COVID has taken a toll on intimacy

By Michael P. Riccards

After three years of sequestration and the loss of a million loved ones in America alone, we now must face somehow the restoration of a sense of intimacy. Increasingly we are seeing evidence of the aftereffects of COVID. 

To protect ourselves, we were told by the highest authorities to avoid contact with people, to wear masks, to not visit those in nursing homes and prisons, and to stand six feet away from people in lines. The entertainment industry was decimated; the school system became bare bones academically; the patterns of work and distribution were disrupted, and the arguments of mass inoculation were prominent while politicians made use of those divisions as they usually do.

We have seen a reemergence of the hostilities against racial minorities and women and upheavals in executive positions in every area from education, museums, corporate boards, and the media. The outcome, it is assumed, will be salutatory, with greater inclusion and diversity.

But the New York Times recently had an op-ed piece by a sexologist who said that our intimacy problem can only be solved by wanton, free-wheeling sex. That will bring back intimacy to the American people.

Immediately the response from letters to the editor was mostly from women who were saying, “Wait a minute, what are we getting back into?” Well, the more respectable Pew Research Center has given us a more troubling finding. Sixty-three percent of men under 30 are effectively single. Young men are watching a lot of social media, and many of them are watching pornography and are getting their needs met without having to go out.  As one person has said, you don’t even have to shave or shower in that world.

Just half of the single men who responded said that they were looking for a committed relationship or at least casual dates, down from 62% four years ago.  Psychologists say we have a crisis of connection and discontinuity from each other and maybe even ourselves. 

The number of women under 30 who are single is 35%, a slight increase since the pandemic. Another factor at play is the interests of women are changing — especially as suitors of that age group are less desirable, One psychologist in LA has said that women would rather go to brunch with friends than have a horrible date, Once when as a college president I asked a group of girls why the percentage of females was overtaking boys in college, one girl timidly raised her hand and said, “Mr. President, we have learned from our mothers that we can’t count on the men.”

The more troubling conclusion is that men as a whole are more lonely people than women. In the early 1990s  55% of men reported having have six or more close friends, That percentage was 27% in 2021, and now 15% of men have no close friends,  Women are seeking out friends, but men are not there as suitors or as companions.

We have much to make right in this country. COVID has taken a great toll so we must rethink or redefine our concepts of masculinity, intimacy, physical sex, and most importantly the capacity to form friendships, acquaintanceships, and love — eros as well as agape.

Michael P. Riccards, a former college president. is the author of 30 books, including a two-volume history of the presidency, The Ferocious Engine of Democracy, and the recently published Woodrow Wilson as Commander-in-Chief. Riccards wrote this article for the Jandoli Institute.

Categories: Jandoli Institute, Media, Michael Riccards, Politics

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