‘MEN CAN ORDER A GIRL LIKE PIZZA, DELETE HER FROM THEIR PHONES AND ORDER A FRESH ONE’
score composer, who has lived in LA for 20 years. Sex with Philippe is great, and refreshingly straightforward. There are no hidden whips behind his headboard (I checked) and he doesn’t send me dick pics when I go to the bathroom. ‘My God, you’ve found the only normal guy in LA,’ my friend Olive says when I recount all.
But it turns out that Philippe has ‘intimacy issues’. His body shuts down when he gets too close to women in the real world. He’s a virtual recluse, locked away in his studio composing music. And he can only get aroused with strangers. I wonder if this is an elaborate ruse. But I think he’s telling the truth.
At home the next night, the girls gather for a summit meeting on the subject of a possible Male Sexual Crisis. Liv trots out her stories of ‘emo unavails’ (with associated erection issues). There was Jason, who would get naked but would never countenance any form of penetration, while Ryan looked at porn so much he could never get an erection. Olive had one lover, she reveals, who, mid-coitus, suggested they watch the TV series Making a Murderer.
‘The dating apocalypse is nigh,’ Liv sighs. ‘LA is populated with single men in their forties who now never have to confront their issues. On dating apps, they can order girls like pizza, have emotionless sex, and if they can’t perform with a girl, they can just delete her from their phones and order a fresh one.’
I speak to Nan Wise, an American sex therapist and cognitive neuroscientist. I ask her if she agrees with my sexual crisis I call a “pleasure crisis”,’ she says. ‘Ten million people are on Tinder in America, at a time when we are becoming more puritanical. We’re so obsessed with sexuality online that we can’t even enjoy it in the real world. We’re always seeking sex, but we’re not really getting any satisfaction from it.’
So why are we doing it? And what is it doing to our men? It’s too soon for hard data. But the male brain is more prone biologically and hormonally, she says, to being ‘hijacked by all the sensation seeking and the stimulation of the online world. They’ve created habits in the cyber-sexual world and no longer have the tools they need for the real one.’
Nan says that the 0-120km/h speed of hook-up culture and the hyper-sexualisation of dating can be overwhelming for some men. ‘Guys tell me that women say that if date they think there is something wrong with them. There is a great expectation of sexual performance. In the absence of being emotionally connected with their sexual partners, that’s a recipe for disaster.’
But perhaps the future is not all bleak. My neighbour, a sound editor, is convinced that we are on the brink of a Tinder backlash. ‘There used to be a time when a glimpse of a woman in her underwear was exciting. Now women will send you nude shots, if you ask, because they’re competing in a tough six weeks on Tinder. By the end I was just queasy. I miss the days when it was hard to get women to have sex with you.’
Three weeks pass. There are more Bumble dates, but I can’t face another sexual encounter fraught with potential weirdness. Meanwhile, Liv has been accepted on Raya, a new elite dating app, with ‘suitability’ for entrance based on Instagram following. Elijah Wood and Jeremy Piven. But after she pays her subscription the talent disappears. She hasn’t had a match since. I point out that she is competing against Sports Illustrated swimwear models and I doubt they’re wearing polo necks.
I promise to cook her some low-carb comfort food. At the checkout, I chat to a guy who shares my aversion to kale. Before I can stop myself, I’ve asked him out for coffee. When he requests my number, I’m so taken aback I drop my bag. I’m not sure how tall he is, or his exact IQ , and he may like sexting at dinner. But, for now, he seems relatively normal.