Seven were invited, four showed, a fifth was added last minute. By 8pm, we were Ana Cecilia Alvarez, Hannah Black, Andrea Crespo, Fiona Duncan, Whitney Mallett, and Taylor Tindall—six girls talking sexed bodies on a Sunday. We talked over guacamole, beer, jujubes, and kush, over the Long Island Rail Road rolling outside. We recorded it all—two hours of talk. Plural girls (girls, girls) on Tinder, tags, tantra, and the future of porn. Here’s an excerpt from our digressive dish sesh.
Fiona: Does anyone have sex?
Ana: I do!
Fiona: You do… Maybe it’s just me, but I find New York sexless. Every time I leave this city, it’s so easy to get laid, but here I find it near impossible except with that person [gestures to boyfriend in background].
Taylor: I go through “tree phases,” that’s what I call them, when I just don’t do it. Just like, it isn't there. And those fade in and out.
Fiona: When I was younger, I thought my twenties would be about everyone having sex all the time. The last few years have been more, like, working. And sexting. Do you app?
Whitney: I got an editing job off of Tinder. I don't use it anymore except when I’m in different cities. Anthropologically, that’s interesting.
Hannah: I thought Grindr sounded really utopian. I was like, oh that’s an amazing resource for people to come over and have sex with you. I tried to recreate it on Tinder, which isn’t the same at all. But I was like, oh men can come to my house and have sex with me! And so far it was really boring. My whole life I thought that would be the most fun thing. Maybe I just missed the point in my life where I would have known how to really enjoy it. I think I needed a taboo to animate it and I couldn’t find one. It was just like we’re having sex, and it was fine, but it wasn't a fantasy.
Fiona: There’s no narrative.
Hannah: Yeah, exactly.
Ana: Each online dating platforms markets to a specific desire. If you're on match.com you're probably searching for something you won’t find on Tinder or Seeking Arrangements, etc.
Whitney: What Tinder made me realize is that people can look really good on paper or whatever, but there’s no chemistry. I invited a young Brooklyn College student over who was really handsome on paper, and I felt like I was babysitting. In five seconds I knew I couldn't have sex with him. He seemed really young and handsome but you can’t…
Hannah: I also found that it put pressure on… people expected me to know things that I already liked. They would be like, what are you into? And I would be like, let’s try something and I’ll see if I'm into it or not? It felt really rigid. But then at the same time I was like, maybe it’s weird that I don’t have a lot of language around my sexual desire and I don't know what I like in that sense. I can’t produce a list of things I like in the same way other people can. Maybe it’s a cultural difference. Maybe it’s actually quite liberating to say, “I like this.” Do you have that experience as well? That it’s like you need to pick out some desires that you already picked out and then you're supposed to reenact them with people?
Fiona: I know what you mean. It’s like people assume that desire is solid, like people imagine identity to be, as if you could say: this is it, this is all I want. Tags, man, tags. One thing my piece was going to address, but I ended up cutting, is virtual reality porn, which is here, or coming. “It’s the future of porn.”
“It's like people assume that desire is solid, like people imagine identity to be, as if you could say: this is it, this is all I want.”
Whitney: What’s interesting about VR [Virtual Reality] is that right now there is this talk that when Oculus Rift comes in December everyone has this potential to make money off of the adult industry again, because people will pay for content because it will be so novel. I don’t know if it will work or not. But we are in this mode where we don’t really pay for content anymore. There’s also all this talk about this “social singularity,” how networked sex is going to be just as normal as any other kind, like your online relationships and your real relationships are going to become more and more equal; one’s not going to be more, oh the one you flirt with on the Internet, and the person you flirt with in “real life.” You know what I mean, whatever: it’s going to become more and more the same.
Taylor: I think it is already.
Fiona: What I’ve seen of VR porn is very clunky. When I was a teenager, I had this amazing fantasy of virtual reality porn like The Matrix, like you couldn't tell between it and “real life,” because everything would be reproduced, touch, taste, not just visuals. But in the VR porn I’ve seen it’s just this big immersive visual environment that’s super pixelated.
Andrea: I think thats good enough for dudes because they have tendency to be more visual, or at least they are trained to be such.
Fiona: Are they? Are dudes definitely necessarily more visual?
Ana: Arguably, yeah.
Fiona: I always thought that was one of those bullshit gender myths.
Whitney: But myths are real. If people think something is real then there are things that reinforce it then it becomes real.
Fiona: Another thing about virtual reality porn is it’s way more catered to men. It’s mostly now just with female talent. The leading site has this amazing discourse about how men will escape their flesh bodies into the techno-nirvana where women will be at their beck and call and will do whatever they want so men will like dominate and have control etc. [Laughter, sighs] It’s really intense. Oh yeah! And it’s also very associated with gaming—it’s this type of imagination, this male gamer imagination.
Ana: This sounds awful but to put it on record wouldn't it be great if they put all this… Okay this is awful, maybe we can not include this but… I’m just imagining all these scummy awful creepy gamer boys wouldn't bother women anymore because they'll be just hooked up on the machine. [Laughter]
Andrea: Agreed. I feel that what VR is going to do is open up different pathways of desire. Like obviously it’s not going to be satisfying in replacing what we actually want from sex, it’s going to be satisfying to what you can’t access… I think eventually more people are going to become fetishists. [Laughter] That’s the inevitable [More laughter]. Capitalism reprograms everyone [More laughter].
Fiona: One thing that I thought VR porn would be good for is—when I watch online porn now, it’s usually streaming, and it’s like clicking through one video for 30 seconds and if I don't like it, clicking though until I find something that I do like, watching that for two minutes. This while experiencing all these pop-up ads and all this stuff outside the frame of the video. It’s fragmented, whereas VR porn is immersive. Maybe I would focus and find pleasure differently.
Whitney: Yeah, I mostly go to sex.com.
Taylor: What’s that?
Whitney: It’s a Pinterest that is predominately gifs. It’s a stream; you can search different key words. It’s actually very funny because it’s a mix of high end fashion design, there’s a lot of lingerie, mixed with hardcore.
Ana: Yeah, when I’m watching porn and masturbating, I only need those 45 seconds to rewatch again and again until I come, but when I am with a partner, that experience demands so much.
Fiona: Do you think that’s about comfort? I have stimuli other than porn, like triggers, that’ll get me there just as fast, and I think it’s about knowing it’ll work, the comfort of the familiar. Or like it’s wired into your brain, this association.
Whitney: I used to do that when I was at the end of a relationship, like a 3 or 4 year relationship, I just started to go to a go-to thing that could make me cum. It wasn’t even meaningful; I could tell it was just a pathway in my brain that was just repeating like muscle memory.
Ana: There are two points I want to make. One is unrelated and one is more of a public service announcement. So this is something I thought as a “sex positive” individual would never say, but—I am so glad that I threw out my vibrator. Everyone is like, “Oh me and my Hitachi!” but vibrators prevented me from being able to cum during sex with my partner, because I needed x amount of watts. It numbed me.
Taylor: It’s the same way that I think only getting off to porn is laziness, you don't need to think much, or put effort into another person. Another form of different detachment from reality.
Fiona: But what if the default isn’t… like you can have sex and a make a whole night of it, that’s great, but for me, masturbation is more maintenance, like showering or washing my hair, self-care or whatever. [Laughter] Speaking of masturbation, something else I wanted to talk about was the “no fapping” movement. Do you know about this? Fapping is jerking off like men.
Taylor: Yeah I've seen that.
Fiona: It started as a Reddit forum of people encouraging each other not jerk off because there was this study that showed that a man’s testosterone sky rockets after 7 days of no orgasm.
Taylor: Boxers do that, they don't have sex before their fights.
Fiona: What’s really interesting to me is what these dudes are encouraging is basically mindfulness training, like slowing down your brain, trying to breathe through triggers.
Ana: This is Tantra 101.
“Everyone is like, ‘Oh me and my Hitachi!‘ but vibrators prevented me from being able to cum during sex with my partner, because I needed x amount of watts.”
Ana: My friend sent me an hour-long tantric practice lecture. I am generally suspicious of any Eastern practice that’s rebranded and sold to a white audience, but I still was a bit fascinated by some of what they shared: the “dangers” of clitoral stimulation, the different types of orgasms. They had this man who was on like day 25 of not masturbating and it was sounded like he had healed from something… it was a little moving.
Andrea: Well, I’m asexual for the most part. When one stops masturbating, the mind clears. You feel slightly clearer and like less stuffed.
Whitney: On Seinfeld George gets really smart, remember? [Laughter]
Fiona: Right! There’s an after-cumming slump guys talk about that.
Ana: That’s big in the tantra thing. Right, they mentioned that in the tantra lecture. Once you stop clitoral stimulation you run faster and your metabolism will boost. But I was also skeptical of that because it equated controlling your clitoral hunger with productivity. They basically were selling tantra as a way to work harder. I generally never want to work harder. [Laughter]