“A State that hopes to mingle in the bedroom is one step closer to totalitarianism, and that is why sex redistribution is a horrifying prospect. But, while not enforcing it, the State, and most importantly, leaders of civil society (most crucially, intellectuals), should send the message that monogamy is a good thing.”
illary Clinton regretted it, but she was not far off when she claimed that around half of Donald Trump’s supporters made for a “basket of deplorables“: “they are racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic… you name it.” Let’s focus on the sexism part. It does appear that, as backlash against the outlandish feminist claims that are frequently made in media and on campuses, Trump’s rise did open the floodgates of sexists who were just waiting for their time to come out.
The so-called “Incel” community is a case in point. “Incel” is a portmanteau of “Involuntary celibates.” They are a cyber community of young men who express their frustration at not being chosen as sexual mates. They channel their frustration by insulting the attractive women who reject them (“stacys”, in their vocabulary). They share their rape fantasies and demean womanhood in every possible way. At the same time, they are deeply resentful of “chads,” successful and attractive men who get to sleep with “stacys”—but also of “beckys” (less attractive women, who may or may not sleep with less attractive men as consolation prizes).
If this were all just mere cyber role-playing and fantasizing, then there is nothing to worry about. Incel forums would just be another form of rape pornography which, psychologists know, is not necessarily harmful. However, some high-profile cases of mass shooters make us think twice about this. One particular shooter, Elliot Rodger, wrote a manifesto, explicitly mentioning Incel themes. Ever since, there has been increasing concern about the threat that Incels represent.
It should be noted that, long before their association with the Right, Incels were more aligned with leftist themes, though, of course, they went by another name. 19th Century anthropologists were fond of the idea that in the Stone Age, human beings did not have sexual restrictions. There was a promiscuous horde, in which everything belonged to everyone, sexual partners included. This thesis fit nicely with some 19th Century socialist views. For example, Engels’ 1884 work The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State makes the case that, originally, human beings lived in total communism, and that implied that everyone had sexual access to everyone else. In that world, there was little quarrel. But then, private property made its appearance, and, ever since, ‘the haves’ and ‘the have nots’ have been at each other’s throats.
From Plato to hippies, utopian communities have tried to reverse this. In these communities, private property is eradicated altogether, and, occasionally, this has also implied sexual communism. In the commune, there are no husbands and wives (or, more accurately, everyone is married to everyone else). That way, everyone who wants sex would get it, and it would not be a big deal. As the Marxist revolutionary Alexandra Kollontai allegedly said, sex would be as natural as having a glass of water. Incels would no longer exist, because everyone would be satisfied.
In some cases, utopians believed that—precisely to satisfy Incels—attractive people should be required to have sex with the not-so-beautiful. Karl Marx never intended, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” to be read that way, but if you stretch the maxim a little, then it seems natural that Incels should get sex because they need it, and attractive people should be required to give sexual pleasure to others, because they are good at it. A Soviet poster from the 1920’s made it very clear: “Every Communist male can and must satisfy his sexual needs… Every Communist female must aid him, otherwise she is a capitalist”.
From the very moment these ideas were proposed, some people were understandably horrified. For example, in the 5th Century BC, Aristophanes’ Assemblywomen tells the story of a utopian community ruled by women. In that community, property is no longer private, and young attractive men are forced to have sex with old ugly women. This play lends itself to many interpretations, but the most plausible one, is that collectivism eventually leads to a dystopian society in which the State forces you to sleep with the less fortunate, all in the name of social justice.
In fact, one particular economist, Robin Hanson, toyed with the idea of the State intervening to make attractive women available to Incels. His rationale was quite simple: if we are so eager to redistribute property, why not sex?
In fact, one particular economist, Robin Hanson, toyed with the idea of the State intervening to make attractive women available to Incels. His rationale was quite simple: if we are so eager to redistribute property, why not sex? Truth be told, Hanson was not far from the Communist utopians who have made similar arguments throughout the ages. For some reason, SJWs (Social Justice Warriors) are happy with Robin Hoods taking away from the rich and giving to the poor, but are unhappy with Robin Hansons redistributing sex. When it comes to getting laid, SJWs prefer to go with laissez faire economics, and if there are haves and have nots, so be it.
Be that as it may, the fact is that Incels are a danger, and something must be done about it. But, in order to propose good alternatives, we first have to get our science right. The promiscuous horde imagined by 19th Century anthropologists never existed. In their natural state, human beings are most likely halfway between monogamy and polygyny.
Men are extremely unlikely to tolerate women who have multiple partners. Jealousy is a powerful factor in evolution—because men can never have certainty that the offspring they are taking care of actually carry their genes. So, men zealously guard women from having sex with other men. On the other hand, men would be happy having as many children as they can, so they occasionally have escapades with other women (women do not tend to do this, because having more partners will not increase their progeny; instead, they become choosier with mates). Nevertheless, human infants require a great amount of care, and this pressures men to stay with one woman to help out raising the kids.
So, for the most part, humans are monogamous, though men will feel some pull to have multiple partners. Yet, when they do get more than one mate, they are not willing to share; again, male jealousy is quite powerful in evolution. As a result, some societies allow men to have more than one woman, but the inverse almost never happens. In these polygynous societies (one man, many women), harems are eventually formed, and women are zealously kept apart for the alpha male. Given that the sex ratio is roughly 50-50, for every additional woman that an alpha male takes, another male is deprived of a sex mate. But, in nature’s struggle for existence, men deprived of sex do not give up so easily. So, deprivation of sexual opportunities triggers violent behavior in men, so they can be better competitors in acquiring women. Do not underestimate women as motives of wars. This is not just mythical stuff about Troy or the abduction of the Sabine women; this dynamic has actually been very well documented by anthropologists.
It, therefore, comes as no surprise that violence correlates with polygyny. In turn, monogamy protects better against violence. It is not hard to understand why. If one man can only take one woman, then eventually, it is easier for everyone to find a match. William Tucker explains it nicely in Marriage and Civilization: “The alpha couple, then, can achieve an advantage by pairing off. Moreover, the alpha male—precisely because he is the strongest and most domineering—would be able to fend off the objections of the other males. But what about the rest of the troop? What happens to them? Well, once the alpha couple has paired off, the beta couple now find themselves in the same position. They have the same advantages in forming a pair bond. Moreover, they have the example of the alpha couple to justify them. After that the gamma couple has the same advantage and so on down the line—much the way it happens in high school. In the end, everyone’s reproductive interest is reasonably optimized.”
Marx and other Communists derided monogamy as a capitalist invention. One man owns one woman, and vice versa. This is a form of private property, so the argument went. In order to be truly free, monogamy and the “bourgeois family” must disappear. Marx was right to criticize the hypocrisy of monogamy in 19th Century Europe. Men would vow to be loyal to their wives but, in fact, had mistresses (Marx himself fathered a child with the family’s maid but went to great lengths to keep it secret!). So, in a sense, his disdain for “bourgeois morality” is understandable.
But Marx was dead wrong about humanity’s original state. There was no promiscuous horde; it was more like one man living with one woman in pair bonds, with occasional affairs. If anything, monogamy made the world a more equal place and brought some justice to ‘the have nots.’ Without monogamy, dominant males would have all the women they want, while the weaker ones would get masturbation as a consolation prize. It would resemble a big Ottoman harem, where the sultan is happy, everyone else is miserable, and sooner or later, some disgruntled young man would stab the sultan in the back, get the women, and then hope nobody else kills him, in turn.
Some authors with Communist sympathies, such as Christopher Ryan in his recent book Civilized to Death, hint at the idea that monogamy is at fault for the rise of Incels (Ryan does not use this word, but basically refers to the same concept) and their violence. Ryan buys into the 19th Century idea that the human species was originally promiscuous, and therefore, he thinks that if civilization loosens the grip on monogamy and other sexual restrictions, everyone can have sex freely; Incels will be satisfied, and we can all live happily ever after.
The best way to redistribute sex is not to force women to have sex with Incels but, rather, to persuade rich handsome guys to be satisfied with having just one woman and leave some for the rest.
Needless to say, Ryan is naïve in the extreme. If monogamy is loosened, society will revert to the type of organization that has been all-too-common in History: more powerful men will accumulate women, and this will deprive weaker men from having sex. In fact, this is what usually happens: in utopian hippie communities, ultimately a few dominant men get to have more sex than everybody else, all in the name of “free love.” Monogamy is itself the solution to the Incel problem, because it ensures better that everyone gets satisfaction: by restricting the lust of the dominant males. Incels write horrible things on Internet forums, precisely because monogamy is not sufficiently strong, and a few of the so-called “chads” get multiple “staceys,” instead of just one, leaving Incels with nothing.
Enforcing monogamy through some morality police—or forcing adulterers to wear the scarlet letter—is not a good idea. A State that hopes to mingle in the bedroom is one step closer to totalitarianism, and that is why sex redistribution is a horrifying prospect. But, while not enforcing it, the State, and most importantly, leaders of civil society (most crucially, intellectuals), should send the message that monogamy is a good thing. The best way to redistribute sex is not to force women to have sex with Incels but, rather, to persuade rich handsome guys to be satisfied with having just one woman and leave some for the rest.
Dr. Gabriel Andrade teaches ethics and behavioral science at Ajman University, United Arab Emirates. He has previously contributed to Areo Magazine and DePauw University’s The Prindle Post.