(A holiday musing for my male readers, especially the older ones who might be suffering from a common problem.) It’s well known that women live longer, on average, than men do. Partly, of course, this is due to the fact that men tend to have more dangerous jobs, in our modern world. That was not always the case: until little more than a hundred years ago, men’s life expectancy was relatively much longer, because of the high levels of death in childbirth. But most men don’t die in mining accidents or in wars. So what actually kills men? Could it be that not having sex is what kills them?
On the surface, this seems like a ridiculous proposition, but bear with me. I think I might be on to something. Let’s look at the evolutionary case. The function of women is to produce ova, to conceive them, gestate them and then raise the child to adulthood. While the first two are easy, the third is less so and the fourth fraught, not least because a woman has to pass through the dread test of parturition to do it. 1
The basic unit of human society is not the nuclear family but the extended family or clan. The nuclear family is a modern, Anglo-Saxon invention, which has caused nothing but trouble. The clan is a matriarchal unit that ensures that the largest number of children survive to adulthood. Individuals who are not directly involved in having or rearing babies become burdens on the clan’s resources. This would appear to suggest an evolutionary limitation on maximum age. But on the other hand, this should apply equally to the sexes.
To complicate the issue, women (and whales) menopause. This is the cessation of ovulation around the age of fifty. But at that time, the woman still has millions of viable ova, since they are all actually made during her own embryonic stage; nature values female reproduction so highly that almost the first thing is does is to install it. Many reasons have been suggested that might explain the menopause, including the age of the ova, the ability of the mother to care for her children and so on. But none are conclusive. 2
The function of males in mammalian species is to impregnate females. There is no other prescribed one. That suggests, however, that as long as a man is impregnating women, he is valuable.
Male Menopause? Nope
There is no ‘male menopause’. Men are just as sexually capable at seventy as they are at thirty, given the same levels of general health.
Humans are by far the most socially complex of mammals. The structure of human society, based on the clan, might be similar to other primates, say the chimpanzees or bonobos, but don’t be misled into thinking they are the same. Human clans are always matriarchal. They are always led by the alpha females and not the males.
At the same time, human females are constantly sexually receptive, and can be so even after menopause. This is unusual. Other animals are only sexually receptive during the times that the female is in oestrus and capable of being fertilised. Why so? In order to bind male partners to individual females.
Of course, this can only work in conjunction with a set of social rules that oblige the males to access sex only with mate approval. Again, this is normal in the animal world; females select mates on their performance. But human females are sexually receptive all the time, rather than once or twice a year. The human clan works differently from other similar structures in that instead of only the Alpha male having access to sex, most males do, because the Alpha is only allowed to have approved sex with one woman and the others all need to be fertilised.
Access to sex: the real power
Because power over access to sex is so important to the clan and especially to the females inside it, numerous social structures, such as marriage and injunctions against rape were invented. Think about it: why is rape intrinsically worse than being beaten up or stabbed? It’s not. It is the denial of the woman’s privilege of control over access to her body that offends. Marriage is the social sanction, designed by women, that forces men to stop ‘sowing wild oats’ and only penetrate one woman. Marriage is codified female power over men.
This power is why women complain so much about prostitution: they see it as diluting their own agency over their bodies as well as challenging the social institution of marriage. After all, what’s the point of a woman denying sex to her partner, if he can get it elsewhere?
In addition, anti-prostitution campaigners consistently assert that sex work is fundamentally different from other kinds of physical labour. Somehow, having sex — an intrinsically pleasurable act — is worse than hacking away at a coal seam in sweating, dust-filled darkness and dying of pneumoconiosis? Nonsense; this is about power over access to sex.
Within a system where men are monogamously bonded to individual women, however, older men have a problem. While they remain biologically capable of siring children, their assigned partners will stop being fertile at menopause. This could be as early as 45. They are likely, then, to find their wives begin denying sex, as their vaginas lose natural lubricant and become irritable — likely itself a mechanism to encourage shutting off sex. These men cannot, then, seek a younger woman, because the society reserves those for younger men, who will stay with the woman and help her to raise children. The society does not care about individuals, it cares about ensuring its own future.
Competition in having sex
Certainly, some older men will be able to find younger women, but this is only in competition with other men, both of their age and much younger. A man in this position might end up just not having sex. But his entire function is to have sex. He has no other; his conceits and vanities, his achievements and successes, his fame and wealth only exist for one purpose: to enable him to have sex. If it is denied to him, then what?
The society has to sustain older men, just as it has to sustain older women. Even fit, healthy men reach a point in life when they simply can’t contribute as much as a younger male could and, unless there is some specific skill or talent that is valuable to the group, he’s a burden. Nature abhors a burden even more than a vacuum and so we have to ask, could it be that not having sex is a way of clearing out the older men? That, in other words, the female menopause is a way of jettisoning men who no longer have a purpose, since the women they have been bonded to can no longer become pregnant?
It follows that a life without sex is not really a life, for a man, so, is not having sex a way of killing men? So that they are not a burden to the society? Nature’s way of tidying up?
The good news
The good news is that, even if that were the case, then there would still be ways to counter it. While prostitution remains available, and even where it is ‘illegal’ it is still easy to find, men can still have regular sex, even if their wives are denying them. Clearly, we do not accept that men may force women to have sex, but a woman denying it to her husband has no moral recourse if he seeks it elsewhere. And if someone’s willing to sell it, well then.
Pattaya is a pretty good place to begin your new life and knock the years off. You’re only as old as the woman you’re, er, with. And there is more than a cornucopia of delight there. And they’ll never even know, back home.
If you want more kids, even in middle-age, it’s not a problem to arrange. Just take care in choosing a nice girl.
Alternatively, find a nice transwoman who wants to settle down and just be cosy with a man who really loves her. It will be worth the effort; she will wind back your clock fifteen years or more. (And you’ll need it to keep up with her.)
Happy New Year
Whatever you do, if you’ve hit that point in a married man’s life, where sex seems but a forlorn memory, remember: where there’s a will, there’s a way and there is always another path. You’re not condemned to a sexless existence. There are other ways. Happy New Year and make sure you get some. It will make you live longer.
Also published on Medium.