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Six Degrees of Sexeration: How the Biggest Facebook Group Ever Never Was

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Can one Facebook group make a sexual map of the world?

We live in an era of ostentatious hookups — our grandparents would be ashamed at the transparency of our romantic lives. Facebook users, young and old alike, post pictures, comments, and links that make it all-too-clear who’s knockin’ boots with whom. Whether you’re sexually active in a small town or a big city, it doesn’t take too much scrolling through a feed to realize that your friends list is a bit more, ahem, "connected" than you'd assume. The Hungarian writer Karinthy seems to have been onto something with his six-degrees-of-separation hypothesis, but I'd go one step further: at times it seems everyone is connected by a chain of sexual partners numbering around six.

One night, after no fewer than six beers, I and six sexually connected friends of mine came up with an idea: a Facebook group that would connect everyone in the world through their sexual partners. Gradually, we settled on the name Six Degrees of Sexeration, to show just how small — and in turn, large — our sexual circles are.

Admittedly, the numbers are a stretch — for all seven billion of us to be sexually connected in a mere six links, everyone on earth would need to have an average of 43.74 sexual partners. That’s the kind of number most women would never admit to and most men would gladly lie about attaining. As it stands, the average number of sexual partners for adults in the United States is around six to eight for men and four for women.

"Our idea was to create a group limited to the Facebook friends we'd slept with, then watch as they added friends they'd slept with, and so on…"

Our idea was to create a group limited to the Facebook friends we'd slept with, then watch as they added friends they’d slept with. The possibilities of growth were exponential.

 But right from the start, the idea was trickier in practice. The first question was who would start the thing. One of my friends was afraid her conservative Old World family might disown her with such a public display of promiscuity and my other friend said that as a respectable chemist, he wouldn’t want his name listed as a creator. So it was left to me, unemployed-journalist-turned-commercial-fisherman, to create the group with my account.

Sitting in front of the chemist’s wide-screen TV with a Bluetooth keyboard, a mouse, and bottles of beer in hand, we created the group. We felt that, to make this work, we had to go all the way, so we forced each other to invite every one of our friends we’ve slept with, regardless of the natural awkwardness it would cause: “Hi, we haven’t spoken in years, but join this group to let the world know you’ve had sex with one us!” We did not, however, go as far as becoming Facebook friends with past lovers solely to invite them to the group.

Going through my list, I quickly realized there were many more of my Facebook friends I’d like to have sex with than ones with whom I actually had. A few weeks prior, I'd purged my friend list of people I didn't really care to stay in touch with, including a handful of would-be invitees. And I'd deleted my ex-girlfriend a while back out of spite, when I'd seen her status change from "Single" to "In A Relationship" — sigh. So in the end, I didn’t have all that many people to invite. Regardless, the two others followed suit, and we waited for our brainchild to grow and grow. 

We thought the idea would spread like wildfire though our sex-positive San Francisco Bay Area circles and beyond — we harbored grand delusions of being the biggest Facebook group ever, and this technically, I believe, was possible. The larger the group, the more anonymity you'd have when you joined — your name would be lost in the vast numbers of the group’s spreading waves. We’d find out interesting things: “Holy shit, I’m sexually connected to Julian Assange.”

"The larger the group, the more anonymity one would have with joining — their names being lost in the vast numbers of the group's spreading waves."

We quickly tried a little marketing with our invitees, asking them to join the group and then invite their own former lovers, saying it was a great sociological experiment. Shockingly, that didn’t go so well. The only feedback I got was a text message from my mom asking me if my  my Facebook account had been hacked by Russian spam bots. Shortly after getting the invite, a beautiful French girl who'd broken my heart years back posted "Why are people so fucking retarded?" as her status. (But then, I never had a chance of getting back with her anyway — c’est dommage.)

 

Over a year later our numbers stand at eleven — so much for exponential growth. It was a valiant attempt to do something provocative and novel with Facebook, but only ten others shared my enthusiasm: for everyone else, it was ridiculous and borderline creepy.

Yet hope remains. Maybe it’s time to give the idea another go.  I still have grand hopes for our little group — someday, people won’t think of it as “Nick’s pervy Facebook group.” They’ll just see the largest Facebook group of all time, and with a few more clicks, suddenly realize its true nature and what it really says about all of us. 

Then again, maybe it was destined to fail from the beginning. Maybe people would rather connect their sexual dots randomly than have the picture collectively drawn for them. Maybe that’s half the fun of these late-night drunken conversations: “You slept with who? Me too!” Or maybe the actual truth is just too dark: what if we’re all closer to each other “in that way” than we’d really like to admit? Some things are probably better left to the imagination. You can fantasize that you're chastely removed from the sticky fumblings of the rest of us down here in the dirt, or you can accept that we're all a lot more connected than it appears.