Is This The Way Our Sex Lives End?

Not with a bang but a whimper (apologies to T. S. Eliot)

Nick Irving
Human Parts
Published in
10 min readNov 19, 2018

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Photo by Kevin Lee on Unsplash

OOne question has been preoccupying me lately: How does one separate the thread of one’s own past from broader trends in history?

I’m talking about the “Dating Apocalypse.” Like many of the commitment-phobic perennially single, I’m on and off “the apps” a lot—swinging from full-blown frenzy to total cold turkey in a matter of days. But there’s a trend: I get fewer and fewer matches, fewer and fewer messages, and each time I delete all the apps, the refractory period gets longer and longer. One of these days I’ll be off them for good, but not because I’ve met anyone, just because I’ve given up on getting what I want.

Given my historical training and current research interest in the neoliberal marketization of everything, I’m tempted to read this as part of something larger than myself, but I just can’t tell if the slowing tempo of my sex life is due to a worrying global trend or if it’s something much simpler: I’m 37, busy, and just not as attractive as I used to be.

Most stories about the past are only ever ways to assuage the feelings we’re having about what’s happening today.

I was unsurprised to read in the Atlantic that young people are having less sex than they used to. Time magazine broadened the scope to everyone when it posed the not-at-all sensationalist question “Is Sex Dead?” in the URL of its article on the subject. The echoes of the statistics in my own life were tough to ignore: After a period in 2013–15 where I was having sex on average once a fortnight, I’ve gone through two very lean years in 2017 and 2018, with protracted “droughts” being the norm. The apps only really accounted for one of the four sexual encounters in those years—two if you count seeing an old acquaintance on Tinder and then messaging them on Facebook. None of them turned into anything long-term, despite my occasional desire to the contrary.

I find myself wondering: Is it me? Am I past my prime? Or is this just the zeitgeist? And if it is the zeitgeist, why is it like this?

IIt’s always difficult to see the reasons for something while it’s unfolding. It’s doubly…

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Nick Irving
Human Parts

PhD in Modern History and government functionary. One-time historian of peace and protest, now researching and writing about work.