When I got out of a three year relationship that was so cooled off we eventually had to put a “we’re still together” face on when we met our friends, I got hung up over a man with whom I could not sustain a physical affair. We’ve know each other for one week and a 4000 miles apart love story spanned our lives the following months was ultimately carried on solely on the alienating field of modern technology means of conversation. As our long distance relationship grew into summer, we exchanged countless internet letters, from short kinky notes to painstaking erotic rendez-vous in a Yahoo Messenger chat box. As days turned into months, the actual release one gets from sexual intercourse was replaced with an ever present adrenaline rush that prevented our tired bodies to sleep, work properly or lead a regular social life. When we finally met again, reality failed to stand up to the sexual and romantic ideal we’ve built all along in Arial.
I’m a thirty year old woman with a tad of a career fixation, a fading interest in romantic relationships and a biased handle of sexting. This did not happen to me because I’m a feminist, or a perfectionist, or a control freak, but rather because I stopped finding 2.0. intercourse satisfactory.
Years after I promised myself I’d never take on long distance affairs, or focus on the virtual side of things, I ended up dating a bundle of men via Tinder as a writer’s experiment. Most of these encounters led to dates, but more often than not, were consumed exclusively online. Consciousness kept popping in my dreams like an unsolicited dick pic and while, at first, sexting was fun and as entertaining as Friday Night Live, I gradually grew weary of it.
Our sexting culture is based on both hardcore porn and American comedy romance. It’s all heat, whirlwind and flash, as Sonic Youth would put it.
This is what sexting ultimately is about. A monologue performed between people who want to touch each other but cannot, and without knowing how the other feels you won’t be able to feel anything either. I wanted to say maybe it is like drugs, but drugs don’t make it a necessity for one to talk to somebody in order to kick in. People are alone, sometimes we won’t find even that one person to exchange emotion in writing with, no matter how many times we swipe right. This is why apps who pretend to be your girlfriend or boyfriend were invented. To send you wake-up calls that tingle like blowjobs and sweet messages. This is why they made the film Her.
But the worst part is that you never know if it’s real. Because it’s written, but it’s not there, you can’t see it. You just have to believe what the other person types. You have to believe a lot. Otherwise messages have no tone and this is how the worst of confusion is created.
“When we talked, I talked about me, you talked about you, when we should have talked about each other” is what Jean Luc Godard’s Jean Paul Belmondo would say to a blonde, petite and stranded Jean Seberg in the 1960 cult film Breathless. Sexing used to be erotic, now it’s just erratic.
Our forefathers wrote each other letters. But there is something different in between the paper that transports all the other’s person feelings, hopes, lust and desperation, there is something gravely different between an envelope you cut with a knife or tear open with your fingers – one that has been carried away through aeroplanes, mailboxes, that wears the boot stamp of the mail man who non gracefully stepped on it before tossing it back into a pile of other papers, and eventually, arrived in your mailbox seventeen days late. There is something raw in the anticipation of having to decipher hand writing, misspell a word here and there, miss out on a word here and there, smell the paper that the other’s hand has touched, the corner down left where the ink has gone thick because they’re a left hand and they pressed with all their gravity on that paper. Internet conversation is aloof and while apparently missing all the emotion handwriting has ingrained, we do it with the hope and expectation that he or she will give us back compelling answers on how we look today, how to touch ourselves, or how to live in present tense. We’re looking for more than someone to lead us all the way down to where pleasure lies. Sometimes we want a therapist. Or a friend. Or a pen pal with witty remarks. We ask for someone to plug in to and reinforce imaginary scripts of how we see ourselves with that person. Our mind plays tricks on us because everything is ideal, and beautiful, and perfect, the way our bodies look in a high end fashion store mirror.
Instant gratification wears off. Sure, it may work wonders for the first couple of times it happens to you, but, as you wish for a growing number of Facebook followers, you start wishing for presence, and sometimes, permanence. It’s easy to jerk off. And it’s even easier to have your hormones acting like you’re naturally high on someone you never met. Just because they know what buttons to push and they have a fast response rate on a 37×37 touch screen key board.
Here’s a picture I took in my trip to NZ. Here’s my father’s girlfriend the summer she moved in with us. Here’s my friend I stopped talking to because we slept with the same guy. Here’s a photo of my cleavage, do you like that – and please don’t say anything, just tell me more about your favourite sex positions. I want to be your best friend. I want to fuck you. I want to take you to church and marry you. These words in my head, I read them out loud. They sound like a cheesy movie audition for the most kindred soul role. They make me sick.
Snapchat five seconds victories, re-usable instagram quotations, things you’d screenshot and send to your friends in your lunch break. You would think sexting has nothing to do with romance, but, in reality, it’s easy for it to build into something more personal than basic simple fucking. When a conversation is missing your voice, you relate on fantasy to paint the other.
When I moved to a different city I was looking for a higher resolution in life. Brighter colours perhaps. I was looking at leaving the way a seven year old looks forward to summer holiday by the beach, the way the same seven year old looks forward to their first love affair when they’re fourteen and the girl’s from second bench to the wall looks ripe and he’d kiss her. The way we get hung up on quotes and small talk that is bound to change our lives forever, even though it’s just a #regram.
I was not interested in dates, and I suppose I did not quite even gather the energy to swipe through all my Tinder connections and notifications. I was bored with instant fantasy rush, because anything that’s instant has the potential to become a burden, the way carrying your take-away coffee with an umbrella on slippery ice on a snowy day becomes a burden when the stranger who’s in a bigger hurry than yourself bumps into you at the office front door and you burn yourself from the liquid that spills all over your shirt and coat.
I installed Tinder again, to have lightweight fun or just make some new connections. Between all the automated sexts I instantly received, there was one guy who made me spend more than a usual fifty seconds in his chat box.
“This conversation is missing your voice”, he said.
“Sometimes I give my phone number and ask people to read (me) a page from the book they are reading. Most of the time they do not accept. Too much intimacy. But sex (is) no problem”, he continued.
I stared at his phone number for a couple seconds before signing off.
I did not press call. I’m still confident though that passing our voice over to strangers is like walking into an overly crowded Times Square and saying “Hi” to the girl in the red dress that caught your eye when she stopped to look at the sky and smiled with all her glowing crooked teeth. Maybe one day, when I’m at page 256 in a book I didn’t mind to stop reading even when I walk down the street, I will take out my cell and, instead of snapping a picture of the page, I will say “Hello,”.
Ioana Cristina Casapu is the Managing Director of Art Parasites Magazine. She likes Brian Eno, airports and never says no to a good old Gin&Tonic.