Sex and the Tin­der gen­er­a­tion


Grazia (UK) - - News -

To cel­e­brate 20 years since Sex And The City ex­ploded on to our screens, we asked you about your sex lives, and you an­swered. We learned that more than half of you have sex at least once a week, and 87% of you be­lieve that sex­ual com­pat­i­bil­ity is vi­tal for a suc­cess­ful re­la­tion­ship. The two big­gest rev­o­lu­tions to have hap­pened in the dat­ing world over the last two decades are the rise of dat­ing apps (44% think dat­ing apps have made meet­ing dates eas­ier, while 31% think that apps have made it harder), and the #Metoo phe­nom­e­non (35% agree that #Metoo has made them view pre­vi­ous sex­ual en­coun­ters in a new light).

Our favourite stat? More than half of you be­lieve in the con­cept of ‘the one’… ahh, Car­rie and Big for­ever!

Mean­while, Jean Han­nah Edel­stein, New York-based writer and Guardian Dat­ing Af­ter #Metoo colum­nist, won­ders what Sex And The City would look like in a post-we­in­stein, post-tin­der dat­ing land­scape…

THERE’S AN episode in the third sea­son of Sex And The City when Car­rie Bradshaw dis­cov­ers the in­ter­net. It’s 2001, and her new crush, Ai­dan, con­nects with her on AOL In­stant Mes­sen­ger. She’s alone in her apart­ment when her lap­top pings to let her know that he’s come on­line; she dives to the floor. ‘Can he see me?’ she hisses.

When it came to sex, Car­rie wasn’t naive, but when it came to tech­nol­ogy, she was an in­no­cent babe. Twenty years af­ter Car­rie, Sa­man­tha, Char­lotte and Mi­randa de­buted, it’s im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore the show’s im­pact on the way a gen­er­a­tion of women learned about sex and dat­ing. But it’s also im­pos­si­ble to deny how much of the show is now an anachro­nism. I couldn’t help but won­der: would Car­rie and Co be able to hack it if they were dat­ing in 2018?

There’s no ques­tion that the dat­ing scene in New York City has evolved over the past 20 years, and our smart­phones are at the heart of it. Car­rie and the girls were dab hands at meet­ing men to 

date in all kinds of places. And I can’t deny that when I ar­rived in New York four years ago, this might have in­flu­enced my hope that I would date a hand­some stranger who I met in the wild.

I soon lost that hope. Chat­ting up strangers is now a weird way to be­have, so much so that I once ex­changed flirty glances with a man on the sub­way plat­form over the course of months be­fore he asked me out… af­ter he found me on Tin­der (we went on a few dates and then shared many awk­ward com­mutes un­til I moved neigh­bour­hood). If you’re out with your friends it seems to be gen­er­ally as­sumed that you’re not out to make new ones. This may re­duce in­ci­dents of un­wanted ap­proaches – wel­come in the post-#metoo era – but also means that we’re all spend­ing a lot of time star­ing at our phones. The 2018 Car­rie would spend much of each episode swip­ing left and right.

Cou­ples who got to­gether pre-2012 may still have meet­cute sto­ries, but those of us who met our part­ners in the postTin­der era rarely do. And when I say ‘us’, I in­clude my­self and my hus­band. We con­nected via Tin­der, went on two dates, agreed that we were fall­ing in love and mar­ried a year later. Some­times peo­ple say that it hap­pened quite fast, and maybe it did, but as I like to say: I’d dated ev­ery­one else, and had the chance to fig­ure out what I wanted.

That’s the plus side of apps: where the SATC women were some­times re­duced to dat­ing their em­ploy­ers or their di­vorce lawyers, in the­ory, the city is our oys­ter when we sign on to swipe. You can ‘meet’ a guy from your neigh­bour­hood or you can ‘meet’ a man who’s just pass­ing through town, and choos­ing to spend time with just one isn’t nec­es­sary un­til you’re re­ally cer­tain. The flip side of this, of course, is the chal­lenge of over­whelm­ing choice. Forty-four per cent of peo­ple in Grazia’s sex sur­vey agreed that dat­ing apps make it eas­ier to meet peo­ple, but a sub­stan­tial 31% dis­agree, cit­ing judg­ment of ap­pear­ances as the main ob­sta­cle. Would Car­rie have toned down her iconic out­fits in her Tin­der pro­file to make them more man-friendly? Maybe.

The thirty-some­things in SATC were a fickle lot 20 years ago, and the truth is that New York­ers still are. We ex­pect to be able to choose from 17 dif­fer­ent flavours of cream cheese for our morn­ing bagels. Car­ry­ing dozens of the­o­ret­i­cal part­ners in our pock­ets does not in­cline us to ap­pre­ci­ate what we have in hand. Mean­while, apps fa­cil­i­tate in­fi­delity for those who de­sire it: Mr Big would be a fan, I’m sure.

The sex­ual free­dom en­joyed by the pro­tag­o­nists of SATC was much cri­tiqued in the me­dia when the show was re­leased – they slept with many dif­fer­ent men! They some­times had sex on the first date! – but their be­hav­iour seems bor­der­line de­mure by the stan­dards of the dat­ing-app era. When Car­rie and Ai­dan get to­gether, he post­pones sex again and again, de­spite her pleas, un­til he is ready. Now, more of­ten than not, sex comes first – as Joanna

Coles, au­thor of Love Rules: How To Find A Real Re­la­tion­ship In A Digital World, pointed out in a re­cent Times in­ter­view: ‘Peo­ple now have sex with peo­ple to fig­ure out if they like them, whereas, 15 years ago, peo­ple went out with peo­ple to see if they liked them.’

But some might ar­gue that’s not a neg­a­tive. In the Grazia sur­vey, 87% of re­spon­dents agreed with the state­ment: you have to be sex­u­ally com­pat­i­ble to be in a suc­cess­ful re­la­tion­ship. Maybe it’s not al­ways a bad idea to test that com­pat­i­bil­ity early; cer­tainly, that was the lesson that Char­lotte learned in her dis­as­trous first mar­riage to Trey. Then again, easy, early sex must be taken with the caveat that it doesn’t of­ten lead to a se­ri­ous re­la­tion­ship. The truth is that many peo­ple fancy sleep­ing with more peo­ple than the num­ber of peo­ple they re­ally want to romance. And our rel­a­tive re­lax­ation about sex hasn’t, it seems, eased judge­ment too much: the sur­vey also found that 53% of re­spon­dents re­ported be­ing slut-shamed.

And then there’s the break-ups. Back in the day, Car­rie’s com­bat­ive re­la­tion­ship with her writer boyfriend, Berger, ended when he left her a Post-it note, and women view­ers ev­ery­where reeled at the hor­ror. Now, ghost­ing is usual: ev­ery­one who’s spent any time re­cently be­ing sin­gle in New York has a ghost­ing story, and half the time we be­have as if they’re not even that big a deal. Af­ter all, what ex­pec­ta­tions should you have of the good be­hav­iour of a vir­tual stranger, even if you’ve slept with them? The de­bate is less about whether ghost­ing is ac­cept­able and more about sit­u­a­tions un­der which it is def­i­nitely not ac­cept­able. In many cases, a Post-it note would seem al­most ro­man­tic by com­par­i­son – he took the time to write it with an ac­tual pen!

And yet. Lest I give the im­pres­sion that it’s all bad: there’s myr­iad rea­sons that the SATC films aren’t good, and one of them is the way that the main char­ac­ters were squashed into tra­di­tional, het­eronor­ma­tive boxes at the end, de­spite the way that they lived non-tra­di­tional lives through­out the se­ries. Yes, dat­ing in New York still some­times ends in mar­riage, but these days it also doesn’t have to end if you don’t want it to. The NYC of SATC re­volved around thin and rich white women, their part­ners, and a cou­ple of to­ken gay friends.

The NYC of to­day is a di­verse place where it’s the norm to have friends from many dif­fer­ent back­grounds, who live across the gen­der and sex­u­al­ity spec­trum, for peo­ple to live in non-tra­di­tional fam­i­lies or choose to live alone. If Car­rie, Sa­man­tha and Char­lotte ar­rived in New York to­day, they’d have to make some rapid ad­just­ments to their old prej­u­dices and learn to use smart­phones. Mi­randa? She’s al­ready got it: by the time Car­rie and the oth­ers fig­ured out how to get to Brook­lyn, Mi­randa would have come out as a les­bian and be run­ning for gov­er­nor. Who knew that she would turn out to be SATC’S most 2018 char­ac­ter?

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