Chapters 5 and 6 are, in my opinion, excellent encapsulations of the current state of affairs with regard to post-modern relationship dysfunction. The things that are hard are in fact made harder by the sheer magnitude of opportunities to forgo the work of life and fill our needs with cheap substitutes.
Before I get into that, though, I am noticing in Aziz Ansari the cognitive dissonance that is ubiquitous in the post modern west.
On the one hand, he senses that something is very wrong, investigates, and has been blessed with the advantage of having seen in his own parents and culture the wealth and depth of love that can come from marriages established far away from the altar of the soul mate myth.
On the other, despite all the mounting evidence, he cannot bring himself to judge harshly the processes, behavior and fruits of the modern “courtship” model. In other words, this sucks, and he knows it, but he wants the freedom to be one of the fortunate few who strike gold. I get it on a visceral level, but no solutions can be found without a willingness to limit one’s own choices.
Chapter 5: International Investigations of Love
Ansari and his fellow researchers decided to get outside of American culture to gauge dating culture in other parts of the world. While Europe was more libertine in many ways, more fascinating places to do research were those where the sexual culture is extreme. By extreme, I am referring to a lack of sexual and mating interest as much as the other extreme. He starts out in Tokyo, where the men are often referred to as “herbivores”, with all that this implies:
*In 2013 a whopping 45 percent of women aged sixteen to twenty-four “were not interested in or despised sexual contact,” and more than a quarter of men felt the same way.2 I’ve always wanted to describe a statistic as “whopping,” and I think we can concur, this is indeed whopping. Seriously, read those numbers one more time. Despised sexual contact.
• The number of men and women between eighteen and thirty-four who are not involved in any romantic relationship with the opposite sex has risen since 1987, from 49 percent to 61 percent for men and from 39 percent to 49 percent for women.
• A whopping one third of Japanese people under thirty have never dated,4 and in a survey of those between thirty-five and thirty-nine, more than a quarter reported that they’d never had sex. (Okay, that was the last “whopping” I’ll use.)
• Almost half of Japanese men and one third of women in their early thirties were still single as of 2005.
• In 2012, 41.3 percent of married couples had not had sex in the past month, the highest
percentage since the figures became available in 2004. There was a steady rise over the
previous ten years, from 31.9 percent in 2004.7
• Japan’s birthrate ranks 222nd out of 224 countries (modern romance, p. 117)
After laying out these startling statistics, Ansari reveals the findings of his first hand investigative search and finds -from the Japanese singles themselves_ that it is every bit as bleak as the numbers imply. Many men have turned to technology (this was a sad story if ever I read one) and alternative venues such as “Soaplands” to have their needs for physical intimacy met.
Ironically, the economic and technological progress for which Japan is known is also a culprit in its demographic crisis as the men there simply will not date and marry women whom they are not substantially more economically and socially well situated.
From there Ansari ventured to Buenos Aires, where the water seems to be laced with some sort of invisible aphrodisiac and the men, whom he called omnivores, seemed to be more aptly described as top of the food chain carnivores. I can only surmise that he refrained from use of the word “carnivore” for the sake of political correctness. Even the mayor of Buenos Aires had no reservations about making, on the record, what would be considered outlandishly sexist comments here in the States:
In 2014 a survey conducted by a nonprofit organization called Stop Street Harassment revealed that more than 60percent of women in Buenos Aires had experienced intimidation from men who catcalled them.
To a lot of men in Buenos Aires, women’s concern came as a surprise. When asked about the survey, Buenos Aires’s mayor, Mauricio Macri, dismissed it as inaccurate and proceeded to explain why women couldn’t possibly have a problem with being shouted at by strangers.
“All women like to be told compliments,” he said. “Those who say they’re offended are lying. Even though you’ll say something rude, like ‘What a cute ass you have’ . . . it’s all good. There is nothing more beautiful than the beauty of women, right? It’s almost the reason that men breathe.”
To be clear, this is the mayor. (modern romance, p. 128)
Much as in Japan however, this extreme does little to produce life long stable relationships. Rather, it’s a place where you might commonly happen upon a weeping woman during a stroll through any park, and where infidelity is as normal as breathing.
Women testified of men telling them with what seemed to be heartfelt sincerity:
‘I love you, you are the love of my life, I want to marry you, I want to have kids,’” said a twenty-seven-year-old Argentine woman named Sofia. “But then he never calls. (p. 130)
This chapter made America look like a mating Utopia by comparison.
Chapter 6: Old Issues, New Forms -Sexting, Cheating, Snooping, and Breaking Up
This chapter hardly needs a lengthy or deep exposition, so I’ll refrain from doing so. The title says it all.
Sexting was one of the instances where Ansari tried to present a non-judgemental approach, even as he heard the stories of women whose significant (or not so significant) others shared images and videos of them with strangers. I was not surprised, but still somewhat disappointed in the way this “harmless” trend was presented.
• Half of eighteen- to twenty-four-year-olds have received sexts.
• One third of older teens have sent a sext.
• Sexting is increasing among all age groups—except fifty-five and older.
• You’re more likely to sext if you own a smartphone.
• People who own iPhones are twice as likely to sext as people who use Androids.
• The most popular time to sext is Tuesday between 10:00 A.M. and noon. Yes, we looked this up twice. Strange!
• People who are married or in committed relationships are just as likely to have sent sexts as their unattached peers. p.133
An interesting question arose from Ansari’s study and it’s this: Does the nature and opportunity of current technology contribute to a rise in infidelity? The politically correct answer of course, was no. Cheaters gonna cheat.
In reality however, when presented with “risk free” opportunities to indulge their darker natures, people are more inclined to take the bait than they would have been if it required more toil and stress to engage the behaviors. Interestingly, the men he interviewed were a bit more honest about the fact that the affairs they engaged in which started on social media/texting probably wouldn’t have occurred without the ease of private conversations these venues produced:
Another user said that he started an affair that he simply wouldn’t have had the gumption to start without Facebook.
They worked together and were casual acquaintances. One day he looked her up on Facebookand sent her a message asking, “Would you like to get a drink sometime?” Soon after that the affair began.
“If Facebook didn’t exist, I doubt I would have gathered the courage to ask her directly. It made the initial step that much easier,” he said.
The advantages of technology that facilitate regular dating (such as the ease of access and the absence of the pressure found in an in-person interaction) also transfer over to cheating.
This includes the ease of escalation, which, when engaging in something as scandalous as cheating, is quite valuable. With messages you can slowly test the waters of potentially starting an affair. Once you find out the other person is on the same page, it can ramp up very fast. p. 139
And with these issues become the issues of mates “snooping” on one another and the rudeness of breaking up via text rather than in person like a mature adult.
In other words, this whole thing is one big mess in a time and place where character development is secondary to material success.
Until next time…