At the Met Gala, Celebrities Are Nearly Nude. Are We Not Aroused?

Watching the red carpet at Monday night’s Met Gala, I couldn’t help but recall a prediction I’d heard from Emily Kirkpatrick, who writes the Substack newsletter “I <3 Mess.” She’d told me recently that, before the end of 2024, it’s possible that “someone is going to show up fully nude on a red carpet.”

That didn’t happen at this year’s gala, but it got very close, as Doja Cat — who appeared earlier this year at the Grammy Awards in what was called “the most naked dress ever” — presented at the Met Gala in a long, clinging, soaking wet, transparent and entirely revealing white T-shirt by the label Vetements.

Near-nudity is everywhere, at least on celebrities and the celebrity adjacent. Bianca Censori, Kanye West’s 29 year-old partner, wandered around Paris wearing a cropped jacket with sheer pantyhose and seemingly nothing on underneath, her modesty preserved only by the stockings’ single center seam. Julia Fox attended a fashion launch with three silver medallions covering her private parts under a long — and frequently parted — trench coat.

This nearly nude look is not, as one might imagine, evidence of an increasingly oversexed culture, but rather of a culture that’s increasingly over sex.

It seems we’re seeing more red-carpet skin at a moment when, for the first time in decades, America is quantifiably less randy, slouching through an era of undeniable sexual decline. Americans are having less sex, and the trend is most pronounced among young people, whose sexual activity has seriously waned. A 2021 U.C.L.A. study of California residents found that nearly 40 percent of the 18- to 30-year-olds it surveyed reported having no sexual partners in the prior year, up from 22 percent 10 years prior.

There are many theoretical explanations, from the addled overuse of phones and social media and the ubiquity of online porn to the fact that more young people live alone. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that one thing more people aren’t doing is doing it. And it’s probably not because people are masturbating more. Those numbers have remained relatively steady.

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