Future Sex: A New Kind of Free Love by Emily Witt

If ever there were an inappropriate airplane book to read on the way to Tunisia, this would be it. I did not have that foresight.

In many ways, I had no idea what I was getting in to in reading this. I only knew it had showed up on my reading list somehow, and it subsequently showed up in the bookstore. In this book, Emily Witt writes chapter after chapter of very thoughtful, journalistic, personal text on sexuality. The chapters are on expectations, internet dating, orgasmic meditation, internet porn, live webcams, polyamory, burning man, birth control and reproduction. 

It address the fact that America, especially America of the West (i.e. San Francisco, California), is reeeaaaally good at introducing more and more advanced technologies to society, but fails in many ways to openly embrace different human arrangements than the ones we have, for time immemorial, recognized as appropriate: heterogenous, monogamous relationships. And that this puts a lot of pressure on humans that fall outside of the norm, including, somehow, single women in their 30s. Rejecting this, Witt goes on the explore her sexuality in some seemingly bizarre and fascinating ways. 

Some chapters just went way over my head, like orgasmic meditation. But others touched on some things that I had subtly known about and been curious about, but did not fully understand - like the ongoings of Burning Man, and perhaps how much being a Burner is related to getting in touch with a different kind of sexuality (is this true, Burners?). 

If I had to predict a future, it would be that Burning Man would last only as long as we did, the last generation that lived some part of life without the Internet, who were trying to adjust our reality to our technology. Younger people, I hoped, would not need autonomous zones. Their lives would be free of timidity. They would do their drugs and have their sex. They wouldn’t think of themselves as women or men. They would meld their bodies seamlessly with their machines, without our embarrassment, without our notions of authenticity.
— Emily Witt, Future Sex

There was a particularly felt sense of injustice as I read her chapter on birth control and reproduction, which argued that, despite huge advances in technology, our birth control has not seen a real update in decades. The only advancement has been in helping get women pregnant later in life. So, for many women, at their financial burden, they spent their 20s paying for birth control to prevent pregnancy, and then thousands of dollars later on trying to get pregnant - freezing their eggs, doing IVF therapy, etc. Ouch. That is terrifyingly true feeling.

A futuristic sex was not going to be a new kind of historically unrecognizable sex, just a different way of talking about it.
— Emily Witt, Future Sex
Framing birth control as a choice, and not as a human right, had caused us to settle not only for mediocre technology and poor availability, but it encouraged us to think of our childless lives as an arrested state.
— Emily Witt, Future Sex

There is wisdom I did not expect at the end of this book. I read it self-consciously, curiously, skeptically. It (somewhat) neutrally presented a very alternative reality to the one I know, and it challenged some very locked-in beliefs. Why do we have these beliefs about sexuality? Why do we get so uncomfortable when they are challenged? We dive in to the future in so many ways - the latest innovation, the newest app - but we are hesitant about sexual freedom.

From the vantage point of the present, it was easier to think that the future would be like The Jetsons, where families would look exactly the same, but labor would be outsourced to robots and intelligent appliances. The last fifty years of social movements have already rendered that vision of the future obsolete. At the very least, the Jetsons would be a two-income household.
— Emily Witt, Future Sex