Thursday, August 13, 2015

Are millenials a bunch of feral animals in designer jeans?

I could just tell when I read the original Vanity Fair article that it would engender a lively back-and-forth.

That's just the kind of conversational power a piece called "Tinder and the Dawn of the 'Dating Apocalypse'" is going to have.

Then came the New York Magazine response:

Last night, the Twitter account for Tinder went on a tear against the Vanity Fair journalist Nancy Jo Sales, who recently argued, in her feature “Tinder and the ‘Dating Apocalypse,’” that dating apps are causing changes in human mating rituals of a magnitude comparable to those that occurred after the establishment of marriage. “As the polar ice caps melt and the earth churns through the Sixth Extinction, another unprecedented phenomenon is taking place, in the realm of sex,” Sales writes. “Hookup culture, which has been percolating for about a hundred years, has collided with dating apps, which have acted like a wayward meteor on the now dinosaur-like rituals of courtship.”
The traditional methods of dating and courtship are out; endlessly jumping from fling to fling is in. And women, despite the supposed benefits of sexual liberation, are coming out losers in this hurried new sexual landscape — used, then discarded in a pile of dick pics. For the article, Sales conducted “interviews with more than 50 young women in New York, Indiana, and Delaware, aged 19 to 29,” as well as many men, and it adds up to a series of sleazy, depressing stories. And she’s hardly the first journalist to raise this alarm: Over the last few years, reports on  “hookup culture” — some focusing on alcohol and campus culture, some on technology, and some on both — have become a thriving genre.
Although Sales pins her case on online dating in general, she’s mostly focused on Tinder, whose “swipe” function she sees as the epitome of quick and easy shopping for sex. Tinder did not like this, and 30 ill-advised tweets ensued, first questioning Sales’ reporting, escalating to claiming that Tinder is bringing people in China and North Korea together, and culminating in the grand pronouncement that “Generation Tinder” is changing the world.
This was standard-issue self-importance from the tech industry, a place where people go to make billions overnight while telling everyone that they’re also enlightening humanity. But here’s the thing: Tinder had a point, at least about the way Sales portrays modern dating culture.
If you hang out with stats geeks for long enough, one of them will probably utter the sentence, “The plural of anecdote is not data.” This is a well-worn nerdism, but it reveals an important truth: When we consider our experiences and those of our friends and family, we’re only getting a tiny chunk of the full story of humanity. In that town over there, or in that state on the other side of the country, things might be very, very different, and it would be a mistake to extrapolate from our little slice of the world. This is worth keeping in mind whenever a new moral panic is afoot.
Sales’ account is loaded with anecdotes: There’s the finance guy who claims to have slept with 30 to 40 women off Tinder in the last year; the 23-year-old male model who insists that women want guys to send them dick pics (cool story, bro); the sorority sisters bemoaning the fact that college men, drenched with easy access to sex, are so bad at it; and the 26-year-old guy — think of him as a Tinder-era Walter Sobchak — who assures Sales that if he wanted to, he could find someone to have sex with by midnight.
The problem is that while Sales certainly spins a good yarn, it doesn’t really add up to evidence that something revolutionary is afoot. 
Singal talks to researcher Jean Twenge and comes away with strong justification for concluding that Sales was acting out of confirmation bias:

Twenge told me that when she spoke with Sales, the journalist seemed to have arrived with some preconceived notions of what the real story was here, and was therefore very skeptical of Twenge’s data. “She said, ‘Well, I’ve gone around the country talking to college students and adults and all I’m hearing is about the hooking up and so on. I don’t believe what you’ve found,’” said Twenge. “I said, ‘Well, there’s a really big difference between going around and talking to people and a nationally representative survey,’ and I must have repeated that five or six times, and it was clear she was not really hearing me.’” Twenge made it sound like a classic case of journalistic and social-scientific culture clashing: “Suffice to say that this reporter had her conclusion and then just didn’t want to believe anything I told her about her analysis,” Twenge explained.
I emailed Sales about Twenge’s work: “The conclusions of the study seemed somewhat suspect to me,” she said. “And contradictory. For example: It finds that, while millennials have more open and accepting attitudes about sex, they also have fewer sex partners. This didn’t make sense to me. Nor did it make sense that people who are waiting longer to marry (or not marrying at all, so far) — that is, millennials — would also have fewer sex partners than past generations, who married earlier.”
But it doesn’t matter whether the conclusions of the study “make sense” to Sales. The whole point of a large, nationally representative sample is that it captures a bigger slice of the picture than more piecemeal efforts like traditional journalism. 
Then comes a Real Clear Politics piece by Heather Wilhelm that adds another layer of observation to the entire matter, and, as LITD sees it, gets to the core of what is going on - namely, the attempt by feminists to obliterate the differences in the way men and women experience sex:

So, which is it? Are we riding to heck in a smartphone-laden, relationship-killing hand basket? Or is everything the same as it ever was? The truth, I would guess, is somewhere down the middle. Certainly, functional relationships still exist; on the flip side, the hookup culture is clearly real, and it’s not doing women any favors. Here’s the weird thing: Most modern feminists will never, ever admit that last part, even though it would genuinely help women to do so.
If a woman publicly expresses any discomfort about the hookup culture, a young woman named Amanda tells Vanity Fair, “it’s like you’re weak, you’re not independent, you somehow missed the whole memo about third-wave feminism.” That memo has been well articulated over the years, from 1970’s feminist trailblazers to today. It comes down to the following thesis: Sex is meaningless, and there is no difference between women and men, even when it’s obvious that there is.
This is absurd, of course, on a biological level alone—and yet, somehow, it gets a lot of takers. Hanna Rosin, author of “The End of Men,” once wrote that “the hookup culture is … bound up with everything that’s fabulous about being a young woman in 2012—the freedom, the confidence.” Meanwhile, feminist writer Amanda Marcotte called the Vanity Fair article “sex-negative gibberish,” “sexual fear-mongering,” and “paternalistic.” Why? Because it suggested that men and women were different, and that rampant, casual sex might not be the best idea. 
Here’s the key question: Why were the women in the article continuing to go back to Tinder, even when they admitted they got literally nothing—not even physical satisfaction—out of it? What were they looking for? Why were they hanging out with jerks? “For young women the problem in navigating sexuality and relationships is still gender inequality,” Elizabeth Armstrong, a University of Michigan sociology professor, told Sales. “There is still a pervasive double standard. We need to puzzle out why women have made more strides in the public arena than in the private arena.”
Well, we could puzzle it out, but I have one theory: This isn’t about “gender inequality” at all, but the fact that many young women, by and large, have been sold a bill of goods by modern “feminists”—a group that ultimately, with their reams of bad, bad advice, might not be very feminist at all. 
Quite so. While at first glance - touch, kiss, lick, whatever - a woman who is instigating a casual encounter with exactly the same mindset as a man is the greatest thing since sliced bread to us males, if we take a moment to tap into our full humanity we see something fearsome in her that informs whatever ensues from there.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Re: calling millennials feral animals in designer jeans:

    As with every war, where there are military bases, there were also prostitutes. Honolulu's "sporting girls" were an interesting case. After Pearl Harbor, some houses of prostitution -- which were then located near the harbor -- served as temporary hospitals, and many of the "girls" came to wherever they were needed to nurse the injured. Under martial law, 1942-1944, prostitutes enjoyed a fair amount of freedom in the city -- more than they'd had before the war under civilian government.Under martial law, 1942-1944, prostitutes enjoyed a fair amount of freedom in the city -- more than they'd had before the war under civilian government. Near many military bases, reputed "victory girls" could be found, willing to engage in sex with military men without charge. Many were younger than 17. Military posters campaigning against venereal disease depicted these "victory girls" as a threat to the Allied military effort -- an example of the old "double standard," blaming the "girls" but not their male partners for the danger.

  3. Prostitution is immoral and a sin. It also makes sense for those who want to engage in that line of work to locate themselves where there will me concentrations of men who spend long periods of time without the company of women.

    But how does this relate to the post above - the first article, the New Yorker response, and Wilhelm's bringing in of the angle of feminist influence on the mores of our age?

  4. I didn't relate it to anything but your title and your incessant referral to America now as post-America as if it is somehow different from America the Beautiful of history now. As my snippet says, the "victory girls" gave it away for free. How is that prostitution? Also, your post is so long I nodded off before I completed it.