Emily Witt

Emily Witt is the author of Future Sex.

Whyis Maggie Nelson writing this way, I wondered, after reading the first pages of her new book, On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint. Nelson has written cultural criticism before, but she is better known for her memoirs The Argonauts and The Red Parts, existential inquiries that describe her experiences of sex, childbirth and violence while also drawing on cultural theory and...

Eels on Cocaine

Emily Witt, 22 April 2021

This morning​ I watched a video of some ducks eating lettuce from an enamel bowl. The text of the newspaper lining their cage indicated the birds were in Japan. They devoured the lettuce ferociously, producing an eerie, rattling sound. The lettuce evaporated in a matter of seconds. Nothing about my description explains why the video is interesting, or why it was shared around the world and...

He’s Humbert, I’m Dolores

Emily Witt, 21 May 2020

Awoman​ wants to be the agent of her own life. She doesn’t want to be a victim. She wants to believe she has made choices of her own free will, even when shown evidence that she’s been coerced. She prefers to maintain that she was not seduced, manipulated or threatened, that she was an equal player. She is annoyed when her individual circumstances are taken as proof of structural...

The Unpredictable Cactus: Mescaline

Emily Witt, 2 January 2020

The​ San Pedro cactus evolved thirty or forty million years ago in the deserts of South America. Today its native habitat is the barren cliffs of the high Andes, two thousand metres above sea level. In spring, the distinctive green columns produce a large white and yellow blossom, which blooms at night and is pollinated by hummingbirds and bats. Like many plants, the San Pedro cactus...

Crossing the Border

Emily Witt, 15 August 2019

As we now understand, a significant portion of the US population supports a politics of white nationalism. Writing against this reality is hard. No one seems to have found a register that reaches the other side. Americans thought we had some consensus about certain shared values. When it turned out that we didn’t, suddenly everything had to be argued for, even something as simple as a commitment not to harm people who would like to live in the United States, and never to harm children.

In 1996, a company called Purdue Pharmaceutical launched a new opiate painkiller called OxyContin. At a party celebrating its release to the public, Richard Sackler, a scion of the family that owns the company and its senior vice president of sales, made exuberant predictions about its success. ‘The launch of OxyContin tablets will be followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition,’ he said, according to a lawsuit recently filed against Purdue. ‘The prescription blizzard will be so deep, dense, and white …’

Suckville: Rachel Kushner

Emily Witt, 2 August 2018

Early​ in The Mars Room, a bus full of prisoners is being transported upstate from Los Angeles County on Interstate 5, which bisects California’s Central Valley. The bus passes by the stench of a cattle farm and follows a truck full of turkeys headed to slaughter. The valley is blighted, ‘a brutal, flat, machined landscape, with a strange lemonade light, thick with drifting...

Deity with Fairy Wings: Girlhood

Emily Witt, 8 September 2016

The title of The Girls is obviously close to the title of the HBO series Girls. And this scene, of young people whose expressions of sexual fulfilment parrot certain tropes of internet porn, is the kind of scene we see in Girls too. The author of The Girls, Emma Cline, is the same generation as Lena Dunham, the creator of Girls, and reading The Girls, as when I have watched Girls, I felt pained by the theory of girlhood they propose.

Diary: Burning Man

Emily Witt, 17 July 2014


I wanted to go​ to Burning Man because I saw the huge festival in the Nevada desert as the epicentre of the three things that most interested me in 2013: sexual experimentation, psychedelic drugs and futurism. But everyone said Burning Man was over, that it was spoiled. The event, which requires those who attend to bring their own food, water and shelter and dispose of their own...

The narrator of The Woman Upstairs is Nora Eldridge, and from the start she describes herself as something of a non-entity. ‘I’m neither fat nor thin, tall nor short, blonde nor brunette, neither pretty nor plain.’ She’s 42 and ‘neither married nor divorced, but single. What they used to call a spinster, but don’t anymore, because it implies that you’re dried up and none of us wants to be that.’ Spinsters, in the old novels, are sexless, meddlesome and prissy. These days, what they used to call a spinster is a fearsome spectre, someone to avoid.

Diary: Online Dating

Emily Witt, 25 October 2012

I am not usually comfortable in a bar by myself, but I had been in San Francisco for a week and the apartment I sublet had no chairs in it, just a bed and a couch. My friends in town were married or worked nights. One Tuesday I had lentil soup for supper standing up at the kitchen counter. After I finished, I moved to the couch in the empty living room and sat under the flat overhead light refreshing feeds on my laptop. This was not a way to live. A man would go to a bar alone, I told myself. So I went to a bar alone. I sat on a stool at the centre of the bar, ordered a beer, and refreshed the feeds on my mobile.

Properly Disposed: ‘Moby-Duck’

Emily Witt, 30 August 2012

Two decades ago​ a container ship travelling from Hong Kong to Tacoma, Washington, hit a winter storm and several shipping containers were washed overboard into the North Pacific. Among the lost cargo were 28,800 plastic bath toys: red beavers, green frogs, blue turtles and yellow ducks. A year later, hundreds of the things began washing up on the islands around Sitka, Alaska, and amateur...

From The Blog
31 October 2012

New York City is the greatest public works project in the USA. It is a city of tubes, grids, circuits and networks. We are organised by numbered floors and numbered streets and numbered apartments, fed and watered through great pipes and tunnels and bridges, shuttled to and fro in shifts along lines. On Monday night the magnificent machines were revealed to us, as they failed one by one.

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