OnlineDatingPixabayDoes technology make finding someone we are sexually compatible with easier or harder?

This month we revisit some sexy personal ads from the 1990s. Some of these are wonderfully specific and explicit: “Let me paint your clit with your favourite lipstick and then lick it off!” While others rely more on euphemisms and broad-brush expressions: “Libertine liaisons with intimate consequences sought…”

The ads were printed in the lesbian sex magazines of the time: the American On Our Backs and Bad Attitude, and the British Flirt magazine. For those who were too young or simply never tried it, placing a  personal ad in the 1990s meant putting pen to paper, paying an advertising fee, and then waiting patiently for handwritten replies to come via a private mailbox address. For those bold enough to state ALAWP, there was the additional effort of sending an actual hold-it-in-your-hand photo (which involved more waiting while your roll of film was processed at the chemist or sent off in the mail).

I speak from personal experience when I say: having gone to all that effort, it’s tempting to shag the person you meet up with, regardless of whether or not you find them sexually attractive when you (finally) meet in the flesh.

When I met up with Kay*, following a series of arrangements made by letter, I knew immediately that she simply wasn’t my type. But it had been an hour-long bus journey to get to her and my flatmates weren’t expecting me home that night, so I agreed to go back to hers. It seemed inevitable that we would end up in bed – after all, that was the aim of this whole pursuit.

The sex was surprisingly good – we had similar tastes after all – and we ended up seeing each other for several months before admitting that sex was the only thing we had in common. I thought about trying again with another ad but, thankfully, met someone the old-fashioned way instead: she was propped up at a bar and playing with her Zippo lighter; the attraction was immediate.

Of course, the bar option still exists (although I suppose, since the smoking ban, no one plays with lighters in public indoor spaces anymore), and personal ads still have an allure for some, but there are so many other options now.

Online dating gives immediate access to the all-important photo and also a way to instantly communicate. And then there are the lesbian dating apps such as Dattch and Brenda. Note that I call them dating apps and not get-laid-tonight apps. I haven’t used either so I can make no comment on what actually goes on from screen to screen but, unlike the days of yore, the potential for a quick and easy hook-up is there. Women need no longer wait and wait and wait for the soft clunk of the letterbox bringing a lilac coloured envelope spritzed with the Body Shop’s Dewberry perfume. Now our phones can announce the immediate presence – and interest – of a prospective paramour.

It may be quicker, but I wonder if it’s any easier to get across what you really want from these encounters, especially regarding sex.

“I want to lick your favourite lipstick off your clit” feels easier to write anonymously for a classified page than it does to reveal to a woman whose photo and profile you have studied for the last five minutes. Especially when she can see you too. But maybe I’m being old-fashioned here? It’s a well-known phenomenon that people can feel bolder in text messages and using other apps like Whatsapp and Snapchat. Sexting wouldn’t be a thing if this wasn’t the case. I’ve fallen prey to that one myself and faced the subsequent awkwardness when asked to repeat my request face-to-face.

Perhaps the issue isn’t about technology at all; perhaps it’s actually about feeling empowered enough to know what you want and to tell someone else you want it.

Whether it’s to walk hand-in-hand on a moonlit beach, choose kitchen accessories together in Ikea, or hook up for a night of hot lipstick-licking sex, the key is having the confidence, to be honest about your desires from the start.

As one of the 90s personal ad-placers states: “Cut the crap! Sex your priority? Mine too. Let’s meet.”

*Name has been changed