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Jul 19, 2023·edited Jul 19, 2023

This is what happens when we keep sex in pop culture and remove the eros. Sexual encounters can now be depicted as sad or traumatic, but never, ever fun, and if they are, you'd best believe someone's gonna pay dearly for it. I'm pretty libertine, but I never agreed to delegate our collective sexual imagination to porn, and I think it needs to be reclaimed by other mediums. Romantic desire used to be the driving force of all kinds of stories, and that helped stoke our hopes for connection, relationships and yes, getting off. And the reality is, no matter how often we celebrate kinks and all those sexual orientations, we're a lot less comfortable when someone does anything physical about them. But I think the issue cuts even closer to the bone. Folks are allergic to making mistakes, hence all the chatter about rules and categories. And so much of the glory of romance involves the risk of being vulnerable, misunderstanding cues and getting rejected, and all that seems just too much for a generation raised on getting "likes" for every thought, meal and outfit.

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I'm not sure whether the Internet/social media caused more people to be endlessly lost in their own heads or just gave them a vehicle to indulge getting lost in their own heads more than ever before. That might seem off-topic, but the whole surprise BJ story made me think of how in general a lot of people online seem to overthink every activity and suck the fun out of it (a non-sexual example would be the recent New Yorker article on "the case against travel").

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Great essay. You make excellent points. I think hook up culture plays a big role in this new safetyism—you used the words “the physical act of love”. But hook up culture has taken the “love” part out of sex and rendered it merely physical pleasure, often with people you don’t know very well and have no reason to trust. Trust that your partner (lover?) has your best interests at heart and is indeed expressing his or her love for you via the sexual act is key to your ability to be “a little uncomfortable, a little vulnerable” just like when you ride the rollercoaster and you know it has passed extensive safety testing and you are only experiencing the illusion that you might die. If you thought there was any chance that rollercoaster could malfunction and you might be seriously harmed, you would experience pure terror, not thrill.

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It’s not just culture and rhetoric, and hasn’t been for some time. https://harpers.org/archive/2015/06/while-you-were-sleeping-2/

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