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Sex over the airwaves

Reimagining sex, gender, and the body through technology

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How do you fuck someone when they live hundreds of miles away? This question has been on my mind, as someone who is in a long-distance relationship that spans not only different cities, but also different countries. In lieu of physical touching, in lieu of running my hands over and through their body, I’ve been sending images and words and videos to my boo.

There is something fantastical about having sex over airwaves: over the phone, over text, over webcam. The immateriality of the sex, the very absence of bodies physically touching, makes anything and everything possible. What new ways can we create for our bodies to relate to each other when they can’t actually touch one another? How can we re-imagine what our bodies look like and what they are capable of?

Technologically mediated sex—sex that happens through technology like phones and computers—fucks with reality as we commonly perceive it. It fucks with common understandings of sex, it fucks with space and place, and it fucks with concepts of gender, especially as they relate to the body. I talk about each of these fuckeries in turn.

Fucking with sex

Phone sex, webcam sex, and sexting fuck with common notions of sex, because each of these methods preclude the body touching body. As a queer and trans person, the kind of sex I have when I am physically present with someone already confuses common notions of what sex should look like (i.e. penis in vagina sex). When I map my queerness and my transness onto technologically mediated sex, I begin to tease out contradictions inherent in our common ideas of sex and pleasure. If I am touching only myself, but I’m doing that with someone else who is not physically present, are we having sex? Is it sex if I am physically alone but feel psychically connected to the person on the other side of the line? And what if I’m not touching myself? Is it sex if it only occurs in our imaginations, in the airwaves? How do we define sex? How do we know when sex has occurred?

Fucking with space and place

I’ve been thinking about the ways that I fuck my boo with my hands. How the hands I fuck them with when I’m physically with them are the same hands that handle the phone I sext them with. These hands type the words that drive them wild. These hands take the photos that make them hard. So no matter if I am sharing space with them or if they are hundreds of miles away, the same hands still make them feel so so good. The same hands are still fucking them.

Technologically-mediated sex begins to blur the boundaries between my hands and their hands, between myself and my partner. When I touch myself over the webcam, and I’m watching my partner touching themself and I’m watching me touching myself, who is touching whom? Are these my hands or theirs on my body? Are those my hands or theirs fucking them? What is the difference? Whose pleasure is whose? Is their pleasure mine? Is mine theirs?

A number of years ago, I read Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, and I distinctly remember the part of the book in which two characters, Joey and Connie, start having phone sex regularly. Franzen writes, “Joey, as he climaxed again, believed that he was with Connie in her bedroom on Barrier Street, his arching back her arching back, his little breasts her little breasts. They lay breathing as one into their cell phones.” Intimacy mediated by airwaves breaks down the barriers between two people. Joey confuses Connie’s body with his own, her pleasure with his own, her location with his own. They became one and the same. Just as sex that happens in person blurs the boundary between the people involved, sex that happens over the airwaves does too. Just as I can’t tell the difference between my hands and those of my partner’s, our bodies blur into one another, even as they occupy different physical locations.

Fucking with gender

There’s another part about Joey and Connie’s phone sex in Freedom that really caught my attention, and it was this particular fantasy: “One afternoon, as Connie described it, her excited clitoris grew to be eight inches long, a protruding pencil of tenderness with which she gently parted the lips of [Joey’s] penis and drove herself down to the base of its shaft.” I was particularly struck by this passage, all those years ago, because of the ways that Connie and Joey’s phone sex fucked with their genitals, made them do things that they could never do anywhere but in the airwaves.

As a genderfluid trans person, phone sex, sexting, and webcam sex function as sites of potential and transformation, where I not only fuck the person at the end of the line, I also fuck gender. Technologically mediated sex occurs through spoken and written words as well as curated images. These words and images create a world of their own. In the world that they create, my body can look and act in ways that fuck with common notions of gender. One minute, I can be getting a blow job from my boo, and the next, they can be fisting me. Sometimes we can even do both at once. In phone sex, I can have six different hands, touching my partner’s body everywhere at once. When I sext, I can have a cock, a clit, and a cunt. And these genitals may indicate my gender, or they may not – they may just indicate the kind of pleasure I want that day, or the way I am relating to my body that day.

Fucking with reality, fucking into fantasy

Webcam sex, sexting, and phone sex allow for different opportunities and transformation, informed by the specific medium within which sex is occurring. Sexting is mediated by text and images, phone sex by the spoken word and sounds, and webcam sex by moving images and sounds. Each of these media can be fucked with differently, each of them opening up new ways of relating to ourselves and each other.

Technologically mediated sex expands the possibilities for sex and intimacy available to us. The airwaves offer a site of fantastical transformation, where our beings and our bodies can do anything we ask of them. Exploring my body and others’ bodies through the immateriality of webcam sex, phone sex, and sexting has opened up new potentialities of relating to gender, touch, sex, and self.

Sex over the airwaves has the power to change how we define sex culturally. It can change the ways that we understand our bodies and their limit(lessness). It can challenge heteronormative modes of relating to one another. It can even allow for us to travel to different dimensions, fucking with time, space, place, and materiality. Sex over the airwaves is above all a conversation, and I believe it is one we should be having much more often.