Chance Lee's Reviews > Future Sex

Future Sex by Emily Witt
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it was amazing
bookshelves: essays, true-story

I first read Emily Witt back in 2013. Her essay "What Do You Desire" in n+1 (https://nplusonemag.com/issue-16/essa...) involves her visit to a video shoot for Kink.com'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 traditional sex boring. The extreme acts thrill her. Witt concludes, "I surmised that making more extreme pornography if you’re a performer is like wanting to write like Beckett if you’re a writer." The essay ends with a woman being molested by men in panda bear costumes.

That essay is incorporated into Emily Witt's Future Sex. a collection of phenomenal speculative essays in which Witt examines the connections between the technology offered us by the internet -- online dating, pornotube, chat cams -- and sexual relationships. Her essays are a combination of personal narrative, well-researched history and context, and investigation into the topic at hand. For example, when writing about Chaturbate, Witt provides not only a history of Chaturbate, but of this type of online interaction itself; its context, such as why the site is so popular (it feels "safe" for many of its users); and then for good measure she flashes her tits to a stranger in a private chat.


As a whole, her essays are mostly seamless, weaving between these three major components, while also bringing in analysis and thoughts on misogyny, feminism, gay sex, societal taboos, and more. Later essays in the book didn't hold my interest, such as one about drugs, sex, and Burning Man, although I did appreciate Witt's condescending view of the pretentiousness of Silicon Valley. Also, as a gay man with no use for contraceptives, I wasn't as invested in her essay on them, however I do agree with her that it is apalling that there has been no big advance in contraceptive technology in my lifetime.

Although Witt's essays primarily focus on hetero sex, I appreciated her research into Grindr, Scruff, etc. and where they fit on the spectrum of Match.com, Tinder, et al. She draws interesting conclusions, like how gay sex apps make no bones (ha ha) about being purely for sex, despite Grindr's early attempts to distance itself as a "hookup app." Whereas Match.com and, to a lesser extent, OKCupid, attempt to hide sex from the equation at all. There's an intellectual dishonesty in that approach. Although, from a business perspective, the reason they use that tactic is because they found women, as a whole, won't use them if the scent of sex in the air is too strong. From there, Witt explores how, for women, the urge to have sex is, in and of itself, a political act.

Sexual politics is a recurring theme, and what comes out of all this is that the internet gives us freedom to explore. And especially for women, whose every action and appearance is scrutinized, the internet is a double-edged sword. It gives us all freedom to act as we want, but it also comes with the risk of scrutiny from a much larger population than we would ever encounter without it.

In this lies the crucial dichotomy. Freedom cannot exist without risk. Witt loves exploring these binaries. She writes, "the rage and misogyny of the American male is an astonishing thing, its own natural wonder, like a geyser in a national park. But it had taken feminism to explain how the gagging, slapping, and sneering of porn might be hateful to women, and feminism to enhance its taboo. You couldn't have nun porn without Catholicism. You couldn't have Public Disgrace without feminism."

Witt boils down sprawling issues into stunning endpoints that almost make me drop the book in shock. I find her writing is spectacular on a sentence-by-sentence level. She writes of a man she met on OKCupid, then ghosted. "In the months that followed he continued to write long e-mails with updates of his life, and I continued not responding until it was as if he were lobbing his sadness into a black hole, where I absorbed it into my own sadness." Or my favorite, "The technology brought us people, but it did not tell us what to do with them."

While I don't want to make extreme porn, I want to write like Emily Witt.
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Reading Progress

March 13, 2017 – Started Reading
March 13, 2017 – Shelved
March 13, 2017 – Shelved as: essays
March 13, 2017 – Shelved as: true-story
March 13, 2017 –
page 114
53.27% "Emily Witt's writing is so good, I weep a little"
March 19, 2017 – Finished Reading

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