By Catherine Abes
This extremely emotional Love, Sex & the Internet ed contains mild spoilers for Little Women (2019). However, the book has been out for 152 years so that sounds like a you problem.
I have a confession to make: I’ve seen Little Women (2019) twice now, and both times, I cried harder when Jo rejects Laurie than when Beth dies. I’m not proud of it. I know that Louisa May Alcott intended for Jo’s romantic fate to be unsatisfactory. But I can’t help but mourn what could’ve been for Jo and Laurie—I’m a sucker for a perfect love story.
I think that if the scene on the hill played out in 2020, Laurie would be drunk texting Jo his confession at 3 a.m. only to be left on read. The boomers have a point: relationships looked much different back in the day. I’ve read and watched a lot of stories about love—and its partner in crime, sex—but I don’t know any that begin on Tinder.
However, I refuse the notion that modern day love and sex is inherently bad. Growing up in a rural town, the internet gave me access to resources around consent, sexuality and sexual health that I wouldn’t have been introduced to otherwise. From online communities, I saw the breadth of what relationships could look like and figured out what I wanted for myself.
Admittedly, I still get a little wistful about the possibility of a modern love story, especially as I grapple with the frustrations of mind numbing pickup lines and endless swiping, while also not wanting to be alone. There’s still a certain amount of guilt with forming relationships on the internet, as if in a world where nearly everything has gone online, love and sex were meant to remain sacred.
Love, Sex & the Internet is an exploration of the way social media, search engines and dating apps have shaped how we form relationships with each other. On one hand, there are stories of failed communication, harmful notions of desirability and reality failing to line up with our online expectations. On the other, people have found community online, established a clearer sense of identity and accessed necessary resources that may not have been available otherwise.
These stories reflect what I believe is the truth about the internet: that it isn’t fully good or bad—but has made a permanent difference in the way we meet, fall in love and to put it romantically, bone. Rather than wishing for the “good ‘ole days” of trusting pre-determinism and reserving sex for just one partner (as well as repressive gender roles and criminalization of queer love, lest you get too nostalgic), I want this special issue to make people think about the present—and more importantly, how to make the most of it. In my most bitter moments of being single, I’ve felt like I’m doing something wrong, or that I’m difficult to love. This issue helped me realize, though, that some of the problems I face—such as ghosting as a result of anxiety surrounding confrontation, or struggles with the digital remnants of past relationships—are symptoms of the times. It’s made me feel less alone. I hope that reading Love, Sex & the Internet makes you feel less alone too. Or at the very least, convinces you to see Little Women.
Want more of Love, Sex & the Internet? Say no more—find every breakup break-down, rant about Tinder, Tumblr lover and so much more, here:
Well-Informed Queer Dating Advice
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Love, The Eyeopener