The low-down on low brow

By Amy Shaunette

For me, the days of the week are marked by cultural production. I indulge in several weekly rituals, vital in managing my stress level. On Sunday, I eat brunch during NPR’s “Wait Wait.Don’t Tell Me!” podcast, put off my homework while reading the New York Times column “Modern Love” and take a post-dinner study break for the new episode of “Californication.” On Monday, I watch “Gossip Girl.” Wednesday, I’m ashamed to say, means “The City,” and on Thursday I do The Onion’s crossword puzzle and watch “30 Rock.” My recent discovery of New York magazine’s weekly online column “Sex Diaries” just made Mondays even more exciting.Each installment of “Sex Diaries, “which started in 2007, is a play-by-play of a week in the life of an anonymous New Yorker. The columns are titled according to the subject’s identity; there’s “The Media Start-up Guy With a Roving Eye Who Just Moved In With His Boyfriend” and “The Delightfully Na’ve Intern” and “The Newly Lesbian Lesbian, Who Is Loving It.” The diaries end with a totals count, a rundown of the number of sex acts, masturbation sessions, text messages, etc. The most telling part of the project is the comments left by readers, often reaching in the hundreds per article. Some commenters rudely mock the diarist; others praise the writers for their brave sexuality. The comments suggest how fascinated people are with other people’s sex lives. They also serve as a blatant reminder of how scary it is to air your dirty laundry for all to criticize. People, especially Internet commenters, can be mean. That said, some people can be really slutty.

As far as Internet entertainment goes, “Sex Diaries” is pretty much perfect. It’s voyeurism for the masses, an erotic text one doesn’t need to feel embarrassed about. The diaries are rarely graphic, and the goal is not to arouse but to entertain. Reading about the experiences of others helps us make sense of our own lives; in this way, “Sex Diaries” is the baby cousin of the memoir, a fragmentary project exploring human nature.

A few weeks, ago, New York magazine published a long analysis of “Sex Diaries,” in which writer Wesley Yang outlined the major themes inherent in the sexual lives of the diarists. His conclusion is that New Yorkers are completely neurotic, terrified of being rejected, of being alone, of not getting laid on a Friday night.

This week, New York Times columnist David Brooks weighed in the issue, playing the role of the middle-aged adult frustrated by technology. People use text messages to arrange sexual encounters? People even have sexual encounters? Shocking. Brooks writes, “Today’s technology seems to threaten the sort of recurring and stable reciprocity that is the building block of trust.”

It’s true-an alarming portion of “Sex Diaries” revolves around text messages and Gchats. But that’s the reality of today, and the pervasiveness of technology shouldn’t be shocking anymore. What is shocking about “Sex Diaries” is the number of total assholes out there. Take the man who is horrified that a woman he’s been sleeping with for a year is “beginning to take things seriously,” or the guy who responds to a booty call text with “I don’t feel like dealing with you right now.” When I’ve got that same message for life, “Sex Diaries” offers escapist solace. It’s taught me that nobody is perfect, that everybody is horny and, perhaps most importantly, that a removable massaging shower head is a woman’s best friend.