One of my peeves is the extent to which our culture has been overrun by what I'm saying amounts to a bunch of louts with cheesy business models. Ahh the amoral marketplace. Can it only dominate an amoral population? Hard to say, and I don't even know why I ask such questions. But the signal effect that gets to me about this cultural bogard is the lack of good stuff in the long tail that's free. Or maybe it's the difficulty I find in finding all that good stuff.
Part of the difficulty is that consumer markets are profitable for the cheesy louts because they are taking advantage of human nature. To wit, romantic comedies will always be a source of profits in the movie business, so long as you can find cute actors playing shy, confused and oblivious to what's right in front of their faces. Just like in horror flicks, we sit there impatient for the movie to get to the good part, but being deliciously teased is what makes a rom com something other than porn, despite the fact that the money shot is, after all, the money shot - even if it's only implied. In other words, sex sells.
But how much can sex sell, or how much should sex sell? Those who know me find that I have long subscribed to Aldous Huxley's defintion of an intellectual (and tried to be that), someone who after all finds something more interesting than sex. I doubt that he meant eating as that something, but thinking, but he was clearly immersed in some context of society that must have seemed to him what ours seems to me: overrun.
Did I mention the demographic? Oh. I should have, it was a lurking assumption. If you want to maximize your market you go for the bell curve, a target market with disposable income for your cheesy business model and an easily identifyable human attribute waiting to be indulged. So is American culture obsessed with sex because so many louts sell it, or because our demographic is sexy? Dunno. What I do know is this: It's hard to be a fan of Vladimir Horowitz when you're in your 20s. I was and still am, though I still haven't bought the Deutsche Grammophon box set. Maybe for Christmas, I'm still diggin' on Ella's. It's hard because Horowitz is dead and not sexy, and it might take a little doing for you to appreciate what he does (did) so well. A little doing means Apple doesn't pony up the electricity, servers, bandwidth and all that so you can preview it on Apple TV from the comfort of your living room. Vladimir Horowitz is not a hot meme and is never going to be a hot meme. You have to seek him out. If you have sought out Vladimir Horowitz or perhaps somebody even a bit more obscure like one of the authors mentioned in Niall Ferguson's history of WW1, you're likely going to have to do it the hard way.
If you have sex three times a week for 20 years you would still have several hundred orgasms to go to reach the magical 4000. Much likely more if you're a woman. You might never get that many. I've been thinking about this because I'm a guy, and most guys do it for the bang. In that I'm like most guys, if my theory about guys' purposes is correct. But I'm also like Huxley, who might likely suggest that sex is a fairly interesting human activity, for what it's worth, but there are much more interesting things to consider. With that distance, I can objectify it like RBIs or some other statistic. Since I think economically, I also think about the marginal value of the nth bang, which for me is starting to rapidly diminish. I know some of my readers may think I'm a bit odd (although the thought crossed my mind of using the word 'queer') in that I don't find sex particularly.. compelling. For me, I'd say that sex is like driving fast. It's a dangerous game that's exhilaratingly boring. You do it because you can and because you're used to having the privilege. You are simultaneously amused by how simple and stupid it is and repulsed by how people get wrapped around its axle. What is the purpose in having a 'healthy' attitude towards sex? To make yourself sporting, I think, and to provide the louts with market share. See how blunt I am? I happen to think that sexual bluntness is unbecoming, and by my style I'm alternately a rake and a coquette but that was back around number 1200. A long time ago, when it mattered.
I'm fascinated in the same repulsed way about how the mattress manufacturers have managed to sell us another statistic about ourselves. To hear the louts blather, we all have a 'sleep number'. Well, we also must certainly have some inflection point at which the marginal utility of another sexual encounter heads south, and suddenly the overrunning of culture by the louts and their cheesy business models goes 'whoosh' right over your head, or under your feet as the case may be. All the gyrations on 'music' videos seems pointed to a completely alien demographic. When I got married 16 years ago, it's true, I really stopped buying a certain kind of shirt. I have not purchased cologne in a very long time. In fact, I think I may have the last two bottles of Kouros on earth, or at least the oldest.
So there's all this energy and money and ego out there in the culture selling and influencing and intimating everything about what's supposed to be so.. compelling about sex, all the personal drama, all that 70s Me Generation stuff that's rolling back around, and it's all beginning to look extra strange to me.
Let's take this into one more dimension which is the dimension of 'sexual liberation'. At what number might we suggest that an individual is sexually liberated? I mean all have come to recognize what the government tells us our caloric intake should be. We've been roundly seduced into what Michael Pollan calls 'nutritionism'. We know what vitamins and minerals and calories and carbs and anti-oxidants are supposed to do. But are we hungry? I mean statistically how much do we have to eat to qualify as off the critical list for the UN Special Committee on Hunger? There must be a number for that. Similarly there must be some amount of sex we have to get in order not to be sexually repressed. There's a certain amount of bang we have to get, presumably for the least amount of bucks if any at all, such that we pass. When are we into the meat of the curve? (Now there's a double entendre for you.)
You see it's not enough for the louts with their cheesy business models to exploit our own anti-Huxley-intellectual hungers but the culture has to make us 'healthy' in our attitudes. But we all know deep in our hearts that there's just something wrong with the fine print in the Viagra commercials when it has to be said that one should consult your doctor to see if sex is alright for you, you old horny bastard. We know somehow that there's a limit. Or do we actually think porn stars might really be making all those noises because they are.. compelled. It seems to me that somewhere after 2000, nobody should be able to tell you anything or sell you anything about sex. At the very least, you should know that you're being sold. And yet I continue to be amazed by the prodigious amounts of time, energy and money are expended on capturing the attention of the bazillions all upon the basis of this 'healthy' sexual identity we're all supposed to possess. It's unhealthy.
So there are 1200 channels on my television, and 1200 times that many coming over the internets. I'm old and tired but not jaded. I've still got Vladimir Horowitz and Bud Powell and Art Tatum and others similarly lightning fingered. Although it's difficult, the bandwidth for high culture is crowded out by the lazy loudmouths, it's not impossible to get off the beaten track and put aside all that co-opting of basic instincts. But it must be hard for the new suckers of Me Generation marketing to imagine themselves beyond the faux diversity of the same sexy sales. But the crazy thing is that it's even harder for me, approaching 4000 to care about what so many evidently care about.
Then again, I've managed to speed quite a bit without getting wrapped around the axle.