A thought

sorabji.com: Sex: A thought

By Rhiannon on Monday, May 1, 2000 - 06:24 pm:

    A thought occurred to me last night as I was listening to old American folk songs about love and birds and such:

    I think that the surge in divorce rates that the world saw in the 20th century is highly correlated with the invention and distribution of televisions. Now, as I'm feeling zealous, I am going to suggest that this may be more than a correlation. I'm suggesting causality. I'm suggesting that the more widespread TV viewing became (and by TV, I'm really talking about the media in general, media that comes to you rather than you going to it, if you dig...), the higher the divorce rates rose.

    I have absolutely no evidence to back this up. So I'm ignoring empiricism and turning to rationalism.

    Let me explain.

    I was reading words to American folk songs when this thought came to me. In fact, I was reading the words to a song ("Shady Grove"? "Lonesome Grove"?) that was about how hearing a bird coo for its mate makes one think about one's own mate.

    This made me think.

    1) Back in the day, the only people you could lust after were people you saw with your own eyes. No photos, no movies, no TV. (I'm not counting paintings.) So when you did see some beautiful girl/handsome man, you actually saw all of them. You saw them move, you heard them talk, you got a sense of who they were. So if you saw some babe in her carriage, thought "MMMMM," and then saw her act like a harpy at the ball that night...you wouldn't want her anymore.

    2) This leads to the discussion of feminine/masculine ideals of beauty/attraction/charm/whatever. Now, I could very well be wrong -- I have done no research on this topic and am only going by my own thoughts -- but...I am assuming: in the days before media, the ideal man or woman was described in terms of personality characteristics -- men were supposed to be courteous, brave, upright...women were supposed to be sweet, modest, quiet...etc. Because people knew...hey, you're going to live with this person for the rest of your life; sure, it would be nice to find someone who's easy on the eyes, but what really counts is how easy/pleasant they are to live with.

    3) But with TV/movies/visual media...now we have all these images coming at us all the time. Images of men and women whom we can never meet. Moreover, the images are separate from the personality. You can look at pictures of smiling models in magazines and think, "MMMMM," but if you knew that she was really a back-stabbing, "I'll rip your heart out and feed it to you with my foot while your best friend has his way with me" kind of girl, you wouldn't want her. But now, because you don't have that information, you still want her. And vice versa for women.

    4) So, what we have now is a development of unrealistic gender ideals. So people have unrealistic expectations of each other. So when people get married, they don't value the appropriate qualities in each other. So of course marriages fall apart.

    Does this make sense?

By Isolde on Monday, May 1, 2000 - 08:53 pm:

    Yes. It's an interesting theory. I think TV also helped purvey more casual sex. (Affairs; dovorce). Casual sex wasn't really a cool thing at the turn of the cenutry, and TV definently strenthened the idea that it wasn't such a bad idea to try, you know?
    *thinking thinking thinking*
    Now I'll be thinking about this while I make dinner...I'll get so caught up in sex I'll forget to stir the linguine. No good.

By doopry on Monday, May 1, 2000 - 11:02 pm:

    the traditional song "shady grove" that i know has nothing to do with birds cooing.

    all i know is that my parents should never have married. thank god they finally divorced.

By heather on Tuesday, May 2, 2000 - 12:01 am:

    at first i thought you were going to say that because of tv people don't have sex as often and that that might have something to do with a lot of divorce. anyway-

    what is 'back in the day'? within the history of america? 18th and 19th century america? before that?

    1a)seems like most people didn't have many choices in marriage partners. fewer people around, people married younger and respected their parent's opinions.

    1b)this is just a nostalgic view of the past

    2)was marriage about attraction and love? (don't think so) or was it- for family relations, for money, to marry someone likely to bear children...etc?

    3)pictures in magazines do not prevent people from being happy with their partners (i really, really hope this is true, or it is very sad)

    for many in the 'past', divorce was not an option.

    4)tv/movies/visual media tend to portray people who are Less than what i would want. characters do not replace people and i wouldn't want to marry someone with the depth of a page.

    a woman alone was worth nothing in many times and many places- suffrage is VERY recent. women put up with (and still do) affairs, mistresses, etc. because it it better or easier than being alone- or to protect their children.

    maybe marriage is an unrealistic institution for many people to fulfill.

    i believe in good marriages. i want one.

By Margret on Tuesday, May 2, 2000 - 12:24 am:

    i read something similar to this about popular genre fiction (where the men are manly and the women are willing and dewy, dig) in a course on comparative mythology.
    i think it's total shit.
    i think there are more divorces because the stigma doesn't attach to people the way it used to. i would say that people should try to work it out more often, but i won't. fuck it.
    i would suggest that not only does the relative decline in the impropriety of divorce make a big difference, but that the entire notion of romantic love as the appropriate reason to marry and stay married is a major influence. in fact, i will reverse myself and say the former is the handmaiden of the latter in the divorce rate thing. if you married to combine farms for the prosperity of offspring and the continuation of the line, then not loving your mate is no big thing.
    shouldn't you be getting ready for exams, rhiannon?

By heather on Tuesday, May 2, 2000 - 12:39 am:

    shit, i forgot all about the jive

By semillama on Tuesday, May 2, 2000 - 08:55 am:

    WE all know that TV is the root of all evil in our society.

    No, actually, it's my cable company, which replaced "Bravo" with C-SPAN2 book discussions.

By Rhiannon on Tuesday, May 2, 2000 - 12:32 pm:

    Ah, see, I knew I hadn't thought that out far enough. Thank you all for clarifying things.

    And TV is indeed the root of all evil today. I guess I was looking for one more charge to be brought against it.

By Warner on Tuesday, May 2, 2000 - 02:08 pm:

    Actually, Studies show that Evil is the root of all TV....


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