A few days ago Google released Glass, their new wearable computer glasses. This $1,500 gadget can record every minute of a our lives -- including our sex lives. Put on a pair of Glass and capture all the grinding and pounding from your partner's perspective.
But, as comedian Jon Stewart points out, "who honestly wants to have sex from their partner's point of view. The one thing that could drive me away from having sex permanently, is the knowledge of how I look while I'm doing it."
Stewart is referring to is something that sex therapists have been talking about since 1970, when sex researchers Masters and Johnson coined the term "spectatoring."
Spectatoring is the act of evaluating or monitoring ourselves during the sex act. It is when our attention moves outside of our own erotic thoughts and sensations and focuses instead on what we think our body looks like, sounds like, smells like and performs like. We become a spectator to our own sexual experience. And now Glass is offering us the opportunity for "extreme spectatoring." (Do the spectatoring test.)
But is spectatoring a problem?
We live in a world critical of every extra wrinkle or ounce of fat, and watching ourselves can distract from the erotic experience. Since attention can only be in one place at one time, losing focus causes us to miss valuable erotic cues that keep us in the sexy moment. We end up spending too little time in the sexual deliciousness that envelopes us and keeps us excited. This cognitive distraction has consequences for our sexuality, such as:
- Lessening the desire for sex
- Reducing sexual arousal and lubrication
- Compromising our ability to orgasm, and
- Decreasing sexual satisfaction
In addition, spectators are less likely to be sexually assertive and to even avoid sex altogether.
Why do we spectator?
What is so exciting as to capture our attention away from the delectable, pleasurable thoughts that keep our arousal intact? Worry is the short answer. And worry trumps erotic thoughts, period! There are two main themes we worry about:
1. What we look like -- Are we sexy enough?
2. Whether our performance is adequate -- Are we skilled enough?
While men and women deal with both types of distracting thoughts, body-image concerns are most prevalent for women and performance concerns are most common for men.
But not everyone who spectators during sex sees a negative effect. For the folks that spectator without 'worry' -- those who have a confident body image -- watching themselves (such as through Google Glass) can be an exceptionally erotic experience. When we have a positive body image we:
- Feel more optimistic about sex
- Are more adventurous during sex
- Have sex more frequently
- Have an easier time with sexual function.
So, it all comes down to how we feel about our bodies. Do we want to get a pair of Glass to see what our partner sees during sex? Probably, even if just out of curiosity. It can educate us and help us share our partner's experience. And if we have a confident body image we could even benefit from being a star in our own sexual Glass show.
The solution to spectatoring then, is not to stop watching ourselves having sex. The key is to keep our attention on the erotic and to bolster our body-esteem. Thank you, Glass, for opening up this important discussion again. You are encouraging us to think about how we see ourselves, whether through our imagination or the lens of computer.
Do you spectator during sex? Take the test to see.
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