Spreadsheets: No one needs an app to make them better in bed

A new app says that the optimum decibel level for sex is somewhere between a snowmobile and a flute. We say it's time to get over this competitive attitude to getting it on.

Just in case you didn’t think your sex life had been colonised enough by market forces, along comes a new app that purports to tell you how good you are in the sack. Not only that, but the evocative tagline "Data. In Bed." conjures up feelings of such squirmy, throbbing erotic frisson that we’re not sure what to do with ourselves.

Notwithstanding the obvious criticism - which is that, if you suspect yourself of being crap in bed and are inclined to believe that sexual desire and enjoyment can be effectively be measured by an algorhythm, then your suspicions are probably correct – this app raises many, many questions. Such as: why have they named it "Spreadsheets", after the one of the least sexy inventions ever created by man? Spread . . . sheets. Oh, oh . . . wait . . . we see what you’ve done there.

Measuring as it does such performance indicators as duration, noise level and "thrusts per minute", it would perhaps be churlish to suggest that Spreadsheets is a piece of software designed by a man. However, it was probably was designed by a man. As any woman living in a post-Meg Ryan world knows (unless, of course, she is Rhiannon’s neighbour in Manor House, circa 2007), the amount of noise you make has absolutely no bearing on how good a particular shag is – in some cases, it can even be inversely proportional. As for thrusts per minute, well . . . we thought humping madly at your ladyfriend with the speed and enthusiasm of a Jack Russell was something most heterosexual men grew out of in their teens, but apparently not. The sample screenshot shows a shag lasting approximately ninety minutes, with an "impressive", if somewhat enthusiastic, 119 TPM (thrusts per minute) count.

The apps’ users are given points based on the above criteria, which has us wondering whether you can actually lose points if you carry on for long enough for things to start chafing. Judging by the already extant assumptions the app’s creators have made about what constitutes prowess in the bedroom, we’re imagining not.

The point-scoring element gives the whole endeavour a competitive edge, casting female pleasure as a challenge, a mountain to be climbed - as it were. But before all you horny straight lads head off in search of orgasm mountain, a word of warning. The sample decibel level for desirable orgasmic noise given by the app is 102. According to the environmental noise chart we just googled, this level lies somewhere between that of a snowmobile and a flute. However, the maximum level permitted for a UK residential area between 11pm and 7am is 31db, putting it at the level of a "quiet library whisper". Just putting the information out there . . . we wouldn’t want your rapid thrusting to result in you getting fined by the council.

Sadly, the information is never collated and therefore we are unlikely to ever witness a Guardian data blog dedicated to a leader board of "the internet’s biggest thrusters". This app has surely been produced by men who have watched far too much internet porn, and therefore believe that a loud, gutteral moan the minute the tip touches the sides is reflective of enjoyment, regardless of whether the woman present is sporting the same, dead look behind the eyes.

Of course, were a woman to allocate the points then things would be very different ("Ten points for every minute of foreplay"; "twenty for every erogenous zone in the bag"; "Fifty points for not calling me a ‘dirty little whore’"), but not only are there not all that many women making apps (something that clearly needs to change), but the way we rate what constitutes "good" and "bad" in bed is not easily quantifiable, and varies from woman to woman. The fact that the female orgasm is as difficult to put in a box as a limp erection has obviously led to the existence of the app in the first place. Some men must think they need it, but fellas, believe us when we tell you that you don’t, even if you’re insecurities prove true and your moves genuinely are rubbish. Because, as all the best lays know, really all you have to do is telepathically ask the woman what she wants, and then do it.

How long before the Guardian do a data blog of "the internet's biggest thrusters"? Photo: Getty Images.

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holly Baxter are co-founders and editors of online magazine, The Vagenda.

Photo: André Spicer
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“It’s scary to do it again”: the five-year-old fined £150 for running a lemonade stand

Enforcement officers penalised a child selling home-made lemonade in the street. Her father tells the full story. 

It was a lively Saturday afternoon in east London’s Mile End. Groups of people streamed through residential streets on their way to a music festival in the local park; booming bass could be heard from the surrounding houses.

One five-year-old girl who lived in the area had an idea. She had been to her school’s summer fête recently and looked longingly at the stalls. She loved the idea of setting up her own stall, and today was a good day for it.

“She eventually came round to the idea of selling lemonade,” her father André Spicer tells me. So he and his daughter went to their local shop to buy some lemons. They mixed a few jugs of lemonade, the girl made a fetching A4 sign with some lemons drawn on it – 50p for a small cup, £1 for a large – and they carried a table from home to the end of their road. 

“People suddenly started coming up and buying stuff, pretty quickly, and they were very happy,” Spicer recalls. “People looked overjoyed at this cute little girl on the side of the road – community feel and all that sort of stuff.”

But the heart-warming scene was soon interrupted. After about half an hour of what Spicer describes as “brisk” trade – his daughter’s recipe secret was some mint and a little bit of cucumber, for a “bit of a British touch” – four enforcement officers came striding up to the stand.

Three were in uniform, and one was in plain clothes. One uniformed officer turned the camera on his vest on, and began reciting a legal script at the weeping five-year-old.

“You’re trading without a licence, pursuant to x, y, z act and blah dah dah dah, really going through a script,” Spicer tells me, saying they showed no compassion for his daughter. “This is my job, I’m doing it and that’s it, basically.”

The girl burst into tears the moment they arrived.

“Officials have some degree of intimidation. I’m a grown adult, so I wasn’t super intimidated, but I was a bit shocked,” says Spicer. “But my daughter was intimidated. She started crying straight away.”

As they continued to recite their legalese, her father picked her up to try to comfort her – but that didn’t stop the officers giving her stall a £150 fine and handing them a penalty notice. “TRADING WITHOUT LICENCE,” it screamed.


Picture: André Spicer

“She was crying and repeating, ‘I’ve done a bad thing’,” says Spicer. “As we walked home, I had to try and convince her that it wasn’t her, it wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t her who had done something bad.”

She cried all the way home, and it wasn’t until she watched her favourite film, Brave, that she calmed down. It was then that Spicer suggested next time they would “do it all correctly”, get a permit, and set up another stand.

“No, I don’t want to, it’s a bit scary to do it again,” she replied. Her father hopes that “she’ll be able to get over it”, and that her enterprising spirit will return.

The Council has since apologised and cancelled the fine, and called on its officials to “show common sense and to use their powers sensibly”.

But Spicer felt “there’s a bigger principle here”, and wrote a piece for the Telegraph arguing that children in modern Britain are too restricted.

He would “absolutely” encourage his daughter to set up another stall, and “I’d encourage other people to go and do it as well. It’s a great way to spend a bit of time with the kids in the holidays, and they might learn something.”

A fitting reminder of the great life lesson: when life gives you a fixed penalty notice, make lemonade.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.