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.

John Moore
Show Hide image

The man who created the fake Tube sign explains why he did it

"We need to consider the fact that fake news isn't always fake news at the source," says John Moore.

"I wrote that at 8 o'clock on the evening and before midday the next day it had been read out in the Houses of Parliament."

John Moore, a 44-year-old doctor from Windsor, is describing the whirlwind process by which his social media response to Wednesday's Westminster attack became national news.

Moore used a Tube-sign generator on the evening after the attack to create a sign on a TfL Service Announcement board that read: "All terrorists are politely reminded that THIS IS LONDON and whatever you do to us we will drink tea and jolly well carry on thank you." Within three hours, it had just fifty shares. By the morning, it had accumulated 200. Yet by the afternoon, over 30,000 people had shared Moore's post, which was then read aloud on BBC Radio 4 and called a "wonderful tribute" by prime minister Theresa May, who at the time believed it was a genuine Underground sign. 

"I think you have to be very mindful of how powerful the internet is," says Moore, whose viral post was quickly debunked by social media users and then national newspapers such as the Guardian and the Sun. On Thursday, the online world split into two camps: those spreading the word that the sign was "fake news" and urging people not to share it, and those who said that it didn't matter that it was fake - the sentiment was what was important. 

Moore agrees with the latter camp. "I never claimed it was a real tube sign, I never claimed that at all," he says. "In my opinion the only fake news about that sign is that it has been reported as fake news. It was literally just how I was feeling at the time."

Moore was motivated to create and post the sign when he was struck by the "very British response" to the Westminster attack. "There was no sort of knee-jerk Islamaphobia, there was no dramatisation, it was all pretty much, I thought, very calm reporting," he says. "So my initial thought at the time was just a bit of pride in how London had reacted really." Though he saw other, real Tube signs online, he wanted to create his own in order to create a tribute that specifically epitomised the "very London" response. 

Yet though Moore insists he never claimed the sign was real, his caption on the image - which now has 100,800 shares - is arguably misleading. "Quintessentially British..." Moore wrote on his Facebook post, and agrees now that this was ambiguous. "It was meant to relate to the reaction that I saw in London in that day which I just thought was very calm and measured. What the sign was trying to do was capture the spirit I'd seen, so that's what I was actually talking about."

Not only did Moore not mean to mislead, he is actually shocked that anyone thought the sign was real. 

"I'm reasonably digitally savvy and I was extremely shocked that anyone thought it was real," he says, explaining that he thought everyone would be able to spot a fake after a "You ain't no muslim bruv" sign went viral after the Leytonstone Tube attack in 2015. "I thought this is an internet meme that people know isn't true and it's fine to do because this is a digital thing in a digital world."

Yet despite his intentions, Moore's sign has become the centre of debate about whether "nice" fake news is as problematic as that which was notoriously spread during the 2016 United States Presidential elections. Though Moore can understand this perspective, he ultimately feels as though the sentiment behind the sign makes it acceptable. 

"I use the word fake in inverted commas because I think fake implies the intention to deceive and there wasn't [any]... I think if the sentiment is ok then I think it is ok. I think if you were trying to be divisive and you were trying to stir up controversy or influence people's behaviour then perhaps I wouldn't have chosen that forum but I think when you're only expressing your own emotion, I think it's ok.

"The fact that it became so-called fake news was down to other people's interpretation and not down to the actual intention... So in many interesting ways you can see that fake news doesn't even have to originate from the source of the news."

Though Moore was initially "extremely shocked" at the reponse to his post, he says that on reflection he is "pretty proud". 

"I'm glad that other people, even the powers that be, found it an appropriate phrase to use," he says. "I also think social media is often denigrated as a source of evil and bad things in the world, but on occasion I think it can be used for very positive things. I think the vast majority of people who shared my post and liked my post have actually found the phrase and the sentiment useful to them, so I think we have to give social media a fair judgement at times and respect the fact it can be a source for good."

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.