Every social issue we have could be completely solved if we all slept with one another
Humans kill for many reasons: Mental health, politics, racism ...
But several studies on the root causes of violence in humans point to an under-examined motive: People aren't getting laid.
Sexual frustration, as a motive for violence, is an explanation so basic that it’s often overlooked. It jangles the nerves. It puts you on edge. This way of thinking goes back to the hippie slogan of 'Make Love, Not War' — it’s easy to dismiss as stoner nonsense.
But evidence for a connection between peace and sex is all over the place. The countries where teens lose their virginity early — chiefly in Scandinavia — are incredibly peaceful. And the countries which are sexually satisfied overlaps with the list of peaceful countries. America, meanwhile, is one of the least sexually satisfied countries (defined as having sex at least once a week), and we're also one of the developed world’s most violent.
The link between sex and peace has been scientifically supported for over 40 years. In 1975, a developmental neuropsychologist named James W. Prescott published a landmark paper that cataloged dozens of ways peace goes together with pleasure, including sexual pleasure. Cultures that are peaceful tend to:
- Support nudity.
- Have more equality between the sexes.
- Tolerate premarital sex.
- Encourage sexual openness.
On the other hand, Prescott looked at hundreds of different societies and ranked them based on how sexually repressed and prudish they are — and also how violent and crime-ridden. There was a link. Cultures which are prone to violence also tend to:
- Punish or stigmatize premarital or extramarital sex.
- Punish teen sex.
- Disapprove of prostitution.
- Discourage abortion.
“I am now convinced that the deprivation of physical sensory pleasure is the principal root cause of violence,” writes Prescott. “Available data clearly indicate that the rigid values of monogamy, chastity, and virginity help produce physical violence.”
Kids, too, benefit from sexually satisfied parents, according to a study at the University of Colorado. Psychiatrists Brandt F. Steele and C. B. Pollock studied generations of families who abused their children. Almost without exception, they found, women who abused their children had never experienced orgasm.
What’s happening here? There is research that a brain which is experiencing pleasure just doesn’t have room for violent impulses. “A raging, violent animal will abruptly calm down when electrodes stimulate the pleasure centers of its brain,” Prescott writes.
Animal studies suggest that the sex-peace link goes back to our ape siblings, and you can see this easily in the two ape species most closely related to us. Chimpanzees are sexually-possessive serial rapists — and also totally warlike. Bonobos, meanwhile, are orgy-loving, partner-swapping freaks — and not one bonobo has ever been seen to kill another bonobo.
The rational responses to the violence of this summer will be many, from gun control to body cameras to improved mental health service. But Prescott, and others, point to a simpler response.
“The solution to physical violence is physical pleasure,” Prescott writes. His concrete solutions come straight out of a ‘70s commune: Family bathing, letting teens openly use the house to have sex, bathhouses everywhere. And so this looks, from 2016, kind of stupid.
But, since Prescott’s landmark paper came out in 1975, people have spent decades nitpicking at small parts of his larger data — but no one has ever shown that Prescott’s main point is wrong.
And has anything in the news lately disproved his central thesis? Sure, there are exceptions here: Manson had a stable of girls ready for him and bin Laden had four wives. But aren’t sexually repressed cultures in the Middle East and North Africa doing an awful lot of the bombing? Aren’t a lot of the mass shooters single, unmarried males — many of them virgins or admittedly not getting any action?
Prescott concludes that if we strive to increase the pleasure in our lives, we will decrease the violence, since one seems to inhibit the other. “When physical pleasure is high, physical violence is low,” he writes. ”When violence is high, pleasure is low.”