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Foreplay

I read an article in the New York Times about a sex toy that monitors sexual arousal and uploads the data to a phone app that can display an arousal curve like an EKG. The curve (allegedly) contains data about the physiological events, as measured by the device. Now there is an (allegedly) objective method to compare and rate sexual experiences. As it seems, reality now has caught up with a story I read perhaps 35 years ago. Searching for relevant keywords was ... interesting ... but did not produce anything remotely in the ballpark. Therefore this question.

Main Act

In the future setting of that story, couples customarily record the parameters of their sexual encounters. Afterwards, the data is presented in a form that must be similar to the EKG-like curve of the real device described above, perhaps with an overall score distilled from it. When people meet, for example at parties, the scores are bragged and marveled about, compared and discussed.

Our couple is usually not among the top performers, try as they might, which nags especially the woman. One night though, they have the sex of their life. The woman cannot wait to see their score and share it with her friends, only to discover that the device malfunctioned, or perhaps was not switched on. There is no recording. She is devastated; to her, this one-off event has entirely lost its value and meaning.

Cigarette After

The satire shows the increasing loss of privacy and increasing commodification, in a sense, of even the most private experiences, once they are recordable. Social media have changed our concept of privacy fundamentally already; even physical data like fitness values are frankly shared. In that respect alone, the story was clairvoyant, and I'd like to revisit it. That the tracking now extends to the sexual realm is the cream on top.

I must have read the story in a German translation in a story collection; most likely it was by a well-known author. It was probably written in the 1960s or 1970s.

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  • 2
    Sounds Dangerous Visions- ey.
    – Spencer
    Feb 10 at 17:23
  • @Spencer Good hint! indeed, the story would fit "New Wave" and the liberal attitude towards sex in the book. But I looked through the story descriptions and don't think it's one of them (unless I overlooked one). But after going through them, I pre-ordered the pending new edition! A book one should have with loads of exciting stories. Feb 10 at 19:16
  • Not the same story, but some thematic similarities to William Gibson's short story "The Winter Market" anthologized in Burning Chrome.
    – Lexible
    Feb 10 at 19:40
  • 1
    It would need some comprehensive mis-remembering, but just possibly this might be In the Group by Silverberg. It's about a future in which there are group marriages where electronics is used to link all the group members together so they share the sensations of having sex. Feb 11 at 8:59
  • @JohnRennie I read it long ago and I can in all honesty not deny the possibility of a "comprehensive misremembering" (I'll remember that phrase). I hope I didn't mislead all 36 viewers of this page. As soon a I get a chance to read the story, I'll report back. By the way, in any case the quest was already educating. For example, Silverberg has a nice intro on the Amazon page about the sexual and chemical experimenting back then, "hard as that may be to believe today"... Feb 11 at 15:25

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