the proliferation of art made solely for profit, the increasing infantilization of adults, the politicization of everything, the metaverse, the dumbed-down appeal of literalism. “So much of our culture right now is really earnest and de-sexed,” said Doreen St. Félix.
People on social media are constantly trying to destigmatize being “try-hard,” because you can’t really be online without trying. But it will never work. It will always be more compelling to garner people’s admiration naturally than to do it on purpose, and the people best at that will always be the most interesting, culturally speaking.
If I were to guess why everything’s felt so stunted and unimaginative lately, from our celebrities to our general ways of life, it’s because we’ve forgotten this
In our attempt to digitize everything, we’ve funneled all our attentions towards the unreal. This started first with the tech entrepreneurs aiming to code and commodify social bonds, and it’s just spiraled downward from there: work, commerce, beauty, art, sex, money, popularity, wisdom, style, nostalgia, cachet, activism, communication itself.
In a culture of convenience, where values are understood increasingly through their digital imprints, things feel nauseatingly 2D because they literally are.
I’ve started thinking of this quality as sexlessness. I’m using sex here as a euphemism for the natural arousal that attends life in 3D, sexual or not. It is the antithesis of the gamified pleasure we pursue online, which has now infiltrated our values offline too.
Consider beauty, which is today often understood as a set of objective, imitable, purchasable characteristics, rather than a quality experienced through movement, context, subjectivity, mystery, actual presence.
Technology will naturally favor the former because it is itself a set of objective, imitable, and purchasable characteristics, and even moreso because it values efficiency above all
The techy pursuit of immediacy and frictionlessness which have become hallmarks of modern progress are comically at odds with genuine pleasure.
I became fixated on the death of sex only recently, while discussing, ironically, the debate around whether to have kids.
Is it too on-the-nose to say the conversation around procreation has become totally sexless?
Studies, data, biological clocks, cost-benefit analysis.
As if imitating computers ourselves, we imagine that with enough information we can spit out a definitive answer as to which path will be “advantageous.”
But that’s not really how life works, or how meaning is measured.
When I think of the dominant trends of the last five or 10 years, most of them engender this same lack of humanity: personal branding; biohacking; virtual reality; reality television; fillers and filters; botox and plastic surgery; being extremely online; corporate activism; minimalism; cancel culture; labels for every type of person and personality; two-day shipping; ghost kitchens and ghost stores; e-books; cryptocurrency and NFTs; smartwatches that remind you to move
Each one feels empty and sexless in its own special way.
One way to view the irritating state of things is as a kind of collective sexual frustration.
“Nobody does anything cool anymore, and everybody is afraid of everything,”
“We are in a decadent, post-excitement world.”
sex, or eros, is about more than just people fucking on camera. To take that further, it’s about more than just fucking. “Sexuality is the most essential element of nature,” Verhoeven told Variety. It is the ultimate euphemism for earthly pleasures and all its attendant qualities: desire, touch, anguish, longing, satisfaction, thrill, connection, presence. Essentially everything the internet can’t meaningfully give us.
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