No sex please, we're geeks

They've got money, power and huge hard drives, so why aren't Silicon Valley's finest getting any?

Topics: Silicon Valley, Sex, Coupling, Love and Sex,

Jan. 12, 2000


#if !defined(EROS)

It’s been observed that the Victorian era’s astounding progress in engineering, communications and global capitalism is a tribute to what harnessing sexuality to commerce can do. The same might be said about Silicon Valley, where no sleep, no life and the residue of the valley’s founding Puritanism (military/aerospace and semiconductor fabrication were not party-hearty industries) drive the information economy.

The guys wearing polo shirts who make the cover of Business 2.0 may be enjoying the pop-star eroticization of their image — but the fact is, the engineers who actually build technology are mostly not singing the body electric. At least not in the way Whitman intended. Ignore the high-profile sexual bad behavior of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison or former Starwave CTO/Infoseek exec Patrick “hotseattle” Naughton — their antics could have showed up in any industry sector, at any time. The Internet gold rush is not creating a new Barbary Coast in its stampede to the Bay Area.

#endif
// warning: works best without a girlfriend

do
{
work();
eat();
sleep();
}
while (alive);

#ifndef BORN_IN_THE_USA

Forget H-1B visas. In Silicon Valley the biggest immigration problem may be sex. People come from all over to work in the valley — from other states and other countries. It’s =hard= to make connections. Foreign nationals may have been schooled in the universal language of mathematics, but they may also be caught in a neuterland. That is, the rules of attraction and courtship they grew up with in Pakistan and Turkey don’t apply here; dating, West Coast style, can be confounding even for the natives.

Maybe it’s better to stay home with some much-loved Web sites.

#endif

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/***********COMMENT********COMMENT********COMMENT**********/

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At dinner with with several mid-to-late 20s engineers, both men and women, whose countries of origin were all over the Eurasian landmass, I was taken aback when they all shrugged and rolled their eyes at the notion of dating. They were fluent in English, presentably dressed, perfectly poised, all of them decent creatures — if you had been forced into a blind date with any one of them, you would not have been repulsed and you would at least have had a convivial evening. It didn’t make sense, on the face of it, that they had written off the prime recreational activity of most other members of their age group. When I spoke with a young man employed by a major computer company, whom I encountered in a short-term therapy group designed to help males figure out how to score better with females (unlock the key to female hardware and software!), he explained that he had done fine as a teenager in his Indian subcontinent homeland, but when he arrived in the United States to attend university he found there was so much culture shock that it was just too hard to also figure out the mating dance. And, he added, there was something about computer science that leads you away from learning/understanding/valuing the squishy irrational cues that are so necessary to doing well in the realm of spotting and sequestering a desirable mate.

/***********************************************************/

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/***********************************************************/

#ifdef (BABE_QUOTIENT < PAM_ALEXANDER)

Regardless of where you come from, in the valley you are confronted with the specter of Kelli the surfer-girl/marketing manager: Her “exotic other” favors are so much more compelling than those of the less buffed and gleaming traditional women of one’s homeland. Images from American pop culture have turned out to be globally addictive and appealing in every imaginable circumstance. But geeks, never known for intuiting the moves in the best of circumstances, are at an even bigger disadvantage if they come from elsewhere. How can you be culturally competent in two alien cultures simultaneously: that of Northern California, and that of Dating the Appropriate Sex? Whether the object of your desire is heterosex/homosex/ both/neither, it’s just all so difficult.

But there’s a model to dream toward, along with the =business porn= desires of appearing in the Kleiner Perkins portfolio and being profiled in Red Herring. Many Silicon Valley execs =marry= their good-looking, modern career-gal publicists — what could be better than to have your woman be part of the family business? Or maybe you’re just so glad to be here, to have the opportunity to work in the Golden Land, that you can’t be bothered with psyche or eros. Maybe you’ve left your family behind in India or China. Techno-coolies — newly-arrived immigrant technologists performing long hours of unglamorous geek grunt work — contribute much to make SilVal’s engines of commerce rev.

Work Will Make You Free.

#endif


/***********************************************************/

/**********COMMENT********COMMENT********COMMENT************/

/***********************************************************/

It’s been said that guest workers on temporary visas can be blackmailed into working ungodly hours for fear of being sent home — it makes sex lower down on life’s priorities.

/***********************************************************/

/**********COMMENT********COMMENT********COMMENT************/

/***********************************************************/

#if (SEXRATIO != 0.5)

In Silicon Valley, males outnumber females and money comes easier
than time, but the valley is not like its closest analogues (Wall Street
in the ’80s, Hollywood any time) where conspicuous consumption as marked
by high-class call girls is comme il faut. SUVs and teardowns and other
signs of crass materialism have arrived in the valley, but showing off by
buying females has not. Though the evidence is purely anecdotal and the
data sketchy and hard to come by, sex workers say

#endif


/***********************************************************/

/*********COMMENT********COMMENT********COMMENT*************/

/***********************************************************/

I talked to a fantasy-maker from the East Bay, an outcall worker from the South Bay

/***********************************************************/

/**********COMMENT********COMMENT********COMMENT************/

/***********************************************************/

their clients from the valley tend to be =less= in high tech than other walks of life — and that their geek clients tend to be so much nicer, smarter, richer, shyer — and more thankful. As the vice cops who work on the Peninsula say, nah, you gotta go to San Francisco for that, we’re mostly the suburbs here.

#ifdef CUBE_FARM

Which is sort of true and sort of not. Yes the valley is hectare after hectare of creepy sprawl with no redeeming urban center anywhere, filled with strip malls and cul de sacs that would do the San Fernando Valley proud. But so many of those yucko-stucco ranchers are =geek= houses, where a pet iguana may get placed in the refrigerator for safe hibernation when her owner goes on vacation, and a DSL line is shared by all housemates. The bedroom communities of San Mateo, Mountain View and Los Altos are not necessarily home to those cohabiting with mates and offspring.

horny>
horny>
horny> make -t love < money
Make: Don’t know how to make love. Stop.
horny>

The “Sex in high tech? Isn’t that an oxymoron?” Weltanschauung seems to show up in the way law enforcement in San Jose, the closest thing Silicon Valley has to a city center, has made a =point= of busting sex workers — even if they were outside San Jose when answering outcalls, and not walking the streets of the city’s newly-revived downtown core. The SJPD doesn’t want that sort of thing in their city. San Francisco’s own historically sex-positive/sex-worker-tolerant culture hasn’t percolated out to the valley, even though theoretically San Francisco sets the tone for the entire Bay Area.

#endif

/***********************************************************/

/**********COMMENT********COMMENT********COMMENT************/

/***********************************************************/

When I kept on asking a very nice police officer working vice in San Jose, “But why?” he came back with the standard answers that make sense but don’t answer the question. It’s not good for the city. It’s not good for the women. It’s the law. All true, but still no answer for the importance of the hooker crackdown, so different from what goes on in the City. What I think is that when a belief system is embedded in you, you don’t even see it. Something about San Jose’s sense of self (An ambitious D.A.? A zealous police chief? Something in the aquifers contaminated by the byproducts of microprocessor manufacture?) makes this moral crusade unremarkable within its own context, but slightly loopy in the context of the greater Bay Area.

/***********************************************************/

/**********COMMENT********COMMENT********COMMENT************/

/***********************************************************/

#ifndef CYPHERPUNK_PORN_MOVIE

And just as sexuality reflects the larger society in which it is embedded, the libertarianism and union-loathing rife throughout the valley seem to have been reflected in the fact that sex workers in the valley aren’t =organized=, as they are in San Francisco through COYOTE (Cast Out Your Old Tired Ethic), the long-standing sex workers’ political organization, and the Cyprian Guild — a support group/professional cadre for sex workers. So close, yet so far away.

#endif

#ifdefPERV/MUNCH

But what of Silicon Valley’s infamous romance with the BDSM community,

#endif

class girl_with_secret
{
public:
char upstanding;
long dresses;
friend bend_over_boy;
private:
char *safeword;
double strap_on;
}


/***********************************************************/

/**********COMMENT********COMMENT********COMMENT************/

/***********************************************************/

Security smartypants Dan Farmer is just as well known for being a sadist/top as for his SATAN Net security hole detection program. Dominant Robin Roberts, a computer scientist whose career began with the Univac in 1957, says there’s always been an overlap between geeks and weird sex: “The elaborate negotiations of S+M courtship are like network protocols and handshaking.” And just to give one more =personal= example, when I was at a dinner in Palo Alto with many fine and friendly computerists, one of my companions knew without prompting who wrote the three-part alt.sex.bondage FAQ — a guy with a stellar Silicon Valley engineering risumi. An entire segment of “Beyond Computing,” a weekly public radio show produced in San Francisco, was devoted to what host John Rieger called “geek whacking.”

/***********************************************************/

/**********COMMENT********COMMENT********COMMENT************/

/***********************************************************/

#ifdef SPANKING_PADDLE_BIRTHDAY_PRESENT

fetishwear and role-playing and fantasy and polyamory and
play parties in the Santa Cruz mountains and in dungeons in the
Haight?

#endif


/***********************************************************/

/**********COMMENT********COMMENT********COMMENT************/

/***********************************************************/

enough to keep former theatrical costumers very busy and solvent

/***********************************************************/

/**********COMMENT********COMMENT********COMMENT************/

/***********************************************************/

#ifdef IF_I_HOLD_HER_THIS_WAY_HOW_WILL_SHE_RESPOND

But only true believers blaspheme; all the get-up and foofarah don’t demonstrate a basic comfort with sex, but instead a comfort with observing rules and following them — gaming as it were: a programmer’s, rather than a sensualist’s, delight. Object-oriented sex-play. It’s a case of the most important sexual organ being between the ears — but not in a good way. if (this rule applies) then {do that} else {do this} repeat until (1=0).

#enddef

/* call repeatedly between puberty and death */

short findlover(char * bplace, int accent, float networth)

{
if ( !strcmp(bplace,”usa”) && (networth > 100,000))
return TRUE;
if ( (!accent) && (networth > 250,000))
return TRUE;
if ( networth > 2,000,000)
vreturn TRUE;

/* bzzzt, but thanks for playing! */

return FALSE;

}

#ifdef SPECIAL_CASE

Of course it’s not all sexual repression and lack of fulfillment in the valley: As anywhere, there are tons of happy couples. Historically there have been the organizations High-Tech Gays and Digital Queers (now subsumed into GLAAD). As well, Trekkies, Sci-Fi fans, Society for Creative Anachronism members and, more recently, techno-pagans have always found ways to pair off.

#endif


/********WARNING**********/
/* there be dragons here */
/********WARNING**********/

struct daemon_state {

int wizardflag;
short magic_cookie;
char * attend_midsummer_group_goddess_celebration;

}

#ifdef FROM_SERVER_ROOM_TO_BOOM_BOOM_ROOM

Possible changes in the sex life of the valley are afoot with the recent overlay of many sleek frat-boy venture capitalists and their ilk. It’s not for nothing that last year San Francisco, and not Manhattan, was the place graduating MBAs indicated they most wanted to work. At least in a certain strata in the valley, mating habits will look more and more like those of New York during its “Liar’s Poker” Wall Street boom years. What will happen to the disembodiment of high-tech (online gaming! shopping! virtual everything!) as Silicon Valley, with its
dot-com fever, ever more resembles a swarm of arbitrageurs and currency traders attempting to spoof global markets, rather than a nest of technologists trying to engineer something they believe in?

And the rise of the Web/South Park/SOMA enclave spurred by Wired has meant media types and liberal-arts flakes have infiltrated the valley to some degree. It’s interesting to contemplate what might happen when a comely female sysadmin, originally trained in international relations, ends up talking at a party to a well-meaning male Unix wizard about which windows managers they prefer. Will she =still= just want to be friends? Or will love of open-source software conquer all?

#endif

These lines have never needed to be Y2K compliant.

/* end of file */

Paulina Borsook is the author of "Cyberselfish: A Critical Romp Through the Terribly Libertarian Culture of High-tech."

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