• U.S.

The New Position Paper

3 minute read
Joel Stein

If you were wondering how online dating became acceptable, even almost fun, blame Emma Taylor and Lorelei Sharkey. Four years ago, they invented the Nerve com questionnaire, which replaced communicating your charms in hieroglyphic SWF-form with a Cosmo-style quiz. You got to name your most humbling moment, choose your favorite sex scene in a movie and come up with words for lines like “Blank is sexy; blank is sexier.” Desperate contractions were replaced by insta-wit and faux self-deprecation. Taylor and Sharkey’s questionnaire is now used by more than 150 newspapers and websites and has been filled out by 2 million registered users, a million of whom are trawling for dates right now. It is the horoscope of our times.

Taylor, 30, and Sharkey, 31, are nationally syndicated sex columnists, and just as dating sometimes leads to bigger commitments, they’ve now written a book. The Big Bang (Plume; 258 pages) is this generation’s smarter, funnier and raunchier version of The Joy of Sex. Not that Taylor and Sharkey don’t like the archetypal sex primer and its clinical line drawings. “It just takes itself very seriously, which a lot of people our age and younger can’t relate to,” Sharkey says. “We wanted to take a more fun approach to sex while making sure we put forth good, accurate and doctor-vetted information.”

The photos in Bang are gritty, artsy and X-rated, sex is routinely referred to as “a sesh,” and positions are given names such as “Is This Seat Taken?” and “I Can See My House from Here.” The section titled “How to Achieve Simultaneous Orgasm During Penetration Every Time” contains only the sentence “We have no idea.”

In person, Sharkey and Taylor are not nearly as shocking as their book makes them seem. The chapters in the book that TIME can’t even mention make the authors blush too when they are asked about them over a lunch. And some of the advice in the book is pretty conservative. They’re against breast enhancement and watching too much television, argue virulently for fiber, and warn that using police-issue handcuffs during bondage “can lead to nerve and bone damage, sometimes irreparable.” Sharkey can also draw and did all the diagrams in the book, which, as her off-page modesty would dictate, required getting people to pose wearing bathing suits. There’s even a three-page bibliography.

Sharkey is so old-school that she met her boyfriend at work, and Taylor, who has had nearly 20 personal-ad dates, is single. “My friend Jack loves to introduce me as ‘my friend Emma who just wrote a sex manual and can’t get laid,'” says Taylor. “I find myself making disclaimers that those who can’t do, write sex manuals.” –By Joel Stein

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