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Ken dollCourtesy eBay

The death of the straight man’s libido

Maybe it’s not even that men don’t want sex – they just don’t want sex with the real women who are offering it to them

“Imagine if one day your husband came home and said, ‘I don’t feel like having sex with you,’” opines Dana Chanel, a married woman, influencer and possible scammer who spends her time making videos where she sits in an empty room and pretends she is being interviewed for relationship advice. While so far I had watched the clip of her nonsensical ramblings with a straight face and my eyes rolled back in my head, once she said this I began maniacally laughing – because if there’s one thing that me and many of my straight women peers seem to have in common, it’s that our crushes, boyfriends, dating app matches, and even husbands (!) often do not feel like having sex with us.

We seem to be living through a drought of straight male libido. Women I know, who are both single and in relationships, complain of men with little to no interest in sex – and stats seem to back these claims up. According to a poll from 2019, which recently resurfaced on Twitter, a third of American men are not having sex, with “a much larger than expected number” of these falling in the 18-29 age bracket. That number is almost certainly even higher post-pandemic, given how much it “stunted” our collective social development. A Google search of “‘why don’t straight men want to have sex” returns endless listicles that blame health problems: stress, exhaustion, drug and alcohol abuse, antidepressants, low testosterone; or, alternatively, porn addiction, too much masturbating, infidelity, or feeling rejected and unloved by their partners. 

In contrast, the straight women I know are hungry for sex, confused and frustrated at partners with libidos that don’t match theirs. It’s not that straight men are not horny at all, as evidenced by the soaring popularity of porn and their continued love of sending women on the internet weird, unsolicited messages. But their horniness is ambient, muted, online, and they often seem more interested in other things: video games; reading; partying; sports; incessantly sending women fire emoji reactions on Instagram, but baulking at the prospect of actual skin-to-skin contact with them.

This sexual landscape is perhaps even more disconcerting because of the way we have been conditioned through both popular culture and conventional wisdom to see masculine sexuality as a bottomless well of desire, and men as permanently drooling horny idiots who value sex more than anything else in life. And now here we are, sexually liberated and vocally consenting to fuck, and we are being met with disinterest. Perhaps the reactionary evangelicals that seem to have taken over the internet recently are right, that the reason straight men have lost interest is that modern women are turning them off by not being “feminine” and “submissive” enough. To which I say: grow up. 

Orthodox, heteronormative understandings of masculinity argue that men are biologically predisposed to work and provide for their families, and that this is what brings them joy and purpose in life. In a world where traditional markers of masculinity such as being the breadwinner have fallen away, some straight men seem to have replaced the power they once had over women in the more patriarchal past with an all-out hatred (if the rise of murderous incels and MRAs are anything to go by). Looking out onto a social landscape that seems increasingly at odds with the concept of a meaningful and dignified life for anyone regardless of gender – and in which women still suffer under a gendered pay gap but seem to be doing better in a general sense across the board than their male counterparts – they have concluded that their feelings of loneliness and alienation are at the hands of women.

Straight men have been presented with the opportunity to redefine masculinity in the wake of women’s liberation, but rather than face this challenge head-on they seem to have just checked out – retreating into themselves, refusing to move out of their parent’s homes, and spending their time listening to other insecure losers on the internet who blame fourth-wave feminism for their own lack of purpose. The worst of them seek solace in the words of other embittered, misogynist men such as former MMA fighter and alleged human trafficker Andrew Tate, or Jordan Peterson, a “clinical psychologist” who only eats beef and has a concerningly incestuous-seeming relationship with his own daughter. These right-wing personalities want us to believe that men are no longer making sexual advances towards women because they are scared of being “cancelled” or accused of sexual assault, but really they are cowards who fear rejection from women who are allowed to say no.

Despite what these sad little men preach, women being independent and self-sufficient is not and never will be, a bad thing – in fact, it is crucial to stop us from backsliding into a world where we are not allowed to do or have anything without male permission. The problem with modern heterosexual relations isn’t that women are no longer submissive to their male partners, it’s that straight men have not managed to find a way to define themselves in a world where we are no longer reliant on them. Faced with independent women who don’t need but only want them, who see their male partners as peers rather than masters to submit to, they are sexually threatened, as if their enjoyment of sex is reliant on an understanding of it as an adversarial act couched in control and domination rather than straightforward pleasure.

The problem with modern heterosexual relations isn’t that women are no longer submissive to their male partners, it’s that straight men have not managed to find a way to define themselves in a world where we are no longer reliant on them“

It goes without saying that ~*not all men*~ are like this, and that some are normal, well-adjusted and in sexually satisfying relationships with women (allegedly). But the evidence is undeniable. A generation of men who grew up in a world of endless free pornography and media that pushed them to see women as passive sexual objects have come of age and found themselves faced with women with their own thoughts and desires and agency, and it has left them feeling short-changed. For a not insignificant amount of men, sex with women seems to be something that is only worth having if it comes about through trickery or coercion – the very act of a woman displaying sexual desire or agency is enough to stop them from wanting to have sex with her. Now that women have the ability to assert their own desires and act upon them, men have decided they’re not interested, instead turning to fictional, digital women that reify women’s unattainability. Perhaps it’s not even that men don’t want sex, they just don’t want sex with the real women who are offering it to them. But if that is the case, then that is a problem for them.

Maybe straight men never really had anything to offer in the first place and it was only wildly unbalanced social and material conditions that made them feel like they did. In her Dazed article about the future of heterosexuality, Shon Faye worries about “discovering a great anticlimax at heterosexuality’s core: finding out that men, on their own, without my confusion and shame and self-interrogation and loneliness there to define them, are actually not very much at all”. ​​Faced with the prospect of being required to bring something to the table rather than having everything handed to them because women were de facto (if not de jure) second-class citizens, more and more modern men are choosing to simply cower in their bedrooms, jerk off to their favourite e-girl’s Onlyfans (don’t worry ladies, they hate her too), and feel resentful. The solution to the modern crisis of masculinity and heterosexuality that we are experiencing isn’t reverting back to conservative and damaging gender roles, it’s straight men figuring out how to rediscover their purpose – and by extension maybe their libidos, in the face of women who are now in charge of theirs.