WRITTEN BY Susan Lawson ON March 1, 2011

Text Boyfriend: A Hotline To Romance…But At The Price of Love?

Text Boyfriend

Text Boyfriend

Text Boyfriend is a service whereby lonely single females can sign up to receive ‘heart-melting’ texts thrice weekly from a digital beau. But at what cost?

As if the ‘boyfriend pillow’ weren’t enough, we now have the ‘Text Boyfriend’, a service whereby lonely single females can sign up to receive ‘heart-melting’ texts thrice weekly from a digital beau.

As a woman, it depresses me to see a rather dark fact emerging about my fellow sisters. The new ‘Textboyfriend’ service (www.textboyfriend.com), a digital counterpart to the mind-bogglingly disturbing ‘boyfriend pillow’ (aka the Hug Me Pillow), reviewed on this site, will undoubtedly find a following. Whiff of desperation aside, the market for such products suggests something altogether unsavoury: that what some women seek from men has almost nothing to do with their apparently inconvenient status as human beings.

Whilst I find it inconceivable that a text from Mr No-one, or a disembodied fake-arm, could possibly fill an intimacy void (and I say this as a single woman), reviews suggest that, for some, they do. Yet whilst consumers surely know deep down that it’s a dreadful charade, the fact that a ‘prosthetic boyfriend’ is even able to evoke emotion suggests a disconcerting lack of interest in mutuality – or in men’s desires and feelings. Indeed, the product advertising admits it: ‘he’s all about you!’ Whilst such an attitude is perhaps forgivable in the young girls the service appears to be aimed at, the notion that grown women might conceive this as ‘a good thing’ is, to be frank, grotesquely egoistic.

The sad fact is that these products merely take to their sinister conclusion an attitude that already exists in too many real relationships: the demand for ‘stock-behaviours’. You know the thing: ‘do this, do that, buy me roses, phone on demand’ – as if the man actually wanting to were somehow irrelevant, both to his free-will and, bizarrely, her pleasure. These devices simply dispense with those bothersome males altogether. Now, I’m not saying there aren’t men who make equivalent demands – but that doesn’t make it right. And there is also an astounding double standard. The same woman who signed up for this service would, I’m sure, run like a shot from a man who had a penchant for, ahem, dolls, and would (rightly) take exception to being reduced to a mere ‘sex object’. And yet faux-love and faux-sex amount to the same thing: imaginary-intimacy, a contradiction in terms. They also both rest on a perception of a potential partner as existing primarily to meet one’s own needs.

A review at the trend-spotting community Trendhunter.com suggests the service might build a woman’s confidence until she finds herself a flesh-and-blood-male (fake it ‘til you make it?). Perhaps. I imagine, on the contrary, that it will only divorce her ever further from reality. The fact is, men don’t send lovey-dovey texts on cue three times a week, nor is it their job to do so. Such products send would-be-lovers spiralling ever further into a ‘cardboard cut-out world’ whereby relationships are shaped around an imagined set of behaviours which are then demanded of the partner as ‘proof of love’. Of course, in this case, there is no love to prove, which suggests something even more disturbing: that women may be more interested in the ‘performance of love’ than in love itself.

To take a less strident tone, these products also sadden me. Not because they speak of the ‘loneliness of the single woman’ but because they suggest a model of romance that has nothing to do with the fearsomely beautiful individuality of men. A text from a lover makes the heart melt because one thinks of the man who sent it – and of your mutual entwinement. Who does the recipient of a boyfriend-text envisage? A fantasy lover, perhaps, about whom she already knows everything – because she invented him. That this predictable, convenient Pygmalion-like man-machine might even be considered ‘heart-melting’ is perhaps the most depressing fact of all.

About the Author: Susan Lawson is a writer and designer, and the author of the design and style blog Style Manifesto. Follow her thoughts, musings and micro-rants on design, style and culture at the Style Manifesto Facebook page, or on Twitter @style_manifesto.

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Comments (One Response):

Brilliant insight, Susan! That was a very thought-provoking piece.

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