Magazine article The Spectator

'Future Sex: A New Kind of Free Love', by Emily Witt - Review

Magazine article The Spectator

'Future Sex: A New Kind of Free Love', by Emily Witt - Review

Article excerpt

'I was single, straight, and female,' Emily Witt begins, with all the élan of an alcoholic stating her name and what's wrong with her. Only there isn't anything wrong with Emily Witt. (The book jacket tells us she has three degrees and won a Fulbright scholarship to Mozambique.) Unless you count not having a fella in your fourth decade. Which she does. And doesn't.

Future Sex is a collection of essays about sex and society, originally published in magazines including N+1, GQ and the London Review of Books, packaged into book form. In America, it enjoyed rave reviews. Here, it's had a sexy reprint by Faber. I got very excited too, for the first two chapters, when Witt seemed to be asking the question no one ever poses: 'Why, when we enjoy all the freedom women would have killed for throughout three millennia, do we still feel we've failed if we've not snared a man for better or worse?'

Feminists used to tell us that we'd been liberated: that a woman without a man was like a fish without a bicycle. Now we're fish out of water, flapping around, wondering what's wrong with us. Why are we alone -- not in a tank somewhere, with a man fish and fingerlings? Or as Witt puts it: 'I had disliked my freedom because I didn't want to see myself landing on the outside of normal.' After a rousing monologue in which she declares her affinity with those 'who had not found love... who were used to going to weddings by themselves, who knew they embodied some ahistorical demographic whose numbers were now significant' she had me. I was Team Witt -- on a mission to find 'a new kind of free love'.

Only then she just veered off to find new and utterly foul ways of having sex instead.

That dismal quest begins in San Francisco, where Witt tries 'orgasmic meditation' -- or (as you and I might call it) 'public masturbation'. At first, she doesn't like it: 'I avoided all eye contact... caught the bus home... and watched the Norman Conquest episode of Simon Schama's History of Britain.' Then she has a go. And she doesn't like that either. But then, because the experience consisted of a man wearing latex gloves flicking at her clitoris as ineffectively as a novice in a game of Subbuteo, who would?

Undeterred, Witt goes on to examine live webcams, polyamory and the Burning Man festival, where scenes get so pretentious they might appear in Pseud's Corner:

I picked up the phone and spoke to God. …

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