This year, in Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1, Bella finally consummated her relationship with Edward, after three years of cinematic foreplay — and immediately ended up pregnant. By the end of the move, she'd become both a mom and a vampire. Shows what can happen. In SexualityToday at the Movies: Breaking Dawn, we continued the discussion of the "integrative" aspect of ordinary female desire that we began in Twilight and the Art of Foreplay and in The Nine Rooms of Happiness: What Does a Woman Want?
Elsewhere on the paranormal sexuality front, The NY Times Magazine featured a cover story on the new MTV series Teen Wolf — We Are All Teenage Werewolves. In Wolf Love in the New York Times, I discussed how the human-to-werewolf transformation works as a metaphor for sexual arousal— especially its primal, selfish aspect. Australian sex writer Katherine Feeney picked up on the idea in Unleashing the Animal Within. Then Cosmopolitan joined in with an article in the December issue entitled "The Fierce Sex Every Couple Should Try." Shows what can happen.
55 million sex clicks, and counting
This year saw the publication of A Billion Wicked Thoughts, an interesting report on what must be the world's largest sex experiment—an analysis of 55 million sex-related Google searches. The book has a new and rather interesting theory of human sexual motivation, but the theory gets lost in its popular book format.
As I wrote in The Simple, the Complex, and the Still-Forbidden, A Billion Wicked Thoughts hasn't had an easy time in print so far. The New York Times Book Review assigned the book not to a sex researcher but to a cultural critic, Wesley Yang, who called it a "farrago." In Lessons from the World's Largest Sex Experiment, I argued it would be foolish to ignore the authors' ambitious theory of sexual motivation, or their huge and unique set of data that supports it.
Weiner, Savage, and Sex at Dawn
Monogamy and non-monogamy continue to fascinate modern readers. In The Search for Sexual Sanity Continues, we discussed the controversy over how to evaluate and treat "Impulsive/Compulsive Courtship Behavior." Is strict monogamy often not worth the emotional cost? That's the opinion of Dan Savage, quoted in Mark Oppenheimer's Married, with Infidelities in The New York Times. In What's So New About the New Non-monogamy? and Still Further Along the Road Less Traveled, we responded to the Oppenheimer piece, as did Ross Douthat, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, and many others.
Sex at Dawn, whose lead author Christopher Ryan has claimed that monogamy for humans is about as natural as a Big Mac and fries (and about as healthy), continues to be the decade's most interesting and talked-about sex book, and clinched the Society for Sex Therapy and Research's Consumer Book Award for 2011. Will Sex at Dawn influence sex therapy? Well, at least it might increase our empathy for people who find monogamy particularly difficult. We reviewed the related book Bonobo Handshake by Vanessa Woods, and discussed the limits and possibilities for human empathy in our time.
The most interesting sex article of the year, in my opinion, was Jonathan Franzen's New York Times article about the sensual charms of his new Blackberry device. As Franzen notes, electronic machines can now supply some of the self-affirmation that humans have traditionally only been able to obtain though intimate relationships. He writes, "our technology has become extremely adept at creating products that correspond to our fantasy ideal of an erotic relationship, in which the beloved object asks for nothing and gives everything, instantly, and makes us feel all powerful . . . a world so responsive to our wishes as to be, effectively, a mere extension of the self."
In the past, one of the few ways an adult could experience this kind of automatic, effortless self-affirmation was through the magic of really good sex. But that's no longer entirely the case. As I discussed in Eros and Technology, Franzen's essay alerts us to the still-difficult "problems of actual love" — including the challenge of relating long-term to someone who, unlike a piece of electronic equipment, was not designed specifically to meet our needs.
I look forward to continuing as your correspondent in 2012, as we make our way into the sexual future — and try not to get too lost there.
Copyright © Stephen Snyder, MD 2011