It’s hard to believe nowadays, but there was a time before everyone had an iPhone with a cracked screen. In fact, some people didn’t have an iPhone at all. The device’s relative novelty and rarity in those first few months meant the early adopters treated it like something preciously delicate — I don’t think anyone even let me hold theirs, let alone play with it — and so there was no debate when it came to protection: If you bought an iPhone, you bought a case for it, and the case would never, ever come off.
This was the sort of responsible, grown-up thinking I accepted when I got my own iPhone 3G in 2008 — just in time for a My Bloody Valentine reunion tour show that I remember as the first concert where the entire crowd had their iPhones out. The case I chose was rubbery and clear, but it gradually stained and peeled, which made the phone a lot less of a futuristic status symbol. But hey, I didn’t want it to break, right? You have to sacrifice some cool if you want security, which I guess is why marriage exists.
Anyway, fast-forward another month: I’m chatting with some pals when my buddy Matt gets a text and checks his iPhone, which I’m stunned to realize is not in a case. It looks impossibly thin, shiny and sleek in comparison to my greasy chunker of an encased iPhone. I ask him what the hell he thinks he’s doing. “What?” he says. “You don’t have a case,” I say, almost sweating at this point. “How can you not have a case?” Matt smiles creepily and leans forward to speak in a low, seductive purr: “Once you go bareback, nothing else will do,” he says, petting the lovely, naked phone. “It’s incredibly sensual.”
To my utter disbelief, another friend reveals that he doesn’t have a case either. “Oh yeah, it just feels way better,” he says. The conversation then turns to another subject, but that’s all the peer pressure I need to rip my phone case off the second I get home. And that’s what I do. Thus began my eight years of caseless iPhone use, almost a decade of raw-dogging bliss that included countless near-catastrophes and thrilling catches before I did finally drop my iPhone 6 face-down on a bathroom floor, shattering the glass. It was then that I had to reckon with a truth I had long tried to deny: Not putting a case on your phone is like fucking without a condom, and the cracked screen is basically HPV. You can tell yourself you’re being careful, but fate will not be denied.
I also recalled, on that painful morning, a woman’s stand-up comedy set I’d seen when the iPhone first came out: “If someone has an iPhone, they probably don’t have an STD, yeah?” she’d joked. Even then, the notion was laughable, but in 2017, when every fuckboy and thot has one, it’s downright absurd. It’s equally ridiculous—given the iPhone’s now well-established fragility and history of flopping into the gutter as you drunkenly heave yourself out of a taxi—not to keep it in a case. Then again, the necessity of condoms should be obvious, too — but millennials aren’t using them.
What’s up with this cavalier attitude toward our most valuable equipment, whether electronic or genital? Justin Bieber may be wealthy enough to hold his iPhone by the very corner, but even a bad boy like the Biebs has a case. It feels as if the rest of us have succumbed to a late-capitalist fatalism: We’re all gonna smash our phones someday, so you may as well go unprotected, and chlamydia is curable, so no call for a raincoat when you want to ride the slip-n-slide. Or maybe we just continue to buy the myth of our own invincibility, which traditionally wears off in one’s mid-20s, because it’s easier than admitting that we will quite soon become our uptight sellout baby-boomer parents.
I’m not saying contraception is going to solve all your problems, or that you should buy one of those ridiculously bulky iPhone wallets — which in this analogy seems like the move of that one guy in college who always claimed to wear two condoms at once. But come on, guys: We can and should do better. Wrap up your dicks and phones, and don’t let your crush assume you never practice safe sex just because you like to live dangerously with your pocket computer. Our generation has suffered too many accidental pregnancies and too much limited touch-screen functionality already. Remember, penises only go a few special places (unless you happen to enjoy getting yours stuck), but your iPhone has continuous intercourse with the entire material world.
What I’m trying to tell you is, when it comes to condoms and phone cases, nobody has ever regretted using either. Ask a few people who’ve gone without if they feel the same.