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.

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Let's turn RBS into a bank for the public interest

A tarnished symbol of global finance could be remade as a network of local banks. 

The Royal Bank of Scotland has now been losing money for nine consecutive years. Today’s announcement of a further £7bn yearly loss at the publicly-owned bank is just the latest evidence that RBS is essentially unsellable. The difference this time is that the Government seems finally to have accepted that fact.

Up until now, the government had been reluctant to intervene in the running of the business, instead insisting that it will be sold back to the private sector when the time is right. But these losses come just a week after the government announced that it is abandoning plans to sell Williams & Glynn – an RBS subsidiary which has over 300 branches and £22bn of customer deposits.

After a series of expensive delays and a lack of buyer interest, the government now plans to retain Williams & Glynn within the RBS group and instead attempt to boost competition in the business lending market by granting smaller "challenger banks" access to RBS’s branch infrastructure. It also plans to provide funding to encourage small businesses to switch their accounts away from RBS.

As a major public asset, RBS should be used to help achieve wider objectives. Improving how the banking sector serves small businesses should be the top priority, and it is good to see the government start to move in this direction. But to make the most of RBS, they should be going much further.

The public stake in RBS gives us a unique opportunity to create new banking institutions that will genuinely put the interests of the UK’s small businesses first. The New Economics Foundation has proposed turning RBS into a network of local banks with a public interest mandate to serve their local area, lend to small businesses and provide universal access to banking services. If the government is serious about rebalancing the economy and meeting the needs of those who feel left behind, this is the path they should take with RBS.

Small and medium sized enterprises are the lifeblood of the UK economy, and they depend on banking services to fund investment and provide a safe place to store money. For centuries a healthy relationship between businesses and banks has been a cornerstone of UK prosperity.

However, in recent decades this relationship has broken down. Small businesses have repeatedly fallen victim to exploitative practice by the big banks, including the the mis-selling of loans and instances of deliberate asset stripping. Affected business owners have not only lost their livelihoods due to the stress of their treatment at the hands of these banks, but have also experienced family break-ups and deteriorating physical and mental health. Others have been made homeless or bankrupt.

Meanwhile, many businesses struggle to get access to the finance they need to grow and expand. Small firms have always had trouble accessing finance, but in recent decades this problem has intensified as the UK banking sector has come to be dominated by a handful of large, universal, shareholder-owned banks.

Without a focus on specific geographical areas or social objectives, these banks choose to lend to the most profitable activities, and lending to local businesses tends to be less profitable than other activities such as mortgage lending and lending to other financial institutions.

The result is that since the mid-1980s the share of lending going to non-financial businesses has been falling rapidly. Today, lending to small and medium sized businesses accounts for just 4 per cent of bank lending.

Of the relatively small amount of business lending that does occur in the UK, most is heavily concentrated in London and surrounding areas. The UK’s homogenous and highly concentrated banking sector is therefore hampering economic development, starving communities of investment and making regional imbalances worse.

The government’s plans to encourage business customers to switch away from RBS to another bank will not do much to solve this problem. With the market dominated by a small number of large shareholder-owned banks who all behave in similar ways (and who have been hit by repeated scandals), businesses do not have any real choice.

If the government were to go further and turn RBS into a network of local banks, it would be a vital first step in regenerating disenfranchised communities, rebalancing the UK’s economy and staving off any economic downturn that may be on the horizon. Evidence shows that geographically limited stakeholder banks direct a much greater proportion of their capital towards lending in the real economy. By only investing in their local area, these banks help create and retain wealth regionally rather than making existing geographic imbalances worce.

Big, deep challenges require big, deep solutions. It’s time for the government to make banking work for small businesses once again.

Laurie Macfarlane is an economist at the New Economics Foundation