The objective of this dissertation is to describe and analyze, based on an interactionist approach, the erotic and/or affective encounters and interactions taking place between heterosexual women and men between the ages of 35 and 50 who are not currently in a relationship –bachelors and single women, divorcees, and those who are separated- residing in the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area (2015-2017). These interactions may occur in face-to-face or virtual recreational settings.
To that end, in the following chapters I will examine and compare the motivations, expectations and standards with which women and men engage in their search for erotic and/or affective bonds; that is, what class characteristics, erotic or gender attributes make the opposite individual appear as attractive. I analyze the perceptions, both social and subjective, that subjects possess regarding being single. I describe, analyze and compare the spaces for face-to-face encounters and virtual dating platforms used by those interviewed, shedding light on their characteristics and dynamics, as well as the specific meaning and utility that the subjects ascribe to said spaces. I describe and analyze the interactions taking place during these encounters, taking note of the dynamics of sociability that arise therein: from the heteronormative assumptions, the romantic guidelines and patterns of seduction, to the standards of selection that the subjects apply. Finally, as a secondary point of focus, I examine whether maternity and paternity has any affect on the search for erotic and affective bonds, and if so, in what manner.
The methodology used for this dissertation is based on a qualitative approach. The data employed was established through in-person and virtual participant observation, as well as in-depth interviews; through the use of spatial interaction maps; by surveying and analyzing journalistic articles dealing with face-to-face and virtual sociability, as well as by consulting the websites belonging to those spaces.
This dissertation shows that, within a context where individualization and new dynamics of partner-forming take place, heterosexual women and men engage in erotic and affective bonds of a circuitous nature, wherein romantic love continues to hold, at least as a horizon of meaning, a predominant role. Hence, new approaches to searching for erotic and/or affective bonds emerge. These findings are problematized from a variety of perspectives in the following chapters.
The dissertation consists of an initial methodological chapter, two main sections, a summary chapter and a concluding section. In the first section, accounting for chapters 2 and 3, I concentrate my analysis on the search for the erotic and/or affective encounters. I analyze in chapter 2 the lived-experience of not being in a relationship as it is experienced by single, divorced or separated individuals, as well as the expectations and motivations they possess when searching for erotic and/or affective bonds. To that end, I take into account factors of age, gender and class, as well as the way in which heteronormative and romantic guidelines are operative. In chapter 3, I describe and analyze the selection standards used by single men and women when searching for erotic and/or affective encounters. The standards that affect this instance of sociability include social class, age, gender expectations and physical traits, among others. Based on this analysis, I perform an inquiry into the ways in which people perceive and utilize these face-to-face and virtual spaces of sociability for the purpose of erotic and/or affective encounters.
The second section -comprised of chapters 4, 5 and 6- is dedicated to analyzing the interactions taking place in spaces of erotic and/or affective sociability. Chapter 4 specifically examines the virtual dating market and the face-to-face encounters that the subjects take part in, allowing me to formulate a conceptual framework in order to better understand the interactions and affective bonds formed between organizers and clients. In chapter 5, I examine the interactions that arise in face-to-face spaces of sociability. I analyze the patterns of courtship and seduction, the emotions that circulate in the process, the relation between different forms of corporality and erotic capital, and the different levels of emotional energy involved in each situation. Finally, in chapter 6, I offer a detailed description and analysis of the scenes of a first date. I address, on the one hand, cases where the first introduction was made possible by virtual spaces of erotic and/or affective sociability; separately, I address those cases where the initial introduction took place in face-to-face settings. To that end, I perform an inquiry into the heteronormative and romantic social guidelines that orient the interaction, as well as consumption patterns and expectations that arise, according to accounts provided by participating men and women.