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Future Sex

Emily Witt

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Future Sex Download image

ISBN10: 0374537275
ISBN13: 9780374537272

Trade Paperback

224 Pages



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Emily Witt is single and in her thirties. Up until a few years ago, she still envisioned her sexual experience “eventually reaching a terminus, like a monorail gliding to a stop at Epcot Center.” Like many people, she imagined herself disembarking, finding herself face-to-face with another human being, “and there we would remain in our permanent station in life: the future.”

But, as many of us have found, things are more complicated than that. Love is rare and frequently unreciprocated. Sexual experience doesn’t necessarily lead to a future of traditional monogamy—and why should it? Have we given up too quickly on the alternatives?

In Future Sex, Witt explores Internet dating, Internet pornography, polyamory, and avant-garde sexual subcultures as sites of possibility. She observes these scenes from within, capturing them in all their strangeness, ridiculousness, and beauty. The result is an open-minded, honest account of the contemporary pursuit of connection and pleasure.


Praise for Future Sex

“[A] thoughtful and deeply personal exploration . . . Introspective and breathtakingly honest . . . [Witt has] a deeply empathetic and nuanced appreciation of sexual renegades and outcasts . . . [Future Sex] is a smart, funny, beautifully written account of contemporary women trying to understand their sexual desires—and fashion physically and emotionally safe ways to express them.”—Benoit Denizet-Lewis, The New York Times Book Review

“Emily Witt’s book examines how, for those who grew up in the era of the sexual supermarket, the abundance of options can be less an allure than a challenge . . . Witt is a sharp observer of the behavior and the motivations of others, a wry, affectionate portraitist of idealistic people and the increasingly surreal place they belong to . . . Among other things, Future Sex offers a superb account of the absurdities of San Francisco in the first half of this decade, a bouncy castle of a city where the private pleasures of the conquering tech class are construed (and marketed) as social benefits for all.”—Alexandra Schwartz, The New Yorker

“These gorgeously written essays, linked by tone, style, and a singular ambitious purpose, are brimming with intellect and infused with a caustic, compelling humor that marks our most astute and entertaining cultural critics. Future Sex explores sexual predilections that you never thought you’d find interesting . . . Witt is open and brave and remarkably nonjudgmental . . . Witt is as fine a literary stylist as Joan Didion . . . As an essayist she is as rhetorically powerful as Rebecca Solnit.”—Emily Rapp Black, The Boston Globe

“Emily Witt’s Future Sex irresistibly explores the mournfulness and hopefulness of singledom today . . . What makes Future Sex so compelling, and so fascinating, is the indeterminacy of its author’s own position in relation to the world she’s writing about. She’s usually more than just an observer, but she’s also rarely an insider.”—Mark O’Connell, Slate

“[Witt is] an intrepid journalist . . . A writer of many registers, Witt conveys amusement, bemusement, disgust, and sympathy all at once.”—Judith Schwartz, The Atlantic

"A serious exploration of American sexual culture . . . [Emily Witt] has in her own way reinvented the sex memoir."—Jessica Cutler, The Washington Post

"In many [moments] in her genre-bending first book, Future Sex, Emily Witt captures lonely, tender truths about human sexuality. Seeking the future of sex in our culture, she shrewdly examines the past . . . A riveting chronicle of twenty-first century sexuality, told by a smart and talented writer."—Diana Whitney, San Francisco Chronicle

“In Future Sex, Witt has written a book that is actually about loneliness, intimacy, and love’s elusiveness; capitalism, Californian utopianism and feminism; family, memory and loss. Her book expands the possibilities for women’s lives in the 21st century, and for sex’s place within them.”—Joanna Biggs, The Financial Times

"Emily Witt's first book is an honest and unapologetic narrative of all things sex . . . Witt is poised, honest, and relevant."—Madeleine L. Lapuerta, The Harvard Crimson

“[Emily Witt’s] deadpan delivery makes Future Sex a work of social observation and, at times, even a kind of nonfiction comedy of manners . . . Future Sex shines, offering not a speculative preview of what’s to come, but an erudite exposition on where we currently are.”—J.C. Pan, The Nation

“[A] pioneering new book about finding love in the time of Tinder . . . Emily Witt provides a refreshingly real account of what it means to be single and sexually curious in 2016.”—i-D

“As Donald Trump is elected with promises of retracting reproductive rights, Emily Witt has been charting the places sex has been heading in an age of relative freedom, collected in her new, oddly moving book Future Sex, which I now want to buy for everyone I know.”—Sophia June, Willamette Week

"Extraordinary . . . Emily Witt's perceptiveness makes her the perfect guide . . . It also helps that she's extremely funny."—Henri Lipton, Columbia Journal

“From polyamory to porn, the excellent Future Sex explores ‘free love’ today . . . In her insightful, generation-defining collection of essays, Emily Witt explores what sexual freedom, especially for women, means in contemporary Western society.”—Laura Adamczyk, The A.V. Club

“Witt travels beyond her own psychic distress and into a journalistic tour of twenty-first-century mating. The result serves as a new economics of sex, or, equally, an economics of new sex.”—Miranda Purves, Bloomberg Businessweek

“Witt distinguishes herself in the nascent young-single-urban-woman-Tinder-tell-all-memoir genre by deploying admirable detachment and irony as she dabbles in orgasmic meditation, experiments with online dating, and navigates the disjuncture between sex and love.”—O, The Oprah Magazine

“In Future Sex . . . Witt interrogates both our cultural myths around feminine sexuality and the vanguards of sexual experimentation seeking to dismantle them. Her serious, radical book places her in a lineage that started with writers like the late feminist critic Ellen Willis, and, yes, Joan Didion herself . . . [A] wise, honest, and necessary book.”—Hermione Hoby, Vice

“A thorough, fresh look at how romantic and sexual relationships have changed in the past two decades.”—Maddie Crum, The Huffington Post

“A probing investigation into 21st-century female sexuality . . . Witt is as thoughtful as she is audacious, and Future Sex is ultimately a carefully crafted literary and intellectual endeavor . . . [She] enters each new milieu with an open mind and a reporter’s ear for nuance and humor. There’s something Joan Didion-esque about Future Sex, in Witt’s lovely writing and in her skeptical authorial remove.”—Julia Felsenthal,

“The first volume of [Foucault’s] History of Sexuality will turn forty next month, and it seems fitting that the essence of its inquiry has now been given a fresh and contemporary perspective by journalist and critic Emily Witt. In Future Sex, an audacious collection of essays on female sexual desire, Witt scrutinizes ever-progressing notions of sexuality since the advent of the internet.”—Michael Barron, The Culture Trip

“In the spirit of exploration, Emily Witt boldly swipes right on all the carnal pleasures technology has to offer—dating apps, screwing apps, sexting, and easy access to kinky or progressive subcultures. Her first book, Future Sex, is provocative to say the least, but the journalist’s interest is more than just skin-deep. With a sense of humor and an appreciation for the weird beauty of it all, she takes a genuine look at our modern pursuit of human connection, noting its potential to inspire a newer, braver female sexuality.”—Heather Baysa, The Village Voice

"[Emily Witt] is like a twenty-first-century gonzo journalist . . . One of [her] greatest strengths as a reporter is the steadiness of her gaze: She looks long enough to notice both what is valuable in the seemingly comical or bizarre and what's ludicrous in the ostensibly normal."—Lidija Haas, Bookforum

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt



I was single, straight, and female. When I turned thirty, in 2011, I still envisioned my sexual experience eventually reaching a terminus, like a monorail gliding to a stop at Epcot...

About the author

Emily Witt

Emily Witt has written for The New Yorker, n+1, The New York Times, and the London Review of Books. She studied at Brown University, Columbia University, and the University of Cambridge and was a Fulbright Scholar in Mozambique. She grew up in Minneapolis and lives in Brooklyn. Future Sex is her first book.

Noah Kalina

Emily Witt

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