Sexual obesity in the tech age

By Kagure Mugo

The first time I heard about Tinder, I was floored. I had so many questions, but the main one was: “So basically you can track your next conquest down using what seems like radar technology and GPS? Sort of like hunting game on safari?”

For me Tinder was to sex what the microwave was to food prep, something quick and easy if not a little affected by radiation. Suddenly, not only did you have hilarious memes in the palm of your hand but also, possibly, a good round of semi-anonymous coitus.

This unadulterated access to sex was mind-boggling. When I had last left “the game”, the most one could hope for in terms of acquiring a bedfellow was hitting the clubs and hoping someone would hit you up on Mxit.

Yes, I have been gone that long.

The world is now filled with apps that will teach you how to give head or control a sex toy from a continent away (also known as teledildonics), as well as rumours that the internet is about 90% porn and was secretly created to house all those exposed genitals. That and funny videos of animals wearing hats and/or sneezing.

Justin Garcia, a research scientist at Indiana University’s Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, said: “There have been two major transitions” in heterosexual mating “in the last four million years … the first was around 10 000 to 15 000 years ago, in the agricultural revolution, when we became less migratory and more settled, leading to the establishment of marriage as a cultural contract … and the second major transition is with the rise of the internet.”

What does this mean in terms of the quality of sex if the quantity is so high? This was a notion explored in an article in Vanity Fair magazine, which floated the idea of “psychosexual obesity”. Are we gorging on sex and what effect does this have on our interactions?

There are some who say that all this information floating about is having a negative effect on sex. The fact that there is such quantity means two things: people are no longer seeing sex as the beautiful, sacred art form it is (God bless the Karma Sutra and its religious friends) and what “gets people off” is becoming more and more intense.

To illustrate the second point, I once had a conversation at a bus stop with a woman who said she could no longer climax without being choked.

There is also the intense fear that people have about vibrators and how one shall “never come again with a non-motorised penis” if you use it too often.

There is the notion that a lack of intimacy (or hormones in food) has led to increased erectile dysfunction in young males. There is also the idea that access to so much information about sex has meant people do not value it as much and that the hook-up culture has led to people throwing around mediocre sex in the constant drive to “hit it and quit it”.

Doesn’t really matter because you can just swipe again in the morning.

There are, however, others who argue for the positive. For them, this increase in access to varying sexual ideas can have the effect of allowing people to explore different ways of showing and experiencing sex and intimacy.

Conversations about sex and sexuality increase with the visibility of sexual ideas and the opening up of platforms to discuss them.

One example of this is the world of kink. The book and subsequent film Fifty Shades of Grey, problematic as it was, allowed people to acknowledge, at the very least, that BDSM/kink was out there. Another example was a Twitter trend titled #BlackVaginasMatter, in which women discussed ideas of ownerships of sexuality, body autonomy and all-round great sex.

The opening up of a great number of sexual conversations has allowed for expanded notions of what body autonomy means, the double standards in sex and dating, as well as the problematic ideas we have when it comes to engaging in coitus.

The increase in varying ideas of sex as well as the normalisation of different sexual practices can have the effect of allowing people to engage fully with something that is an integral part of human relations. It takes it out of the shadows and brings it into the light.

But the jury is still out on this. Granted, there are some great facets in terms of our access to sex, but there are also gremlins. The key to this rise in sex is making sure to take the good and be cognisant of the bad. A lot of sex, like any good thing, can also have an adverse effect.

First Published on Mail and Guardian.

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