To some, the singles scene has already hit apocalyptic territory. So what would a fictional dating dystopia look like?

In its fourth season, the Netflix series “Black Mirror” makes a pretty good guess. Its episode follows Frank (Joe Cole) and Amy (Georgina Campbell), who are stuck in an online dating experiment called the System, which pairs users off for finite amounts of time (anywhere from 12 hours to several years) while collecting data on their preferences so that it can one day deliver their one true love.

At first “Hang the DJ’s” premise appears to be a more cheerful version of “The Lobster,” a dark comedy about a hotel where singles are sent to meet their match, or else. After 45 days, those who don’t find a suitable mate get turned into the animal of their choosing. It took the idea of “dying alone” to frightening heights.

Even if the constant pairings in “Hang the DJ” seem like drudgery, the episode is far more optimistic than “The Lobster.” Even as Frank and Amy drudge through unsatisfying matches, success seems more inevitable than a lifetime of loneliness.

In fact, there are a few elements in “Hang the DJ’s” fictional universe that, at least at first glance, might seem like improvements on the real-life Tinder slog.

Singles get to meet each other right away. Are you tired of coming up with small talk with strangers over Tinder messages? Of course you are. Instead, the System pairs people instantly and picks the meetup spot.

Back in 2013, OkCupid tried something like this: an app called Crazy Blind Date, where profile photos were displayed as a scrambled image. Users would input the times they had available to meet up and preferred locations. The app would then either set people up blindly or allow them to schedule with another user based on the times and locations they had on offer. It sounds like a brilliant way to do an end-run around endless predate conversing, but OkCupid got a lot of backlash over the app. Why? Well, one of the reasons people often don’t want to go on dates immediately with strangers from the Internet is that they want to make sure they’ll be safe — and often picking a public place isn’t enough to ensure that. However, in the serene yet sanitized world Frank and Amy find themselves in, the danger seems to come not from their dates but from the security officers stalking about with stun guns.

Everyone seems to be looking for the same thing: a relationship. What a concept. In real life, not only do daters experience bad matches (someone who doesn’t like you, you don’t like them, or you clearly both don’t like each other), but they also endure the heartbreak of good matches with bad timing (such as one person being off to a job or grad school in a different city). Not to mention online daters having to shoehorn these meetups and their relationships into their busy, stressful lives. In “Hang the DJ’s” community of singles, everyone seems to be on the same timeline, or at least they’re willfully submitting to the System’s.

Would devoting every waking hour to finding a partner be better than the balancing act most singles experience now? It might be more effective, but it could drive you crazy in the meantime. Do the contestants on “The Bachelor,” who are doing pretty much that, seem well-adjusted to you?

It gives couples certainty about how long they’ll be together. Call me a cynic, but when Frank and Amy hit their System buttons on their first date and found out their relationship would last a grand total of 12 hours, I was incredibly relieved for them. They both seemed disappointed. But all I could think was: Wow, that makes it easy! No anxious thoughts about whether and when the person you’re with might break up with you; no energy spent on the uncertainty of dating. Everything is decided for you. What a relief!

But also: What a nightmare! This is basically technology-brokered arranged marriage with zero human input. The horrors of which are obvious when you see how miserable some of the Frank and Amy’s other matches are.

You have lots of options, but you know you’ll end up with the best. When the dangers of online dating are discussed in real life, the paradox of choice comes up. This is the idea that, faced with an abundance of choices, be it on Tinder or brands of cereal, we’ve become not freer and happier but more paralyzed and dissatisfied. The System aims to offer the best of both worlds: Lots of options, and at the end of it you get the best one.

I won’t give away the ending, but ultimately the episode becomes not an indictment of dating apps like Tinder but an endorsement of them. In a story that starts by telling its characters to hand over their free will to the supremacy of technology, it ends up melding the two. Yes, the app puts two people together, but they still have to make choices to be happy.

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Webcam Chat

Sex Workers in Australia

Jane Taylor* has a lot of things to worry about when her husband is deployed. Will he come home alive? Will her kids see their dad again? But until last month, “Will he slip up and sleep with a taxpayer-funded sex worker?” wasn’t one of them.

Like many military wives, Brisbane, Australia, resident Jane was horrified to read Australian army Capt. Sally Williamson recommending prostitutes be sent to the front line to help “relieve stress” in serving troops.

In an essay titled “Sex and War – A Conversation Army Has To Have” published on an official Australian Defence Force website last month, Williamson suggested the army “contract Australian male and female sex workers to service troops in forward operating bases and air bases.”

Williamson said sex on deployment could help ease the stress of “loneliness or prolonged absence from family, friends, partners and spouses” as well as make it easier to cope with living and working in a war zone.

“Improved intimacy and sexual interaction can help combat veterans with PTSD recovery,” wrote Williamson, who is currently serving in the Middle East.

In Australia, it should be noted, sex work is legal, although each state in the country regulates it differently.

Sex Worker

 

 

The controversial comments spread through the defense community with lightning speed. The post was deleted from the army’s Land Power site after just 10 days, but it was too late — word had gotten out.

“I’ve never felt like I was worth less than I did when I read that essay,” Jane, who has two children and another on the way, tells Whimn. “For Defence to condone something like that, to post it on an official army website, that is frankly disgusting.”

Jane says loneliness is a massive problem for serving men and women. Suicide rates in the military are high, with servicemen and -women more than twice as likely to commit suicide than those in the general population. Divorce rates are similarly high, so it’s understandable that people are looking for answers and ways to improve the lives of armed forces personnel.

But Jane says providing sex workers will only make both problems worse.

“If you’ve got prostitutes prancing around the front line, the boys are going to be coming home to nothing,” she says. “Because I can tell you now that the wives aren’t going to sit around waiting to see if their husband is going to do something.”

“Every single day they’re away you worry. You worry about whether they’re coming home alive, about whether your kids are going to see their dad again. Every second you’re wondering if they’re alive.”

“The last thing we need is the added worry that your husband might get drunk one night and make a terrible mistake because they’re lonely and there’s easy sex nearby.”

“Then what? They come home, tell their wives about it and get kicked out? Or keep their secret until it eats them up inside? It’s more stress they don’t need. Suicide rates will go up. Divorce rates will go up because we aren’t going to put up with this.”

So, what should happen?
Instead, Jane thinks the Department of Defence should let serving troops spend more time with their families. As it stands, most servicemen and -women are allowed one to two weeks of leave in the middle of a deployment, when they can fly to any destination for a holiday with their partner.

But deployments can last up to a year, and a week or two is just not long enough for the majority of families, with a recent survey finding 65 percent of defense partners do not feel supported.

“Sometimes you can go five or six weeks without even hearing from your partner,” Jane says. “Maybe they should invest in helping families stay in touch, and letting us see our partners more often. I can take care of my man’s needs — maybe instead of flying in sex workers, they should fly us in.”

“Defence needs to stop talking the talk about being family-friendly and actually follow through with some policies that bond families together instead of pushing them to breaking point.”

Soldiers Wife

The Department of Defense has been trying to make over its image since the 2011 Skype sex scandal, where an Australian Defense Force Academy cadet filmed himself having sex with a female cadet and broadcast the footage to their colleagues.

A defense spokesperson said Williamson’s essay had been published in error and didn’t represent the department’s policies on workplace conduct.

“The article was published on the Land Power Forum blog on 6 November 2017,” the spokesperson said. “It was removed on 15 November 2017 as it was not intended for the Land Power Forum and does not reflect Defence policy.”

“The Land Power Forum provides a discussion space for appropriately informed analysis, commentary, thoughts, and ideas among military practitioners, interested stakeholders and subject matter experts. Defence policy on conduct in the workplace has not changed.”