Sexual evolution

alt.sex.column says so long -- and thanks for all the fish

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Dear Readers:

We are not calling this column "So Long And Thanks For All The Fish." But this is, for good or ill, the final Alt Sex Column. So, you know, so long, and thanks for all the fish.

ASC debuted online in 1997, around the time going online was first moving from optional to something you'd better do if you didn't want to get left behind. If I'm going to look back at what has changed in all this time, I could just type out "Internet" and hit send. Or not.

Having all the information (some of it even correct) available to everyone has hugely altered the way people have sex, think about sex, and meet people to have sex with. Much of my earlier sex education work was getting people to not freak out over wanting to do to something nobody else could possibly ever want to do, or get all freakily judgmental about other people wanting to do stuff. The Web's normalizing influence (I didn't expect to see (silly) vibrator ads on cable TV so soon, did you?) has done much to aid acceptance of other people's weirdness (so very many people being so weird everywhere you look tends to reduce the perception of weirdness), and, of course, has vastly increased the chances of any one weirdo finding a like-minded weirdo for weirding. As holder of The Knowledge, I was a professional permission-granter. Now permission is out there for the taking. Off you go. Let me know how it went.

Porn: no longer the monolithic, centralized big business it was. Says my friend (formerly) in the business: "Fifteen years ago, you had a very certain market with a relatively small number of dollars compared to today, when you have a much larger number of dollars but in many ways a more unstable industry." Meanwhile, anything you want, you got it, and without having to risk censure, embarrassment, or even getting rained on. If you can't find it, you can make it. Porn started going DIY even before the rise of the Maker Faire, and then YouTube got here. No wonder more people are watching, and admitting to watching, some sort of porn, alone or together. Oh, and porn, I totally blame you for the near disappearance of female pubic hair. There was nothing wrong with female pubic hair.

Dating: freed by the Web from the tyranny of hoping your friend has a friend for you. Also freed from the tyranny of having to wait for the date to find out where he went to school, what her hobbies are, etc. I'm not sure Facebook's long-term effect on date-night dinner conversation is going to turn out to have been entirely benign.

Teens: teenage sexuality is still subject to regular witch-hunts and media hysteria, but sites like Scartleteen.com are making it possible for kids to make their mistakes based on information instead of schoolyard rumors. Not that any amount of information is going to make your adolescence smooth going or your first times less than awkward. There's only so much an Internet can do for you, kids. Teen pregnancy is actually down, though. Now if only "sexting" would go away.

Anal sex: totally the new oral.

Viagra (Cialis, Levitra): Bad news for sex therapists. Great news for almost anyone else who ever worries whether a particular penis will be on the job or not.

Gay acceptance, gay marriage, gay parenting: It's hard to see if all you pay attention to are the worst new ideas in legislation, defunding, and curriculum. But honestly, it is so much easier to be gay now than it was even 14 years ago that it is tempting to see this war as won. It's not won, mind you, but I think we're going to have to go with Churchill on this: "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

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