This new book reveals all the weird, surprising ways sex has shaped our world
For his next project, journalist Ross Benes turned to a topic that’s never out of style: sex.
The Digiday reporter is set to publish Turned On next month, an investigation into all of the weird, surprising, provocative ways sex has shaped our world. “Your breakfast cereal. Your neighborhood’s crime rate. Even your Amazon Prime account. Believe it or not, nearly every aspect of modern life has been shaped in some way by sex,” the book’s synopsis reads. “In this fascinating journey through the human psyche, journalist Ross Benes digs deep into the hidden relationship between everyday human existence ― including religion, politics, technology, and more ― and our sexuality.”
Benes has given EW a sneak peek of what he’s uncovered, with revelations sure to raise a few eyebrows. Below, you can see an excerpt from the book which reveals the top 5 surprising ways sex has influenced society. Read on for your edification, and pre-order the book ahead of its May 1 release here.
Excerpt from Turned On, by Ross Benes
THE TOP 5 SURPRISING WAYS SEX INFLUENCED SOCIETY
1. Breakfast Foods
Some of America’s most prominent breakfast staples were originally intended to sandbag libidos.
Sylvester Graham and John Harvey Kellogg were evangelical preachers who wished people would have less sex. Kellogg once said, “The reproductive act is the most exhausting of all vital acts.”
They both believed that diet had a huge impact on people’s sex drives. So they invented the bland vegetarian foods corn flakes and Graham crackers in order to reduce the sinister urge.
Whenever people wake up and chow down on cereal, they indulge the preachers’ fantasies that milk and grain in the morning will curb masturbation.
If government researchers are the inventors of the internet, then pornographers are the entrepreneurs who brought it to the masses.
Ecommerce, video streaming, affiliate marketing, tracking devices and online credit card transactions are just of the few digital technologies that porn popularized. Since it dominated the flow images and videos in the internet’s early days, porn also drove the demand for more bandwidth, which was needed for the internet to become mainstream.
“In myriad ways, large and small, the porn industry has blazed a commercial path that other industries are hastening to follow,” said legal analyst and author Frederick Lane.
Because porn is usually discussed in highly ideologically ways, it’s difficult for people to objectively examine its influence on the many products and services that guide our everyday lives.
3. Crime Rates
The way countries define marriage can impact crime rates since polygamous societies generally have more crime than monogamous societies. In a study of 157 countries published by the Royal Society, researchers found that legalizing polygamy leads to a greater number of unmarried men, which in turn contributes to higher rates of rape and murder. They concluded this is largely because single men are more likely to commit crimes than attached men.
A similar effect is found in societies where the gender ratio is skewed and there are more men than women. As China’s gender ratio became more unbalanced, its crime rates rose. One study published by the Institute for the Study of Labor concluded that “the increasing maleness” of China’s population may account for a third of its overall rise in crime.
4. Savings Rates
Having too many men in a society can also create economic problems. In China, the one-child policy led to increased savings rates, according to a study by a Columbia University economist. This is because families with boys save more of their income to make their sons competitive in a dating market that statistically disadvantages them.
“We found that not only did households with sons save more than households with daughters on average, but that households with sons tend to raise their savings rate if they also happen to live in a region with a more skewed gender ratio,” said the study’s author.
The study estimated that half of the increasing in household savings in China is attributable to parents saving money to secure their sons mates. This means the one-child policy holds economic significance because the high Chinese savings rate affects international trade imbalances.
5. Religious pluralism
Seeking out reproductive assistance can be tricky for women in the Middle East if their religion outlaws technologies that would help them have their own children. When that challenge arises, sometimes the unthinkable happens and people of different faiths come together to make a baby.
Islam is the most popular religion in the Middle East and the Sunni and Shia denominations have different approaches to reproductive technology. Sunnis using artificial insemination or in-vitro fertilization must be married before they can do and they are only allowed to use their own eggs and sperm in the procedures.
But in Shia-majority countries like Lebanon and Iran, jurists have interpreted the Qur’an to favor the permissibility of using other people’s eggs and sperm for reproduction. Because infertility is high and adoption is frowned upon in many Middle Eastern societies, some infertile Sunni couples venture into Shia territory to expand the reproductive techniques they can use to increase their probability of producing a child.
In-vitro fertilization attempts tend to fail more than 70 percent of the time, and the treatments are expensive meaning that only the wealthy can afford them in many countries. While reproductive technology isn’t always a savior, the women jumping borders to receive reproductive assistance demonstrate how cultural diversity can be personally beneficial.