Pressure to Please

Lauren Oyler

  • You Know You Want This by Kristen Roupenian
    Cape, 226 pp, £12.99, February, ISBN 978 1 78733 110 5

Is sex interesting? Is that a stupid question? It’s certainly reliably attention-grabbing when it comes up in your first sentence. While good sex, like good fortune, is generally best kept to oneself (it inspires rhapsodising and provokes resentment), bad sex has both comedic and tragic potential, as does good sex described badly – the Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award proves it. Most people, including those who claim to gravitate to more serious topics (death, taxes), will pause at even the vaguest innuendo. But the commodification of sex through apps and toys and play parties has sterilised what was once appealingly dirty; just as being constantly advertised to no longer enrages, sex no longer registers as sexy. Porn is free, accessible and precisely taxonomised. A catalogue of potential partners, optimised for location and (alleged) compatibility, exists on our smartphones. In the course of writing this piece I came across a headline that read: ‘How do you sell erotica to millennial women? Make it more like podcasts.’ Sex has become so common that it’s boring, the act itself almost beside the point, which may be a reason young people are reported to be having less of it.

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