Sociology and dating Free 1 on 1sex chats
As a recovering sociology major (who will, in truth, never “recover”), I couldn’t help but try to make sense of Ok Cupid in the language of social theory.French theorist Pierre Bourdieu‘s is a bit of a behemoth, but having read every word (with the notes, highlights, and scribbles inside my copy to prove it), I can safely cite it as one of the most perception-altering things I’ve ever read. To summarize the gist of the book, Bourdieu examines how we use taste to figure each other out:“To the socially recognized hierarchy of the arts, and within each of them, of genres, schools, or periods, corresponds a social hierarchy of the consumers.It is the same self who is presented as observing himself, and he affects himself just in so far and only in so far as he can address himself by the means of social stimulation which affect others.The “me” whom he addresses is the “me,” therefore, that is similarly affected by the social conduct of those about him.”Mead’s argument is that we construct our “self” moment by moment, in accordance with our social situation: the “self” is socially mediated.It felt like a secret club: I never spotted anyone I knew in the listings.I mentioned my membership on the site only to a select few (although I was hesitant to confess at all) and was met with either repugnance, well-intended ridicule, or curiosity.In the case of Ok Cupid, we are expected to present our best, most desirable self on the “front stage” of our profile.“Doing Gender” by Candace West and Don Zimmerman describes the process of, well, doing gender, referencing Goffman in its definition of gender as “a routine, methodological and recurring accomplishment” and an “emergent factor of social situations”(126):“Gender, in contrast [to sex], is the activity of managing situated conduct in light of normative conceptions of attitudes and activities appropriate for one’s sex category.Gender activities emerge from and bolster claims to membership in a sex category.” (127)—you can find people all along every spectrum, from heterosexual to homosexual, monogamous to polygamous, virginal to kinky, and everywhere in between—yet for some reason, at least in my experience as a heterosexual woman, it seems to reinforce and even amplify gender in dating.
This spontaneous decoding of one habitus by another is the basis of the immediate affinities which orient social encounters, discouraging socially discordant relationships, without those operations having to be formulated other than in the innocent language of likes and dislikes.” (243)However, I think Ok Cupid leads us to rely too heavily on taste as a signifier of whether we’d get along with someone, or worse, as a reason to dismiss someone altogether. I’ll close off this section on Bourdieu with a quote about self-presentation that segues well into the next couple theories:“The interest the different classes have in self-presentation, the attention they devote to it, their awareness of the profits it gives and the investment of time, effort, sacrifice and care which they actually put into it, are proportionate to the amount of symbolic profit they can reasonably expect from it.” (202)“The ‘I’ of introspection is the self which enters into social relations with other selves.In my ideal world, Ok Cupid wouldn’t be a place to find people to serially go on one-on-one date after one-on-one date with, but instead to arrange intermingling between discrete social groups with an underlying understanding of openness to meeting new people, whether as friends or something more.After all, it seems like it’s easier to detect a particular from someone (thanks Cori [@plainpioneer] and Tom [@tomcatkitteh] for the enlivening chat about this at Bar Camp!) when, even in small ways that don’t have to replicate the rom-com meet cute, the encounter feels fortuitous.
I guess my mushy side doesn’t quite want to let go of the idea of a pleasant surprise over a completely rationalized system of dating.Therefore, you have good reason to be a bit suspicious of how any person is presenting him or herself to you and you alone, in a completely one-on-one interaction.