Sunday, September 20, 2015

Love in the Age of Tinder

I haven’t dated since the early 1980s. So I am wildly out of the loop when it comes to modern dating. But I’m always curious about what’s happening in our culture, so a Vanity Fair article on the online dating site ‘Tinder’ caught my eye this week.

From what I understand from the article, users of Tinder specify a geographical radius-of-interest, then scan photos of interested users in that zone. Using only the photo as a basis for decision—thumbing right for yes and left for no—they ‘hook up’ if one of their chosen users is also interested in them.

This is not about dating though. This is about sex pure and simple. Many of these ‘hook-ups’ last less than an hour. Specifying the distance to the hookupee means you can leave your friends at the bar, go off for a casual fuck, then rejoin your friends and continue partying; maybe even hookup again before the night is through.

I felt really sad by the time I finished reading. These young people are suffering the consequence of a huge misunderstanding of what the free love movement and women’s liberation movement of the 1960s were all about.

The free love movement did not advocate Tinder-like sex. What it did advocate was: if you feel a strong emotional and physical connection with another human being, act on it. Don’t be constrained by societal rules. This was the feminist message also, counteracting the double standard where men were relatively free to act on their desires but women were more limited.

The crucial difference between free love and Tinder is connection. Free love says connection is first and primary. Sex flows from that connection. Sex is actually secondary. You may note the word ‘love’ in ‘free love.’ It’s not ‘free sex.’

Somehow this became translated into ‘women’s equality means the right to have sex with anybody without any emotional attachment just like men do.’ It’s like the ethos of porn—sex stripped of all feelings—is becoming the American norm for sex.

This isn’t freedom. It’s the equivalent of America’s obesity epidemic, which is being fueled by consumption of processed foods completely stripped of nutritional value. Tinder sex is love-making stripped of the nutritional value of love and emotional connection. It’s starving the people who are consuming it. And at what cost in their individual lives and the life of our society in the future?

The author of the Vanity Fair article talks with groups of young men and women (separately to increase frankness) and it’s well worth reading. What came out in the discussion with some college women was that it was very unusual for them to have orgasms in a Tinder hookup. The men are only interested in their own pleasure, and sex often has a very porn-like feel to it. What was surprising was that in this conversation:
They talk about how it’s not uncommon for their hookups to lose their erections. It’s a curious medical phenomenon, the increased erectile dysfunction in young males, which has been attributed to everything from chemicals in processed foods to the lack of intimacy in hookup sex. 
“If a guy can’t get hard,” Rebecca says, “and I have to say, that happens a lot, they just act like it’s the end of the world.” 
“At four in the morning this guy was so upset, and I was like, Dude, I’ll just go to fucking sleep—it’s O.K.,” says Sarah, 21, the one with the long curly dark hair. “I get really tired of faking.”

These young people are interacting with other people through screens almost all the time. Are they losing the ability to interact authentically, face-to-face?