Humans are never going to stop touching each other naked, and we're almost certainly never going to stop touching our phones. If anything, the latter is eclipsing the former. But can you do both at once? Forget what you've heard. Yes you can.
Mid-coitus, even looking in the direction of your phone is presumed to be a record-scratching, door-slamming Did you seriously just do that type of infraction. The worst possible thing. Worse than moaning the wrong name, or stealing something from the bedroom. Love is supposed to be about connection, focus, intimacy, and other things, probably. So we're told that the bedroom and the gadget bin have to stay separate.
We've been lied to. There are exceptions.
Some ground rules
This isn't carte blanche. You can't unfold your laptop while you're chugging away, or play a full game of Angry Birds while getting a blowjob. I'm sorry, I wish I had better news, but you just can't—in 2012, it's far too egregious. In a few years? Who knows. But at this point of civilization's progress, you can still go too far.
Regarding positioning: If you think you might need to hit the cell while hitting something else, take the handset out and throw it on (or near) the bed. If you start digging in your jeans during the endeavor, you're going to get punched in the lungs.
You can take a call with a booty call.
A lot of this depends on who you're with. Is this someone you met passed out on the sidewalk next to a California Pizza Kitchen? The standards of decorum are slashed all around—phone contact included.
Debby Herbenick, PhD, Research Scientist at Indiana University and author of Sex Made Easy, concurs: "Two people who are hooking up and don't ever plan to see each other again might not feel so invested in being polite. I think they should be—it's only kind—but I can see where some people might decide to take an important call or text." Still, be prepared for the consequences: "They shouldn't be surprised if their partner gets up and leaves."
The important thing is that you were in the right. You can't violate the intimacy of an emotionless, impulsive, sexual vacuum, because there's no intimacy there to begin with. Text at will if you're that dextrous.
If it's super serious, you're set
The flipside is the real relationship. The one with love in it. Pooping with the door open. Comfort. You rely on each other, and the best part of being so close at this stage in your life is that you can take your partner's love as a given—you annoy each other from time to time, but you love each other more than you grate. So the occasional phone-check might cause an eye-roll, but it won't get you kicked in the stomach, your clothes thrown out a window, screams of YOU NERD ASSHOLE! ringing in your ears. After all, over the course of the relationship, you've probably done worse!
"If the couple is very secure in who they are, and how they feel about each other," explains Debby, "it might not be a big deal to take an important call. Not just any call, mind you, but a call from someone they've been waiting to hear from or something big that's going on. Or maybe if they have to run out really soon to get somewhere on time and they just need to check the time." Using your phone in bed is just another part of life together. It's like snoring. Just maybe err on the side of "this is for work," and not streaming something on Netflix while you're ramming each other.
You're probably a minor sociopath if you need to be told this, but you're not allowed to play smartphone games while you're having sex. Information is one thing, but an alternate form of entertainment is entirely different. It's inherently insulting, even if the sex really is worse than the game.
Avoid the gray area!
If you're somewhere between 4-am-stranger-sex and a solidified couple, you're in rough waters. You're still figuring each other out, and protocols might not match up. There could be huge discrepancies in what's cool and what's not. "If the two people are dating/hanging out, and maybe trying to see if a relationship is in the cards, it's definitely not advisable to answer a call or text," Debby cautions.
But if you're obsessively tethered to your phone or expecting something important, you can always go with the stealth peek: "If [your phone] went off, due to a text message or some kind of push alert, one could quickly glance at it. But some people would be sensitive to that," Debby says. "I think one could argue that it's an automatic reaction at this point, because we're all so trained to check our phones when they go off." See? Just blame society—we've been turned into automatons, and custom decides what's acceptable, not your partner.
Don't be a ninja
It's one thing to peek. It's another to try to secretly use your phone for extended periods during sex. It's easy to get away with a glance—odds are your phone is lying on your bed anyway, right? Debby agrees that "It's much worse if you're actively trying to hide it from a partner" as opposed to just owning up to it in moderation. That's when questionable tech behavior becomes deception.
Don't be an idiot
Use common sense, please. Come on: all of the above should be OK "as long as it's not right in the moments leading up to orgasm," warns Debby. That's sort of psychopathic, so most of you should be alright. Also, be kind! Be understanding! "I think it's better if the one whose phone it isn't is the one who says 'Go ahead and answer!,'" Debby says.
Handjobs and smartphones are perfect match
Nobody really cares about the HJ to begin with, so what's lost if you add a phone? Most men don't enjoy receiving them, most women aren't interested in giving them, so if you have to go through with the whole thing, just call a spade a spade and find gratification on an LCD screen.
"At least with a handjob, you can still do the handjob and talk on the phone if your partner is okay with it," Debby says. "The phone call doesn't get in the way of your performance. And let's face it, some people would be really turned on by their partner being on the phone while receiving sex in some form. But it's far more difficult to perform oral sex well and talk on the phone at the same time." Which sounds like a challenge.
When in doubt, use the dinner test
At a pause in the action, look down at his or her eyes. Stare into them. Now pretend that instead of lying, crumpled up on top of each other naked, wheezing, eyes burning with sweat, you're wearing decent clothes at a restaurant. Would you use your phone? The same standards should apply.
Smartphone use at the table has become more or less acceptable, which, yeah, decline of Western Civilization and whatnot, but it paves the way to the bedroom. Food and sex have always been related, what with the use of the mouth, various liquids, allergies, soiled textiles, satisfaction, etc. So there's a natural link when it comes to our phones, too.
Would you take out your phone and text on a first date? Probably not! The answer should be no.
Would you keep your phone around intermittently with your girlfriend? She probably won't care.
Will you be comfortable texting at a bar while some idiot dude is hitting on you? Surely.
So go forth and usher in a new epoch of shredded decency and lowered social standards. Be a pioneer.
User Manual is Gizmodo's guide to etiquette. It appears as if by magic every Friday.