In the middle of a stock market debacle that most people are only pretending to understand — it involves GameStop? GameStop is suddenly worth all of the money but simultaneously worth none of the money? — a professor from New York University’s business school put forth a simplified analysis for why tanking companies were now being strategically overvalued by day traders.
“It’s about sex,” Scott Galloway tweeted in a viral thread earlier this week. “Specifically, young men not having (enough) sex.” Regularly available sex, Galloway argued, was a stabilizing force that led to “relationships, obligations and guardrails.” When sex was lacking, men were forced to act out: “Arm young men, in a basement, not at work, not having sex, not forming connection, with an RH account, a phone and stimulus and you have the perfect storm of volatility as they wage war against established players.”
Give the basement men sex, implied this tweet thread. Or they will take down the economy.
There are, uh, a few issues with this.
1. As many female day traders pointed out, not everyone betting on GameStop and AMC Theatres — a complicated strategy that involves soaking the rich — was a man at all, much less a sexually frustrated subterranean one.
2. By Galloway’s reckoning, the pestilent side effects of unbridled capitalism could be boiled down, in both cause and solution, to women’s willingness in the bedroom. Yes, the country was screwed, but that could be fixed if the basement men of the country were also . . .
This was a dumb hypothesis that could easily be ignored except that it arrived on the heels of two more serious-minded reports about whether cooped-up couples were procreating during the pandemic. Short answer: They aren’t. The baby boom some had predicted? It hasn’t arrived. The Brookings Institution now forecasts that the coronavirus will instead lead to a “large, lasting baby bust,” with a birth decline of 300,000 this year. In the second report, NBCLX found that hospital systems around the country were seeing lower-than-usual birthrates: Nine months after stay-at-home orders began, rates were down 7 percent in Ohio, 8 percent in Florida and 5 percent in Arizona compared with 2019.
Economic uncertainty, forced home schooling and the daily panic of contracting a deadly illness at the grocery store are not, it turns out, aphrodisiacs.
“This is a bad situation,” a sociologist and demographer at the University of Maryland told NBCLX. The article went on to elaborate: A smaller cohort of babies eventually means a smaller workforce, with fewer young employees paying forward into the Social Security system.
Yes, the country’s entitlement programs might need to go to the mattresses, but this could be fixed if the heterosexuals of the country would simply . . .
What does a terrible Twitter thread have in common with number-crunching reports of plummeting birthrates? Not much, except that an alien landing on Earth to read the headlines could end up with a mangled concept of what ailed America (not enough sex) and how it could be healed (more).
Day traders are not short-circuiting the system because they are virgins. They’re doing it for a lot of reasons, including personal profit and affection for struggling bricks-and-mortar stores and movie theaters. Mostly, they’re doing it because our flawed, unfair and highly manipulable system allows it. “The GameStop rollercoaster shows what can happen when the stock market is played like a casino,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted Thursday. “ . . . If we want a healthy stock market, we need a cop on the beat.”
Note how the senator did not add, “Also, women need to do their part by seducing men away from E-Trade.” Nobody serious thinks that’s how you regulate the world of finance.
More serious is the baby bust. It is potentially worrisome that in 20 years, we might not have enough younger workers to fund the post-retirement lives of older ones. But the pandemic isn’t the only reason women are not having babies. It’s also because of the inadequacies that the pandemic has revealed. Women do not want to have babies in a world where there is no accessible child care. They do not want to have babies in a world where they do not know if they have the financial means to raise them because of job loss, stagnated wages or the gender pay gap. They do not want to introduce a new generation to a planet that simply falls apart if it doesn’t keep spinning faster and faster.
America has made it almost uniquely difficult to raise a family. This was true before the pandemic. For women, especially, whose careers, finances, free time and bodily autonomy traditionally take the hit.
No, sex isn’t the solution to our problems. The solution to our problems is a serious look at why people might be having less of it, how we might make them want to have more of it and whether that involves a total overhaul of a system that depends on procreation as a Ponzi scheme — more and more healthy children, creating the illusion of a healthy society.
“It’s about sex” manages to be both misogynistic and comforting. It’s a scapegoat. It says: See? We don’t have to overhaul our entire crippled infrastructure. We just need women to chill out and put on some Enya.
The future of the human race might depend on sex, but the future of society cannot.
Monica Hesse is a columnist writing about gender and its impact on society. For more visit wapo.st/hesse.