Edward Snowden,Your Sex Life and Intimacy in a World Without Privacy: Sexual Healing

privacy

Column“Privacy matters, privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be,”

 – Edward Snowden during his Christmas message on British television

Even if you didn’t pay much attention to the news last year, you probably realize that much of what you say and do is tracked. From your location via GPS, to your email correspondence, to your phone calls, purchases, Google searches and even what you might be drawn to when you walk into a store; it’s all on file. The surveillance state is always lurking in the shadows, even in your seemingly private moments. Whether it’s the government or the corporation, the very meaning of the word “privacy” is being eroded as our rights are stripped away.

So what does Edward Snowden, of the recent NSA revelations, have to do with your life between the sheets? Sorry, this article is not going to be about getting someone to “blow your whistle.” I want to explore whether it’s possible to have real intimacy in a world without privacy. How can we be ourselves with our lovers when we know that private eyes are watching us 24/7?

As we willingly offer ourselves up to the ego-orgy of Selfie culture, choose Facebook and Facetime over what we used to call face time, and generally succumb to the distractions of the digital age, we’re forgetting how to relate in the here and now. We’re missing cross-cultural social cues, ones that have been with us throughout human history. We are growing uncomfortable with looking into people’s eyes – cashiers and wait staff and others that we’re forced to interact with. And for those of us that live with someone, we’re often so caught up in digital distraction that we cuddle up with our iPad instead of our partner. Porn appears to be hurting our sex lives — men increasingly can’t get turned on by their real-life lovers, because they are becoming desensitized by the sometimes outrageous acts witnessed on their laptops.

We may be better at connecting with the crowd, organizing movements and reaching the masses, but we’re getting worse at the most basic one-to-one relating. Like Jonathan Franzen once said in a New York Times op-ed, we’re so concerned with being “liked”, we’re forgetting how to love. Love, sex and intimacy; the cornerstones that define us as human beings — may be headed for an epic fail. When you’re naked in bed with your lover, when you’re supposed to be at your most vulnerable so you can experience maximum pleasure, are you really alone? If most of your hours outside of bed are in the public domain, it’s nearly impossible to be intimate — because being intimate with someone requires knowing yourself. When the panopticon of Big Brother hovers on the sidelines in your daily life, how can you find time to process what that means?

Our private lives are intruded upon more and more everyday; we’re becoming inured to the idea that there is no such thing as privacy. Why fight the trend? Why take the risk? Why bother dealing with living, breathing humans when you can get a digital ego stroke while sitting in your desk chair? Why even look up at the cutie sitting at the next table in the café when Snapchat is at your fingertips? Real human relationships are messy – they can be a drag. We’re getting closer to the time when robots will be stand-ins for lovers – really. “Her”, Spike Jonze eerie take on a man’s infatuation with a computer program, is currently in theaters. That sci-fi reality is almost here, and when it goes viral, many of us will be so accustomed to stroking our iPhones as stand-ins for flesh that we won’t flinch.

So we must ask ourselves (before it’s too late): is this a reality we want to embrace? And furthermore, what can we do about it? So many of us are unconscious and asleep; we’d rather have the convenience then the complication. Our culture’s seamless meshing with social networks is great for Twitter’s IPO and the cultivation of celebrity status, but what does it really do for you? Unplug from your gadgets and focus, just for a moment, on the invasion of your privacy, both as a citizen and a consumer. Is that the world you want to live in?

Got a question for Stefanie? Email stefanie at ecosalon dot com and she’ll answer it in the next Sexual Healing column.

Keep in touch with Stefanie on Twitter: @ecosexuality

Related on EcoSalon

Sex and Intimacy: What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Slow Sex: Spring is for Shedding (Layers and Baggage)

Your Selfie and the Meaning of Beauty (According to the Internet and James Franco)

Image: Joshuahoffmanphoto

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