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CALGARY, AB July 16, 2015/ Troy Media/ – George Orwell, where are you now? Are you looking down from some distant lookout, shaking your head and marvelling that the absurd world you imagined way back in 1948 has become so real in 2015?
Are you surprised that the plot twist you didn’t foresee in your dystopian novel 1984 was that people around the world would not only not resist their loss of privacy, but actively embrace it? Are you asking yourself whether your dark view of humanity wasn’t quite dark enough?
These questions popped into my head as I read the interview in Vice magazine with Alexis Frulling, the young Calgary woman who leapt into celebrity after a video of her having sex with two local men in a downtown alley during the Calgary Stampede was posted on the internet, and went viral.
Frulling, exposed as it were, has gone on the offensive, accusing society of holding a double-standard for shaming her and not the two men involved in the incident (she has a point there) and expressing that, after all, she’s an adult and she can do whatever she wants (also true).
She has also created a four-minute video, in which she rambles on defiantly about her rights and asks how many of us haven’t made choices while under the influence that we might not make under different circumstances. Again, she has a point – the risk of hypocrisy in those who judge her is high.
But even if we concede all of those points, Frulling is still failing to appreciate something equally important – why society is aware at all that she had done something that would become such a hot topic of conversation. The decision to engage in unconventional sex in an alley during daylight does come with the risk that someone will spot you. Like it or not, the locale amounts to a waiving of one’s right to privacy.
In a 2013 essay entitled So Are We Living in 1984? The New Yorker made this observation: “Regardless of the actual scope of the government’s snooping programs, the notion of digital privacy must now, finally and forever, seem a mostly quaint one.”
Twenty-five years ago, getting naughty in the alley would have, at worst, quickened the hearts of a few condo-dwellers peering out their back windows. Today, the ability to capture almost anything on video – from car crashes to unprovoked police assaults – and then make that video available to the world is a given.
Frulling is partly a victim of this modern technological age, but also an unwitting advocate. The fact her Stampede revelry went viral was to be expected, and the three partners’ decision not to seek a more secluded spot simply confirmed that they, like so many, simply don’t care that much.
I honestly don’t care what this woman chose to do. People have been making lifestyle decisions throughout human history, and those who aren’t involved aren’t affected. I do, however, wish I didn’t have to know about it.
But then, we live in an age when we know more about people than we ever have before. I read details about people’s lives on Facebook – details they have volunteered – that sometimes makes me uneasy. I know more about these people who are casual friends – their good moods and their bad, their state of health and state of mind – than I sometimes think I should. It doesn’t feel quite right. I have become an unwitting voyeur.
As with all advances in technology, there is no putting this genie back in the bottle. It has become the new reality. My hope, however, is that over time, as the novelty of living our lives publicly starts to wear off, all of us will make different choices. I, for one, would be happier to know a little less about friends and strangers.
Doug Firby is Editor-in-Chief of Troy Media and National Affairs columnist.
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