FaceTime Sex (Uncut)

I recently wrote a post about FaceTime sex for Gizmodo, which I highly recommend that you check out on their site. But because I am a big time chatterbox, I have many more things to say about FaceTime sex that my editor was far too nice to tell me were too much, too long, or too sentimental to say - even though, perhaps, they are. In any case, here they are, in full form (minus the parts you can find edited more astutely on Giz):

Few things in love are as powerful as a gaze. I’d experienced feeling lost in this way while lying in bed with a partner, standing and waiting to be kissed, and even on video chat. I just never thought I’d feel all googly-eyed and longing while using a telephone. But that was before FaceTime, the iPhone 4 video chat that rivals all others. I’ve come to believe that FaceTime – as it is now, and with a few hopeful tweaks in future generations, is a boost we all need in love and in sex. Here’s why.

Each new iPhone, and the iPad, has changed the possibilities for dating, flirtation, and sex. But they weren’t earth shattering changes. It took FaceTime to radically change the way we share the world, and our lives, with our partners.

Of course, the iPhone isn’t just a phone (especially if you live in a high dropped call zone). It’s a fragile rectangular alternative universe where my fingers reveal email and text communications, music to sing to and weather alerts to dress by. To pretend anything else is silly – it’s like saying a first kiss is just a kiss, when we all know it’s magic.

The fact that I could read emails, take and send photos, and play with apps on my iPhone 3G was good enough for me. But then the iPhone 4 came along with its fancy FaceTime and it was like meeting someone you know you’re meant to be with, even though you’re already in a relationship. I tried to resist. I didn’t, for example, pre-order. I told myself that I was happy with my 3G and didn’t need FaceTime. One day, perhaps, but not yet. Besides, I had iChat on my MacBook. Who needed FaceTime?

Then, I accidentally (serendipitously?) dropped my iPhone 3G, shattering the screen. I think it pre-emptively broke up with me to save us both the pain of me one day choosing the iPhone 4 over its video-less, FaceTime-less self.

Life and Love with the iPhone 4

Enter: the iPhone 4.

Given the screen size limitations of phones, FaceTime will never allow for us to see each other with our eyes and faces (or naked penises) as large, or as small, as life (that’s for video computer chat). But the incredible camera quality lends itself to gazing, to intimacy, to the beseeching ways we look into each other’s eyes.

In this way, FaceTime is better than phone calls and clickety-clack IMs. It’s superior, too, to computer video chats in which looking at your loved one on-screen means you’re not looking at the camera, and thus your gaze is always a little off, somewhere in the distance.  And that’s not all.

What FaceTime Shows You

On a FaceDate, I realized that FaceTime improves both types of gazing that scientists (like me) and lovers (like all of us) know to be important to love and lust. Its front-facing camera lets you get lost in each other’s eyes, but the back-facing camera that you can flip to allows for you and your chat partner to look out at the world together – to watch the same sunset, the same crazy dog running around the floor, or the same sleepy child drifting off to sleep. FaceTime lets you share your life, and its meaning-filled moments, with the people you want to share them with, and with more clarity than I first guessed.

This is so much better than what we used to have at our fingertips. Last summer, when I moved to a new house, my niece video chatted me on my laptop and I offered her a tour of my place. Do you know what I did then? (It’s seems almost archaic now). I carried my MacBook around in my arms, room by room and into the backyard. I kept peeking around at the screen to make sure I didn’t accidentally aim at the floor or ceiling.

This year, we gave a FaceTime tour to my partner’s cousins and we did what was unimaginable just last summer: we used my iPhone 4 and pressed the little camera button that directs FaceTime to switch cameras and gave a house tour. No big laptop to carry around!

What We Still Want

So is this as good as it gets? Is this Apple’s piece de la resistance?

Of course not. Here is what we still need from FaceTime – or a competitor:

  • FaceTime, or something better, must go beyond WiFi. Though some jailbreaking options exist, most reports suggest that FaceTime on 3G is slow or spotty. We shouldn’t have to chase down WiFi to share our lives – where’s the freedom in that? The spontaneity? Plus, Starbucks frowns on phone sex and public nudity.
  • Future generations need a better light display out front so that people can more easily FaceTime in the dark, for phone sex or pillow talk. At least laptops provide a decent enough screen glow for night time visibility, even though that glow isn’t as sexy as candlelight.
  • We need stability. With FaceTime, one hand (probably your dominant one) has to hold the phone, which limits phone sex and strip teases. Docking the iPhone and using speaker is probably ideal as (1) it frees up both hands, (2) the screen is fragile and propping it against a book on your nightstand may wind up getting it knocked over and broken and (3) it keeps the lube off the touch screen.
  • Then there’s the exclusivity. I hate that I can only FaceTime with other iPhone 4 owners. I realize that using FaceTime as a draw for people to switch or upgrade may be good for Apple’s bottom line, but it’s not good for iPhone 4 users who want to share their lives with other people who aren’t as into iPhones or who can’t afford to upgrade. It feels elitist and could drive iPhone 4 users (who reportedly have lots of sex, anyway) to look to Craigslist for seedy casual FaceTime. encounters.
  • People will need to be more assertive with their boundaries – but that’s our issue, not a FaceTime problem. People whose needy partners want to constantly check in via FaceTime will need to stand firm about when they will or won’t connect via video, just like ignoring calls or texts for sanity’s sake. Sometimes the most meaningful way to spend a moment is alone with one’s heart or one’s thoughts. Or a vibrator, but that’s another issue.
  • Then there are those women and men who fake phone sex while reading or filing their nails. The reality of FaceTime will challenge them to put out or shut up.

Bottom line: there is no phone feature that can do more for love or sex than FaceTime. It’s more connecting than computer chats and sexier, and less clunky, than taking a laptop (or a Fleshlight) to bed. Simply put: if you cannot be together, I hope you each have an iPhone 4. And WiFi.

About Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick is a sex researcher at Indiana University, sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, columnist, and author of five books about sex and love. Learn more about her work at www.sexualhealth.indiana.edu.