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Philosopher and social critic Slavoj Žižek dislikes the sense of self-commodification and self-manipulation innate in online dating. People strive for perfection when they set up dating profiles. Žižek believes love isn’t about seeing someone as perfect, but rather appreciating them for the reasons they’re not perfect. Perfection is an illusion, he says. “Perfection” is plainness. It’s innocuous and generic. This isn’t necessarily an endorsement of bold and honest self-expression, because as Žižek explains, it’s important to maintain manners and structure. Instead, Žižek promotes the idea of paying tribute to a perverse superego in order to be able to maintain civility. He then describes what he thinks the ideal date and sexual scenario would be — complete with the aforementioned “tribute.”
Slavoj Žižek is a Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic. He is a professor at the European Graduate School, International Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, Birkbeck College, University of London, and a senior researcher at the Institute of Sociology, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. His books include Living in the End Times, First as Tragedy, Then as Farce, In Defense of Lost Causes, four volumes of the Essential Žižek, and Pandemic!: COVID-19 Shakes the World.
Slavoj Žižek: The problem I see with online dating is that it always automatically involves this aspect of self-commodification or self-manipulation. When you date online, you have to present yourself there in a certain way putting forward certain qualities. You present an image of yourself. 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. And so called, I think the English term is “endearing foibles,” elementary ingredient on 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.
A funny story: They made in Europe, not in the United States, some decades ago when the two big modeling stars were Claudia Schiffer and Cindy Crawford. They made in France, I think, a big opinion poll like, “Whom would you prefer to live with?” Cindy Crawford won. You know why? Because of that birth, that particular small mole here, whatever, birthmark. The idea was Claudia Schiffer is too perfect. There must be some tiny element of imperfection.
And now let me tell you a totally crazy personal experience, which happened to me. I was talking once in a faraway country somewhere in Latin America. Of course I will not say where. A still very attractive lady, sexually, late 30s, who told me of a strange thing that happened to her. She told me that when her last lover saw her naked before making love that he told her if you were just to lose three, four pounds, your body would have been perfect. And I told her just don’t lost three or four pounds. Because, you know, like if she were effectively to lose three or four pounds she wouldn’t be perfect. She would just be plain. The illusion of perfection is created precisely by this excess. It’s too much, but then you imagine or without this it would have been perfect. If you say — if you take away this excess you don’t get perfect, you know. This is what in psychoanalytic theory we call object cause of desire. Not object of desire, object of desire I think in this case is a woman or a man or whatever. But the cause of desire in the sense of what makes you fall in love is always a sign of imperfection. So that’s for me a big problem in I don’t, I’m not doing it so I don’t know enough of it how to include into online dating this element of contingency.
I don’t find a problem with online dating in the idea that you are not spontaneous, et cetera. Listen, we are never spontaneous. If there is a big lesson of all those Big Brother and other reality shows, it’s that even when we are just ourselves in private life we always play being ourselves. And I think this is in a way a good thing. I mean when people say no, you know, all these actor studio methodology — express yourself, be who you really are. Well I think most people are monsters secretly. I think — I like to live in a society where you do whatever you want. Just please don’t express yourself too much, you know…
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