Where’s The Sex? Frustrations Of Love In The Digital Age


Nude guy in bed aloneBy Elizabeth Shore

One nice thing about the holiday season is that we often have a little more time than normal to snuggle up with loved ones. Even if you don’t have a fireplace, snuggling is a good way to keep your fires burning, right? Unless, of course, you and your loved one have never even met. Strange but true. I’m talking about love in the digital age.

In the “old” days of five years ago or more, people who wanted to date often started with a common first step: they actually met. In person. Whether introduced through mutual friends, meeting at a party, in a bar, at a grocery store, through involvement with a club or church group, people began talking to one another, then they maybe went to coffee, or lunch, or dinner, or whatever, and the relationship grew from there. Even people involved in a long-distance relationship first got to know one another in person. But nowadays? Not necessarily so.

A good friend of mine is involved with someone she’s never actually met. They got to know one another online through a dating site, started emailing, then started Skypeing. They really like one another. In fact, they love one another. But these two people live worlds apart – literally, on different continents – and since neither is particularly flush with cash, they haven’t had the means to fly to where the other lives and meet in person. This relationship has lasted now for over seven months. When will they meet? Nothing definite’s  in place. Are they frustrated? Like a guy with a colossal case of blue balls they are.

The physical aspect of a relationship is, for most couples, hugely important. It’s often the primary – perhaps only – difference between your really great friends and your lover. With friends you get their love, their caring, their support, their shoulder to cry on, their victories to cheer on. With your lover you get all that plus the sex.  Even if you and your lover are in the beginning stages and the sex hasn’t come yet, you know it will. It’s out there, desire is building, waiting to be unleashed. Except, you know, if you can’t unleash it because the closest you’ve ever gotten to seeing your digital lover is via Skype or Google video chat.

Another monkey wrench in the arena of digital love is the very way we define a relationship. My friend would say that she’s in a relationship. I would suspect, although I’ve never asked her, that there’s an expectation between these two of monogomy. And commitment. But is it fair to either party? Is it right? If I live in NYC and I’m carrying on a long-distance relationship with someone in Phoenix, we can certainly expect vows of commitment to be upheld despite the distance apart. But that’s because we’ve first established our relationship in person. I think it’s also assumed that eventually the long distance will be addressed. It’s pretty much a short-term situation that either gets resolved by one or the other’s move, or it fizzles out because you never see each other. But what about if you’ve never actually met and don’t know if you ever will? Where do you set the boundaries? Are you even entitled to have any?

Digital love is an interesting phenomenon that never even existed until recently. But online dating continues to grow every year and is more and more common as a way to connect. However, even now in the age of breaking up via text and defining one’s relationship status on Facebook, once the initial connection between two people has been made, it’s still the case that nothing less than physical interaction will do for developing the relationship. The enormous importance of physical intimacy is why we erotic romance writers never lack for inspiration. Without ever having a physical connection, we might just find ourselves falling in love with nothing more than a whole lotta pixels.

What do you think of love in the digital age? Sound off in the comments below, and be sure to follow us for more thought-provoking posts.

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14 Comments

  • C. Margery Kempe
    January 8, 2014 at 5:08 am

    I’m in a committed relationship that began online; now I have homes in two countries. Is it complicated? Yes. Is it worth it? Totally. As our theme song suggests, it’s worth searching the whole wide world just to find the right person.

  • Madeline Iva
    January 8, 2014 at 11:42 am

    I really like it actually that people are getting to know each other first through how they write, and then through the non-sexual stuff. So different from the pressure people can face to have sex after three dates — or even the first night. Oy.

    However, thinking about what you wrote more, do you-ahem- *KNOW* they haven’t had sex? If you know what I mean. And I think you do.

    Or am I the only one to be scarred for life from watching that Skype scene with Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin in IT’S COMPLICATED?

    (A movie, I’d like to state for the record that DH made me watch because his parents recommended it.)

    • Elizabeth Shore
      January 8, 2014 at 11:56 am

      They’ve never even met in person. That’s my point. So yeah, I KNOW they haven’t had sex, they haven’t kissed, they’ve never even touched one another. They have never physically been in the same place as one another. They’ve Skyped, they’ve talked on the phone, they’ve emailed. But they are committed to this relationship and have been for the past seven + months. Yet there’s no plan to meet. They don’t actually know if they’ll ever physically meet one another. So what are the rules here? Obviously it’s between the two parties involved, but it’s an interesting dynamic in the digital world.

      • RJ
        January 8, 2014 at 12:16 pm

        It’s fantasy love created by someone that needs to be loved in their own way. Mr or Mrs. Perfect is the person you’ve never met, so you hold on to the illusion that’s it worth the investment. Personally for me, it’s not worth the time or energy because anyone can paint a perfect or interesting picture behind pixels. The real relationship test come into play when you have multiple conversations after the intimacy. In closing, men are hunters, for the challenge of scoring the hard to get cookie, some fall in love in pursuit of it and others just chalk it up as “scored”.. Let’s keep relationships real and get back to real dating without the digital boundaries.

        • Madeline Iva
          January 8, 2014 at 5:42 pm

          It’s true RJ, you get to hold on to the illusion. Being in person holds you accountable in the way that being online doesn’t….

      • LizEverly
        January 8, 2014 at 12:20 pm

        But maybe they are getting sexual over Skype? Which could help with the “blue balls” you speak of. But ultimately would be frustrating without the touch aspect. There’s a new movie coming out called “Her” starring Joaquin Phoenix and it’s about his falling in love with a person online he doesn’t even see–just hears. I find the influence of the internet of relationships fascinating. Ripe material there.

      • Madeline Iva
        January 8, 2014 at 5:42 pm

        Never had Skype-sex? Hmmmm.

  • Elizabeth Shore
    January 8, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    They’re 100% not getting sexual over Skype. She told me that there’s no way she’s doing that because she’s not going to have their first time be over a computer. It needs to be in person, with physical contact. The desire is there for sure, but the consummation has not happened.

    Ripe material indeed, Liz!

  • Author Charmaine Gordon
    January 8, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Sounds like high tech nonsense to me. Afraid of the real thing. Too sci-fi. Old fashioned love is what it’s all about. “Across a crowded room”, “Once you have found him/her, make sure you never let go.” That’s how I met my loves. Recently-like two days ago- I was quite ill and my husband proved once again to be understanding, clear thinking for both of us in a nasty situation. I marveled at this side of him not often revealed from his Nordic background.
    Thanks, Elizabeth for another enlightening post of what’s going on in this screwy unrealistic world.

    • Elizabeth Shore
      January 8, 2014 at 2:37 pm

      It’s a different world for sure, Charmaine. As for my friend, it’s not so much that she’s afraid of the real thing but that she hasn’t had the means to meet her love in person. So how is this relationship defined? It’s a question to ponder.

      Feel better!!

  • Kemberlee
    January 8, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    Met my hubs online 17 years ago. Married 14 years this aummer past. It happens.

    • Elizabeth Shore
      January 8, 2014 at 8:51 pm

      Awesome, Kemberlee! It absolutely happens, and I know plenty of people with successful relationships that began online. What fascinates me is where the boundaries are set in online relationships before the physical meeting ever takes places. I guess the answer is that, like many things in life, it varies.

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