Dr. Keith Ablow: Why are Americans obsessed with sex (now more than ever)?

Last week I shared my view that it’s really the American viewers, readers and broadcasters who are addicted to sex, and that the sexual behaviors of our candidates merely fuel our insatiable appetites for salacious material.

Once sex becomes the focus of news reports, I argued, everything else blurs for readers, listeners and viewers — including matters of domestic and foreign policy.

Freud was right; the sex drive can eclipse all others. We get lost in the darkness of the id, the domain of animal instinct. We seem unable to find our way to the light of higher-order thinking.

Why would this be happening now, in 2016? Certainly, the sexcapades of Bill Clinton generated plenty of headlines a couple of decades ago. But the intensity of the focus on whom Donald Trump and Bill Clinton may have sexually assaulted and the content of Anthony Weiner’s sexting marks a new low in our collective unconscious.

In 2016, it seems we might be immunizing ourselves with sex to fight back against being pixilated and medicated and drugged and filled and fictionalized.

I believe the answer to“Why now?” resides in the convergence of forces that threaten our sense of being alive, as animal beings, inside bodies that experience sensations and are possessed of minds that register emotions — some of them quite primitive.

The forces that threaten to disembody us include technologies like the internet, which encourages us to communicate electronically — often using fictional personas like those we craft for Facebook — instead of face-to-face or by voice.

They include GPS and, soon enough, will include self-driving vehicles that could leave us devoid of our inborn sense of direction. They include virtual reality, which encourages us to believe we are in different locations than where our feet were once firmly planted, sometimes fighting monsters that don’t exist with weapons made of pixels, inflicting injuries that matter not at all because the animated creatures suffering them don’t really suffer at all.

We can add to these disembodying forces the increasing use of marijuana (despite its usefulness for some medical conditions) and heroin and Ecstasy and magic mushrooms, which anesthetize millions of Americans on a routine basis. We can also add the overprescribing of psychiatric medications — which can have the unintended consequence of shutting down true, if uncomfortable, insights — without accompanying psychotherapy. We can even throw in the use by millions of people, whether one thinks it a gift or a scourge, of every manner of erasing the face of aging through plastic surgery and “fillers” and Botox.

In 2016, it seems we might be immunizing ourselves with sex to fight back against being pixilated and medicated and drugged and filled and fictionalized. It seems we may be taking the most direct path to our bodies and to reality by having lots of sex or talking about having lots of sex or talking about other people touching each other or having sex with one another.

This would be mostly an academic issue for scholars were it not an immediate issue for Americans in this presidential election. Because while we unconsciously insulate ourselves against evaporating into the internet by grounding ourselves in erotic news stories, the economy can unravel.

And while we debate who touched whom and when and where and if at all, our enemies can be plotting to blow us up.

And while we talk about a candidate’s genitals, we might miss the fact that the candidate has been talking about bringing us back to reality in more productive ways — like getting us back to work, restoring the physical borders that define our nation, delivering lifesaving health care to our ailing and dying veterans and arming our military against radical Islamic terrorism.

As far as I’m concerned, I’d like to watch all that happen, instead of watching adult entertainment that masquerades as news.