...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 ... Witt is as fine a literary stylist as Joan Didion, with the same cool, dispassionate gaze that also manages to avoid disinterest. As an essayist she is as rhetorically powerful as Rebecca Solnit.
What is most distinctive in her writing is its tone, a sweetly ironic, melancholy deadpan that makes you feel she’s looking straight at the things she describes, not quite wide-eyed and not quite world-weary ... One of Witt’s great 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 ... At times, Witt’s tone makes it hard to know how to interpret the material she presents ... it can’t be that there’s nothing between a depressing status quo and a 1960s wet dream—and the in-between is where Witt’s subtle gifts come into their own.
...[a] thoughtful and deeply personal exploration ... If Witt struggles at times as a memoirist, she succeeds as a meandering journalistic voyeur, one with a deeply empathetic and nuanced appreciation of sexual renegades and outcasts. Though Future Sex isn’t as much about the future as its title suggests, it 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.
From her sharp and honest descriptions of first-hand experience she teases out a wider context without missing a beat ... Witt writes about sex but titillation is not her goal. The writing is not licentious—when she describes orgasmic meditation or porn shoots, she uses concise and forthright language ... In Future Sex, she tells pieces of the new story and in doing so offers up the potential for her reader reimagine her own. Witt implies through the collection that the narratives—the stories we tell ourselves—have to change before the institutions and social structures that govern bodies might follow.
...[a] gutsy ... Witt’s account of the [BDSM] scene is terrifically done, an oddly sweet exercise in descriptive economy and dry comic timing ... itt 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.
...succeeds in talking about sex without guile, vulgarity or swagger, and achieves something that is rarer than it might be: it suggests how old ideas about women and love might be put aside in favour of newer, truer, freer ones ... her cool demeanour, which I sometimes worried was too close to detachment, allows her a freedom to see sex for what it is rather than what we believe it is ... 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.
...[an] insightful, generation-defining collection of essays ... Throughout the book, Witt positions herself as the curious outsider looking in, though for all its titillating subject matter, she maintains an intellectual, critical tone. Her humor is wonderfully dry throughout, making her more expressive, vulnerable moments all the more powerful ... Equally effective in broad strokes as in her on-the-ground journalism, Witt’s prose is most like Didion’s when defining a particular milieu of well-educated, city-dwelling millennials.
Witt bravely plays guinea pig, taking readers inside sexual subcultures without pre-judging or snarking at them ... Witt treats her subjects (even her bad Internet dates) with respect instead of the judgment or mockery you might expect. It’s like reading something by David McCullough if he wrote about dating apps ... Many of the essays in Future Sex have been published previously, and they struggle to come together in a seamless narrative arc. Still, Witt should be applauded for avoiding the trap of self-absorption and for expanding our knowledge of sexual culture.
Witt delicately and skillfully summons the muted mournfulness of these failures to connect, the doubled alienation of technologically mediated distance ... Even at its funniest (and it’s frequently very funny) there is a curiosity and an openness to her writing that prevents the laughs ever feeling as though they are imposed by force from above ... Part of 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 ... The book is at its most conventional, and least interesting, during a handful of longish stretches—most notably in that exploration of the polyamorist scene—in which she straightforwardly narrates stories in which she herself has no real personal involvement ...an engrossing and illuminating experience.
Emily Witt’s whip-smart new book Future Sex tackles this [online] trend, with clarity and courage ... None of this reads as especially erotic. The meditation meetings are cold and clinical when they’re not creepy. The public disgrace-themed porn shoots are disturbing, the orgies awkward, the triad love too complex. Burning Man feels a bit free and fun, but drug-heavy, and thus not exactly the world’s most sustainable game plan. This doesn’t stop Future Sex from being a fascinating (and funny) read. It’s beautifully written. Brave. And there’s a tremendous satisfaction in seeing all this cultural confusion pinned down on the page.
Her critique of intimacy remains intimate, owning its own biases while rejecting the dishy humble-brag, the brave over-share, and over-generalized neuroscience. The honest depictions of her sexual experience make few concessions to dramatic tension, or even to sex ... The poorer fringes are mostly overlooked in her highly personal account...Perhaps out of a desire to report only on cultures she can directly experience, there’s a dearth of nonheterosexuality that’s glaring ... But perhaps it’s wrong to fault a book for omitting what it never tried to include. Future Sex isn’t a comprehensive history or political brief, but an intensely rational, personal search for the nuances of sexual desire ... The pleasures of Witt’s book are like the sex it envisions, unbound from the obligations of solving a problem or achieving a goal.
...a thorough, fresh look at how romantic and sexual relationships have changed in the past two decades or so ... One of the virtues of Witt’s writing is that she avoids making value judgments. It’s tempting to argue that this brave new world of sexuality.
Witt captures lonely, tender truths about human sexuality ... a riveting chronicle of 21st century sexuality, told by a smart and talented writer ... Her tone can be cold, as if she’s going through the motions of sexual experimentation, more social scientist than memoirist ... But her courage is indisputable, and her crisp narration, wry humor and critical insights make for a compelling read.
The book that results is fascinating, both because it’s always interesting to hear about the sex lives of others and because it opens up an historical context that allows us to understand how the free love of the past did and didn’t lead to our internet-driven sexual present ... Witt is a compelling narrator and an excellent subjective witness but I did find her presence in the book a little coy.
Instead of accepting the existing catalog of sexual and romantic models, Future Sex explores the ways in which these paradigms are both essentialist and insufficient ... When Witt is at her best, she offers readers her personal experience as a lens to examine what it’s like to be alive and desiring. When the book falters, it is largely due to her focus on the white, heterosexual, upper-middle class social spheres of the Bay Area and New York.
While Future Sex may have been started as an effort to find sexual and romantic authenticity outside of traditional relationships, the resulting document is just as much about how class and money operate as determining (if not always immediately visible) forces even in the most intimate aspects of our lives ... darkly funny and perceptive field studies ... Her deadpan delivery makes Future Sex a work of social observation and, at times, even a kind of nonfiction comedy of manners ... t’s in slyly delineating limitations, rather than possibilities, that Future Sex shines, offering not a speculative preview of what’s to come, but an erudite exposition on where we currently are.
Future Sex is a stylistically uneven book, in large part because Witt the essayist outshines Witt the journalist. The author’s gonzo-style exploration of alternative sexual lifestyles yields a number of interesting observations that relate to her overall arguments. Yet these episodes drag on too long and often lack focus.