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Future Sex

3.42  ·  Rating details ·  2,353 ratings  ·  281 reviews
A funny, fresh, and moving antidote to conventional attitudes about sex and the single woman

Emily Witt is single and in her thirties. She has slept with most of her male friends. Most of her male friends have slept with most of her female friends. Sexual promiscuity is the norm. But up until a few years ago, she still envisioned her sexual experience "eventually reaching a
Hardcover, 214 pages
Published October 11th 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published August 11th 2015)
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Average rating 3.42  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,353 ratings  ·  281 reviews

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Morgan Schulman
Oct 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
I've never read a book that made sex seem so depressing.

I had been hoping that this book would provide an inward glance into the sexual psychology of 30 something women in 2016. Instead, it is a decidedly unpsychological chronicle of various forms of gonzo sex. There is an entire chapter devoted to sex at Burning Man. How you feel about that last sentence is how you will feel about this book.
I disliked this book but not because I found the writing bad. I don't think there is a demographic group whose sexual practices I care less about than extremely affluent heterosexual Californians who spend $500 on orgasmic meditation retreats, throw sex parties in rented lofts, and have orgies at Burning Man. The focus in this book is so extremely narrow in terms of the type of people and the type of sex it discusses. Emily Witt does not necessarily owe her audience a more wide ranging discussio ...more
Dec 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Ah, finally; this is the kind of book on sex and sexuality that has been made for raunchy millennials like me. Time to leave The Ethical Slut behind and create a new wave of writing that honors the despondency, eroticism, and incessant need to push the limits of natural (quote-unquote) and ascribed (quote-unquote) boundaries that the younger generations are akin to have in their approach to the superfluous/conflated/exciting/instantly gratifying/messy serpent that is sexuality.

Witt doesn't have
Jeremy Bagai
Nov 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a much better book than I had any expectation of, even after reading positive reviews. Sure, I came for the sex and porn. (Just look at my feed.) But what no one seemed to mention was the richness of observation, the depth of analysis, and the understated wry prose.

Disclosure -- I have lived in the Bay Area, on and off, for over fifteen years. Few of the scenes and activities described were unknown to me. Yet they were all unknown to me once. This book captures perfectly the states of cu
Brian Bushaw
Dec 13, 2016 rated it it was ok
I was interested in reading this book after hearing a couple of interviews with the author. The topics sounded interesting if not scintillating. The book itself, however, is another story.

This is not about the future of our societal mores or even the millennial's view of sex in culture, but rather a sometimes dull look at alternative lifestyles of the young and rich. This is a book about privilege; twenty-to-thirty-something's who can afford thousand dollar meditative orgasm classes, lofts in th
Bookforum Magazine
"In Witt's book, sexual problems often turn out to be narrative ones. Sexual freedom–a little sad, a little empty, a lot of pressure–announced itself in a form not unlike writer's block, 'a blinking cursor in empty space.' Despite her title, Witt's real subject is not the future of sex. her concern is an existential one: How should we live, and what stories can we tell ourselves about the lives we choose?

The great time that isn't quite being had is one of the book's central mysteries. Witt cata
Nov 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
Miss Witt
unwittingly pits
her normcore desires
'gainst tangier bits
-guess who wins.

I'm being glib, of course. This is less a survey than a diary, but then, I'm as prickly as her against Californian sex-mystics and new-money technocracy. I'm Didion East.
Jaclyn Crupi
Future Sex is bleak and depressing. Is this memoir? Essays? It felt like it was trying to be a few different things and none of them resonated with me. The chapters/essays on orgasmic meditation and live webcams were pretty interesting though but overall I feel blasé about this book.
Nov 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Future Sex contains some great insights that you really have to dig for, like picking out mini Twix baked into a stale fruit cake.

The book reads easily but is difficult to read. She reminds the reader often of her curmudgeonly personality, judging and stereotyping people, places, and things. She presents herself as supercilious and ignorant, delighting in being the grump in the corner different from "the rest of them." I felt embarrassed for her at times, and not in the empathetic way that a wr
Chelsea Tremblay
Dec 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book was fascinating. Not going to lie, I had to take the jacket off in my sleepy island town so I could read it in public. I don't know what I expected, but what I got was a lyrical, sharply introspective take on different aspects of 21st century sexuality. Mostly heterosexual, though definitely gender-bending and sexually fluid, and somehow the perspective I read didn't seem either rose-tinted or demonizing which is something that's easy to do with a topic like this. I'm an outsider looki ...more
Alison Prevo
Nov 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
emily's perspective is what the literature needs right now: a woman raised with tradition in mind, who is sexually reserved but experientially open minded, who ultimately wants to know how sex is being conceptualized today and whether our generation's "free love" bear any similarities with the 1960s. in some ways it is and in some it isn't. she does a brilliant job elucidating this and, though the title, front cover, and chapter titles are often salacious, her dry wit and objective reports make ...more
Oct 24, 2016 rated it did not like it
Holy cow, what an excruciating read...and at the end, I don't know anything that I didn't know before. (She doesn't bother to source her information, which is either a journalistic oversight or a sign that she didn't do any actual research). There's nothing new here.

Here's what would be truly interesting: An appendix containing Ms. Witt's expense reports. She does go to some truly strange places, but reports with a jaded tone that makes all of them sound uniformly tiresome.

If you're interested
William Koon
Nov 01, 2016 rated it it was ok
I have seen the future...and this is pretty bleak. Much of the book is pasted together from articles previously published. I have never read a less interesting book about sex. Very. Disjointed.
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
It's a 4 for Witt's bravery, it would be a 3 for Witt's originality. In fact, Witt is "simply"re-discovering for us things that are already under everyone's eyes: online porn, online sex, polyamory. But she's doing in it a fresh way, genuinely experimenting first-hand everything she deems new and interesting.

Sex is complex, difficult to manage for each of us. Witt is brave, sometimes defiant in not shying away, even from stuff that seems clearly not so promising for her research of happiness.

“I had not chosen to be single but love is rare and it is frequently unreciprocated. Without love I saw no reason to form a permanent attachment to any particular place. Love determined how humans arrayed themselves in space.”

Technology changes everything. It changes how we meet people and it changes how we interact with others. There’s more sexual fluidity and experimental sex than in the past because of both changing ideologies as well as the ability to remain anonymous online if one chooses t
Mel Campbell
Obviously I feel flat and depressed after reading any zeitgeist book about love, sex or relationships. I didn't want to read it at all but we are discussing it on The Rereaders, and I wanted to get it out of the way before Valentine's Day: another cultural artefact that reminds me of my complete failure as a sexual being.

Some of the chapters here have the lively observational feel of long-form journalism – for me the chapter on porn was the most cohesive and successful, though I also liked the c
Esther Espeland
Jun 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
I thought this was gonna be much cooler but instead it talked abt orgasmic meditation?!? Some chapters were more interesting but it overall a very cis/het/white interpretation of modern sexual culture? The author was speaking to her own experiences as a str8 white lady but come on! This book felt like it was being edgy and cool (and I did like the bit abt a chlamydia exposure- let’s destigmatize STIs pls and thank you) but a whole chapter abt having sex at burning man????? Sooooo much cooler stu ...more
Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
This is a hilarious, moving, and informative combination of memoir and journalism. However, I understand that it would not suit the preferences of many readers. A quick way to discern whether or not you have a chance of liking this is your reaction to the fact that the dust jacket features a blurb by Tao Lin. This is also a good way to anticipate the general style of the memoir sections - however, that's not to say that the text is in any way formulaic.

This is one of the best texts I've read fr
Sarah Ames-Foley
Jan 24, 2019 marked it as nah
I received this randomly in the mail a while back — no note, not sure if it was from the publisher or a gift? — and was intrigued by it at first. I was finally going to pick it up but after browsing through the reviews, it just doesn’t seem like my cup of tea. I skimmed the chapter on polyamory, the real reason I wanted to read it, and didn’t really enjoy how it was laid out. So, I’ve decided to set this aside and not worry about reading it.
May 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2017
A depressing look into the modern world of dating, relationships, porn, and birth control. I highlighted half of the chapter on online dating because it was too real. The chapters on Burning Man and Sex Cams were less insightful, but interesting. No real conclusions were drawn and the author could give no snappy words of advice, unlike Aziz Ansari in his book.

Chance Lee
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: true-story, essays
I first read Emily Witt back in 2013. Her essay "What Do You Desire" in n+1 ( involves her visit to a video shoot for's series "Public Disgrace" in which a young woman is fucked, fisted, and electrocuted in front of a live audience. In the essay, Witt observes the reactions of the audience, and she interviews the performers and their director, Princess Donna, after the performance. The performer, Penny, loved her experience. She finds more tradit ...more
Frank Jude
Emily Witt has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times and The London Review of Books, so that may account for why she seems familiar to me. She currently lives in Brooklyn, and that may be a factor as well, but throughout reading her first book, I found myself trying to remember if we'd ever met or not! Social media presents such questions....

This is a bit of a sociological survey mash-up with memoir: Witt had gotten to her early 30s pretty much assuming the standard relationship elevato
Alex Sarll
A somewhat scattershot response to being single in one’s thirties, curious about alternatives to mainstream relationship structures (and methods of pursuing same) but still healthily sceptical of their tendency to smugness, commodification and other fuck-ups. I’ve not read anything else by Witt so I'm not sure to what degree it's a conscious stylistic choice and to what degree a matter of personality or generation, but given the topic I found the tone oddly detached; there’s no sense here of the ...more
Mar 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Emily Witt is a talent, smart and willing to question liberal shibboleths, but this book never decides whether it’s a memoir or anthropological study. The result is an anthropological memoir, with the contents haphazardly synthesized (the chapters don’t seem arranged with any particular logic). Witt nearly admits this in the last sentence, but that can't justify 200 pages of confused content.
Jan 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Though I can see where this book might frustrate many (and it seems it has), it was right up my alley. I'm analytical in my thinking, the culmination of my academic career was in a scientific field, and my approach to experience involves a lot more quiet observation than most are likely comfortable with. Witt takes the same approach to looking back on and examining her years of experimentation with open relationships, casual sex and free love, and many of her observations on societal expectation ...more
David Turko
Jan 06, 2017 rated it did not like it
I have a lot of issues with this book. Everything she talks about in the book really isn't new. Definitely not futuristic. For instance she has an entire chapter on 'Burning Man'. How is this the future of sex?There are also several moments where she strays from her subject to talk about other things like what she's eating. It comes off completely irrelevant to the book/story. I went into this book expecting a blend of technology and sex and what the future holds for this interesting mixture. An ...more
Rachel Helm
Dec 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A perfect book for anyone who, like me, wonders why HBO quit making that show Real Sex.
Jan 10, 2017 added it
Shelves: read-in-2017
Call this part of the 'sentimental education' of 2017 (or, better yet, the sexuality and queer theory version of it). And, in the name of one of my favorite podcasts of 2016, 'still processing.'
Jason Pettus
Logging the last of my 2017 reads today so that they'll count towards this year's Reading Challenge totals. Full review coming in early 2018.
Marnie Ava
Feb 24, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A disappointing read...

When you read the beginning sentence of "Future Sex" you are filled with intrigue. What has the author learnt about sexuality as she explored how it plays a role in the 21st century, and how has it affected her?

What you are in fact left with is a rather overly-ornamented collection of essays or research projects into the many facets of sex and relationships in present-day America. The book lacks integrity and does not grip the reader, but instead leaves them thankful that
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Rock'n'Read - Rec...: Recensione di Future Sex - Emily Witt 1 5 Jun 29, 2017 03:09AM  

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Emily Witt is a writer in New York City. She has written for n+1, The New York Times, New York Magazine, GQ, the London Review of Books, and many other places. She has degrees from Brown, Columbia, and Cambridge, and was a Fulbright scholar in Mozambique. Her first book, Future Sex, about the intersection of sex and technology, will be published in 2015 by Faber & Faber. ...more

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“I had not chosen to be single but love is rare and it is frequently unreciprocated. Without love I saw no reason to form a permanent attachment to any particular place. Love determined how humans arrayed themselves in space. Because it affixed people into their long-term arrangements, those around me viewed it as an eschatological event, messianic in its totality. My friends expressed a religious belief that it would arrive for me one day, as if love were something the universe owed to each of us, which no human could escape.

I had known love, but having known love I knew how powerless I was to instigate it or ensure its duration. Still, I nurtured my idea of the future, which I thought of as the default denouement of my sexuality, and a destiny rather than a choice. The vision remained suspended, jewel-like in my mind, impervious to the storms of my actual experience, a crystalline point of arrival. But I knew that it did not arrive for everyone, and as I got older I began to worry that it would not arrive for me.”
“The body, I started to learn, was not a secondary entity. The mind contained very few truths that the body withheld. There was little of import in an encounter between two bodies that would fail to be revealed rather quickly. The epistolary run up to the date only rarely revealed the truth of a man's good humor or introversion, his anxiety or social grace. Until the bodies were introduced, seduction was only provisional.” 2 likes
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