending more time playing video games and relying on their parents, they're less attractive as potential mates. The male dating pool has gotten weaker.
A factor in this shift could be how men and women perceive each others' attractiveness. OkCupid had some great data that show this difference:
It shows how dating markets play out very differently for heterosexual men and women. Men are more balanced in their ratings of women, women are more extreme. That would cause a huge imbalance in the market, except that young women have a much wider pool to choose from than young men. Why? Age. A 25 year old woman might consider men up into their mid-thirties. A 25 year old man has a much smaller age range he normally pulls from.
Since the data started being collected in the 80s, young women have almost always had more sex than young men, but since 2008 it has really spiked:
Most likely driven by the criteria laid out in the article above. Since the great recession, young men have gotten less and less desirable as mates. But luckily for young women, there are plenty of older men who they can pursue, and who they now have access to given the new dating apps at our disposal. It's also possible that fewer men are having sex with more women, since apps like Tinder or Hinge allow for one very attractive male to connect with many more women than he otherwise would. That was Robin Hanson's thesis in 2019:
It seems that, whether due to recent cultural events or random cultural drift, the latest age cohort has switched to a new sex culture wherein the less desirable half of young men are now seen as even less desirable by young women than previous cohorts would have seen them. And within this culture it is seen as more acceptable for young women to share the more desirable half of young men, relative to the higher (but never maximal) priority that previous cohorts put on monogamous associations.
Two parts of this are concerning. First, how does a young guy get out of this cycle? "Get a job and an apartment" is much easier said than done, especially if you have a philosophy degree and tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. If you can't get a job, and video games provide a meaningful sense of work, it's an extremely easy addiction or cycle to fall into. And every month of staying home playing video games makes it harder to get your career back on track and turn yourself into a more desirable mate.
But second, what does it mean for 30% of the male population to not be doing the primary thing they're biologically designed to do? I've often wondered about the psychological consequences of being under-sexed. There has to be some kind of anxiety, rage, depression, or other emotion that begins to foment when your body knows its losing prime reproductive time. Or does it just downregulate sex hormone production entirely? There's some research in this area, but not much.
Now thinking more broadly, what must have happened to people's mental health over the last year, especially young single men? Spending a year socially isolated, sexually devoid, and indoors, seems like a perfect recipe for anything from depression to suicide to violent outbursts. Which might explain why there were so many more murders in 2020.
I don't know what to do about helping young men increase their mate value, though it does feel like there's an opportunity to create some sort of career & life jumpstart program funded by an ISA targeted at men 18-25. I'd actually love it if someone did that for learning trade skills, since we're in dire need of more plumbers, electricians, woodworkers, etc and they make insane amounts of money. That'd give more young men jobs, get them out of the house, get them physically fit, and make them more desirable mates. Plus it'd be a good business.
But for everyone who's not in that demographic, there is a lesson here around not being lonely. One thing I've started tracking, along with hours spent outside, is whether or not I saw a friend in a given day. And it turns out that the day never feels as good if I don't spend time with one.
Instead of a boring old tombstone, how'd you like to have a naked woman carved out of marble hugging your grave? If you gotta go, you can at least make it interesting I suppose.
And I played around with some NFT platforms last week and made this handsome token out of Tahoe. Though it seems with gas costs, it costs more to sell it than the current price. Hm.
This visual on how different businesses would monetize a banana is great.
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And should you come across anything interesting this week, send it my way! I love finding new things to read through members of this newsletter.
Have a great week,