by Aaron Grierson
Sexual activity has always been a constant for humanity. Not only as our method of reproduction, but as a form of entertainment as well. For a history nerd, the oldest stereotypical medium of sexual media that I’m personally familiar with would be French lithograms from the 17th and 18th centuries. I say stereotypes because, while true, it’s unlikely that the French were the only ones producing such things. And while modesty was generally pushed to the forefront of European history, I get distinctly bemused by the likelihood that there were cave drawings tens of thousands of years ago that depicted such material.
Now, as far as socially-acceptable mass-media goes, there are seemingly endless shelves of romance and erotica novels to keep the “reading public” entertained, that is to say, if they are not occupied through other mediums. Such themes permeate pages well beyond old-fashioned publications, stretching into fanfiction posted (mostly) on the internet, or personal fantasies that are kept entirely private. However, not all works of fiction are carnal. Some, it would seem, no matter how many centuries old, were intended to be satirical or inflammatory. The physical intimacy, while important, is seldom the sole element involved. Regardless of their original purpose, these stories can be easily skewed by modern readers as an ideal to be sought out, not as a work of fiction wherein some ideal fantasy is being brought to life. Like our depictions, we have developed different ways of being close to one another, not just in an emotional or an “I can text this person whenever I want” way, but also in a deliberately physical way that might make someone like Plato laugh at us. This is especially true when the fantasies of our fiction are impossible to consider as being able to cross over into reality.
Yet it is undeniable that their experience too stretches beyond the realm of fiction. We may not take it seriously but humanity has entered into a realm where creating countless new relationships is more the rule than the exception. So much so that I ponder when the idea of the “high school sweetheart” morphed into the “chatroom sweetheart” or the “Facebook sweetheart”, or more generally just “the sweetheart I’ve only ever Skype’d with”.
For a long time philosophers, ethicists and science fiction authors have contended with the question of where exactly humanity begins, especially in view of rapidly evolving digital technology. To a cynic, falling in love with someone on the internet might sound like a preposterous premise. Yet with e-dating websites this is obviously not only accepted but encouraged and facilitated, having evolved into a social service that often comes with a monthly subscription fee.
So where, then, might the optimist’s opinion on such matters lie? Is humanity the true medium of the message, and the technology merely the apparatus which facilitates our communion with other people? Or is humanity perhaps just something so innate that it cannot help but be active no matter which way we present ourselves? I certainly don’t have an answer to these musings, so I hope that you, dear readers, were not expecting me to deliver one. This youthful techno-romance seems to be growing in popularity and meaning, which simultaneously manages to blur the lines of traditional relationships, especially the unwritten laws concerning physicality and emotional connection. Such expansion comes paired with items or methods of communication that become all but infamous in the wider world.
The present obsession, without comparison, is cellphones and tablets. Generation Z and beyond are becoming obsessed with them en masse. Constantly texting, it’s a wonder these children maintain normal sleeping patterns, less because of late hours, and more because they probably sleep within ten feet of their cellphones and other gadgets, if not falling asleep mid-textersation.
But the plague of cellphones, or smartphones, as we’ve convinced ourselves to call them, goes well beyond text messaging. In the last couple of years, internet access on one’s phone has become the norm. And while it is a premium service with its own often hefty charge, it is nevertheless an expectation for people to have access to it anytime, anywhere, anywant.