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

Nude guy in bed aloneOne 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 for more thought-provoking posts.

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with my webmaster, Alla. {photo credits: Alessandro Bologna}