Monday, June 27, 2005

Is That Blackberry Your New Sex-less Toy?

Husband and Wi-Fi /Wireless gadgets short-circuit sex drives
By Miriam Kreinin Souccar Crain's New York

Meghan Berger never imagined that her sex life would be affected when her boyfriend got a BlackBerry from his employer. But it didn't take long before she began to resent the device--almost as much as if it were another woman.

Ms. Berger's investment banker boyfriend of five years brings the personal digital assistant on vacations, hides it under the table at restaurants, and even takes it into the bathroom. As if that addiction wasn't bad enough, the boyfriend recently got Wi-Fi for his laptop, and now Ms. Berger can barely get near him at all.

"It's always on his lap, even when we're going to bed," complains Ms. Berger, a 25-year-old public relations executive. "He tells me it's for work, but really he's checking sports scores or talking to his friends. If I start kissing him, he's like, `Not now, I'm playing poker.' "

Ms. Berger isn't the only one twiddling her thumbs late at night in the Naked City. Experts say that recreational sex between monogamous couples was already on the decline in New York because of the high stress of living here. The wireless revolution may be responsible for ruining people's sex lives completely.

"It used to be a choice between Johnny Carson or sex," says Edward Hallowell, a psychiatrist who specializes in how technology affects attention span. "But at least with TV, you could cuddle and one thing could lead to another. BlackBerries and laptops require undivided attention."

Peter Fraenkel, director of the Center for Time, Work and the Family at the Ackerman Institute, says he's seen a 50% increase in the number of couples seeking counseling for this problem in the last two years. Other therapists report similar upswings. The problem usually starts when a company begins to expect that its employees will be available 24/7.

"With all that beeping and buzzing and `getting back to you in five minutes,' " says Mr. Fraenkel, "people come home very stressed out and don't have an opportunity to cool out enough to be able to have sex."

The situation is most prevalent in New York, because everything here is more competitive as people are typically more ambitious. As a result, married New Yorkers in their 30s and 40s tend to have sex even less than the once-a-week average of their counterparts around the country, experts say. "Everything you do in New York is a struggle," says Barbara Bartlik, a psychiatrist and sex therapist at the Weil Medical College of Cornell University. "All this additional stress cuts into your private time together."

But what's really wreaking havoc on relationships is that most of the new wireless adopters aren't using the devices predominately for work anymore. These addicts keep their machines within reach at all times for a quick check on an air fare or a game of Dungeons & Dragons. It's easier to take rejection when it's work-related, but when a grown man starts choosing online video games over his wife, it's a big blow to the ego. Even more egregious is the fact that many of these addicts don't seem to miss the sex.

Scott Testa, chief operating officer of Mindbridge Software, estimates that he has sex at least one-third less than before he got a wireless connection. "I'm about to buy a BlackBerry, and once that happens, I guess I'll go to the monastery," he jokes. Though the predicament is funny to many, therapists say there is a deeper issue at play. "You can't cuddle with a laptop in between you," says Ken Neumann, director of the Center for Family & Divorce Mediation. "The person who is using it is trying to avoid being intimate." Ironically, it's often the men now who are claiming the electronic equivalent of a headache.

Who's horny now?

"It used to be that men were the horny ones. Now it's the women," says Dr. Hallowell, who recently treated a patient whose husband kept his BlackBerry in bed with them while they were having sex, stopping to check it every time it beeped. Mr. Testa says his wife periodically hides his laptop, but he bribes their 5-year-old twins to tell him where it is.

"It's not unusual for me to wake up in the morning with the TV on and my laptop on, still on my lap," says Mr. Testa, who spends his nights in bed e-mailing clients in Europe and Asia and surfing the Web for fun. "My wife gives me dirty looks in the morning, but to sit in bed and surf the Web is my idea of utopia."

Even a recent study on laptops and infertility by the State University of New York at Stonybrook has done little to combat the allure of Wi-Fi. Ms. Berger, the PR executive, told her boyfriend about the study, which found that the heat from laptops can result in decreased sperm production. "Now, he just puts a pillow on his lap with the computer on top of it," Ms. Berger says.


Post a Comment

<< Home