What Happens When a Sex Machine Tears You Apart Instead of Bringing You Together

It's our biggest fear about sexual technology, like teledidonics — that instead of bringing us closer together, it'll come between you and your partner, and you'll start to prefer the artificial to the natural. In response to io9's story about teledildonics a while back, literary magazine Tin House posted a cautionary short story online.


Top image: Sleeper.

In "Bottoms Up" by Namwali Serpell, a hypochondriac couple buy a sex machine so that they will never have to touch each other again. And for a while, it seems like a great idea. Here's how it begins:

This would never have happened if it weren’t for herpes. The other ones didn’t bother us as much. Gonorrhea, chlamydia, hepatitis, syphilis. They sounded too archaic, too exotic to be a direct threat. They were reassuringly difficult to spell. Not herpes. Herpes is not complex.

We met through our cleaner. Her name was Felicia. Maybe. We were never completely sure of this at the time, and later, we disagreed about whether she was from Haiti or the Dominican Republic. Neither of us ever actually met her. She had put up a flyer advertising cleaning services in the apartment building where we both lived. Her low rates appealed to us: we each needed a cleaner to come in several times a week. We rang her up, separately; we hired her, respectively.

She was very good at first. Precise, invisible. We gave her spare keys and tipped her generously. Then one day, she mixed up our laundry. We each of us found a pair of mismatched socks. It was a small mistake. They were the same kind of sock; they were mismatched only in size, not color or pattern. Our two pairs of blue argyle socks had traded one sock. We each called Felicia and left messages. She called back, sounding afraid, saying that she knew exactly who had whose sock—it was the first we’d heard of each other—and that she would fix it.

Having reunited the matching socks, she made another mistake. She misdelivered the pairs.

Read the rest over at Tin House.

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