“The Art of Sexting” – Funny Ha-Ha: 05.04.13

Funny Ha Ha May 2013This is the piece I read at Funny Ha Ha in May. As you can see, I got to share the stage with some incredibly talented people.

Due to a busy week of work in the days leading up to the event, I wrote this piece the night before. I’m not wild about the close but I liked the rest of it enough to ignore the complete non-sensical nature of the last line. Deadlines, man.

I’ll also note that this is the draft I walked in with but there were a few ad libs along the way. After two years of live readings, I’m finally figuring out how to let the audience be a part of the reading, rather than just relying on the text.

I’ll admit to you right at the outset: I don’t know much about sexting.

I’m a 38-year-old man and have been married for five years so my dating life was largely unencumbered by the complications born of current technology. Thank Christ. While I did a little online dating back in the 90s when it was still considered the sole haven of weirdos and not, say, your divorced parents, I managed to avoid the problems of whether to hide someone from your Facebook wall when you break up or unfollow them on Twitter so you can’t see all the fun they’re having without you.

Sexting seems more like a thing you do when you’re dating, like leaving the house to go see a movie. The closest I’ve gotten to sexting somebody is when my wife and I were trying to coordinate our commute home from work a couple weeks ago and my iPhone accidentally autocorrected “I can come pick you up” to “I can come oil you up.” I re-texted her the correct phrase but – not wishing to lose out on the moment – I texted “I can do the other thing later.” I didn’t.

Oh actually, the other almost-sexting thing I’ve done on my phone is take pictures of my wife topless…but that was because she was having trouble breastfeeding in the few days after our daughter was born so we hired a lactation consultant who taught us ways to hold our daughter at a certain angle while my wife held her boob in just the right way, all of which was supposed to be the best get the flow of milk going.

I know, pretty sexy, right? THIS IS ALMOST 40.

According to a depressingly large number of books available on the Kindle Store, sexting is one of those things that will “keep your relationship fired up, exclamation point!” And I’m sure Yahoo Answers! has plenty to say on the subject, too, but honestly I don’t see a lot of value in it.

New York artist Karen Finley disagrees. She thinks sexting is art.

Finley’s plan, it was reported this week, is to create paintings from the sexual images and text “sent to her by anonymous participants.” Now, don’t get any ideas about sending Finley those pictures Amanda Bynes was tweeting of herself earlier this week and think you’re going to have the star of “She’s The Man” hanging in your foyer by Memorial Day. This is a real thing.

The paintings will be part of a performance and exhibition – heh, exhibition, I just got that – at the New Events Museum in New York City at the end of May titled “Sext Me If You Can” which seems like a pretty weak dare for something people will do with very little prompting as they’re leaving John Barleycorn at 2am.

The museum’s website describes the exhibit as a cross between prostitution and “Would you like to come up to my apartment and see that YouTube video I was telling you about?” First, you pay Finley two hundred to five hundred dollars to commission the work, depending on how big the painting will be. Because it’s not so much the way you use your brushstroke as it is the size of the brush, if you get what I’m saying. You then get access to a private number and a specific time to go down to the museum where you’ll be given a sexting tutorial. I’m not entirely sure what would go into a sexting tutorial but it’s probably stuff like “here’s how to hold the phone so you achieve a certain angle” and ‘don’t use the word ‘pubes'”.

Then it’s time for a 10-minute sitting in a “completely private, discrete and anonymous” part of the gallery which sounds like it has all the romance of an afternoon of infertility testing.

From there, you just go on about your sexting like you’re Brett Favre and bored on the sidelines. The sexts you send will, according to the museum’s website, be the “inspiration for a painting, or series of paintings” – I guess that’s if you’re young and can sext multiple times in one sitting – “created by the artist in a temporary studio set up in the New Museum Lobby.”

And after the exhibition is over you get to take the painting or paintings home. To hang in your house. Your sext paintings.

The museum says “Through this process, the erotic exchange with the artist—bound by rules of commerce—transforms into a lasting and collectible work of art.”

LOL, you guys.

“This is a lovely piece you have here, Bruce, what is it?”
“Oh that’s from the time I sat in a museum and paid $500 bucks to text some arty broad a picture of my dong.”

If Karen Finley’s name sounds familiar, it’s because she was a member of the so-called “NEA Four,” a group of artists who had their NEA grants revoked in the early 90s. They were later given the money back after a 1993 court case that went all the way to the Supreme Court.

Last night I familiarized myself with Finley’s ouevre – which incidentally would be my first sext to her if I did this thing – and noticed one of her previous books was a Martha Stewart satire titled “Living it Up: Humorous Adventures in Hyperdomesticity.”

So it was with some sense of coincidence that I heard Martha Stewart joined Match.com this week. She announced it during an appearance on the Today Show with Match.com’s CEO and Stewart’s nephew who, as luck would have it, recently wrote a book about online dating. Talk about an erotic exchange bound by the rules of commerce. It was like a morning news show version of that orgy scene with the masks in Eyes Wide Shut except there wasn’t any sex, just a lot of self-promotion and you’d need the masks on so you can disguise it as journalism.

As for why she’d very publicly join an online dating site, Martha proved that stars are indeed just like us. “I’d like to have breakfast with somebody,” Stewart said. “I’d like to go to bed with somebody” though she quickly corrected followed that with a correction: “Sleep with somebody.” As in “just sleep” but…come on.

Despite the obviously choreographed nature of the segment, Martha came off rather devil-may-care and legitimately charming even though creepo Matt Lauer sat next to her and acted all squirrelly about the possibility of the grandmotherly home decor icon hitting the dating circuit and getting herself some. But I suppose if you’re 71 and served time in prison for insider trading you pretty much stop giving a fuck what Matt Lauer or anybody else thinks.

It seems to have done the trick. According to the New York Post, more than 1000 men have filled Martha’s inbox with requests, a fact which the Post, in a rare display of modesty, chose not to make a sext-like headline out of.

And so Martha Stewart is off into the world of online dating. But unlike myself, who avoided all the problems technology provides for today’s modern dater, Martha is probably going to have to learn how to sext. People on Match.com are 36% more likely to sext, according to a statistic I just made up. Since she’s so busy, I took the liberty of drafting a few sexts for her that combine Martha’s domestic fervor with a certain randy sensibility.

“When are you coming home? My cupcakes aren’t going to frost themselves.”

“Hey there stud, I hear you’re hung like a mountain laurel wreath adorned with a lovely gold ribbon as an accent that looks just lovely on the door of my summer home just outside of New Haven, Connecticut.”

“Mmmm…doilies.”

“Scrapbooks often include much more than photographs or mementos – you can use ornaments and trimmings to decorate pages to communicate your theme….Also, let’s bang.”

I don’t know if Martha Stewart will find any of these helpful. I don’t even know if they’re art. But I should probably delete these off my phone before I go home to my wife.


POSTSCRIPT: I wish I had posted this piece earlier so I could take credit for the fact that Martha Stewart has apparently tried sexting now.

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