Olivier Zahm Is Worried About the Future of Sex

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Photo: Leandro Justen/Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan

The Purple founder can never sleep on the flight back to Paris, so he reads. “I am reading a book called The Future of Sex,” said the prolific documentarian of naked women late last night at L’Wren Scott’s after-party, still in his sunglasses and leaning against the wall near the elevators at the Gramercy Terrace. “It’s a French young philosopher. It’s brand-new.” So what’s the future of sex like?

“The future of sex is in danger. Sex is more and more problematic these days — in Eastern countries, because of the religion, and in the Western countries, because of capitalism. Capitalism makes sex as a product and as a virtual reality. So people are more and more obsessed by sex, but they have less and less sex. Did you see Shame? It’s all about that: permanent sexual obsession, because you don’t have access to the reality of sex anymore. You’re more and more living in a virtual environment of sexuality, which makes a real sexual interaction and erotic interaction difficult with people. Because we believe sex is just pleasure. And then people consume sex like they consume product. We are not product. We are more complex than that, and so we are more and more lost into a sexual obsession.”

Have we oversimplified sex in the West? “Exactly,” he said. “And we're disconnected from human communication in America, like in Europe. So then, it’s also because of the Internet. So, it’s hard to explain. But the future of sex is really dark.”

This was interesting, especially from a French fashion editor whose blog is wallpapered with erotic images of naked women. (NSFW, needless to say.)Yes, I love sexy pictures,” Zahm explained. “But they are glorification of the people I love. It’s a way to celebrate them. It’s just glamour to me — the way people in front of the camera like to have fun, interact, be sexy. So you know, there is no glamour without sexiness. It’s very connected.”

So, we’re sex-obsessed because we’re disconnected from real sex, and the proliferation of sexy images on the Internet promotes that — but Zahm is a fashion editor who traffics in glamour, which he cannot separate from sex, or at least, sexiness. Mind reeling, we wondered, how to change this?

I don’t know,” admitted Zahm. “For a photographer, it’s the purest form of beauty when people give their soul to an erotic picture. But maybe I’m part of the problem too.”