Monday, September 26, 2016

Buck Naked

We live in strange times.  People have plenty of "friends" but perhaps feel way more alone than ever.  It is, but one measure, of how rapidly our lives are being transformed.  In the process--and more importantly--we are completely redefining what it means to be human, with human emotions.

Sex is one of those human emotions, which is also being rapidly redefined.  "Making sense of modern pornography" is what this New Yorker essay is about.  The following sentence there makes me think about how much even our "regular" vocabulary and approach to life has changed:
It has permeated everyday life, to the point where we talk easily of food porn, disaster porn, war porn, real-estate porn—not because culture has been sexualized, or sex pornified, but because porn’s patterns of excess, fantasy, desire, and shame are so familiar.
I know what the author is referring to; even in this blog, I have used phrases like 'poverty porn' when, for instance, critiquing Slumdog Millionaire.  The word "porn" has pretty much become a part of our daily vocabulary.

Porn is everywhere.  And at zero cost.  One small typo when entering a URL can easily send one to a porn site.  Years ago, back when the web was young, I wrote an op-ed about this, during my California years, in which I noted that life as a teenager has become immensely more complicated and how amazed I was that the kids were managing this quite successfully.  In the years since, the life of a young person has become even more challenging with porn so easy to access right from the smartphone, and with sexting becoming a part of the daily vocabulary.  I am so glad that I am not a stressed out teenager with hormones rushing through every possible vein.  Phew!
Despite porn’s ubiquity, the Internet has also made it more private, and its effects less knowable. The consequences of seeing sex before having it are as unclear as those of Facebook’s colonization of our leisure time. Pornography isn’t hermetically sealed from the rest of culture, and today it sits on a continuum with other problems of technology that we don’t yet know how to address.
I love how the author has summed it up: "it sits on a continuum with other problems of technology that we don’t yet know how to address."  We have no freaking idea.

Meanwhile, technology is apparently flooding the market with sex toys that are so beyond my wildest imaginations, like these:
Then there are smart toys and machines such as the Bluetooth WorldVibe vibrator, with shareable vibration patterns and an app that controls the device, and the Limon, which uses ‘squeeze technology’ that allows one partner to squeeze the toy, programming it to a personalised rhythm and pressure the other can enjoy. There’s also Vibease, the ‘world’s first wearable smart vibrator’, which is controlled by an app on either iPhone or Android. One partner can wear the vibrator inside her underwear and the other, regardless of where she or he is, can control it.
There are toys for men too, although unlike toys for women, which straddle solo and partner play, heterosexual men’s toys are largely masturbatory devices.
Am I the only one who finds it creepy with such intersections of technology and sex?  More than the creepiness factor, what worries me more is the one with which the author ends the essay: "we risk alienating ourselves from each other all over again."  

The scenarios presented by Hollywood in Her and Ex Machina do not seem that far away. All the more to look forward to turning 75.


Anne in Salem said...

How do I unread this??

No matter who is elected anywhere, if humans are headed for unilateral sex, the world is doomed in more ways that just lack of procreation.

I don't understand the concept of Facebook friends and know nothing of any other platforms. Give me a pot of soup, loaf of bread and a table surrounded by people, and I'm a happy girl. We are social beings requiring real, actual human interaction - conversations more than 140 characters, feelings and responses, silences and sharing. Internet will never suffice.

The internet does have its uses though. My life has been tremendously enriched by the interactions with the professor and other commenters via this blog. In this instance though, the internet is merely the conduit for real conversation rather than a superficial connection because one likes another's dinner picture. (Long live food porn!)

Mike Hoth said...

Well of course we're moving further in that direction. The Sexual Revolution was about free love, and when it started half a century ago people warned that it would lead to the collapse of real relationships. Free love meant you could have sex with whoever you wanted, and birth control made it all the more convenient to avoid the hassle of long-term relationships. Is it any wonder that the new barrier between young, foolish and hormonal people would be short-term relationships?

Ramesh said...

Completely second Anne's comments, except the bit about loving food porn :):) She says so elegantly what I think but cannot express with the same elegance. So the easy way out is simply to say Amen.

By the way, I refuse to believe that Mike is a "kiddo". His comments show him up as a wise old owl ! Can I tempt you to write a blog yourself ?

Sriram Khé said...

"Internet will never suffice" or " real, actual human interaction" is, for all I know, rapidly becoming old-fashioned. Take phones, for instance. These are being used more for texting than to hear the voice of a person. Students tell me that they prefer online shopping because they don't want to deal with the humans in the real world store. Our virtual lives, in which true human emotions can be masked and faked, apparently now dominate over our real lives of " feelings and responses, silences and sharing." It is not that I am trying to create a community who will exit along with me in a few years by drinking a special Kool Aid (haha) ...

Of course, a major landmark in the route we have taken, and the one ahead, is the sexual revolution. We can also see why traditional societies are struggling even now to come to terms with it ... not that I agree with the religious fundamentalists (of any faith) but I think I understand their angst over this issue. Engaging with emotions, including sex, is a primary--integral--aspect of what it means to be human. But, the proverbial genie is out of the bottle and it can't be pushed back.

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