Intelligent, subtle anaylsis about the uncontrolled free-market of dating

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Sexual Free Market

On Google it gets 24 hits. So I'm not the first one to use the term "sexual free market", but I'm going to be the first to flesh it out.

Urban-suburban young people under 40 in the West are living in probably the most unregulated sexual free market in the world, possibly of all time. "Sexual free market" is not the same as "free love", much less hedonistic orgies. Rather, the SFM is a culture where the mating process is not established by codes generally accepted across society. It's not too different from an unregulated economy.

To contrast, a traditional society does not have such a free sexual market. Remember Tevye from "Fiddler on the Roof?" He tried to follow the rules established in his particular community and point in history. "Marriages must be arranged by the papa," he sings demandingly, as he watches his daughters run off with men he did not choose.

In traditional Japan (even occasionally today), a couple often met in an "omiai". The parents, sometimes with the help of a matchmaker, would recommend two young people for each other and sit them down at a table across from each other. Often, the parents themselves would be present. Then, after meeting, the potential husband and wife tell their parents if they like the other one... and then they meet again, or the match is vetoed.

These regulations served, depending on culture and time, to ensure that most members of a society had a chance to mate and marry. With all the regulations, true lovers were less likely to find each other. This may have made some couples unhappier than had they met other mates. But it also made it easier to find a mate, and usually people did it sooner than they do today.

In the modern West, we have been doing away with such rituals over time, deregulating the mating market. The consequences of this are not too different than the consequences of deregulating an economy. People go on a frenzy, given more choice and more freedom to pursue economic activity. At the same time, individuals lose security as rules (welfare, state institutions, currency markets) disappear designed to protect them. Unregulated markets tend to produce more haves and have-nots, although the haves tend to have altogether much, much more. The United States (less regulated) has a greater income gap than Sweden (more regulated), but more millionaires -- hence a greater chance to become a millionaire.

So is the case with dating. Through the 1950s, there was still some sense of rules among urban and suburban Westerners and the way they mated. The first date, the second date, sipping with two straws from the same drink at the soda fountain

Now a woman who'll kiss on a very 1st date
Is usually a hussy
And a woman who'll kiss on the second time out
Is anything but fussy
But a woman who'll wait 'till the 3rd time around
Head in the clouds, feet on the ground
She's the girl he's glad he's found
She's his Shipoopi.

(Meredith Willson, 1957)

Where's the shipoopi gone? It's become a dance on a night club floor, freakin' all over her poopi. Who courts anymore like George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life"? I'm not going to lasso the moon for you, but if you respond to my ad, I might be willing to go dutch on drinks before dumping (my 87th dump of the season!).