PantisocracySex in the Digital City

As heard on RTÉ Radio 1

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As Panti says in her opening monologue in this week’s episode of Pantisocracy, there are many people in Ireland whose experience of a phone began with a Bakelite box that had a crank handle that got you through to Maureen or Mary or Helen down on High Street who would connect you with someone else on the other end of another Bakelite box. Skip forward to today and the Bakelite and plastic home phones are extinct, replaced by what Panti memorably calls this “neat, tempered singularity of glass and electrons”. It’s still called a phone, but its relation to what came before is barely recognisable in either form or function.

“Small enough to fit comfortably in the palm of your hand, yet it is as dense as a black hole, containing as it does all the world’s knowledge. There isn’t a question it can’t answer, not a person it can’t reach, not a truth it can’t fake. It sucks up every detail about you and spews it out in dark, humming, climate-controlled data centres, beneath familiar corporate logos in unfamiliar parts of the world.”

The smartphone has altered so many facets of our lives so quickly that we haven’t even had time to talk about it properly. Nothing, Panti tells us, has escaped its grasp, even our intimate lives.

“We present idealised, face-tuned versions of ourselves to idealised, photoshopped versions of electronic strangers and swipe away their annoying, sweaty humanity, you know, reducing them to pixelated ephemera that merely evoke the idea of an actual human with breath and sweat and pores and heft.”

It’s made pornography universally available, both in terms of consumption and production. And it’s given us the Kardashians. But it’s also how Panti met Mr Bliss, so she’s forgiven it. Mostly.

“It has democratised sex and sexuality, taking it out from under the covers and putting it in the palm of our moist hands.”

In Panti’s parlour to discuss digital sexuality: American-Syrian podcaster, philosopher and former gay porn performer, Conner Habib; Dubliner Caroline West, who’s just finished her doctorate on sex, sexuality and porn; the award-winning Galway-based author of The Glorious Heresies, Lisa McInerney; one half of the acrobatic comedy duo, Lords of Strut, Cian Kinsella; and there’s music from singer-songwriter, Leanne Harte.

You can hear this week’s episode of Pantisocracy, here:

© The Listener 2019

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