Is Sex The New Debt?

Last week, when I wrote about my series of unfortunate events in travel (and related it to serial obstacles in personal finance), I left something out. I wasn’t sure if it would be appropriate or relevant to write about it, but I believe it is.

Stuck on the runway

Mishap #5 of my trip home from Washington DC two weeks ago was a flight delay. “But no sooner were we buckled into our seats than the captain announced that we’d have to wait about 20 minutes for a weather system to pass. That 20 minutes turned into 2½ hours – on the runway – in a small, prop airplane. We would miss our 4:30 pm connecting flight in Toronto. Ugh!” Impatient frustration and a touch of stir-crazy claustrophobia settled in as the minutes ticked on. Nobody was happy about it, and many of us were texting family and friends, explaining our predicament and adjusting plans for pick up.

The woman seated right behind me was likewise on her phone. She was talking with a friend – I’m guessing another woman – and she started out with the complaint we were all experiencing. “Poor me. Stuck on the runway, looking out the window.” Her voice was louder than it needed to be on an otherwise silent plane, but that wasn’t an issue … until her conversation veered in a different direction.

Sex talk – on a small plane – stuck on the runway

“I hope I see Drake. He’s from Toronto … There are a lot of hot Canadians. To tell you the truth, that’s why I’m making this trip …”

(“Oh well,” I thought. “Better than trapped boredom.”)

“Ryan Gosling is Canadian.” It was clear that the woman’s friend then mentioned the name of another “hot Canadian.” “Oh my God! Oh my God! If I could see him, I would … I would … I would …”

(I cringed as she tried to find the words. “Please don’t say what you would do!”)

“I would be degraded!”

(At this point, my sister and I just looked at each other – wide-eyed and incredulous.)

“… My lover broke up with me last week-end. He was so sweet about it …” It was clear that the break-up had happened via Skype or something like it. “Now, just suspend any judgment and listen. He said that he couldn’t go on always waiting for me to fly to Paris and then spend 5 days in my hotel room. He knew all about my divorce, but he said he wanted to try to make things work out with his wife …” She paused here, her friend no doubt saying a few words about the fact he was married. “I know. I know. But I like him. It’s hard. Anyway, he said what he needed to say, and we both cried. Then, we just took off all our clothes and lay there naked for the rest of the night…”

(By this point, our jaws had dropped. The woman across the aisle from us silently laughed. “Does this really happen?” my sister asked her. She shook her head, and I noticed she had her cell phone up – possibly recording every word of the show?)

“I was married for 12 years and I know I liked playing the field … Now, I have more access to —-” (I won’t say the word. She essentially reduced men to one body part.) “… I bought a bag of condoms, but I forget them. I’ll have to buy Canadian condoms. They’re probably bigger – with maple-syrup flavored lube…”

(My sister was madly typing into her phone, trying to capture the one side of this unbelievable conversation that we – and I’m guessing at least half the passengers on that small prop plane – were hearing.)

Margaret Atwood on society’s cycle of addictions

Margaret Atwood, author of Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth suggests that as a society, we go through cycles of addiction.

“‘Debt is the new fat,’ someone said recently. Which led me to reflect that, not so long ago, fat was the new cigarette-smoking, and before that, cigarette-smoking was the new alcohol-drinking, and before that, alcohol-drinking was the new whoremongering. And whoremongering is the new debt; and so we go in circles … I left out hallucinogenic drugs, though they fit in there too.”

As a society, we are currently feeling the often devastating impact of record-breaking levels of consumer debt. The negative impacts of the recent obesity epidemic, that started with children born in the 1970s, are still prevalent. Post WWII, “everyone” smoked – and death by lung cancer later skyrocketed. Prohibition was widely established during the 1920s and 30s to stem the tide of alcoholism. Atwood uses the old-fashioned (and sexist) word “whoremongering” as a nod to the century that has passed since an outbreak of gonorrhea and other STDs in the early 1900s brought its devastation – the result of widespread unprotected sex.

If, as she says, “whoremongering is the new debt,” guess what is up next as a devastating force for us as a society?

Sex addiction on the horizon?

I’ve heard my share of “girl talk” from outspoken women – sometimes with a drink in their hands – but I have never heard anything like the talk coming out of the woman who sat behind me in that plane. And although she was extreme, I do believe that whole scenario was symptomatic of a shift – and not a good one.

  • She was speaking loudly, in complete sobriety, seeming to think it wasn’t necessary to have consideration for the people (including children) who couldn’t help but hear.
  • She said she was making the trip for sex.
  • She was comfortable having had an affair with a married man and having “played the field” through her own marriage.
  • She spoke of men as sex objects.
  • No airline staff asked her to be quiet.

This does not indicate a move of “progress” towards “freedom” – it indicates selfishness, deceit, dehumanizing, and bondage (best word – sorry) to an addiction. By the time our current consumer debt fiasco is on the mend, will sex addiction take its place? There are signs of trouble ahead. Internet porn addiction is rampant. And gonorrhea is back – a new form of it – not yet treatable.

Side-stepping societal addictions

OK, weigh in here. Do you agree with Atwood’s “cycle of addictions” theory? Do you see evidence of sex addiction on the horizon? What negative impacts does it have? How can people side-step it? Your comments are welcome.

Image courtesy of Pexels.


24 comments on “Is Sex The New Debt?

  1. Interesting theory on human nature, and one I haven’t heard before. It seems the more leisure time we have, the more susceptible we are as a society to various addictions. I’m not sure I agree that there’s a cycle per se, but the best way to avoid addictions of any kind is to live your values….spend your time/money/efforts/etc. on your priorities.

    1. Thanks Gary. You’re a brave man to be the first to comment! “live your values” – Good advice! Unfortunately, not everyone takes the time to know their values – and those values, in some cases, are shifting things, making them easy targets for social pressures.

  2. I’m currently reading a book called Alone Together about how people and society are changing as we incorporate more technology into our lives. One of the trends that the author noted is that with cell phones people are acting like they disappear from the public space they are in to engage in their intimate, private conversation. I have never felt that more clearly than reading this post.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Matt. According to that theory, this woman considered herself to have disappeared from the public space of the seating on our plane because she was on her phone. That’s something I hadn’t considered before. Thanks again.

  3. Technology has certainly seemed to have made it easier in recent years for the casual attitude toward sex to reemerge. Dating site, Apps, etc. Almost a disconnect from the relationship part of meeting someone new. Just look at how most people communicate these days, via text. Can’t say I’ve ever heard anyone man or woman speak so openly. I’m not sure I agree with the cycle of addiction, I just think certain people are more susceptible to addiction.

    1. I’m glad you mention dating apps. Someone I know works with medical stats said that the recent rise in rates of gonorrhea correlates perfectly with upward trends in the use of Tinder. You’re right in saying that technology has made that casual attitude easier to adopt.

  4. I hate to say I’ve noticed this disturbing trend where we live for years. Roughly seven years ago, the priest in the LARGE Catholic church located where we live had to give a serious sermon about swinging to his congregation, as it was becoming quite well known that swinging was becoming a regular pastime in our affluent suburb and no one seemed to think it wrong – not even the Christians who are called to live via the instructions in the Bible that absolutely forbids sexual immorality of any kind.

    This was the beginning of my eye-opening journey to the kind of world we’re descending into, one where there are no wrongs or rights – instead it’ll all about what “I want” no matter the wreckage it leaves behind. 🙁

    Thank you for speaking out on this, Ruth. Most people wouldn’t have had the guts. Your God is proud.

    1. OK, I’m shocked about the need to preach in church against swinging among congregants. Yikes! I too am disturbed by what you notice – the growing prevalence of the view that “there are no wrongs or rights”. That attitude makes any morality seem preachy, judgmental, and limiting – so it’s difficult even to discuss it. Thanks, Laurie.

  5. I don’t know if one woman’s poor (or lack of) judgment is indicative of society as a whole. The kinds of things she was speaking about have been happening since the dawn of man, it’s just most people understand that you shouldn’t go bragging about it, loudly, in public places.

    1. Thanks for your input, Becky. I agree that this woman was extreme, and that what she was talking about has always happened, as have alcoholism, over-eating, smoking – all of the addictive behaviours Atwood mentions. It’s a question of whether or not there is a spike in the addiction, and I still think there is. I think that one symptom of this spike can be seen in the runway incident here: I can promise you that if it had happened 30 years ago (no cell phones – but you know what I mean), someone would have approached this woman to tell her to stop. The fact that we all, airline staff included, just sat through it indicates the uncertainty we now have about where to draw the line – or even if there is a line to draw.

  6. oooooh, I so agree with your response to Becky.

    A few years back I was at a Subway with my son and a group of men sat at the table behind us. One of the men was quite loud and boisterous, which wouldn’t have been so bad, but the continuous use of the “F” word made us finally get up and move across the restaurant. Not that it helps much in those tiny places. But what got me was that no one in the restaurant asked him to keep it down or to stop altogether. I would have at least expected a staff member or a manager to intervene. I do have to admit to giggling throughout your post though. You are SO entertaining Ruth! Thank you for starting my day with a smile, although I am sorry you had to deal with that.

    1. No need to be sorry for me! It was a real break from the boredom during that delay. I’m glad you had a giggle : ) And I’ve had that experience in a restaurant too. My youngest was with me, and she was about twelve at the time. Still, no intervention for the patron using the “F” word as punctuation. Confusing world we’re in!

  7. Amen to that! Can you imagine when we were kids that happening? I don’t think I even knew the “F” word existed until I was 12. Even then, rarely heard it until the last decade or so. It’s sad how kids barely have a chance to be kids anymore.

    1. I was going to mention this as well. I’m only 31 years old and I grew up in a family that swore. But, it seems to be in everyday tv shows now have it. Plus, it seems more common in workplaces and the Hollwood movies too. Basically, there’s a lot we don’t plan on letting our children watch.

      I think that is a good indicator that personal thoughts aren’t so personal anymore.

      1. Thanks, Josh. TV has a huge influence in making certain things “normal” – good point there. As for “personal thoughts”, Matt (2nd comment) said about people think they disappear from the public sphere once they’re on their devices – so that might explain the public announcement of personal thoughts?

  8. Okay, my mouth literally fell open reading what this lady was saying on the airplane. Good grief!! I hate to sound old-fashioned but jeez, where is her sense of decency? Have some respect for yourself and those around you! Also, the whole maple-flavored thing… I can’t… Lol, I might belong in a different decade 🙂

    1. The maple syrup thing really did cap it all off! I think you’re in the right decade, Mackenzie. I’d say this decade needs people like you : )

  9. Funny as….
    But on a slightly serious note I wonder how things would have been if the sexes in this story had been reversed. i.e. it was a man talking loudly about his sex life and having affairs.

    1. I was just talking about that with friends last night! There is a decided double standard in cases like this – and it’s biased against men. A man would have been stared at, spoken to, approached, and possibly punched if he had spoken as this woman had. We all would have been thoroughly disgusted by him. With the woman, there was shock, discomfort – but also laughter. Not fair, I know. Thanks for raising that point, Kiwi Bloke : )

  10. It felt to me as if she may have been putting on a show for the rest of us on the plane. Some people like an audience. They want to be the star in their own reality show. They crave attention
    and what an opportunity it was for this woman – her own captive audience as we sat silently in astonishment on the tarmac.
    Glad to have been able to share a giggle with sister Ruth! Ironically she was reading a book about Jane Austen. What would Jane have thought?

    1. Jane Austen would have been thoroughly shocked, and then she would have giggled about it with her sister – and then worked it into her next masterpiece : )

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