“Future Sex”: Adventures in an Erotic Wonderland

The New Yorker

Few places are less conducive to erotic optimism than the packed waiting room of a public health clinic in Brooklyn. Sitting on a hard plastic chair under a fluorescent buzz as an employee lectures on proper condom use—a catechism you know by heart yet sometimes fail to heed—you may conclude, as Emily Witt did, that the time has come to change your life. It was March of 2012. Just before Valentine’s Day, Witt had slept with a friend. She was single; he was not. A few weeks later, he called to report that he might have chlamydia. He was overcome with guilt. His girlfriend was enraged. Witt didn’t feel too great, either. She was thirty, and depressed after a recent breakup. Though she had spent the ensuing months hooking up with various acquaintances, her hopes were set on long-term monogamy. “I still envisioned my sexual experience eventually reaching a terminus, like a monorail gliding to a stop at Epcot Center,” Witt writes in “Future Sex” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), her gutsy first book. Instead, she found herself enmeshed in “sexual relationships that I could not describe in language and that failed my moral ideals.” She didn’t have chlamydia, it turned out. What she caught was worse: a dismal self-accounting of her existential shortcomings.

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