Isolation and loneliness are seen as the fault of technology when, on closer inspection, that same technology can bring us closer togetherby Kate Devlin / December 9, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
Video killed the radio star, and technology destroyed the relationship. Intimacy is dead. This is the story we’re being told: a world where our smart devices clamour for the consideration we should be showing our loved ones. But is that really the case?
Dystopian narratives about technology have persisted, from Plato’s concerns that writing would destroy memory down to the forecasted death of the novel due to dwindling attention spans in the television era. But in truth, while technology leads to social changes, those changes are not always negative and we, as humans, generally adapt well to them. Sex technology is not something to fear: instead we should embrace it.
Attitudes to sex have obviously altered since the days when a serious chunk of the population took the idea of chastity before marriage seriously. The western sexual revolution of the past 50 or so years has had a profound effect. Traditional notions of acceptability collapsed along with the ban on DH Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover, when sex suddenly became unbuttoned. In Britain, three surveys known as the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal) have taken place over the past 35 years. Natsal doesn’t just ask about sexual experiences, although that is the cornerstone of the survey. It also records information about sexual health, biology and drug use.
As might be expected, the surveys become more candid over the years. Participants are asked for, and disclose, an increasing amount of information. We do talk more openly about sex these days, and there’s one overriding contributing factor: the internet. For many marginalised sexual subculture groups, far from being a destroyer of intimacy, the internet is an important place of refuge, where one can forge connections with kindred spirits (or perhaps kindred kinks), strengthening self-identity. Where there is strength in numbers, there is increased visibility, and with increased visibility can come a movement for acceptance. Online dating has gone from being an embarrassment to becoming one of the most frequent and common ways of meeting a new partner.