My guest today is an educator in a peculiar field. He is a lecturer in anthropology at the University of Amsterdam covering the subjects of romance and dating. He’s lived in various locations around the world doing research and authored a book. As a good Amsterdamer he loves his bicycle, lives in a boathouse, and has a tap with Heineken beer in his kitchen. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Jitse Schuurmans!
- Are datings apps the last resort for the desperate single? [In Dutch]
- Cohabitation can be done in so many ways [In Dutch]
- Jitse’s University Profile
- Jitse’s LinkedIn Profile
V: So, Jitse, how did you start as an educator?
J: In 2010 I graduated from the University of Amsterdam studying anthropology. Quite a long story actually, because when I was writing my Master’s thesis I got approached by a publishing house to write a book about my thesis and about my research for my thesis and so I quit my studies for a bit and wrote that book in four-five months.
V: Can we rewind? How does the publishing house find out about someone like you to approach you with a book deal?
J: So, I had a friend who wrote for the university newspaper. Maybe I should mention as a context that my research was about pickup artistry in California.
V: Very specific. In California. All of California? Or just…
J: San Francisco Bay area. He found it to be a very interesting topic and wanted me to write a piece about his research. So, he did. He interviewed me and it was quite a big spread in the university newspaper and it got picked up by national media and then I got an invitation to talk in a talk show and it was by far the best watched television show in the Netherlands. I said, yes, why not? I’ll talk about my project and so I did and got broadcasted and then, of course, it was known by a lot more people and actually two publishing houses contacted me at that stage and asked me to write a book and the funny thing is that the girl who approached me of one the publishing houses was a former colleague of mine when I was still working as a student on one of the boats on the canal tours.
V: You worked on a boat?
J: Yes, as a student. I was a captain of one of the boats that take tourists around the city.
V: In the canals?
J: At the canals. It is the number one attraction here.
V: That is interesting. You’ve mentioned already so much that we can drill down into. For those that don’t know, what is pickup artistry?
J: Pickup artistry I would say is theories about how to hook up or date or form a relationship with women. That is pickup artistry and there is mainly men practising it. I would say it is both an organization. It is horizontally organized in that there is a self-help community of guys that are trying to learn the tips and tricks of chatting and flirting and picking up girls and there is also a vertically organised community in which there are professional coaches that have their own practises, their own theories and their own methodologies and instruct their clients.
V: So you have learned from this subject from reading?
J: Yeah, I read The Game and probably a lot of people have read this book.
V: It is a famous Bible of pickup, by Neil Strauss.
J: Yeah, by Neil Strauss. A bestseller, but not only in the United States, sold millions of copies all over the world. It was also a bestseller in the Netherlands and I read that book and I was totally amazed. I was fascinated one time, but also I wasn’t completely sure what to think of it. One, if it was accurate portrayal? If it was real?
V: You think it was partly made up?
J: I did at that stage. I did think it was partly made up, but I was fascinated. At that time I was about to work on my Master in Anthropology and I felt that this would make a great topic to research and to write a graphic account of this pickup phenomena.
V: What are some other topics you have explored before choosing this one for your thesis?
J: I had so many options. At that time I was actually also studying Economics. My plan was to finish an MBA program. I started an MBA program that same year. I studied both Economics and Anthropology. And while doing that I got second thoughts and then I thought about this project, of doing a study about The Game, about pickup artists. And it was still September when I was studying Business Administration at that stage and I knew that I could still switch. So, I actually did it. I switched to Anthropology and then did this project. Honestly, I was not thinking about doing a Master’s in Anthropology. So, I never really thought about what project I should do. I never really had the intention at that stage to continue and do research.
V: Do you think it is specific to Europe or the University of Amsterdam where the subject is even allowed to be explored in such depth? Because I have never met anyone, I have never heard of anyone doing something like this at an American university or some eastern European or something. Of course the most famous studies come out of British, American and Canadian universities, but the Netherlands is not too far behind. There is a fair amount of work in English, out of the University of Amsterdam, and I believe the University of Rotterdam as well. Like Professor Jordan Peterson of the University of Toronto, he worked with the University of Rotterdam doing the future authoring program where they make students write about their futures for the next two-three years as an experiment and that was done successfully in the Netherlands because it seems like it is little bit more flexible socio-educational environment.
Do you have any comments? Is it because you were doing it there? Like do you think something like this would not be possible in an American university as far as you know?
J: I don’t know if it’s not possible. But I do know the University of Amsterdam particularly expects students to find their own research programs and write original proposals. So, it really has a tradition of unorthodoxy, being a little rebellious. So, there is definitely a lot of room for that at the University of Amsterdam, more than at other universities in the Netherlands, but I mean I do know a few people that are working on pickup artistry in other countries – one girl at London School of Economics and there is another guy at a Dutch university. So, there is more universities that have room for it. But it’s definitely true that the University of Amsterdam is very liberal in that sense and actually my teacher thought it was a great idea. I had a female professor at that stage and she was very supportive and she said to me that you should do this, you should study this. This sounds like an amazing project.
V: That is very interesting because you used the word liberal and if you use this word to describe a university in the United States that typically means there will be a lot of pushback on such a controversial subject. So, if you did something like this at your typically left wing orientated liberal university in the United States, you could get a lot of pushback, a lot petition for you to stop doing your work, because it has some kind of misogyny built in there, unfair treatment of women at its core. Pickup artistry is not too far removed from techniques of persuasion and possible deception, certainly seduction, and these techniques are often associated with something negative. Something that manipulates people into doing things they don’t want to do. Although, we don’t see it this way, although it can be seen sometimes in such a light. You already said that it was not an issue and no one saw it like this. So, maybe the definition of liberal is different in University of Amsterdam or in the Netherlands in general?
J: I do think so. And also universities are very differently organized in the Netherlands and the United States. For one, I know that American universities have very big ethical commissions which have a very large say in what kind of projects students should or should not do. And it takes quite a while for them to grant permission to students to research certain topics. University of Amsterdam, at least at that stage, did not have an ethical commission that could challenge your proposals. So, it was really up to students what they would research. Of course, there are always questions of morality you should answer by and of course lecturers and professors are not going to supervise projects that they find morally dubious, but honestly I don’t think there is anything morally dubious about studying the pickup community.
V: Or any subject, no matter how controversial.
J: No, not any subject. But there is of course certain research that can harm participants like certain experiments. And that of course is something you should be aware of and you should not do.
V: Do you have any examples?
J: Very clear example is that very famous Stanford Prison Experiment, I believe the name is, in which a group of students were inmates. The other group of students were prison guards and they wanted to see what would happen if good people would turn into bad people. And some did and some did not. These kind of studies – experiments – are not allowed. And good reason, because you might traumatize people that are taking part in it.
V: I can see that. There are certain subjects that better not be touched. So, let me ask you about generally growing up in the Netherlands and how it may be different from growing up in other places. Think of, or try to remember, your best childhood moments or something that surprised you when you ventured outside of your homeland as a child.
J: I don’t think my childhood was a very typical childhood as I come from quite a large family. And the whole family lived on the estate of my grandfather and we were probably about 50 of us. So, what happened was that my grandfather had a trading company in Rotterdam, that is a big harbour port in the Netherlands. And at 50 something he got a heart attack and decided to take it easy, but he didn’t really take it easy. But he just quit his job, he sold his business and then he bought a campsite in the middle of the Netherlands. And so first my grandparents moved there, then his son moved there and then his daughter (which is my mother) moved there. And they all moved there, because it was a very beautiful area and they could live for free on the estate. And so this migration continued and then when I was born there were probably about 50 family members living on the campsite and spread out over different houses and some lived in trailers. It was quite a big campsite, a lot of people. And so I spent the first 10 years of my life there. It was a community apart from the village that we lived in. There were always kids, nephews, nieces to play with. We had a very big playground, actually there were a couple of playgrounds with swimming pools, and we could basically really do whatever we want. We had cars and motorcycles and as a child that was of course great fun and freedom to play around there and drive the mopeds through the forests. I have this one great childhood memory of probably being January or so and had snow everywhere and then one of my uncles he got the pickup truck out and told us to tie your sledges to the back of the truck and he started driving through the forest and as a child that was amazing.
V: Wow. So everyone was related somehow to each other in the community?
J: Yeah, we were all family.
V: A big old family.
J: A big old family. So, it was all my grandfather’s children and their spouses and my grandfather’s nephews and nieces. So, a big family that lived there.
V: Was it based on some kind of cultural blueprint or was it just self-organized unique community?
J: It was fairly self-organized. There was no sort of ideology behind it. The only ideology was that I think my grandfather that he had all this property and all the other people could live there and they thought great we can live in these beautiful surroundings for free. I think that was the only ideology that was there.
V: A bunch of freeloaders.
J: Yeah, definitely. There were some self-organized community in the sense that there was one hill on the campsite and my grandfather lived on top of the hill and he was really the center of the whole community. If you paid anyone a visit, you would come to his place and all the other would meet there. So, he was really the father of the family, the patriarch.
V: Wow. The grand patriarch.
J: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
V: So there was never any incidence that required police to get involved?
J: Not that I know of. No. For my parents it was also very easy in that there were always tons of relatives that could babysit us. So, they were never really worried about picking us up from school or finding babysitters for the evening or the afternoon. They would just kick us out of the house and we would roam around and visit an aunt or an uncle and come back to my parents’ place when they were at home. It was easy. And also if we had a fight with my parents… I remember my sister whenever she had a fight she would go to my uncle’s place and then when she has calmed down she would come back to my parents. So, I guess that helped alleviate a lot of the tension.
V: That’s fascinating. I had no idea and I have known you for a little bit. So, that is interesting. That certainly doesn’t speak to everyone’s childhood of your generation in the Netherlands.
J: No, not at all, not at all. But it did cover my perspective on what family is or what a family could be and how to raise children in the sense that I see a lot of benefits of doing it outside of the nuclear family of only father, mother. But just to have a community which is a little bit larger than that with maybe other relatives or friends and you do the upbringing in the family life in a larger group, in a larger corporate unit.
V: Where did you live outside of Amsterdam?
J: In the US a couple of times. On and off I spent a year and a half California of the last five years. Also, some time in Hong Kong and in between in the Netherlands.
V: What are the highlights of staying in the US, in California, and in Hong Kong? What stood out for you?
J: In the US, many things. First, of course the project that I was working on. I was doing research on hook up culture, partly in the pickup community, but also on campus. I was interviewing a lot of people about their usage of dating applications. So, there was different things that I was researching at the time. So, I met a lot of great interesting people and heard great stories about romance, about dating, about hooking up, about sex that was part of it. I made great friends there and just also the general vibe of living in San Francisco. I think it is a very beautiful, peaceful town. Lovely weather, I know a lot of people complain about it, but I don’t know why people complain about it. Because I think it is awesome. It is sunny, at least where I lived. And a very lively atmosphere, very relaxed.
V Awesome. And Hong Kong? Must have been very different?
J: Yeah, it was. I remember the first time when I got to Hong Kong and I didn’t really know anything about the city. And I took the train from the airport right into the city and I got out at the MTR, the underground and was amazed by the crowds. It is just so busy. There is so many people and it’s hot and humid and the buildings are tremendously high. I was just completely overwhelmed. This is impossible to live here for the coming few months. But then it started to grow on me, the city of Hong Kong with its small alleys and tons of places to get lost in and people are very friendly. It is a very interesting place to live.
V: In terms of being friendly, how would you rank places where you have spent time as far as people being friendly and approachable and open?
J: In Hong Kong people are very polite, but I did notice that it was quite difficult for me to get to know Hong Kong Chinese people that have lived in Hong Kong for all of their lives. It is quite easy to meet expats. It is very easy to meet Hong Kong Chinese that have live abroad, but it is quite difficult to meet local Hong Kong Chinese. Yeah, I can understand, there are so many expats that’s coming in Hong Kong and they often stay there very short, a few months, a few years, maybe. So, I can understand that there is a constant flow of people and that you are more focused on the people that live in the town for long-term.
V: And San Francisco, how did it feel for you?
J: I did find that meeting people in San Francisco and the US were generally much more easy. People are very open, easy to talk to, but I did get a sense that it is very easy to meet people, but maybe not that easy to become really close friends. But maybe that’s my personal experience and I don’t know how far I should generalize from that. The most people that I really became good friends with in the United States were Americans, but not born and raised Americans. And I don’t know if that is a cultural thing that I tend to relate better to globally mobile people or that is really quite difficult to get to know people in San Francisco, the natives.
V: Well, these are very difficult things to study, to truly scientifically analyze because there are so many variables. It could be anywhere. You can start from the neighborhood where you stayed. Which kind of places did you frequent? What kind of communities did you try to penetrate? It is difficult to make a clear-cut judgement. If you were for example a dancer, you visit Charleston communities or salsa dance communities in different cities of the world. You have the same program. You get of the plane, you find an event, you meet people, you go dance with them and then you get the sense of how many people wanted to talk to you, how many people you stayed in touch with and you could probably get accurate data, because your model of cultural interaction is the same everywhere, but when people travel without a specific agenda and not really meeting people with shared interest, it is hard to tell which countries, which cities are easier, which countries are more difficult, but you probably couldn’t be unbiased talking about the Netherlands. But what do you think, are they somewhere in between Hong Kong and San Francisco in terms of people being approachable and friendly?
J: Properly, a little bit in between. Definitely not the politeness and the openness that is very common in the United States. The etiquette, the social norms on how you should behave. People in the Netherlands are generally not that open. More like people in the Hong Kong. And I also know that it is very tough to get to know people locally. I have a lot of colleagues that are from places outside of the Netherlands, from the States, from Canada, from Japan, from Russia and they often complain that it is very, very tough to get to know people locally. So, maybe this is also just a global thing that there are a lot of expat communities all over the world. So, if you are an expat it is very easy to meet other expats, but it is quite separated from the people that reside locally in a place for long-term, the natives, and it is quite hard to form bridges between these communities.
V: Yeah, I can see that. On my brief visit to Amsterdam last year, I sense there is a general politeness and friendliness, but there is also this reserved attitude that people are not too eager to get to know you more personally. They are fine just to knowing you superficially, unless you give them a good reason to get to know you better. There is not a proactive curiosity that is widespread. I think there is a little bit more of that in the American cities.
J: I agree with that.
V: So, let’s go to the topic of you writing that book. How did it go? What did it take, your first book? I am interested in the subject of writing. I would like to write a book, but I have several topics I am pondering. But what could you share with me and the listeners from your experience?
J: Well, I never really thought about writing a book. I never really thought that I was a good writer either. I had quite bad dyslexia. I still have. On high school I always had to take special lessons, because I could not spell. I could not write. So I never really thought about myself or saw myself as a writer. So, when a publishing house approached me and asked me to write a book I first said yes, of course, I’ll write a book and then second I thought, but how should I write? I cannot even spell properly. I really thought I could just… I’ll give it a good shot. I took a few months off and really focussed on getting this job done. I remember that the first weeks and months I was struggling. The first chapter that I send to the publishing house I really got a harsh feedback and the editor complaining that it was useless.
V: So, is that how it works? They ask you to send the first chapter?
J: Yeah. And that was after the contract has been signed. The contract has been signed after about two pages that I wrote as a dialogue, and they liked that apparently, but I don’t know why. But they thought that it was good enough. So, they signed me.
V: So, your sample was two pages?
J: The sample was two pages, yeah.
V: And that was enough for them to say… let’s go.
J: That was enough. They wanted two pages and a plan for a book. I gave them that. They said we’re going to do it. I started focusing on writing and I really sort of made a commitment to myself that I would wake up every morning at 6 o’clock. I would switch of the Internet and write until I was just tired. Most of the time around late afternoon I would be so tired I would not see anything on the screen anymore and I did that for four months and every day. I remember especially, because I was not used to writing and it was a struggle. It was really sort of a struggle to keep on going. Also, I got a lot of feedback, especially in the beginning it was very harsh, very critical. It was not good enough.
V: Was it motivating or at the same time maybe demoralizing?
J: No, demoralizing, yeah, but I also know that is how it works. That is how you get better. Criticism is not at the moment it is never good, or never nice, but in the end the only thing you can get out of it is that you learn from it.
V: Did you know that in the moment?
J: Yeah, I think I have always known it.
V: From school or intuitively?
J: From school. I remember when I was a child and I was doing things with my father. I said, I don’t know how to do it. So he said there is one thing you should know and that is never to give up. I start to finish it. I remember that one time we bought this thing from the Ikea. I was probably nine or ten and I wanted to fix the whole cupboard that we bought from the Ikea. I was nine. I didn’t really know how to use all the tools. So, I start working on it and then I didn’t really know how to continue. And I asked my father, can you do it? And he said, no you will do it. And he actually didn’t let me into the house until I finished. So, that was part of my upbringing. There is one thing that you don’t know and that is that you can’t do it, you can always do it, you should just try. So from that perspective also when I was writing a book there was a lot of times when I doubted myself, constantly, but giving up and not finishing it was never really an option. I thought just keep on working on it every day from early morning till afternoon then one day it will be finished. And it actually did turn out to work like that.
V: Yeah, it is exactly how it turned out.
J: Well, yeah in the end that is really what writing is. Blocking out all the other impulses. I had to switch off the Internet. Isolate myself and force myself to sit down and stay and remain seated and force myself to type. Say at least write five pages a day, and I cannot sort of get up before I have written these five pages.
V: I have sat in front of my computer and trying to type something and feeling the pain of my brain not wanting to produce anything of substance and of course is someone with a semi perfectionist mindset I wanted to only output something that made sense, that had value. Would you say it was a good approach to just type whatever you think you can right now?
J: Yeah, I know these situations very well. I am behind a computer and I am blank for an hour then I write a sentence or I write two sentences and then I read these sentences and I think, Oh my God, did I just write this? What a lot of crap! A child could do better than this. I think it is different from a few years ago. At these moments now I think well, I should not be too harsh of myself. I might not think that at this stage it is great and it might not be great, but if I just write and try to have fun with it then maybe something later will turn out some of the following writing will be good and I also know that writing is sort of rewriting. Good writing is writing things five to ten times. If it is not working one time, you should not be harsh at yourself. You know that the first bit you wrote is going to be shit anyhow. So, why worry about the thing that you produce being rubbish, because that is with all your first writing – it is rubbish. I think, well, let’s have fun with it. Don’t focus too much on it being not good enough.
V: Do you have any practical tips for aspiring writers, especially for the ones who have not written more than five pages yet?
J: The discipline, the commitment, just do it. If it is not working, if you think that what you have produced is shit, just type and try to have fun with it. Try to enjoy the process a little bit. This is fun. It is coming out of my mouth. A lot if times I didn’t do it, but I know when have this mental blockage that is the mindset that you have to be in. I know that all your writing it is very tough to have a first draft which is very good. It takes a lot of rewriting and editing before a text becomes good. So that is another thing. It does help to have a structure forming to know how the text is gonna flow, like which scenarios, which dialogues should come where. So, I do make a sort of outline of how I want to write an article or write a chapter and if you have reached your few pages that you want to write a day, then feel free to celebrate. Don’t continue.
V: Have a cookie. Have a glass of champagne.
J: Yeah, have a glass of champagne, have a drink, have a beer. I don’t know.
V: Were you looking at your favourite books or some helpful books on writing for tips or knowing how to structure dialogues, or punctuation or something like that?
J: I did have a look at a few authors that I really admired and had a look at how they did it, writing dialogues, and I took some things out and what do you write between lines of text of observations of how people move, gestures, thoughts of people. And that kind of helped. But one thing that didn’t help was that I looked too much at their style of writing and then wanted to copy the way they constructed sentences and their vocabulary and that felt very artificial and that actually did more harm than good, I would say. It took awhile before I got rid of that, before I found my own voice. Do look at writing of other people, but more technically on how do they build storylines, how do they construct dialogues and not so much on the words and the vocabulary but on the style of talking and writing.
V: Are you planning on writing another one?
J: Oh yeah. Actually I started another book after I completed the first. I thought, why not? I am a writer. Let’s do another one. I contacted another publishing house, the one that pays better and is a little bit more prestigious than the other one and I came up with a plan and they said sure you can write it. And I started with that book, but at the same time I got into a PhD program. So, I put that book on the shelf and it is still there, but I am definitely going to write more books for sure.
V: I wonder if it changes you as a reader as well. When you read other books, you maybe take mental notes or in your notebook about certain dialogues and twists? Do you think it had any effect on you?
J: Yeah. Definitely. I look at it much more on a technical level. I can be very pleased about how authors construct stories or how they deepen out characters and release complicated individuals. These are the things I look at currently when I read work of others.
V: Now realising that. What I know about it that is in Dutch obviously I have not read it, because I don’t read Dutch, but I know it was on the subject of pickup artistry.
J: True. Basically it is a tale of the guy of the Netherlands that went to study pickup artistry in the United States and got a little involved in that community over there. That was my story. That was honestly very close to my real experiences. I did sort of twist the story a little bit to make it a little bit more exciting and more of a storyline that it otherwise had.
V: What kind of reaction did you get from the readers?
J: A lot of the people thought that it was very funny. I got feedback that people really laughed out loud and I think it is actually quite funny. It might not be very well constructed story or well-written novel, but it is definitely funny. The boss of the publishing house…
V: The chief editor…
J: The chief editor, he was very pleased. He was quite amazed that it didn’t become a bestseller. I don’t know if he said it to give me compliments or not, but…
V: But it had some moderate success. It was purchased.
J: Oh, yes. I sold a few thousand copies. I mean considering the Netherlands being such a small country, I actually did quite well for that book, but I didn’t make millions of it.
V: Well, there is always another one you can write.
V: So, we have spent a lot time talking about the book which was useful. Now I know there is an exciting area you are always involved in that is research of dating apps and how they influence relationships in the modern age. What can you share about this? I know you are working on a podcast and some journalistic projects.
J: Yeah, maybe I should just briefly introduce it. Last year I decided to do a little bit more journalistic work. So, I started writing a few articles for newspapers and I had this idea of doing journalistic projects about the impact of all this new technology and dating apps for intimate relationships and how people form intimate relationships. And I really thought of it as a sort of collaborative between the university and newspaper and readers and that it should become a platform. So, you bring stories in different media formats so texts, videos, animations. There is other data visualisations. There is podcasts, indeed. Readers can contribute their stories. They can contribute by posing questions that we can take and follow up on. It is really about creating a collaborative public.
And this was my idea and I pitched it at one of the national newspapers in the Netherlands, actually the second largest newspaper here. They concurred. We started this project now few months and the thing that I am working on now is that I publish the survey and on basis of this survey as well as my interview data from my PhD, I write blogs now and then. So, my last blog was on swipe hours. I talk to many people during my research and I have complained about Internet dating that it takes so much time and that a lot of these chats are very futile. You talk to somebody one day and another day you don’t hear of that person again. Very flaky everything. Very sort of loose sand. So, my question was how long does it actually take. How much swiping and chatting do you have to do on average to meet someone? And it turned out, I did a survey now on 2000 readers so far, the average is 38 hours swiping and chatting before you actually meet somebody in real life. And so then I found it takes a significant amount of time to find somebody you fall in love with or you have a long-term relationship with and that is actually one month of 38-hour workweeks of swiping and chatting. So, one month of swiping.
V: So, one month of full-time employment.
J: One month of full-time employment to find a romantic partner via a dating application.
V: A romantic partner with certain parameters.
J: I define a romantic partner as a sexual relationship that you have been with for three months.
V: So one month of full-time work to find a romantic partner that checks all of your boxes on a basic list. You are attracted to them, you’re interested in them, they like you back. You are both interested in sexual relationship and you see each other regularly.
J: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
V: There is probably a myriad of other things that could go wrong, but at a basic level if you have this, this is a good start. And to get there is a lot of swiping and your thumbs could fall off.
J: Yeah, yeah. And I was amazed I didn’t actually know that it took that much time. What amazed me even more was that Grinder, the gay hookup app, the amount of hours of chatting and swiping was pretty close to Tinder. It did surprise me. I thought that would have taken very little time that guys would need to just meet up and have sex, but apparently there was also a lot of chatting and swiping involved for many people there. I was kind of amazed. The interesting maybe for people to know is that there is one big trend of exceptions and there were all these applications that were linked to a traditional dating website, like the things that you have in America – OkCupid, match.com. All these applications, the average hours swiping and chatting, to meet someone in real life or in real time were actually a lot less.
V: So, less clicking on those sites until you get to that same result.
J: A lot less clicking, yeah.
V: These are the surprising findings?
J: These are a few of the surprising findings.
V: Right. And in terms of gender division, is it similar for both sides, for females to find what they want versus males?
J: Yeah, actually there was no difference between women and men. Actually, today I wrote another article on basis of this data on the number of sexual partners people accumulate during one year via these applications. It turned out the average was about three for men and 1,5 or so for women. But what I wanted to know is if the ratio of sexual partners, men and women, was more even via these dating applications on the net than offline situation, an offline context. Because I thought if there is a double sexual standard in real life between men and women, this was properly one of the explanations that men have more sexual partners than women have. So, you would expect that in the anonymity of these dating applications, men and female sexual behaviour would be much more aligned, but that’s not the case.
V: I guess it is safe to say that women get more options, but they are a lot more picky.
V: And you say it is 1.5 sexual partners on average for a woman in your data sample in a year?
J: In a year, yeah, via these applications.
V: We are talking about any sexual engagement could be a one-night stand, it could be a longer relationship.
J: Yeah, true, it could be any type of sexual relationship. I just asked about sexual partners that you met via the application in one-year period.
V: Do you have any stories or any evidence that your research studies made positive effect on people or changed their thinking?
J: I did write an article last year about non-normative relationships. About people that not have the average intimate relationship. About people that have open relationships, about polyamorous relationships, about asexual people. And I made a whole series about these different types of relationships and that was also for a national newspaper. There I got a few compliments actually of people that participated in the project and also readers that they liked that their story was brought into the open. Just explaining what they did and why they had this relationship without being judgemental about it. I interviewed a BDSM family for that series. It was about five or six guys that had this leather family. So I wrote a little piece about their leather family. Why did they have this arrangement? And what they did? And then I got message from one the men, one of the guys of the leather family and he mentioned that his boss had come up to him and had complimented him on having a relationship and also with all these men and also being able to work so hard. Then I thought this has brought a little bit more open-mindedness and respect to people who do it a little bit differently.
V: So your materials, your articles, can fill that void of misunderstanding of not having the bridge that connects people who have their private lives that are very kinky, very freaky to some, and their public persona – their work ethics, their sense of responsibility. Some people cut them apart so harshly. If you were that kinky freak then you cannot be a reliable member of society. But they absolutely can be, those people, we probably don’t know a lot about people that we think of as clear-cut as very responsible citizens. They may have some responsible hobby that is best not mentioned in details.
J: I do think that is a theme in a lot of my work, both in academic work and also in my more journalistic work, is to get readers to get a bit more understanding of people that don’t opt for the conventional route of a family and a monogamous relationship. I really write a lot about people that don’t have monogamous relationships and don’t want that sort of family life. And I do think my work in a politically sense is really about that, about getting more understanding for people who choose an unconventional intimate and romantic life.
V: Would you say you meet enough people? Or it’s more rare that live in full conviction about their life choices? Or even those people who have a sort of a non-traditional approach to relationships and their sexual choices? Do they still struggle with self-acceptance and external acceptance and understanding of their own choices? How many of them are fully convinced about their lifestyle?
J: Well, of course the people that I interview for newspapers are very committed to their lifestyle. If you come out, it is really coming out public for millions of people like what you do intimately. Yeah, these people are very committed to their lifestyles and are very sure what they do and why they do it. So one thing I do also in these writings is to highlight the negative reactions of people surrounding them. To really put up a mirror and show readers what these judgements are and what that means and how nasty some of these explicit or implicit judgements can be about people that have a little bit of different intimate life.
V: Fair enough. That answers my initial question about your impact on the people who read your materials. It cast a light that is often times necessary to show that, like you said put up mirror in front of people and provide a little bit of normalcy to those deviant behaviours. Right?
J: Exactly. I think in the industry that by a clear example of a woman that I interviewed that chooses not to have any relationships that wants to stay single for the rest of her life. She told me a story of her and her best friend that when she was younger they made the arrangement that whenever one of them would get married, the other one would be the best woman, the best man, in that sense. And her friend got married and then refused to ask her as a best friend, and she said because you don’t know anything about relationships. And these sort of remarks coming from friends can be very harsh. And I think this anecdote is very telling about how nasty these reactions can get if you choose an unconventional route for yourself.
V: You can be judged so abruptly and harshly, I mean.
J: Yeah, as not being a full person or not being knowledgeable.
V: But it could be the opposite. This person with a string with relationships can be a lot more experienced in relationships than someone who has only had two or three in their life.
J: True. At least people that are in open relationships are honest about not being faithful. Fifty percent, probably more like close to 80%, of people that are supposedly in monogamous relationships are really cheating and not telling anyone about it. Who’s the honest person here?
V: So, in closing, I would like to ask you if you’re working on anything in terms of personal development and if there’s anything you would like to improve in your own lifestyle?
J: There’s always tons of things. I can be more friendly. I can be nicer. I can be more generous.
V: How can you be nicer than that?
J: I can be more funny.
V: That you could work on.
V: I’m teasing. So, behavioral improvements?
J: I think really, honestly, not having particular goal that I need to do this and this before next week. But I do think every day when I wake up OK I am going to be nice, friendly, outgoing. I am just going to do my best. And all this criticism that I get from friends or girlfriends or people from work – that is the moments that you can grow. These are the things you should really listen to and cherish and never get upset or angry about criticism, but instead take it as a lesson about things that you can improve on.
V: So you do take criticism from people you care about as guidance?
J: Yeah, but also from people I don’t care about. I think any type of criticism on your self is always very good to reflect. Maybe there’s a point of truth in it. I listen to it and think about how you can be better person, be a nicer person, be a more loving person, be a more fun person, more outgoing, more generous.
V: One of the future episodes I would like to come back to the topic of criticism. I think it is actually a topic of high interest for me. I have started dissecting in my head different types of criticism, or more generally feedback, and where it comes from. But that’s for another time. I think we could probably have a nice productive conversation about that. But at this stage I want to thank you for being here with me and for gracing our listeners with your thoughts and experiences and hopefully you will inspire some people who want to write or educate or visit Holland.
J: Hopefully. I really enjoyed the conversation and hopefully there are some people that take something out of this conversation.
V: I’ll add some links to the websites that you would want to share in the show notes, maybe some materials. If someone must go forward and translate your articles from Dutch to English they can properly do it easily with Google Translate ?
J: Definitely so.
V: And you have some materials in English, right?
J: Yeah. I do write in English as well.
V: Well, thank you, Jitse.
J: You’re welcome.
V: And till the next time.