Adult dating sites flourish as people seek sex over love


Relationships



Even at sex sites you can't skip the dating

By JENNIFER EGAN NOV. The city is full of people we can't reach. We pass them on sidewalks, sit across from them in the subway and in adult dating sites flourish as people seek sex over love we glimpse their lighted windows from our own lighted windows late at night. That's in New York. In most of America, people float alongside one another on freeways as they drive between the city and the places where they live. To lock eyes with a stranger is to feel the gulf between proximity and familiarity and to wish -- at least sometimes, briefly, most of us -- that we could jump the hedges of our own narrow lives and find those people again when they drift out of sight.

In a sense, the explosion of online personals speaks to the fervency of that wish. Online dating is the most lucrative form of legal paid online content. According to comScore Networks, which monitors consumer behavior on the Internet, 40 million Americans visited at least one online dating site in August -- 27 percent of all Internet users for that month. The sites they visited range from behemoths like Yahoo! In between are midsize companies like Spring Street Networks, which pools the personals ads for some publications nationwide, including Salon.

A recent entrant, Friendster, conceived of as a site for dating and meeting new people through mutual friends, has become a raging fad among the younger set and now claims more than three million members. The societal reasons for this fury of activity are so profound that it's almost surprising that online dating didn't take off sooner: Americans are marrying later and so are less likely to meet their spouses in high school or college.

They spend much of their lives at work, but the rise in sexual harassment suits has made workplace relationships tricky at best. Among a more secular and mobile population, social institutions like churches and clubs have faded in importance. That often leaves little more than the ''bar scene'' as a source of potential mates. Many single people I spoke to saw this as their only option, aside from online dating. Improved technology -- namely, the proliferation of broadband and the abrupt ubiquity of digital cameras -- partly explains online dating's surge in popularity.

More critical still is the fact that the first generation of kids to come of age on the Internet are now young adults, still mostly single, and for them, using the Web to find what they need is as natural as using a lung to suck in air. They get jobs and apartments and plane tickets online -- why not dates? Still, a fair number of people continue to feel a stigma about dating online, ranging from the waning belief that it's a dangerous refuge adult dating sites flourish as people seek sex over love the desperate and unsavory to the milder but still unappealing notion that it's a public bazaar for the sort of people who thrive on selling themselves.

The shopping metaphor is apt; online dating involves browsing and choosing among a seemingly infinite array of possible mates. But those who see a transactional approach to coupling as something new and unseemly would do well to pick up a novel by Jane Austen, where characters are introduced alongside their incomes. There is nothing new about the idea of marriage as a business transaction. Serendipitous love is what's new, love borne of chance, love like what engulfed my grandparents after my grandfather, then a resident physician at a Chicago hospital emergency room, happened to remove my grandmother's appendix.

Serendipitous love as a romantic ideal is a paean to cities and their dislocations, the unlikely collisions that result from thousands of strangers with discrete histories overlapping briefly in time and space. And adult dating sites flourish as people seek sex over love dating is not the opposite of this approach to love, but its radical extension; if cities erase people's histories and cram them together in space, online dating sites erase both cities and space, gathering people instead under the virtual rubric of a brand.

The defining fact of online dating is that it begins outside any context -- historical, temporal, physical. To compensate, dating sites offer the old-fashioned comfort of facts: To ask whether this lack of real-world online dating for adults with learning difficulties is ''good'' or ''bad'' is to oversimplify; online personals are a natural outcropping of our historical and technological landscape -- one more proof of the fact that time and space are ceding their primacy as organizers of our experience.

Better questions might be, How do they work and how is the way they work changing the nature of courtship? Online dating profiles may begin as jokes or time wasters at work or good deeds on behalf of single, lonely friends whose digital picture you happen to have in your hard drive. But for the serious online dater, the personal profile -- the page alloted to each client on dating Web sites -- quickly assumes a pivotal importance.

Whether visible or hidden meaning people can see it only if you contact them firstprofiles are as intrinsic to online dating as cards are to poker. The profile does the legwork of materializing before potential love interests and braving with a smile their contemplation, dismissal, exegesis, mockery or the whiplash of being zapped among friends as an e-mail attachment whose subject heading reads, ''Check this one out.

It keeps vigil day and night, dutifully holding your place in the queue of romantic prospects drummed up by the thousands of searches all over the world whose criteria you happen to meet. What this means is that tens of millions of Americans, a great many of whom have never gone near a virtual-reality game, find themselves employing ''avatars,'' or digital embodiments of themselves, to make a first impression in their absence.

Dating profiles are works in progress, continually edited and tweaked, fortified with newer, more flattering pictures. If they were physical documents, they would have the velvety, dogeared texture of beloved children's books or 19th-century family Bibles. Often they're made collaboratively, with friends, or at least vetted by someone of the same sex as their target audience.


Crimes all sex sites

Love in the Time of No Time

JAPAN SEX


Add a comment

Your e-mail will not be published. Required fields are marked *