Roanne van Voorst
Six in a Bed
From Polyamory to Relationship Pills
An adventurous plunge into the future of love, relationships and sex
Love, be it romantic or platonic, is a fundamental part of human experience, for many of us the most important one. But spurred on by recent technological and cultural shifts, who or what we love and how we love are rapidly changing, often in unforeseen ways and with far-reaching consequences. Futures-anthropologist Roanne van Voorst spent three years researching love’s fluid landscape and immersing herself in today’s trends to gain fascinating insight into tomorrow’s human.
After reading hundreds of academic articles and dozens of books, interviewing academics and futurists, and attending conferences on love around the world, Van Voorst has little left to do but to go out and ‘make’ future love herself. In Vienna, she finds herself in a brothel hesitantly cuddling up to a popular sex robot. With polyamorists, she talks about infinite love and jealousy, and with sologamists (people who feel best on their own) the prejudices against lifelong singles. She rents a friend for a coffee date in the park, swipes through attention-hungry dating apps and sends off saliva samples to services promising to establish matches based on her DNA. With her partner she tries love pills developed to make us fall (or stay) in love and oxytocin sprays to boost empathy during a dinner with friends. She dances in virtual nightclubs where users find romance via avatars and flirts with rugged-looking algorithms, while also meeting the young programmers racing to develop apps and robots to fall in love with. At home with sex workers and sex care workers (carers who provide sex to the physically or mentally disabled), she discusses digitalization and inclusive pornography, and with people who are nonbinary and gender-fluid, she explores the recent explosion of gender and sexual identities.
All the while she records her experiences, bringing philosophy and research into her reflections on the many lives shared with her, testing her boundaries and questioning her assumptions as a child of her time. Although these changes in love’s forms can hide a darker side, such as addiction or exhaustion, ultimately her idea of what love can be expands.
Six in a Bed is a highly readable and stimulating examination of all that love is today and a meditation on the changing social bonds that remain society’s building blocks. In this ‘age of loneliness’, Van Voorst makes the case for a future that preserves human contact and intimacy.