Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Psychosexual Obesity And The Dating Apocalypse

Vanity Fair's "Tinder and the Dawn of the 'Dating Apocalypse'" is a must-read for those who are wondering where our culture is heading in terms of dating, sex and marriage. It's not an easy read, and it's R-rated graphic. I recommend it only because it is brutally honest about trending sexual behavior in the United States.

It's also helpful that it's not from, say, the Family Research Council. I have nothing against them, but we expect conservative or Christian groups to write about the ripple effect of unboundaried sex. It's not often a source such as Vanity Fair writes a story that, while not taking a stance about what people should do, clearly shows why so many people who are conservative or traditional in areas involving sex have legitimate reasons for being concerned about certain social trends.

I'm just going to highlight some excerpts. You can click on the link to go to the full article (which, once again, I recommend with great caution).

It’s a balmy night in Manhattan’s financial district, and at a sports bar called Stout, everyone is Tindering… At a booth in the back, three handsome twentysomething guys in button-downs are having beers. They are Dan, Alex, and Marty… 
“Guys view everything as a competition,” he elaborates with his deep, reassuring voice. “Who’s slept with the best, hottest girls?” With these dating apps, he says, “you’re always sort of prowling. You could talk to two or three girls at a bar and pick the best one, or you can swipe a couple hundred people a day—the sample size is so much larger. It’s setting up two or three Tinder dates a week and, chances are, sleeping with all of them, so you could rack up 100 girls you’ve slept with in a year.” He says that he himself has slept with five different women he met on Tinder—“Tinderellas,” the guys call them—in the last eight days. 
And yet a lack of an intimate knowledge of his potential sex partners never presents him with an obstacle to physical intimacy, Alex says. Alex, his friends agree, is a Tinder King, a young man of such deft “text game”—“That’s the ability to actually convince someone to do something over text,” Marty explains—that he is able to entice young women into his bed on the basis of a few text exchanges, while letting them know up front he is not interested in having a relationship.
...the lengthy, heartfelt e-mails exchanged by the main characters in You’ve Got Mail (1998) seem positively Victorian in comparison to the messages sent on the average dating app today. “I’ll get a text that says, ‘Wanna f***?’ ” says Jennifer, 22, a senior at Indiana University Southeast, in New Albany…  
“It’s like ordering Seamless,” says Dan, the investment banker, referring to the online food-delivery service. “But you’re ordering a person.” 
At a table in the front, six young women have met up for an after-work drink. They’re seniors from Boston College, all in New York for summer internships, ranging from work in a medical-research lab to a luxury department store. They’re attractive and fashionable, with bright eyes highlighted with dark eyeliner wings. None of them are in relationships, they say. I ask them how they’re finding New York dating. “New York guys, from our experience, they’re not really looking for girlfriends,” says the blonde named Reese. “They’re just looking for hit-it-and-quit-it on Tinder...” 
“They start out with ‘Send me nudes,’ ” says Reese. “Or they say something like ‘I’m looking for something quick within the next 10 or 20 minutes—are you available?’ ‘O.K., you’re a mile away, tell me your location.’ It’s straight efficiency...” 
“There is no dating. There’s no relationships,” says Amanda, the tall elegant one. 
“They’re rare. You can have a fling that could last like seven, eight months and you could never actually call someone your ‘boyfriend.’ [Hooking up] is a lot easier. No one gets hurt—well, not on the surface.” They give a wary laugh. 
“It’s a contest to see who cares less, and guys win a lot at caring less,” Amanda says.
“Sex should stem from emotional intimacy, and it’s the opposite with us right now, and I think it really is kind of destroying females’ self-images,” says Fallon. 
“It’s body first, personality second,” says Stephanie. 
“Honestly, I feel like the body doesn’t even matter to them as long as you’re willing,” says Reese. “It’s that bad. 
“But if you say any of this out loud, it’s like you’re weak, you’re not independent, you somehow missed the whole memo about third-wave feminism,” says Amanda. 
“I hooked up with three girls, thanks to the Internet, off of Tinder, in the course of four nights, and I spent a total of $80 on all three girls,” Nick relays proudly... 
Nick, with his lumbersexual beard and hipster clothes, as if plucked from the wardrobe closet of Girls, is, physically speaking, a modern male ideal. That he fulfills none of the requirements identified by evolutionary psychologists as what women supposedly look for in mates—he’s neither rich nor tall; he also lives with his mom—doesn’t seem to have any effect on his ability to get rampantly laid. In his iPhone, he has a list of more than 40 girls he has “had relations with, rated by [one to five] stars…. It empowers them,” he jokes. “It’s a mix of how good they are in bed and how attractive they are...” 
“When it’s so easy, when it’s so available to you,” Brian says intensely, “and you can meet somebody and f*** them in 20 minutes, it’s very hard to contain yourself.” 
They all say they don’t want to be in relationships. “I don’t want one,” says Nick. “I don’t want to have to deal with all that—stuff.” 
“You can’t be selfish in a relationship,” Brian says. “It feels good just to do what I want.” 
A “f***boy” is a young man who sleeps with women without any intention of having a relationship with them or perhaps even walking them to the door post-sex. He’s a womanizer, an especially callous one, as well as kind of a loser. The word has been around for at least a decade with different meanings; it’s only in about the last year that it has become so frequently used by women and girls to refer to their hookups. 
“What percentage of boys now do you think are f***boys?,” I asked some young women from New Albany, Indiana. 
“One hundred percent,” said Meredith, 20, a sophomore at Bellarmine University in Louisville. 
“No, like 90 percent,” said Ashley... “I’m hoping to find the 10 percent somewhere. But every boy I’ve ever met is a f***boy.” 
“I had sex with a guy and he ignored me as I got dressed and I saw he was back on Tinder.” 
“Women do exactly the same things guys do,” said Matt, 26, who works in a New York art gallery. “I’ve had girls sleep with me off OkCupid and then just ghost me”—that is, disappear, in a digital sense, not returning texts. “They play the game the exact same way. They have a bunch of people going at the same time—they’re fielding their options. They’re always looking for somebody better, who has a better job or more money.” 
A few young women admitted to me that they use dating apps as a way to get free meals. “I call it Tinder food stamps,” one said. 
“I think men have a skewed view of the reality of sex through porn,” Jessica says, looking up from her phone. “Because sometimes I think porn sex is not always great… those women—that’s not, like, enjoyable, like having their hair pulled or being choked or slammed. I mean, whatever you’re into, but men just think”—bro voice—“ ‘I’m gonna f*** her,’ and sometimes that’s not great.” 
“Yeah,” Danielle agrees. “Like last night I was having sex with this guy, and I’m a very submissive person—like, not aggressive at all—and this boy that came over last night, he was hurting me.” 
They were quiet a moment. 
“Some people still catch feelings in hookup culture,” said Meredith, the Bellarmine sophomore. “It’s not like just blind f***ing for pleasure and it’s done; some people actually like the other person. Sometimes you actually catch feelings and that’s what sucks, because it’s one person thinking one thing and the other person thinking something completely different and someone gets their feelings hurt. It could be the boy or the girl.” 
And even Ryan, who believes that human beings naturally gravitate toward polyamorous relationships, is troubled by the trends developing around dating apps. “It’s the same pattern manifested in porn use,” he says. “The appetite has always been there, but it had restricted availability; with new technologies the restrictions are being stripped away and we see people sort of going crazy with it. I think the same thing is happening with this unlimited access to sex partners. People are gorging. That’s why it’s not intimate. You could call it a kind of psychosexual obesity.” 


  1. Here's an appropriately well reasoned response to that article:

    I found it particularly cute that the Vanity Fair writer tried to defend themselves from the charge that the article is completely data-free by quoting the anodyne statement "All data and all studies are open to interpretation—that’s just the nature of research." Yes, of course, but some reporter's experiences wandering around New York bars are open to quite a bit more interpretation than n=33,000 surveys which indicate that Millennials have fewer sexual partners than Boomers.

    1. I think the article was trying to be clever, but using sarcasm to respond to a serious issue and countering an anecdotal article with even fewer anecdotes didn't really engage me. However, another friend sent me a link to a more serious response ( that argued anecdotes are not data, and that the small sample in the original story does not warrant apocalyptic predictions (they also shared your observation about Millennials vs. Boomers).

      That's a valid counter. I had not not seen the data rebutting the Vanity Fair article. However, data is nothing if not a preponderance of anecdotes, right? The researchers just have to his a reliable sample size. The Vanity Fair article may have made too much of its story, but I see no reason to doubt that there is a growing subculture that not only does what the author described, but is changing the dating and relationship scene in the way portrayed (at least in some places). Who know? Perhaps this trend will fade in time. One can hope...

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.