So writes Susan Jacoby, in the context of the Anthony Weiner story. I suspect that Jacoby was sitting alone at her computer when she wrote that. And I'm sitting alone at my computer writing this now. Is anything infinitely sad about writing at the computer? Is it sadder when you expect someone is waiting to read what you write and you expect them to write back? These days I choose, for each post, whether I want to allow comments or not, and for this one I haven't chosen yet. Is the sadness of what I'm doing right now dependent on whether I allow comments?
Or is this infinite sadness dependent on whether you are writing about sex, which I kind of am, or writing about sex while hoping that your reader finds you sexy?
As a feminist, she finds it infinitely sad, so perhaps you have to be a feminist to feel what's so terribly sad about a woman sitting at a computer, writing sexily to someone she expects will write back sexily. And perhaps the woman at the computer needs to be vibrant and young for it to be extremely sad for her to chose bodily solitude and sex in written form. Those are the words of the self-identified feminist, feeling sad about women writing alone and sexily at computers. Jacoby is 68 years old. Is she like Paul's grandfather in "Hard Day's Night," scoffing at Ringo for reading — "tormenting your eyes with that rubbish" — instead of "gettin' out there and living... Parading the streets!"?
That's not about sexting. It's timeless advice from the old to the young. Perhaps the elders in Jane Austen's life pressured her to quit writing about love relationships and get out there and fall in love.
But Jacoby seems most concerned with context:
Sex with strangers online amounts to a diminution, close to an absolute negation, of the context that gives human interaction genuine content. Erotic play without context becomes just a form of one-on-one pornography....Sex without context is pornography (to Jacoby). It's arid and fake. Even the man's orgasm is fake: "phony gasps." Even the man must lack self-esteem. That's the wrong kind of equality, with the woman straying out into the "arid zone" where meager men satisfy themselves. That's "not the sort of equality envisioned by feminism," she says in the end. Women should shun this "lowest common denominator" sexuality that "debases the passion and reason of both men and women." Jacoby claims this end for feminism, but it's the oldest task in the world for women: channeling male sexuality, taming them, civilizing them, lifting them up, pumping the phallic lever for the elevation of us all.
Deep down, what does a man really think of himself when he must feed his ego with phony gasps of erotic pleasure from strangers in a digital vastness? What does a woman think of herself in the same arid zone of sex without sensuality?
(I'll put the comments on to make this more sad.)