This is the editorial note to TNI Vol. 13: <3. View the full table of contents here.
With its isolating interfaces, the Internet is — much like sex itself — no place for intersubjectivity. Maybe that’s why it has lent itself so well to dating. With Issue 13, the New Inquiry Magazine looks at looking for love in all the wrong places. Like, say, in books: Rob Horning reviews Love in the Time of Algorithms, which poses the economization of love as inevitable, along with the end of monogamy. But are people really so helplessly altered by online romance? After all, dating sites still generate actual dates, bringing together actual people: vulnerable, unpredictable, ultimately uncommodifiable. As Whitney Erin Boesel notes, online dating doesn’t differ profoundly from dating pre-Internet; the sites may offer speed and volume and “efficient” encounters as bait, but users aren’t necessary taking it. The fastest path to partnership, she concludes, isn’t necessarily the most appealing one.
In “Whips with Friends,” Helena Fitzgerald examines BDSM dating sites, wondering how well sex that thrives on secrecy can survive the exposure. Hannah Black chronicles romance grown too secret, finding a parable of surveillance in the story of an undercover cop who falls in love while on the job. Of course, not every stranger is a threat, as Adrian Chen points out in his piece on the oldschool social-networking site Makeoutclub.com, which had the virtue of not being explicitly dating-oriented. On that site, sexual tension was high because ambiguity lived: Other people’s intentions were never foreordained.
Yet ambiguity can be crazy-making. With Camille Paglia as her guide, Natasha Vargas-Cooper reminds us that romantic obsession can be fascistic — at bottom of the urge to clarify things is the impulse to dominate. Getting free sometimes means joining up: Mandy Stadtmiller, in conversation with Mike Thomsen, describes identifying as a sex and love addict. And in “The Withdrawal Method,” Erwin Montgomery argues that the only way out of the marketplace of desire is to politely refuse both relationship “work” and the equal and opposite labor of being a player: in other words, to emulate Bartleby, who simply “prefers not to.”
What would passive resistance do to online dating? We looked to Melville for an answer…
Read the full editorial note here.