The Power of Anticipation
A wise young woman once said to me, “The only thing hotter than hooking up is not hooking up.” I found out how right she was when, in my sophomore year, my first real relationship was crumbling just as a particular freshman started spending more and more time in my room. Frosh was sweet, looked great in a wifebeater, and, as I found out while under the influence at a party, kissed amazingly well. I went back to test the theory, hoping against hope that my assessment was strictly the result of New York’s finest local produce; I was so, so wrong. After my proper relationship ended, I found myself taking naps after classes with Frosh in my tiny dorm room. I had been the one who pushed him against the wall at the party for a sensual kiss delicately flavored with Malibu and THC, I had invited myself to his room under the pretense of watching V for Vendetta for the hundredth time, just so I could kiss him again; I needed to know his attraction was about more than my being a pushy broad. So our naps would involve me lying on top of him, breathing in his scent, cologne mixed with cucumber melon lotion, feeling his hands on my back and his hard-on against my leg. When he would leave, I needed a cold shower.
I learned an important lesson about the power of anticipation from Frosh, even though we only sort of consummated our, for lack of a better word, relationship. The half-baked attempted at fingering left me cold; I liked Frosh better when he kept his hands to himself because the waiting game was a heady rush. Sadly, the slow burn of sensuality gets a little lost these days, an analog concept in a digital world. The sexual has gotten lost in the quest for sex.
Your iPhone Will Find You a Mate and Masturbate You
In October, the New York magazine compiled best of its Sex Diaries series with smart, insightful commentary. Our guide laid out the hookup landscape of the city in stark terms: “The social technologies that assist in dating and mating today are more than palliatives—they’ve changed the nature of the game. If the cold approach is more than you can deal with, put up a Craigslist ad, or join OkCupid, Manhunt, or Nerve. If the phone call makes you nervous, send a text message.” And if that doesn’t work, point your browser to YouPorn.
It used to be that only our genitals were at our fingertips, but hooking up with someone can start with a few taps on your iPhone (which, with the right app, can also double as a vibrator). Assuming of course, your iPhone is actually working on that particular day; 100 million apps, and you still can’t place a call or a text.
So—is all this technology is muddying the waters of already fraught territory, even though it promises to be quick and painless? We figure that, if we can order food online and have it delivered to our doors, our sex lives should be equally simplified in this digital age. All those other people are the problem: the people in front of us at the checkout, the people taking our orders at Domino’s, the people at the cash registers. Save yourself hassle by cutting out the middle man and relying on the tech du jour! Frankly, we’re spoiled.
To be fair, technologically-aided sex isn’t completely free from that most frustrating of human rituals: the waiting game. Wooers still wonder, why hasn’t she texted me back? Or, should I wait longer before I write on his Facebook wall? But, as the Sex Diaries proved, people have become incredibly fickle. Few of the Diarists chosen for the Best Of were in relationships, and the ones that were, weren’t happy. They sexted with people outside their monogamous relationships and snuck out to cheat. With sex seemingly growing on trees (or out of HTML code), people allow themselves to be picky.
Your Future Sex Droid Will Never Dump You
It may be easy to find lovers behind screens, but there are those who bypass the computer business altogether. Sex robots haven’t made it big in the States yet, but Japan has spearheaded the movement of creating life-like dolls that satisfy your every need. Warming technology allows some models the facsimile of body temperature while others feature software that make the fembot moan when a user tweaks her nipples. David Levy, author of Love and Sex with Robots, predicts that in about three years, sex robots will be so advanced, so damn good, that they’ll have to make their way into the mainstream. In the September issue of The Guardian, he said, “I am firmly convinced there will be a huge demand from people who have a void in their lives because they have no one to love, and no one who loves them. The world will be a much happier place because all those people who are now miserable will suddenly have someone. I think that will be a terrific service to mankind."
Healing the brokenhearted with science is admirable, yes, but sex with a human-like form at the push of a button sounds like a hollow victory. Gone is the thrill of even phoning in a fuck from a prostitute, an illicit act that comes with its own buzz outside the inevitable orgasm (sex robots could eventually put sex workers out of business, Levy predicts). Sex is headed to a very unsexy place.
Sound a bit too sci-fi? Think again—the Fleshlight is the most popular male masturbator on the market, made to approximate the look and feel of the vagina. Its makers have gotten creative, launching the Fleshlight Girls series. For $80, a man can imagine himself having sex with his favorite pornstar using a device molded from the original’s vagina. The makers of Fleshlight Girls have literally dropped the fantasy world of pornography directly into the customer’s lap: insert penis, live the dream. Fantasy and masturbation are important parts of the sex we have with partners, but when the fantasy is so close to real life, it isn’t too much of a leap to think some will find scouting out partners too messy, too hard. We can snicker condescendingly at sex robots, but robots and Fleshlights can’t dump us.
In some ways, technology has ended up a wobbly crutch for our sex lives rather than a handy lubricant. Like instant ramen, sex via technology will fill the need in three minutes, but a poor substitute of the savory meal you spent time preparing. The untimely demise of the anticipation that really gets us hot is lost, and we recognize it. Dentyne Ice (yes, the gum) tapped into this when it launched a huge ad campaign last year that urged us to step away from our Internet connections in order to reconnect. Billboards and posters in trains and bus shelters showed slogans like “The original instant message” over a couple kissing just before the woman’s taxi takes off.
It’s ridiculous, though, to call for a back to basics movement, where everyone shuts off their computers to write love letters by hand. Our smartphones, our chat programs, our social networking profiles are part of how we build our relationships. People can suck, yes, but they seduce us best in the flesh. Hiding behind a screen can cheapen what should be visceral.
This was Dentyne’s big problem, since they needed an online presence; thus was born the 3-minute website. The site gives you three minutes to learn all about their products, browse the ads, send ecards to friends for face time, and find local hangouts before it shuts off. Get offline, it says, and start a real connection. Robots can’t dump you, but they can’t cuddle either.