The Future of Sex Image Credit: ELLE
The Future of Sex Image Credit: ELLE

The Future Of Sex

A provocative new book inspires Daphne Merkin to grapple with our carnal moment, in a quest that features Saint Augustine and TV’s The Girlfriend Experience, Freud and Foucault, and the possible virtues of arriving at a man’s house wearing only a raincoat.

IT IS A MID-JULY WEEKEND, and in my little rented house in Bridgehampton, New York, I am glued to the TV, indifferent to the fact that it is now past two in the morning. Electric with attention, I’m unable to take my gaze off the screen in front of me, where all manner of artfully shot graphic sex is taking place. Although I’ve seen next to no porn in my life, for the past five hours, I’ve been binge-watching the Starz series called The Girlfriend Experience. I’ve done so at the suggestion of my 31-year-old friend Lila, who sits by my side, watching with equal intensity despite having already seen the series. Lila, a playwright and TV writer, insisted that I’d find the show irresistible, and she has proved right. Based on a 2009 movie by the same name directed by Steven Soderbergh—he coproduced the series; it’s directed by Amy Seimetz and Lodge Kerrigan—the show features Christine Reade, an ambitious law student (played by the impressive Riley Keough) who decides to pay off her law school loans by becoming what used to be referred to as a call girl and these days is nonjudgmentally called a sex worker.

What makes for such compulsive viewing, however, has less to do with the actual sex that is depicted—breathtakingly frank as it is—than with Christine’s attitude. As inscrutable as she is beautiful, and as committed to being as good

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