Slavoj Zizek​ Explains What’s Wrong with Online Dating & What Unconventional Technology Can Actually Improve Your Love Life

I once read a book by Lar­ry King called How to Talk to Any­one, Any­time, Any­where. Slavoj Zizek might well con­sid­er writ­ing a book of his own called How to Make Intel­lec­tu­al Pro­nounce­ments About Any­thing, Any­time, Any­where. From Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” to polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness to the Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion to Star­bucks (and those just among the top­ics we’ve fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture) the Sloven­ian philoso­pher-provo­ca­teur has for decades demon­strat­ed a will­ing­ness to expound on the widest pos­si­ble vari­ety of sub­jects, to the point where his career has begun to look like one con­tin­u­ous, free-asso­cia­tive ana­lyt­i­cal mono­logue, which in the Big Think video above reach­es the inevitable sub­ject: your love life.

Per­haps you’ve tried online dat­ing — a prac­tice that, giv­en the increas­ing­ly thor­ough inte­gra­tion of the inter­net and dai­ly life, we’ll prob­a­bly soon just call “dat­ing.” Per­haps you’ve had pos­i­tive expe­ri­ences with it, per­haps you’ve had neg­a­tive ones, and most prob­a­bly you’ve had a mix­ture of both, but how often can you take your mind off the awk­ward fact that you have to first “meet” the oth­er per­son through an elec­tron­ic medi­um, cre­at­ing a ver­sion of your­self to suit that medi­um? Zizek calls this online dat­ing’s prob­lem­at­ic “aspect of self-com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion or self-manip­u­la­tion.”

“When you date online,” he says, “you have to present your­self there in a cer­tain way, putting for­ward cer­tain qual­i­ties. You focus on your idea of how oth­er peo­ple should per­ceive you. But I think that’s not how love func­tions, even at the very sim­ple lev­el. I think the Eng­lish term is ‘endear­ing foibles’ — an ele­men­tary ingre­di­ent in love. You can­not ever fall in love with the per­fect per­son. There must be some tiny small dis­turb­ing ele­ment, and it is only through notic­ing this ele­ment that you say, ‘But in spite of that imper­fec­tion, I love him or her.’ ”

Fair enough. But what to do about it? Zizek thinks that the way for­ward for roman­tic tech­nolo­gies lies not in a less tech­no­log­i­cal approach, but a more tech­no­log­i­cal approach — or at least a stranger tech­no­log­i­cal approach. He imag­ines a world of “ide­al sex­u­al attrac­tion” where “I meet a lady; we are attract­ed to each oth­er; we say all the usu­al stuff — your place, my place, what­ev­er, we meet there. What hap­pens then? She comes with her plas­tic penis, elec­tric dil­do. I come with some hor­ri­ble thing — I saw it, it’s called some­thing like stim­u­lat­ing train­ing unit — it’s basi­cal­ly a plas­tic vagi­na, a hole.”

Dare we exam­ine where this sce­nario goes? The out­come may sur­prise you. They sim­ply insert her elec­tric dil­do into his stim­u­lat­ing train­ing unit, and voilà, “the machines are doing it for us, buzzing in the back­ground, and I’m free to do what­ev­er I want, and she.” With full trib­ute paid to the super­ego by their vul­gar devices, “we have a nice talk; we have tea; we talk about movies. I talk with a lady because we real­ly like each oth­er. And, you know, when I’m pour­ing her tea, or she to me, quite by chance our hands touch. We go on touch­ing. Maybe we even end up in bed. But it’s not the usu­al oppres­sive sex where you wor­ry about per­for­mance. No, all that is tak­en care of by the stu­pid machines. That would be ide­al sex for me today.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Slavoj Žižek Exam­ines the Per­verse Ide­ol­o­gy of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy

Slavoj Žižek Names His Favorite Films from The Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion

Slavoj Žižek Calls Polit­i­cal Cor­rect­ness a Form of “Mod­ern Total­i­tar­i­an­ism”

Slavoj Žižek on the Feel-Good Ide­ol­o­gy of Star­bucks

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­maand the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future? Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • Alex D'souza says:

    Online dat­ing is more about being attract­ed to some­body for one par­tic­u­lar rea­son than find­ing a per­fect per­son. You can do every­thing from your end but it all depends on the oth­er per­son, so you should be ready for every out­come.

  • David says:

    Attrac­tive appear­ances can be entic­ing on online dat­ing sites, but of course that does­n’t equate to find­ing com­mon­al­i­ties which can be much more chal­leng­ing and time con­sum­ing.

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