Sex in the Digital Age

For the past three years, the magazines Shape and Men’s Fitness have teamed up to do an annual sex survey. This year’s effort has focused on love in the Internet age and asked some "digital questions" which reveal interesting information about how social media is affecting not just our lives, but our love lives. More than 1,200 readers of the two magazines participated in the survey and now that I have just back from the store after purchasing my copy of the February 2011 edition of Shape magazine, let’s dig into those results in the article titled "Sexting: Is it helping or hurting your love life?". Just an FYI, Shape’s target audience is women and the results of the survey have been written up by a woman as though she’s talking to another woman. She keeps saying things like "your man", "how do you respond", etc.

First of all, 47 percent of the readers said their sex life was, as the magazine printed it, a-m-a-z-i-n-g. Hmmm, I guess that’s better than just "amazing"? That compares to 21% in last year’s survey. Are things getting better? Those percentages would lead me to think things are m-u-c-h-b-e-t-t-e-r.

However, 51% of the respondents said their couple-time in this digital era is less intimate than it used to be. The mag paints the picture of the guy attached to his iPad and the woman checking her cell. Oddly enough, when I read "less intimate than it used to be" I had to ask myself just how old these survey participants are. The Internet took off in 1995 which is 16 years ago. Cell phones have been around even longer. How old would you have to be to be able to make such a statement? It seems to me that this would infer one was old enough to have experience with relationships in an era other than the digital one. Would that mean you’d have to be [gasp] older than 40?

You may feel your man digitally distracted when you’re hanging out but post-sex, he’s all yours. More than 85% of guys said that, if they had to choose between cuddling, checking their phone, or surfing the Web after making love, they’d pick snuggling up to you. Right answer.

It turns out that Facebook may just be some sort of aphrodisiac. Communicating via social networking, instant messaging and texting are said by both men and women to lead them to the bedroom faster. The survey found that 80 percent of women felt relationships lead to sex more quickly since it is so easy to stay connected. Fifty-eight percent of the men stated that flirting over Facebook, texts and Gchat helped them get women into the sack sooner.

Does digital communication intensify the feelings we have in our relationships? Do those lovey-dovey text messages increase our anticipation and naturally pave the way to the bedroom sooner? Whatever the case, the survey found out that only 38% of the women said they had actually slept with a partner sooner than they otherwise would have due to a textual relationship. So, 80% felt it hastened things but only 38% said they did it. The proof is in the pudding?

Certainly the way we communicate is changing. Most communication between couples is now happening by text instead of phone according to the survey with men saying they texted 39% more often than they called, and women reporting that they texted 150% more often than phoning. I wonder how many people do it the old fashioned way: in person?

That doesn’t seem surprising when 65% of respondents said they had been asked out via text message and 49 percent through a Facebook message. And how personal is this digital communication? 43% of women and 27% of men reported at least one instance of getting dumped via text. Getting dumped by text; now how personal is that? I look down at my Blackberry and read, "It’s not you; it’s me." Hmmm, how do I text "B.S."?

Before anybody does any communicating, 70 percent of women and 63 percent of men will use social media tools and Google to screen potential dates. Should I include the email address of my parole officer? Maybe references are important for any woman checking me out.

However, once the dating starts, 72 percent of women admitted in the survey to looking through a current partner’s ex-girlfriends’ Facebook pages. What? Men have a list of ex-girlfriends? Now there’s a recipe for disaster. Never admit to anything. The current one is the only one and any previous ones were just insignificant lead-ups to the right one, that is, the current one. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

A few surprises or maybe not surprises in the survey?

76 percent of women said they would look at their partner’s e-mail account if it was left open. Sixty-nine percent of men admitted to the same thing. Really? Now here I was thinking you were honest… [as I look in your Inbox for incriminating evidence of other men]!!!

Would you rather give up your cell phone or sex for a year? 61% of the women and 78% of the men said they’d give up the cell. Okay, but I have to reflect on the other 39% of the women and the 22% of the men who could not give up their cell phone. I guess you only need one hand for a cell.

What do you do if you receive a call or text during sex? 87% ignore it; 7% silence it; 5% glance to see who’s calling and 1% stop to answer the phone. For the people other than the 87%, are you kidding me? You wouldn’t ignore it? Gee, thanks. Here I was thinking I was a stud muffin and it ends up I may only be distracting you until something or someone more interesting comes along. Ha! But here’s a newsflash for the bunch of ya: how about turning the damn thing off before you start?

Would you consider it cheating if your partner went into a sex chat room? 66% or the women and 45% of the men said yes. Of course this survey was done over the Internet so technically speaking, they didn’t "say" yes, they actually "texted" yes. The bottom line is that even if you don’t exchange bodily fluids, you can still get into trouble for exchanging thoughts.

Have you ever joined an online dating site? 28% said yes; 72% said no. No snide remark.

If you met your guy on a dating site, do you admit it?
5%: Yes, I like to spread the word that dating sites work.
25%: No, I’m too embarrassed.
41%: If someone asks, but I don’t brag about it.
29%: No, it doesn’t matter how we met.

Reboot your relationship
A sidebar in the article mentions some advice from Belisa Vranich, clinical psychologist and expert in sex and relationships. She talks about powering off the devices during dates and before going to bed. Let’s focus on our partner. She also says that while sexting and instant messaging during the day has its place (keeping things hot), save some of those "i<3u" for when you are together in person. Make a point to tell your partner that he’s wanted, needed, and loved. This seems to be directed at the female reader but I guess the same is applicable to us guys.

Bottom line: don’t forget what to do when you are actually standing face-to-face. Remember? The "real" world?

Final Word
The digital age is upon us. Faster connections, faster break-ups, possibly less intimacy. Or is this a different kind of intimacy? Now, as I lovingly gaze into your eyes while whispering sweet nothings… Oops! [I hold up a finger in a gesture to ask for a pause] "Hold that thought!" [I pull out my vibrating phone to check the latest message from somebody other than you]

It’s at this point you stand up, pick up your purse and walk out on me. Dumping my water glass out onto my lap is optional.

Click HERE to read more from William Belle.

References

Men’s Fitness Magazine

Shape Magazine
The February 2011 issue of Shapes features the results of the latest survey.

ABC News – Jan 26/2011 (story and video)
Facebook as Foreplay? Survey Says Social Media Leads to Sex Faster
Shape, Men’s Fitness Survey Says Social Networking Leads Couples to Bed Sooner

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