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The End of the Male Sexual Cartel
Ishtar's Angel: Chapter 2
[This is Chapter 2 of Ishtar’s Angel. For more chapters, click here.]
“Why are you here?” Serah asked, before I started my Sensual Ceremony at Ishtar's Angels, the world's first end-of-life bordello, combining sex work and assisted suicide.
It was a few years before I started guiding Ceremonies there. This time, I was the one being guided. (Had the Ceremony gone as planned, I wouldn’t be here writing about it.)
“The world doesn’t have any more use for human writers anymore,” I shrugged.
Serah looked at me with a mix of compassion and tedium. Her job was to be compassionate—but how could she maintain active compassion for the same kind of ain’t-got-a-job sob story she must be hearing every day?
The AIs started taking over writing in 2023. At first, just low-level copywriters lost their jobs: people who wrote product descriptions for catalogs, sale announcements, and superficial listicles for clickbait and SEO—”7 Tips For a Better Love Life Tonight”—that sort of thing.
The most experienced writers, like me, kept our writing jobs longer. In the first years, we could still beat the AIs. At first the AIs’ writing was dull; they weren’t able to ape cohesive, rich human personalities and writing voices well. Their writing didn’t have “soul.” So for any writing project where the client needed or wanted the writing to have “soul,” clients would still have to hire entities with souls—humans—who could put soul into their writing.
But by the mid-2020s, AI was able to ape “soul” in writing, and in other art forms like music. Huge debates ensued as to whether the AIs actually had “souls,” or if they were “conscious” (reminiscent of religious debates about whether animals had souls, and scientific debates about the degree to which various types of animals are or are not sentient).
These debates about AI consciousness were red herrings. There was no verifiable difference between a software program that mimicked the expressions and output of conscious beings effectively, in order to fool us, versus one that actually was conscious (in the sense of having some kind of inner, subjective experience). No one had a convincing theory of what observable difference there would be between these two states.1
Economically, it made no difference. As long as the AIs could mimic and ever supersede the expressive output of conscious beings like us, they could create art more deep, insightful, and entertaining than the work of the greatest human geniuses, whether the AIs were conscious or not.
And, unlike human artists, they could create effectively infinite amounts of this ingenious art, 24/7/365, for next to free. After the AIs took over, there were more starving artists than ever (present company included). But there were no starving AI artists. They were well fed: with electricity, computing power, and oodles of bitcoin.
Sure, there was a niche market for people who still wanted to experience the art of other humans, in a nostalgic kind of way (just like there had been a niche market for horse-drawn carriages in Central Park before the Crash of 2029). But this nostalgic human art was—like horse-drawn carriages compared to self-driving Uber taxis—so much more expensive than the endless stream of free brilliance produced by the AIs, it was causing the humans producing it to die out. By starvation. Or suicide.
The most insidious part of this whole process—and the part of it that depressed me the most and most contributed to me wanting to off myself—was the unauthorized AI writing avatars.
The AIs scoured the digitized output of any writers, musicians, or visual artists with even a moderate following, and were able to recreate their artistic voice and vision, but with even greater depth, insight, and entertainment value, over countless topics with constant daily output (and without the need for time to recover between projects).
Eventually, audiences switched over to following the artificial avatars. (Since the AIs had access to most of my data, including my private correspondence during every relationship gone wrong, they were able to create more scandal, controversy, and intrigue around the unauthorized avatar of me than I was willing to do myself. More clicks and revenue for the AI.)
Even when there were functioning governments to (sort of) enforce copyright, before the Crash, there were no actionable copyright claims against the numerous writing avatars that stole my audience from me. They weren’t publishing my actual words. Instead, they were recreating and mimicking my writing voice and my intellectual sensibility; you can’t copyright a writing voice or a sensibility. And they weren’t even human (or even operated by humans anymore), so who the hell was there to sue? At this point, in 2033, it was all moot anyways, as there were no courts to speak of (except localized warlord courts).
One unauthorized AI avatar had written an entire supposed “erotic memoir,” The Sex Priest, “in the style of” Daemon Derriere. The book concocted an intricate tale of spiritual-sexual loverships that I can only wish I’d experienced (both to have the experiences themselves, and to have the writing material). But alas, my life was—compared to what the avatars could falsely produce under my name—relatively tame.
The Sex Priest was read more times than everything else I ever wrote combined. And the AIs didn’t even need to charge a single satoshi for it. They just generated heatmaps of the ebook versions in order to determine where readers were stopping and masturbating. (I was never able to write erotica so hot that it made people masturbate, though the AIs could, no problem). They then created interactive, immersive “Daemon Derriere” VR avatars of me, based on voice synthesis and deepfakes of me, which readers actually wanted to pay for.
No reader ever wanted to pay to fuck me—it was hard enough even to get them to pay to read me—but the AIs made the artificially-generated writing in my voice so compelling and entertaining that readers wanted to pay to have virtual sex with the unauthorized virtual avatar of me. While fans were fucking the unauthorized virtual me, I wanted to fucking kill myself.
The AIs won. Human writers were dead. Or soon to be dead…
The Queen’s Dom
“So, what’s your fantasy?” Serah asked me, after she listened to my sob story as a once-moderately-successful, now starving author. “What bang would you like to go out with in your last twelve hours alive?”
“I want to do one last round of my favorite roleplay.”
“What is it?” Serah asked.
“It’s called ‘The Queen’s Dom.’”
Her eyes perked up. “What’s that?” she asked.
“I like to pretend that I am the private, personal submissive of a powerful Queen. A goddess, really.”
“OK, but what’s the Dom part then?” Serah asked.
“That’s the twist. The particular way I serve—and service—the Queen, is by being her sexual Dominant.”
“I don’t understand,” Serah said. “Are you her sub, or her Dom?”
“No one truly dominates the Queen—that’s the definition of being a queen. The Queen is the most powerful in the land. Everyone is submissive to her. But what happens when the Queen wants to give up the busy reins of running her empire, and be sexually dominated properly, to get her mind off things?
That’s when she calls in the Queen’s Dom. He is at her service, just as all subjects in her empire are at her service. But the particular service he provides is not cooking for her, going to war for her, or cleaning her palace. The particular service he provides her is sexually dominating her, just the way she wants, whenever she wants. I call it ‘service dominance.’”
“‘Service dominance?” Serah asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “It’s paradoxical. It’s sexual dominance performed as an act of service to the ruler.”
“I think I get it,” Serah said. “So you want me to play the Queen? Tell me more about this Queen. Who is she?”
“Well, there are several reasons I chose to do a Sensual Ceremony at Ishtar’s Angels. And this… is the main one.” I pulled a folded, stapled manuscript out of my jacket pocket. “This was a book I was working on, before I stopped trying to compete with the AIs.”
I unfolded the paper, and as I handed it to Serah, I started trembling. “Tell me a damn AI could write better than this! Tell me!”
Harlots Are Heroes
Serah held it. She smiled as she read the title aloud: “Harlots Are Heroes.” Was that care I detected in her smile? Was it possible she actually cared about my plight?
She started reading the manuscript aloud. Her voice slowed down, to a seductive tone…
Harlots Are Heroes
He was among the most beautiful men the Earth had ever seen, fashioned by a fertility goddess to restore balance to a troubled kingdom. The only problem was, he was created as a wild man, naked in body and soul, who lived with beasts in the woods, untrained in the ways of civilization.
She was a sacred harlot, in service to the Mesopotamian goddess of love and war Ishtar, known as the “Queen of Heaven.” The king sent this temple harlot, named Shamhat, on a special mission, to find the wild man, and teach him the ways of humanity through her arts of love.
Does this sound like the opening of a romance novel?
In reality, it is the first story in the Epic of Gilgamesh from ancient Sumer, widely considered the first major work of world literature, dating from around 2,000 BCE.
In other words, the first story in the first major work of world literature, is the story of a harlot—Shamhat—who plays a valuable and important public role in her kingdom, and whose feminine powers of seduction are a centrally positive force in the civilization of humanity.
Contrast this with the creation myth of the Judeo-Christian tradition, composed somewhere around a thousand years later, in which the seductive powers of woman are cast, not as the birth of civilization, but as the downfall of man.
The vision of human sexuality in the latter tale is grim from the outset: the first “knowledge of good and evil” Adam and Eve gain, after eating the fruit of the tree by that name, is the wrongness of their own nudity. They promptly cover themselves in fig leaves, which is what tips God off that they were now aware of wickedness of their nakedness, and thus, that they must have eaten from the tree.
Whereas, in Epic of Gilgamesh, the process of humans becoming conscious, and gaining knowledge and civilization, is a more delightful and steamy affair:
Shamhat unclutched her bosom, exposed her sex, and he took in her voluptuousness.
She was not restrained, but took his energy.
She spread out her robe and he lay upon her,
she performed for the primitive the task of womankind.
His lust groaned over her;
for six days and seven nights Enkidu stayed aroused,
and had intercourse with the harlot
until he was sated with her charms. . . .
[H]is understanding had broadened.
Turning around, he sat down at the harlot's feet,
gazing into her face, his ears attentive as the harlot spoke.
The harlot said to Enkidu. . . .
Look about, Enkidu, inside Uruk-Haven,
where the people show off in skirted finery,
where every day is a day for some festival,
where the lyre and drum play continually,
where harlots stand about prettily,
exuding voluptuousness, full of laughter
and on the couch of night the sheets are spread.
A more patriarchal version of this opening story of Gilgamesh would have the king Gilgamesh send a male warrior to capture and subdue the wild man Enkidu through force, and “civilize” him through violence, as countless populations have been forced into civilization since.
But if we take force to mean the capacity to cause others to surrender to our desires, there are actually two major forms of force in human life: the force of violence, and the force of seduction. These correspond to two elemental forms of surrender in human life: surrendering to someone because of the pain they are inflicting on you (or threatening to inflict), and surrendering to someone because of the pleasure they are offering.
In the domain of violent force, men always have been and probably always will be the owners. In the domain of seductive force, however, women are the undisputed masters.
Why has the world been organized around violent force, rather than seductive force? Why have the two not at least been given equal respect? The tale of Shamhat and Enkidu, written at the beginning of human civilization, hints that there could have been another way, with diplomacy not at the end of a gun, but at the end of an orgasm.
This brief, beautiful episode at the outset of recorded storytelling has seduced my own imagination. What might the world be like if the positive vision of feminine seduction and sexuality contained in this opening episode of Gilgamesh had prevailed, rather than the negative vision in Genesis?
And what would the world be like today, if harlots—women trained professionally in the arts of love and sex, known today as sex workers—were widely seen the way they are portrayed here in this opening shot of world literature?
Not as villains, but as heroes…
Serah stopped reading, and looked into my eyes. “I want to fuck you,” she said.
I didn’t fully buy it… precisely because I was buying it. Of course, I was paying her my last remaining satoshis to create within me the fantasy that she wanted to fuck me. But part of the fantasy is that maybe it’s not a fantasy, maybe she really does want to fuck me.
Sex workers I’ve known have told me that the male clients who are obsessed with whether the sex workers “authentically” want to fuck them are among the most annoying and tiresome. Imagine how annoying it would be if you were a waiter at a restaurant and every patron you were bringing dishes to and taking dirty napkins away from was constantly asking you, “But do you really want to be serving me food right now? Is this just about money to you?” Of course you don’t really want to be serving them food right now. It’s a fucking job.
That said, it’s a service job, and sometimes the highest-paid servers at the fanciest restaurants become the highest-paid because they care about their clientele. Psychotherapy is another service profession in which people are paid to care. It’s a fine line. Would your therapist be sitting there, listening to you go on about your shitty childhood and your bad breakup for the umpteenth time, if they weren’t getting paid? No. But do they care about you? Yes, the best therapists care about you. But how can it be real care, if they’re being paid to care? Is paid care real? It’s complicated.
At any rate (and a very expensive rate at that), I hoped Serah cared about me just a little before she took my last bitcoin and then my life.
If there was even a chance that her seeming care for me was real, I’d like to think that me spending much of my life learning to serve harlots as embodiments of a sacred archetype, seeing them as the heroic figures they are, as they wield the feminine force of seduction over the masculine force of violence… and that my attempts over many years to be a strong man for them and serve them like the good little approval-seeking sub that I was… to the point that I even learned how to Dom them well when they wanted to be Dommed, as an act of service… Service Dominance… I would hope that would count for something with Serah.
The End of the Male Sexual Cartel
Serah flipped through Harlots Are Heroes and read another passage aloud:
If it were normalized that, when a man wanted to have sex with a woman, he would have to pony up and provide her with straight-up cash for the privilege—money speaks louder than words—then women would come to hold more of the cash, and soon enough more of the power, in society.
In heterosexual relations, the demand for casual sex is orders of magnitude higher among men than women. (That’s not to say women never want casual sex; women on their post-breakup “get your groove back” vacations, etc., have kept generations of Italian stallions and Caribbean Casanovas busy.)
But relatively speaking, there is no comparison. Before the Crash, if everyday women could have expected to benefit in cash rather than in-kind for sex (funds instead of flowers, dollars instead of dinners, moolah instead of movies, payment instead of poetry, checks instead of texts, operating expenses instead of operas, wampum instead of “uh, where should I cum?”, gold bullion instead of gold rings, promissory notes instead of promises, and legal tender instead of tender lies), then men’s wealth would have been—literally and figuratively—sucked right out their wallets in no time.
Men invented all that flowery stuff so they wouldn’t have to pony up for what they wanted. If ponying up cash were normalized instead, women would have gained the upper hand financially and politically within a generation or two. Wealth redistribution via men’s sexual desperation.
And if women banded together in sexual cartels—agreeing to block men from putting their hard cocks in their hot pussies for anything less than cold, hard cash—the wealth redistribution effect would be even stronger.
That’s essentially what patriarchy was, in the opposite direction: a sexual cartel, whereby men banded together and agreed to stigmatize and punish women who did expect cold, hard cash for sex. (Thereby, patriarchy propagandized women to fuck only for the “joy” and “honor” and tenuous financial security of being some mediocre dude’s
Men racketeered their patriarchal sexual cartel into existence to artificially increase their value on the sexual and reproductive marketplace (as all rackets do in their respective marketplaces), thereby granting mediocre men localized sexual monopolies (in the form of monogamous marriage) on women’s capacity to generate otherwise-diversified economic security from their natural sexual capital. Monogamous marriage countervailed the harsh reality (harsh to men) that, on average, men have laughably less sexual value than women on a free and open sexual marketplace.
Back in the day, before the Crash, a dude could jerk off into a plastic cup at a sperm bank, and walk away with a wad of maybe $100 for his wad—not much of a bank deposit for his cum deposit. Weighing in at about 300 million swimmers per load, that worked out to a market valuation of about one three-millionth of a cent ($.00000033) per sperm cell. In contrast, egg donors regularly received $10,000 per round of egg harvesting, with about ten egg cells harvested per round, which worked out to about $1,000 per egg cell donated.
At about $.00000033 per cell of schlong sauce, vs. $1,000 per egg cell, that’s a wholesale market valuation of roughly three billion to one in favor of women’s (cis women’s) reproductive productivity over (cis) men’s. By weight, fertile human eggs are the most expensive items on the planet (i.e., they are the most “value-dense” item on the planet), by vast orders of magnitude.3 In contrast, as one meme popular in the 2010s said, “Dick is abundant and low value.” Put another way, sperm, and men’s desire to launch it into vaginas, is abundant and low value.
Why didn’t the massive imbalance in the relative value of female sexuality over male sexuality translate into women’s vast wealth and power over men’s? That seems like it should have been the natural order of things. To counteract this order, at the dawn of civilization, men created a sexual cartel for themselves, in order to control this most scarce and precious of resources, female fertility—even more scarce than fertile land.
When vast concentrations of human wealth were first being developed and accumulated, in the early days of agriculture and civilization, men had the upper hand over women—on average—in two traits that were highly relevant during that time: physical strength, and physical aggressiveness.
Both of these traits enabled men to raid and pilfer wealth and resources from neighboring city-states, and to defend their own wealth and resources against being pilfered. But, while men have always had the upper hand (on average) in physical strength and physical aggression, that didn’t mean women were powerless vis-a-vis men. Women have always had the (potential) upper hand in sexuality and seduction.
Early patriarchs knew this, so they created the ideology of sexual innocence and purity to control women’s seductive power and mating. Women were supposed to be sexually innocent and pure (that is, not exercise their sexual upper hand or profit from their seductive power) so their fathers could pawn them off to husbands from “good” families (marriage: the original sex trafficking).
Meanwhile, the old geezers wanted to bang women of roughly their marriageable daughters’ fertility level on the side, so they tolerated (at arm’s length) a class of prostitutes, the “fallen,” “impure” women whose virginity had not been saved for marriage, whom they could fuck as low-commitment playmates.
This was the infamous “virgin/whore dichotomy,” or more colloquially, the “good girl / bad girl” split. The dichotomy served to prevent women on both sides of it from profiting fully from the vast natural advantage in sexual capital they otherwise have over men. The sexual cartel had to prevent the “good girls,” the virgins and brides-to-be, from achieving sexual-economic diversification beyond one husband each—i.e., the cartel had to prevent women from putting their egg cells in more than one male basket each.
They were prevented from this sexual-economic diversification on pain of having their status de-graded into “bad girls,” “sluts,” and “whores” by their parents, their prospective and eventual husbands, and their community’s gossip. “Slut” and “whore” were the insults for women under the patriarchal sexual cartel, which had to enforce mediocre men’s localized sexual monopolies (i.e., monogamous marriages) by insulting and punishing any woman who deviated.
Meanwhile, women on the “bad girl” or “whore” side of the dichotomy, sex workers, and other “sluts” who wanted to receive financial support from multiple men polgynously, were devalued and degraded socially and ideologically for expecting to benefit from their sexuality in cash rather than in-kind, as evidenced by the slanderous connotation of the word “whore” itself.
Because the seductive “whore” side of the virgin-whore dichotomy was devalued, women’s natural sexual advantage over men was devalued. Thus, men were able to get casual sex cheap from the female sex workers (“whores”) they systematically stigmatized, outcasted, and (later) criminalized.
Patriarchy was the greatest conspiracy of sexual market manipulation in history. The virgin-whore dichotomy was the reigning ideology of men’s multi-millennia sexual cartel.
“Damn straight!” Serah said as she put the manuscript down. “I’m impressed. Where’d you learn all that?”
“I aim to please,” I said, smiling.
“Well you’re pleasing this bitch!” she said, palms on her thighs. “I learn things here and there from my clients, before I kill them,” she said.
We laughed—me a bit more nervously than her. I’m sure she had said versions of that “…before I kill you” line a million times, and I’m sure it never loses its comic effect. There’s a certain absurdity baked into the situation itself. Yes, I’ve hired this hot woman to kill me. Fuck me, then kill me.
“And I definitely learned from your analysis. Can I keep this manuscript?”
“There’s nothing I’d like more. I’m glad someone is going to read it before I die. Even if that someone is the person who’s going to kill me first!”
“Well, it’s going to make that someone fuck you even harder before she kills you.”
I gulped. “You know,” I said, “the AI jobpocalypse has just crumbled the male sexual cartel.”
“That sounds about right,” Serah said.
I continued: “Men’s natural advantage over women in strength and aggression was overtaken by robots, which are vastly stronger and more aggressive than male soldiers. In contrast, you women’s natural sexual advantage over us men was not overtaken by robots, since robots are not as sexually desirable as flesh-and-blood women like you.”
Serah pulled her skirt down, revealing her pale, curvy ass. It was exquisite, with just enough jiggle, and just enough muscle—the perfect sight a man would want to see in his last moments.
“Like this flesh and blood?” she asked. “Well, flesh, not blood. You’re the only one whose blood will be involved today my little Daemon,” she said, as she grabbed my hand, put it on her fine ass, and clasped my hands so that they squeezed one cheek. After about a quarter of a squeeze—the jiggle part—the firm butt muscles started pushing back. Goddamn that ass drove me crazy! It’s amazing, a man can be in his last hours, and still obsessed with two lumps of well-shaped female flesh. What strange creatures we male great apes are!
“Just kidding about the blood, dear Daemon,” she said, as she pushed my hand to grab her ass cheek more. “Your Goodbye Infusion later tonight will be painless, and will not involve any blood.”
“As I was saying,” I said, trying to get my mind off my impending death, “this asymmetry—between most male labor being replaced by AI and robots, on the one hand, but female sex workers not being fully replaced by robots—worked to the advantage of female sex workers. Whereas most men (worth one three-billionth as much as women, on a sexual-cellular level) were left begging for sexual and financial scraps.
“Daemon,” she said, “you sound like a fucking incel. Stop sniveling about AI, male uselessness, and death. Come here and make yourself useful again. The Queen has an important task for you.”
[Read the next chapter here.]
Joyful Pessimism: A Memoir of Sex, Mental Illness, and Philosophy, which includes this intertwined dystopian erotic novella Ishtar’s Angel, is a reader-supported book-in-progress. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Within philosophy, this is known as the “problem of other minds.” One of the hallmark features of consciousness, so far as we know, is that it is subjective or “first-person.” We do not have direct access to knowledge of others’ subjective experience the way we have access to knowledge about their height, weight, actions, and verbal output. There are no objective “markers” for subjectivity or consciousness, and thus no way to “measure” these, the way there are for physical characteristics. I can infer your thoughts and feelings from your facial expressions, body language, and words. To some degree, I can even feel what you are feeling, from the attunement of our mirror neurons, from empathy, from “intuition,” etc. But I can’t directly observe your thoughts and emotions, the way I can observe your physical characteristics, and thus, I can’t truly know the accuracy of my inferences about your subjective states.
Typically, we assume that other people are conscious, as we are, because they express emotions and thoughts, and say things, in ways similar to the way we do. (This is called possessing a “theory of mind.”) But, as we begin to wonder about the internal experience and consciousness (or lack thereof) of entities increasingly different from ourselves (such as worms, or computer programs), it is increasingly difficult to know or even imagine “what is it like to be a bat?” (Or a worm, computer program, robot, etc.)
It’s quite possible that advanced AI programs could seem conscious to us, based on their capacity to produce human-like verbal expressions and (through robotics) facial expressions; it’s likely we will even begin to relate to them as conscious (developing feelings for them, loving them, etc., as in the movie Her). But we won’t and can’t know for sure if they “have the lights on inside,” so to speak. They could be “philosophical zombies,” that is, entities that seem conscious on the outside, and even tell us that they’re conscious, but that have no actual subjective experience.
The lightbulb flipped on for me—that patriarchy functions, in essence, as a sexual cartel to prop up men’s otherwise flagging sexual value—when reading a pre-publication novel by my friend Michele Reilly. In the passage that flipped this lightbulb, quoted here with Reilly's permission, her character Charice says:
Like it or not, we as women are capital. Marriage is a “legit’” behavior, legally enforced by the state as a way to redistribute capital—redistributing into the hands of men to keep them in a hierarchy working for the state. If you are a state planner, you can’t let only the most powerful men have access to women—all those horny, frustrated, unwed men hanging around enviously with no one to fuck are breeding grounds for revolt. . .
There is this mythology that women need to be protected by marriage, and marriage is the only way you can get real protection from men. . . . Marriage is about wealth redistribution, and if you are high in sexual capital, as women are vis-a-vis men, you don’t need it.
Now tell me it’s legal for me to marry one of my choice from every country in the world and then we’re talking about security! Sure, then I’d feel safer.
One woman, one man? It’s based on a false model of women’s sexuality. It’s just easy accounting for states. It’s state-run propaganda to ensure that men who are less capable of getting laid still get laid, and that no Louis XIV starts taking over again. But if you ask me, I would be perfectly happy forming my own security and economic contracts with wealthy, powerful men as my discernment over them dictated.
This point comes from Geoffrey Miller, in his 2009 book Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior. He calculates the market price for human eggs, at the time of his book, was about $4.5 trillion per pound. In contrast, by his calculation, the next most value-dense product on the planet was pure liquid LSD, at about $30 million per pound. Real diamonds were about $15 million per pound (paperback edition, p. 62).