Sexless and the City: Web Warps Libidos of Coked-Up Careerists

AT A WRAP PARTY for a film shot in downtown Manhattan, underpaid and raccoon-eyed film assistants sucked dry the open bar, and after shmoozing with the producers—the key grips and set managers needed new gigs—they poured out clumsily onto the Bowery, to head home. They were tired.

“My hours are so fucking absurd,” an office production assistant on the film told The Observer. “I work a minimum 12 hours a day and up to 14 or 16, and you don’t have time to bring anyone into the equation. If having sex with someone won’t fit in your schedule, it’s just not gonna happen.”

The same cadre from that previous Saturday morning party reconvened a few days later for comped gin cocktails at a Lower East Side speakeasy. The good-looking men and women sat with plenty of space between them. 

“Twenty-somethings are wary of sex,” said one, a young man who works at a hedge fund. “It’s not 1998.”

It was the same at Kenmare, where we sat in the back nook between a photographer-DJ—his art collective has a prominent Tumblr—and a striking fashion model.

“Capitalism has replaced sex,” the model said into our ear, a black, flat-rimmed hat crowning her blond hair and waifish features. We were sharing a hidden cigarette. She then took the half-empty Stella on the table and disappeared into the crowd, and The Observer left alone to get a cab home.

THERE IS, HOWEVER, hope for these poor souls, sexless in the city; younger kids are poised to take their places.

The Observer ran into Sofia Black D’Elia and James Newman, the teenaged stars of Skins, at a party at Jimmy, the sleek lounge on top of the James. Ms. D’Elia is television’s coquette of the moment, Mr. Newman her well-cheekboned onscreen counterpart. They were sneaking Champagne, gussied up and beguiling, their hungry eyes recalling the racy ads for their show. You know the posters: They plaster subway trains and imbue the minds of commuters with their first naughty thoughts of the day.

The Observer asked them why young people in New York don’t want to have sex.

They both laughed.

“That’s a funny idea!” Ms. D’Elia said.

“I haven’t actually, um, heard that?” Mr. Newman said.

“I’m 19, so I don’t t
hink I can weigh in,” Ms. D’Elia said.

Mr. Newman gave her a mischievous smirk.

“Both of us are kind of right out of high school,” he said. “We’re in that period where you supposedly ‘lose it.’”

“Everything makes you assume that this is Your Time,” Ms. D’Elia said. “For example, the media …”

“Or, for example, television shows …” The Observer said.

“Yes,” Ms. D’Elia laughed. “For example.”

They may be onto something. The adolescent heat of Skins is an MTV put-on, but on the show, their cell phones—not iPhones—are a means to an end. The texts are always sexts. They don’t seek to expand their persona within a scene, online or otherwise. The carnality is evident and, to some in New York, enviable.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing it with someone who’s a good writer,” a young woman, who is a journalist in New York, said over Gmail chat. “Because all it comes down to, really, is whether he/she smells good and can wiggle around well.”

“I agree!” The Observer typed back.

The words stopped coming, and then Gmail indicated she had entered text.

“Being naked, warm and squirming with someone in a bed has nothing to do with the Internet,” her Gmail chat message read. “Never has, never will!”

nfreeman [at] observer.com | @nfreeman1234