The Internet Is Smoothing Sex Into Oblivion

The Internet Is Smoothing Sex Into Oblivion

We don’t want mere sex anymore. We want smooth sex. We want an interface, not a connection. We want data transfer, not an exchange of emotion and fluids. Bumps, lumps, and imperfections of all kinds make us uneasy as we crave the smooth, shiny ideal of the technological aesthetic. The thought of a prolonged emotional relationship gives rise to a queasy feeling as we think, with horror, of being tied down.

Imagine a chair. Sixty years ago, when life, information, commodities, and capital all moved more slowly, the object our grandparents might have imagined was heavy, wooden and built to last for generations. Today, you’re probably picturing the smooth, fluid lines of a tastefully modern Ikea creation. An object only built to last until the next move-out, which is bound to arrive shortly. The Ikea chair, like most consumer objects and devices today, is made for the fluid lifestyle of the modern person. Its planned obsolescence is not an annoyance to the contemporary consumer but a boon. Why be burdened with an object that threatens to haunt you with its presence for a lifetime?

This example is illustrative of the technological condition of late capitalism, which is affecting our human relationships in staggering ways. Recently, The Guardian reported that many young Japanese people have decided to stop having sex. The article explains the economic and cultural conditions that have lead to this scenario: The future is not certain for many young people, as precarity has come to supersede stability as the de facto mode of the contemporary labor market. It’s tough to settle down when your employment prospects are summed up by, “Maybe Starbucks is hiring?” (they’re not). Long-term relationships are only a potential hindrance to mobility, like the sturdy chairs of the past.

The article also briefly notes the increasing use of online communication technologies as potentially contributing to this mass loss of libido. To get the whole picture we need to take these points together: our current technologies as outcroppings of economic logic, and our sexual behavior as a response to it. Economy becomes pathology, and technology belies a technological condition—the mass mental state it creates. Sex, in this case, focuses our attention around our technological condition and the influence of capitalist logic in human relationships. These days, we like our sex about as smooth as a credit card transaction.

We can see the logic of smoothness play out in the physical world. The design aesthetic of Ikea furniture, Macbooks, iPhones, tablets, and external hard drives speaks to the privileged status of fluidity and mobility as guiding values today. Smooth, uniform to the point of appearing monolithic, and exuding the sense of something we might be tempted to call “organic” but is entirely artificial—these objects represent a technological ideal of smoothness and fluidity made manifest in product design.

Movement without slowing, communication without interruption, data flowing at the speed of light, High Frequency Trading algorithms administrating the world financial market in a system so fast and seemingly perfect as to take leave of any recognizably human rationality or concern—this is the ideal of technological perfection with speed, smoothness, and fluidity at its core.

Human relationships, the human body, even sex, are all subject to it. Franco “Bifo” Berardi put it best in Precarious Rhapsody:

Reducers of complexity such as money, information, stereotypes or digital network interfaces have simplified the relationship with the other, but when the other appears in flesh and blood, we cannot tolerate its presence, because it hurts our (in)sensibility. The video-electronic generation does not tolerate armpit or pubic hair. One needs perfect compatibility in order to interface corporeal surfaces in connection. Smooth generation.

To put it simply: sex is simply much too much. It’s too messy, too disruptive, and the emotions it elicits threaten to hamper our constant mobility. Technologically mediated connection is smooth, and real people are anything but. When someone—a real, physical, thinking, and feeling someone—confronts us in all their human imperfection, we can’t process it. System failure. Does not compute. Let’s hit the bar, I’ve got bottles.

Image: DeviantArt, CC

We don’t want mere sex anymore. We want smooth sex. We want an interface, not a connection. We want data transfer, not an exchange of emotion and fluids. Bumps, lumps, and imperfections of all kinds make us uneasy as we crave the smooth, shiny ideal of the technological aesthetic. The thought of a prolonged emotional relationship gives rise to a queasy feeling as we think, with horror, of being tied down.

We no longer find objects which suggest permanence in their sturdy construction and clunky appearance appealing. Our modern comfort is found in completed tasks, closed tabs, used-up products, and ultimately in the promise of quick, planned obsolescence. This is as true for relationships as it is for consumer goods. Our highest values are smoothness and liquidity. It’s cynical and maybe even nihilistic, but it’s not all our fault.

READ ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/the-internet-is-smoothing-sex-into-oblivion

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