Imagining Sex Redistribution

Would this be like a form of taxation, or a form of collective ownership?

Many people sharing fish and rice from a large leaf. Photo by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash

At the beginning of May 2018, Ross Douthat’s op-ed in the New York Times asked whether we ought to consider a redistributive policy toward sex. Incels were in the media, with their key voiced complaint being lack of access to sex. So — let’s explore that in a thought experiment. Note, I am not going to discuss the merits of this idea, or whether or not sexual scarcity is a thing.

Let’s just assume that the bureaucratic policy makers are discussing redistributing sex. Let’s take that at face value and see what we get.

What Kind of Sex?

First, redistributing sex would require a codified definition of what sex actually IS in order to redistribute it. Redistributive policies generally have the population at large to consider, so we’d need to ensure any definition encapsulates sex for a broad swathe of the populus.

Would this mean that the baseline sex-commodity for people with clitorises would be cunnilingus, and for people with penises, it would be a form of penetrative sex (oral, anal, or vaginal)? What would the pleasure differential be between these varying acts and how would we quantify their TPV (total pleasure value) in order to model this system?

Additionally, redistributive policies tend to be focused on human need. If the need this policy seeks to address is for pleasure, then different kinds of sexual activity would have to be encompassed.

It could also mean that the fairest baseline across genders, if we’re defining sex as pleasureable genital stimulation, would be manual sex. This does beg the libertarian question of why not just do it for yourself, but let’s stick to the premise. Many bodies, though not all, can derive genital pleasure from manual stimulation. So, maybe we could all agree on state-coordinated hand jobs as a starting point.

The questions becomes even stickier if we talk about stimulation until orgasm. Maybe the bureaucrats frustrated at how much sexual diversity there is, decide to use orgasm as their key quantifiable metric in making determinations about redistribution. Measuring orgasm is a tricky decision — do you use subjective, self-reported measures, or objective machine derived data confirming that, in fact, orgasm has taken place? This would still be wildly exclusionary toward those individuals unable to experience orgasm due to physiological conditions or undergoing certain intensive medical treatments, but it could conceivably be more quantifiable than a master sex variable.

Suffice to say — this would be an extremely challenging task, as there’s a lot of individual variance when it comes to sexual expression and orgasm. These definitions and quantifications would need to be carefully considered.

What Kind of Redistribution?

As the original article seemed geared toward state-bureaucratic forms of redistributive policy, what might those look like?

Would this be like a form of taxation, or more a form of collective ownership? If taxation, would we want progressive tax bands or a regressive ‘flat tax’ levied on every citizen? Would there instead be redistributive programs administered by the state, from each according to their ability to each according to their need? Would it be like a universal basic sex income, or like a universal sex jobs program?

If taxation, what are we taxing? Does this mean that those in society having the most sex have to contribute a portion of their sex to those who are below a bureaucratically-determined sex poverty threshold?

If some form of partner sex is the ‘income’ in this equation, are there different tax rates for different forms of sexual activity? For example, if within 1 month you receive 2 blowjobs, 3 handjobs, 1 anal sex, and 4 penis-in-vagina sexes, would that be a total of 10 sex, which at a 20% tax rate means that month you’d need to go and give 2 sex to the community pool?

Or, would there be marginal rates based on the activity, so maybe PIV and anal are at the full 20% tax rate but blowjobs and handjobs are subject to only a 10% tax rate? So you’d owe 1.5 sex to the community pool? Do we round up or do we round down?

If total orgasms per month is the metric that we are using in this redistributive model, are all orgasms quantified equally? If so, then this may not work in the way the author of the original NYT op-ed indended, especially if the bureaucrats wire everyone up in order to collect objective data.

Those that consider themselves involuntarily celibate, and who masturbate regularly, may be shocked when their first sex tax bill arrives if orgasm is the quantified measure. If they’re masturbating twice a day, and a month has 30 days, that’s 60 orgasms. At a 20% tax rate, they’d actually OWE 12 orgasms.

Maybe there’d be a tax free allowance, say 1 orgasm per day, in which case these twice daily masturbators would still owe 6 orgasms. And such a threshold may mean that the legion of women, many heterosexual, who have never had an orgasm, or who frequently don’t experience orgasm in heterosexual partner sex, would be the principle recipients of the orgasm tax.

The above was more or less a flat tax model, so what would progressive taxation look like?

That would depend on if we’re talking about sex or orgasms as the variable here.

Would that mean that sex workers and adult performers would owe a significant amount more to the sex pool? Would there be exceptions for commercial sexual activity that has already been subjected to a monetary income tax?

If it’s orgasms instead of sex that we’re measuring, maybe it wouldn’t be all that different for adult performers — the women would still by and large be in line to receive the orgasm tax. Many female performers do not experience orgasm at work, despite what you may think (there is a reason we call them actors).

Ok, so this is getting complicated. Maybe instead let’s look at the “sex as communal property” model of redistribution — from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs. I suspect that this model of redistribution would also disappoint the intended audience of the NYT op-ed.

Young, healthy men with a high desire for sexual expression would likely have significant ability. Would their sex be redistributed to those most in need — the disabled, the terminally ill in hospice care, the lonely elderly?

How would sexual orientation factor into this system?

In the case of heterosexual people, does that mean that the sex from young, healthy women with high desire for sexual expression be redistributed mainly to disabled, terminally ill, and elderly men?

And — if it’s orgasm and not sex we’re talking about, if it’s baseline handjobs, does that mean that we’d see a pattern of taking handjobs from young, able-bodied workers and giving them to the segment of society aged 60+?

Exceptions, Exemptions, Loopholes

What would we do about individuals in the community pool who are completely unable to engage in sexual expression? What about those that have an STI? What about those that have other communicable illnesses — would they get an illness related tax holiday?

Would “sex tax havens” crop up, so any sex that you have in the Bahamas is completely sex tax free? Does that mean all the ‘wealthiest’ sex or orgasm people would move to the Bahamas in a massive sex capital flight? Does that mean that, if someone were watching you and your partner have sex from the Bahamas, that your sex would also be tax free as, technically, there was someone joining in from there by video conference?

Would sex for work become a write-off expense when collating your sex tax returns?

What kind of blackmarkets would spring up? What kind of elaborate accounting systems would be created? Maybe we’d allow people to form “Conception Trusts”, where all sex and orgasms related to a conception effort, rather than being taxed, go into trust and mature if conception takes place.

Would there be an exemption for clergy that experience nocturnal emissions? How would we differentiate between involuntary orgasms, like those in our sleep, and intentional orgasms?

Captial Gains & Corporate Tax Rates

Maybe we’d need to differentiate between the normal income of single and dating people and the capital gains realized by established couples in ongoing relationships. After all, they’ve consolidated their holdings and continue to reap the sex or orgasm rewards without having to face the expense of courting new partners. Should we severely tax capital gains? Would this mean a lot of middle aged people contributing sex to the sex pool? Would this cause the flight of established households and have a knock-on effect in other economic sectors?

Would polyamorous, swinging, or other non-monogamous networks of people become subject to complex-to-calculate corporate tax rates because they generate so much sex and so many orgasms? Or, would the polyamorous/non-monogamous Sex Corps instead make the arguement that, in fact, their sex tax rate should be near zero, because if it gets too high, it’ll threaten the integrity of the network, some people will drop out, and that will actually mean more claimants for sexfare?

Hand Job Centres, Means Testing, Benefit Sanctions

What if we took a more Austerity Britain approach to redistribution? If you were claiming sex poverty, you’d need to come to the Hand Job Centre once a week to talk about what you’ve been doing to try to get yourself out of sex poverty before being taken into a room and be given a handjob by a bored administrator.

Periodically, you’d need to fill out forms containing 150 question to confirm that you are genuinely sex poor and that you’re not hiding some secret under the table sex income from the authorities. You might need a lawyer to help you fill out this paperwork to avoid getting sanctioned. And if you forgot to report that drunken fumble in a pub toilet, then woe betide you. You’re cut off. No more administrative hand jobs for you. You’re not really poor.

When we consider redistributive systems in their operational form, it quickly becomes clear that redistributing “sex” would present myriad complex difficulties in the same way that wealth redistribution does. Also, because sex isn’t a commodity or a thing, the implications become more egregious. If you must give a portion of your money income to taxation, which is redistributed to those without money to acquire the basics of survival, it can feel to some like a robbery, though it’s still relatively impersonal.

If, in this scenario, we all are compelled to start sucking, fucking, and giving hand jobs to those who are in a state of sexual deprivation, then we come to understand that this is a whole other level of coercive, uncomfortable, and wrong.

A socially redistributive system would necessarily encompass all members of a society. All would be subject to uniform rules and laws, meaning that men, women, and non-binary individuals would be expected to contibute and would be entitled to claim according to the letter of the law. Redistributive systems are just about handouts — they require contributions from those able to contribute in order to be sustainable.

Incels are not talking about some logical application of redistributive justice. What they want is to be able to force conventionally physically attractive, young, sexually inexperienced women to have sex with them, without being expected to do anything at all apart from say “I am in sex poverty.”

Incels believe that it is not possible for women to experience sexual poverty, so their vision of sexual redistribution would not include women, non-binary people, or homosexual men as worthy recipients of this aid. Their vision of sexual redistribution would not see them offering hand jobs or oral sex to disabled men and women, or to terminally ill hospice patients, or others in situations of sexual lack.

It’s a vision that would only see themselves as beneficiaries of a coercive system with a one way flow of sex. It’d in effect be tax banditry.

The devil here, as always, is in the details.

So What Could We Do Instead?

I think that sexual rights are human rights — human beings are sexual from the moment we are born until the moment we die. Our individual sexualities are powerful, vibrant parts of ourselves that take myriad forms of expression. Many things can be sexual. And a life oriented toward pleasure and sexual fulfilment can bring great contentment and meaning.

I know from my work as a sex coach that there are a lot of people yearning to connect sexually with others and struggling to do so. This pain is very real and worthy of acknowledgement and care.

So here are a couple policies that we could pursue that would actually address the question of creating a world with more sexual pleasure in it:

  1. Comprehensive sex and relationship education provided to all humans as a right, including education about pleasure and masturbation.
  2. Normalizing sex work as work and having it become as ubiquitous and passe as massage therapy: “Hey, what are you doing after work? Getting a massage from Rafael, you know he’s amazing at finding all the sore spots. You? Going to see Isaac, my sex worker. His cunnilingus is divine.”
  3. Redistributing actual money income and wealth in a way that prioritizes human well-being. A Universal Basic Income could go a long way toward helping people to approach each other more as equals in the sexual field. This would open up more sexual opportunities to everyone.
  4. Codifying WAS’ Declaration of Sexual Rights into International Law
  5. One for the futurists: sex robots are here, the technology is advancing at a breakneck pace, and I for one am totally excited about this. Why not have a sex robot harem at each municipal building that the general population could use, as owning individual sex robots is currently very expensive? Each citizen could be issued with their own set of robot hands, mouths, and genitals for hygiene reasons, and bring them down to the municipal robot brothel with them. Snap on, hop on, have a wonderful session of robot sex, and return to life uplifted.

Special thanks to Piotr Migdał for the conversation that inspired this piece.

Sarah Martin is a Sociologist & Certified Sex Coach. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and learn more at her website.