Now Wash Your Hands
April 21, 2020
It’s with an almost nascent nostalgia that I recall the coining of the Gen Z “sexual recession”: a patronising concern that our youngest generation would be rendered psychosexually stunted, unable or unwilling to fornicate due to over-exposure to smartphones, social media and porn.
Yes, it’s the Guardian, where almost nascent nostalgia is a thing that exists.
Ciara Gaffney, a resident of Los Angeles and a “brand strategist,” is very excited – all but rendered incoherent – by a “cybersexual revolution” that, during the pandemic, is apparently occurring.
Flinging the Gregorian calendar into irrelevance, humanity will be bisected into pre-Covid-19 and post-Covid-19, and although many will ruminate on how we have changed, one thing is indisputable: the rose-coloured epoch before the coronavirus bitterly shamed the sending of nudes.
There’s more of that, a lot, in fact. You’d better used to it.
They were perceived as gauche, even pathetic. In the lockdown era, however, thirst traps and nudes are not only making a glorious, unrepentant comeback, but are now a form of emboldened agency in Gen Z’s blossoming sexual liberation.
For affirmation, Ms Gaffney links to Buzzfeed, where we’re told of an unattached lady named Alicia who sent nude photos to a female friend because she “wanted some validation.” Said friend was expected to “say nice things” and, as Alicia puts it, “hype me up.” Neurotic neediness, it turns out, is the new empowerment. What’s more, the coronavirus lockdown is “galvanising” this new “sexual revolution,” in which seemingly unhappy people share photos of their genitals, often far and wide, in the hope of being validated. It’s all terribly exciting, and radical, and brings our narrator to a state of agitation:
The confines that spurred free love were morals, but the confines that mobilize the Gen Z sexual revolution are walls. Stratified by distance, Gen Z is similarly tasked with reinventing what sex looks like, in a quarantined world where physical sex is frequently impossible. As free love shattered the conventions of its time, Gen Z’s sexual renaissance is doing the same for organic sexual connection.
At which point, it sounds like Ms Gaffney is not so much talking to us as talking to herself, a kind of rhetorical self-pleasuring.
Are thirst traps posted to Instagram “close friends” lists modern courtship? Is mutual masturbation via Zoom sex? What separates the virtual from the real? Why is sexuality by video-screen considered lonely or isolating?
It’s all getting a little breathless. It may be over soon.
If anything, we are seeing humanity at its most tender, reaching earnestly through the virtual void to “actualize” contactless sex. Filled with unfiltered longing posted with abandon, Gen Z’s sexual revolution is one that has been reconfigured and reborn for the digital age.
Any minute now.
What else are we supposed to do with our days besides masturbate excessively and send a flurry of nudes? But it’s more than ennui or physical stratification. It’s a seizing of finiteness.
We need kitchen towel, stat.
Amid the spent wreckage and piles of inapt words, we find repeated assurances that all of this Instagram “thirst trapping” and habitual nude-sharing – whether with lovers, friends or countless random strangers – is “without repercussions.” There is, we’re told, an “absence of consequence.” Though it occurs to me that if you’re the kind of person who feels compelled to bore “close friends” with endless photos of yourself pouting and exaggerating your cleavage, fishing for compliments, or the kind of person who seeks validation from strangers, including strangers that you are in no way attracted to, by showing them your breasts, arse and genitals - then the consequences, as it were, may already have happened.
Update, via the comments:
For those too sheltered to know these things, and too shy to Google, a “thirst trap” is a gratuitously suggestive photo or social-media message intended to solicit attention, flattering comments or declarations of erotic fever – declarations that will not result in any actual sex, but merely make the person in question feel better about themselves, if only temporarily.
Readers are invited to ponder how much time they’d want to spend with the kind of person who craves repeated, even continual, validation regarding their attractiveness - from friends and strangers alike. From daily pouting on Instagram to sending nude selfies to friends. The kind of person who might imagine that such neurotic self-preoccupation is part of a “blossoming sexual liberation.”
If the words aggravating basket case come to mind, I quite understand.