How John Oliver and HBO Shattered TV’s Comedy-News Format

7/2/2014    Variety   by

Brevity, so it has been said, is the soul of wit. John Oliver seems to believe the opposite is equally true.

The comedian has been letting loose on his new HBO program “Last Week Tonight,” unveiling segments that can last anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes and often pack as much research as a front-page story you might see from a traditional outlet like a newspaper (when front-page stories carried more weight in the modern news cycle). Last Sunday, Oliver presented a nearly 20-minute treatise on the plight of gay, lesbian and transgender citizens of Uganda, raising the notion that evangelicals from America may have played an instrumental role in harsh new treatment being doled out by that nation’s government.

The segment included nods to information from Al Jazeera, NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation, CNN, MSNBC, Christian evangelical news organization World, and advocacy group Political Research Associates, not to mention an interview with Ugandan LGBT rights advocate Pepe Julian Onziema. Oh, and a bunch of cheerleaders, a breakdancing Abraham Lincoln and a Statue of Liberty emerging from a cake.

TV news has always been ripe for satire. That’s what the original “Weekend Update” on “Saturday Night Live” once did, with its ersatz “Point/Counterpoint” fights between Jane Curtin and Dan Aykroyd and various on-screen antics from Chevy Chase. In recent years, however, the format has leaped from poking fun at those who deliver the news to analyzing the headlines in new fashion, particularly at Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart-led “Daily Show.” Now Oliver and his staff are shaking up the genre anew, providing a sort of investigative journalism that is not seen in any of the other comedy-news hybrids on the air.

In recent weeks, Oliver has presented a segment lasting more than 13 minutes on the “net neutrality” debate and one of more than 16 minutes about the troubles of dietary supplements pitched by luminaries such as Dr. Oz. He eviscerated FIFA, the governing body behind the World Cup, in a bit lasting 13 minutes and 14 seconds, according to a video posting from HBO on YouTube.

How different are Oliver’s content pieces? The typical segment on the often hard-hitting “60 Minutes” typically comes in between 11 minutes and 13 minutes, according to a spokesman for the CBS newsmagazine. Producers at “Last Week Tonight,” declined through an HBO spokeswoman to comment.

Such stuff may have been unexpected from the comedian who shot up the ranks during a stint in 2013 filling in for Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show.” A spokeswoman for the Comedy Central show said Oliver stuck to the program’s usual format: four “acts,” with the final one being quite short (the show’s “Moment of Zen” cap-off bumps up against the rolling of credits). While there are no set times for the other three segments on the program, chances are commercial breaks on the ad-supported cable outlet would prevent a 20-minute report on most evenings (to be fair, the show has sometimes done two-part interviews with guests).

“I see Oliver as the next logical extension of the genre,” said Dannagal Young, an assistant professor at the University of Delaware who studies the use of political satire. Oliver, she said, “is going beyond traditional satire to give audience members specific directives that allow them to take action on the issues he deconstructs on the show.“

This is a field in which both Stewart and Stephen Colbert have played. Colbert focused on campaign-finance reform issues in 2012 and Stewart spotlighted a healthcare bill for first responders to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in 2010. Both took part in a 2010 event billed as the “Rally to Restore Sanity,” an effort that solidified the notion that both hosts do a lot more than just lampoon daily headlines. These examples, however, have been “the exception rather than the rule,” Young suggested.

Others also see “Last Week Tonight” breaking new ground. “On ‘Weekend Update’ and ‘The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,’ the background information and context about major stories seems to be there to serve the jokes. It’s pretty clear that the soundbites and news footage are there to make sure you understand the story in question well enough to laugh at the punchline,” said Paul Gluck, a TV-industry veteran who is an associate professor of media studies and production at Temple University’s School of Media and Communication. “I suspect that John Oliver and his writers may have a wonderful and satirically subversive mission: I think the humor is there to serve the story.”

Very little on TV is cut entirely from new cloth, of course. One might find an antecedent for “Last Week Tonight” in “That Was the Week That Was,” the satirical half-hour program hosted by David Frost in the 1960s, first on the BBC and subsequently on NBC. And Bill Maher’s “Real Time,” also on HBO, uses many of the same elements Oliver’s program does (the reliance on nattering panelists often seems to prevent the well-prepared host from launching a verbal salvo or three).

Yet “Last Week Tonight” defies nearly all current norms. The show surrounds soundbites with exposition, rather than letting video stand as the sole element of a segment. It trusts the attention span of its audience, believing a viewership constantly distracted by smartphones and mobile alerts will hang in there for the duration of a story, so long as it is compelling and informative. And it believes people will keep watching even if they might walk away feeling uneasy or unsettled by the issues presented each week despite the many jokes and laughs that are also delivered.

In an era during which even the most celebrated newsmagazines have taken to relying on soft celebrity interviews and tales of heinous murders, many could learn something from “Last Week Tonight.” The program is drawing people in with the promise of laughter, but sending them back out to the world with an unexpected element: knowledge.

Vox Is the Conde Nast for Next Generation: CEO

7/1/2014   Bloomberg


July 1 (Bloomberg) — James Bankoff, Chief Executive Officer and chairman at Vox, talks with Erik Schatzker about new branding opportunities created by digital media, their focus on transforming news presentation for an online audience and the importance of social media platforms in growing their brands. He speaks from the Aspen Ideas Festival on “In the Loop.”

Video text:

Digital content is anybody i can think of.

I think i know what buzzfeed is, what clock — gawker is, but what is vox?

We create media brands, high-quality, large media brands like the ones you mentioned, for new generation of consumers prefer to consume their content digitally.

If you think about it in a simple way, great magazine companies like “timing” and great cable companies like usa networks or disney, now we are creating new media titles in the same way.

And we’re doing it within this medium as opposed to cable or magazines, obviously.

It’s funny you mention condon asked because they operated a portfolio of magazines.

The people know them better for vanity fair or “folk.” do you see yourself more as digital publishing as opposed to say the kind of company that “feiss” is becoming?

We think spnation, you can command more authority.

We don’t want to be another portal where everything is just general.

We believe individual variance — rinse convey and their subject matters.

Sex Tape Gets One Thing Amusingly Right About Technology

7/17/2014   Slate

Sex Tape, which hits theaters Friday, is not a good movie, but it does have a premise that ought to resonate in our Internet-addicted, gadget-worshipping, privacy-compromising times. A husband (Jason Segel) and wife (Cameron Diaz) use their new iPad to record themselves having sex, after which the husband not only “forgets” to delete the video, but accidentally uploads it to “the cloud.”

The cloud! That nebulous realm where so many of us store our files without really understanding what it is we’re doing or why. Who runs the cloud? Where is it located, exactly? Does it have something to do with the weather?

And, most importantly: If we inadvertently put something embarrassing there, is it liable to wind up on the iPads of all our friends, family, and bosses, as it does for the unfortunate couple in Sex Tape?

Thankfully, the answer in most cases is no. As GQ points out, simply uploading a file to Apple’s iCloud will not automatically make it accessible to anyone who doesn’t share your Apple ID. There’s also the simple fact that a three-hour-long video would eat up gigabytes’ worth of storage and take quite some time to upload and download. Most cloud-storage services, including iCloud, aren’t designed for streaming movies.

But that doesn’t stop Sex Tape from gleefully toying with our societal confusion about the inner workings of those shiny high-tech devices we’ve so naively entrusted with the most intimate details of our lives.

Besides, if we’re going to get technical about it, the objections raised by GQ are mostly irrelevant, because Segel’s character isn’t using iCloud like a normal person to back up his files for personal use. He’s a professional DJ who gives all his friends customized iPads as gifts and employs a special, super-duper syncing service (aptly named “Frankensync”) to automatically update them with his latest playlists.

The movie doesn’t explain exactly how this works, and Segel’s character himself appears not to fully grasp the program’s machinations. In one of the movie’s funnier exchanges, he tries to explain to his wife that the movie somehow went “up into the cloud.” Can’t he get it back down from the cloud, she asks? “Nobody understands the cloud!” he raves. “It’s a fucking mystery!”

He’s right—the cloud is a mystery to a lot of us, even though it really shouldn’t be. That’s partly because the term itself is misleading. The cloud isn’t any one thing. It just refers to computing that takes place on remote servers, rather than on your own device. Many of us use cloud services like Gmail and Dropbox every day without a second thought. Still, it’s true that in the tidy and user-friendly world of Apple devices and software, iCloud stands out—along with the bloated mess that is iTunes—for its less-than-intuitive functionality.

In the end, Sex Tape’s goal isn’t to get technology right. It’s to poke fun at the ways in which we get technology wrong, even as we soak up the gauzy marketing that surrounds it and proudly deploy the buzzwords that Silicon Valley feeds us. Put aside the schizophrenic pacing, the hastily drawn characters, and the inexplicable plot twists, and Sex Tape is really a movie about our dangerous liaisons with a lover whose friendly face masks an inner life we’ll never understand—a lover named iPad.

Planned Parenthood Jumps Into ‘Obvious Child’ and NBC Abortion Flap

The organization has has launched an online petition to prompt NBC to air promo Jenny Slate’s movie

6/23/2014 | The Wrap

Planned Parenthood is lashing out at NBC for refusing to air the trailer for Jenny Slate’s new film,”Obvious Child.” The organization has launched an online petition to pressure the network into reversing its decision.

“It’s outrageous that a major network would choose to censor mentions about abortion,” the petition states.  ”For far too long, the refusal to talk honestly about abortion has led to increasing stigma around the issue, and it’s got to stop.”

“Obvious Child” follows the story of  a comedienne who becomes pregnant after a one night stand with a staunchly Christian man. The film has been lauded by critics for taking a brave look at a highly polarizing issue, however NBC has refused to run ads for the film due to its frank discussion on abortion. As TheWrap reported last week, NBC wouldn’t air the trailer as long as it contained the word, “abortion.”

The petition goes on to say,  ”If NBC, is censoring the use of the word ‘abortion,’ then the network is refusing to even take part in a conversation, let alone an honest one that accurately reflects women’s lives.”

So far, Planned Parenthood’s petition has reached over 10,000 signatures.

A rep for NBC has not yet returned TheWrap’s request for comment.


An American Got Stuck in a Stone Vagina Sculpture in Germany

6/23/2014 | Time

No word yet on whether he was trying to take a selfie

An American exchange student got stuck inside a stone sculpture of a vagina last week in Germany.

It took more than 20 emergency responders Friday to free the young man, according to reports in the German newspaper Süddeutsche and The Guardian. He had wedged himself inside Pi Chacan, a 2001 stone sculpture by Peruvian artist Fernando de la Jara, in front of Tübingen University’s Institute for Microbiology and Virology. The police in Tübingen first learned of the incident when they received a call reporting that “a person is stuck in a stone vulva.”

The city’s mayor Boris Palmer said he could not understand how the student got himself in that situation in the first place, “even taking into account adolescent fantasy,” Süddeutsche reports.

No word on whether the student was trying to take a selfie.

UPDATE: NBC & Planned Parenthood Reach Truce Over ‘Obvious Child’ Ads

6/24/2014 |

UPDATE, 5:35 PM: NBCUniversal released the following statement to Planned Parenthood Action Fund, reiterating it did not turn down an Obvious Child ad for broadcast but acknowledging it did ask the media buyer to remove the word in a digital ad, which NBCU says was a mistake. Planned Parenthood, which by then had collected about 13,000 signatures on its petition telling NBC to knock off the rannygazoo, declared it a major victory, calling it “a huge step forward in the work towards more honesty about women and abortion in TV and movies.” Here is NBC’s most recent statement:

“NBCUniversal has no policy against accepting ads that include the word “abortion.” Several ad proposals for Obvious Child were submitted to our television broadcast standards group for review, and, consistent with NBCUniversal policy and practice, no direction was given to remove references to the word “abortion.” Ultimately, no final ad was submitted or purchased for television broadcast.

“Separately, an online ad was submitted for digital placement and feedback was mistakenly given to remove the word “abortion.” That is not company policy and we are currently reviewing our ad standards processes to ensure they are consistent across all platforms moving forward.

“Our digital platforms will accept the ad as it was originally submitted.”

PREVIOUS: Planned Parenthood says it has 11,000 signatures on a petition chastising NBC for what the health-care group says are reports that the network refused to run an ad for the indie film Obvious Child because it includes the word “abortion.” Written and directed by Gillian Robespierre, the movie stars Jenny Slate as a comedian who gets dumped, fired and pregnant just in time for the most chaotic Valentine’s Day of her life, and decides to terminate her pregnancy.

Planned Parenthood is basing its petition on a New York Post Page Six item that was subsequently picked up by other media, including one outlet that also reported NBC has a problem with the word “abortion” in general, having bleeped it out of a performance by Dana Eagle on its primetime series Last Comic Standing. But after Eagle tweeted that what she’d said was, ”I like my friends kids, I do but then there’s always those one or two where you’re like: ‘That one should have been a hummer,” and NBC directed the blogger to its online un-bleeped version of the episode, the website backed off.

An informed source says a media buyer did approach NBC about running an ad for Obvious Child on its air, on behalf of the movie’s distributor. NBC has issued a statement saying,  “No final spots were submitted to NBC broadcast standards for on-air consideration and NBC Broadcast Advertising Sales was never contacted about a media buy on NBC for spots related to this movie. Moreover, initial feedback from our broadcast standards group did not include any suggestion to remove a specific word.” Contacted for comment, A24, which acquired the movie at Sundance back in January, responded, that it’s not commenting.

“It’s outrageous that a major network would choose to censor mentions about abortion,” Planned Parenthood said in its petition. The group added — with the important “if” qualifier — “If NBC, is censoring the use of the word abortion, then the network is refusing to even take part in a conversation, let alone an honest one that accurately reflects women’s lives.”

These recent artistic moldings of the clay of truth do not mark the first time NBC has engaged in conversation with Planned Parenthood over the abortion issue. Just last year Planned Parenthood praised NBC for taking part in the conversation, in an episode of its drama series Parenthood that featured a Planned Parenthood center. The group “bragged in tweets it was being featured in the show,” snarked Live Action News, which is put out by the anti-abortion group Live Action. That group blasted the Parenthood episode as being “obviously endorsed by Planned Parenthood itself” and “more like a giant advertisement for the abortion provider than it was an entertainment show. What is shameful is that a network TV show would use its prized airtime to create a glorified commercial for teens to have an abortion without parental consent.”

Back then, interestingly, the New York Post raised its eyebrows so high they rearranged their bangs, over NBC’s decision to air the episode, with the headline “Parenthood Did What Few Have Tried – Make Abortion Seem Nearly Normal.”  (Abortion has been a hot-button topic on TV ever since 1972, when Bea Arthur’s Maude decided to terminate her unexpected pregnancy on Norman Lear’s ground-breaking CBS comedy of same name). In that article, exec producer Jason Katims is quoted saying the network fully backed the episode in which high schooler Amy (Skyler Day) terminated her pregnancy. NBC said it was “going to support us to tell this story because they felt we would tell it in a way that was not politicized,” he told the NY Post.

“They wanted to make sure that we were responsible in terms of the facts and how we told the story. But they did not ever suggest that we don’t do it,” Katims is quoted as saying in the article, in which the Post describes Live Action as a “human rights group.”

“NBC and the producers of Parenthood have sold themselves out as entertainment and become part of the Planned Parenthood propaganda sweeping the nation,” Live Action complained back then.

“Did All the Girls PT?”

6/19/2014 | Slate

Free pregnancy tests are a good way to fight fetal alcohol syndrome. Condoms are better.

Jody Allen Crowe, executive director of Healthy Brains for Children, installs a pregnancy test dispenser in the women’s restroom at Pub 500 in Mankato, Minnesota.

Fetal alcohol syndrome is a serious problem in Alaska. Babies born there, particularly Native American babies, suffer the syndrome at much higher rates than infants in the lower 48. Since the first epidemiological data emerged in the mid-1990s, Alaskan FAS rates have declined somewhat, but creative solutions are still needed.

Here’s one: In the next few months, researchers from the University of Alaska–Anchorage will install 20 pregnancy test dispensers in the women’s restrooms in bars and restaurants in remote communities in Alaska. The dispensers will carry warnings about the risks of drinking while pregnant and display a phone number that women can call for more information. Putting the tests where women drink is a sensible idea. Nearly one-half of pregnancies in the United States are unintended, and many women go weeks not knowing they are pregnant. During that time, some of them binge drink and put the fetus at risk for birth defects, learning disabilities, and many other serious problems associated with FAS.

The pregnancy tests will be free. The state of Alaska will pay $800 per dispenser and $1.50 for each test. Free condoms will be available alongside the pregnancy tests. But the state won’t pay for them. (The research team organizing the dispenser project wouldn’t say how the condoms are funded.) The reason for this hole in state funding is a state senator named Pete Kelly.

Kelly is a human billboard for why politicians should not be directly involved in the management of public health programs. He cares about babies and also about women (once they’re pregnant, at least). He pushed through the pregnancy test program, and the researchers involved commend him for his efforts. For all his concern about children and pregnant women, though, Kelly, a Republican from Fairbanks who calls abortion an “American Holocaust,” has an obvious discomfort with sex. Icky, unmentionable sex, and those bits of latex that allow women to do dirty things without God’s intended consequences. Because Kelly was the main advocate for the pregnancy dispenser program, funding for condoms was not part of the proposal: He has made it quite clear that he does not support increasing access to contraception. Kelly says that birth control is for people who “don’t necessarily want to act responsibly,” and he practically cringed when he told an interviewer he wasn’t interested in helping people “do it.”

Kelly is in no position to lecture others about acting responsibly. Condom distribution programs work. We have plenty of evidence for this, and ignoring the facts is no way to help women and children. These programs reduce the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases and limit unintended pregnancies. They are particularly effective among youth and at-risk populations—precisely the people Alaska should be trying to reach in the state’s battle against FAS. There is no evidence that condom distribution encourages young people to have sex earlier in life.

The Alaskan government, despite Kelly’s squeamishness, has behaved commendably in the fight against FAS. The state established an agency to coordinate the effort. It launched a comprehensive plan to reduce underage drinking. It has worked with the federal government to establish training centers that educate health care providers and young people about the problem. And it has given away condoms. Last year, the state announced the “Wrap it up, Alaska” program to distribute condoms, using cute, Alaska-specific sayings. (“Drill safely” is my personal favorite.)

Putting pregnancy tests in bathrooms is a wonderfully innovative idea, but no one knows if it will work. The Alaska program is designed to provide some evidence. Communities that receive the dispensers will be compared with communities that receive only posters warning against FAS. Researchers, led by anthropologist and epidemiologist David Driscoll, will survey women in both communities about their understanding and beliefs about the disease, and will follow up six months later with a subset of the women. Even with that data, though, it will be years before we have any sense of whether the pregnancy tests are putting a dent in the number of FAS cases.

Minnesota started a similar program in 2012. Jody Allen Crowe, an anti-FAS advocate who has so far overseen the installation of 20 pregnancy test dispensers in Minnesota bar bathrooms, sees a big future for the programs. “Everyone asks who the DD is before going out,” he says, referring to designated drivers. “My goal is for people to ask, ‘Did all the girls PT?’”

Perhaps there will be a day when pregnancy tests are an integral part of a preparty ritual, but we’re not there yet. Today, condoms are the best tool to prevent unintended pregnancy, and preventing unintended pregnancies is the most effective way to prevent pregnant women from binge drinking. The $400,000 Kelly has pushed through the state legislature to fund the pregnancy tests feels like a battle against reality—he’s desperately searching for a way to prevent FAS without having to pay for condoms.

It’s past time for politicians to stop acting like adolescents who giggle when someone says “condom.” Admittedly, their discomfort with birth control can be hilarious when it doesn’t matter. Rick Santorum said during the 2012 campaign that states should be free to ban contraception, and people laughed at how out of touch he was. Trying to cut funding for contraceptives as part of humanitarian aid in Africa, however, isn’t so funny. One of the most effective public health tools in human history shouldn’t be taboo in our politics.


World Cup: The Crazy Rules Some Teams Have About Pre-Game Sex

6/16/2014 | Time

Science says that sex can actually help, not hurt, athletic performance. But wary coaches disagree

When you’re competing in the world’s most-watched sporting event, you don’t take any chances with your body. So while experts may disagree about whether having sex before a game can affect a player’s performance, many teams at this year’s World Cup have implemented sex bans.

“There will be no sex in Brazil. They can find another solution, they can even masturbate if they want. I am not interested what the other coaches do, this is not a holiday trip, we are there to play football at the World Cup,” Safet Susic, the coach of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s national soccer team told reporters of his team’s ban in April.

On Tuesday, Quartz broke down the sex rules for the World Cup teams. To sum up:

Sex is permitted on these teams: Germany, Spain, the United States, Australia, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, Uruguay and England

Sex is banned on these teams: Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile and Mexico

And the rules are complicated on these teams: France (you can have sex but not all night), Brazil (you can have sex, but not “acrobatic” sex), Costa Rica (can’t have sex until the second round) and Nigeria (can sleep with wives but not girlfriends)

The rules for the remaining teams are unknown.

Are some sex rules excessive? Probably. The two most common concerns about pre-game sex are that intercourse might make a player tired and weak or it could affect him psychologically. Studies have shown that the former is a myth.

Many coaches and athletes believe that abstaining from sex builds up aggression, a belief that probably stems from ancient civilizations like the Greeks, who thought that men derived strength from their semen. This theory is so pervasive that even Muhammed Ali refused to have sex six weeks before a fight, fearing that ejaculation would release the testosterone (and therefore aggression) he needed for a boxing match.

But in fact, the opposite has been proven to be true. Studies show testosterone increases after sex. “After three months without sex, which is not so uncommon for some athletes, testosterone dramatically drops to levels close to children’s levels,” Emmanuele A. Jannini of the University of L’Aquila in Italy who has studied the affect of sex on athletic performance told National Geographic. “Do you think this may be useful for a boxer?”

Which means that sex may actually increase performance by releasing testosterone into the body.

And sex doesn’t exhaust athletes. Most bedroom sessions burn only 25 to 50 calories, the equivalent of walking up two flights of stairs. For an all-star athlete, that’s nothing. Studies show that having sex the night before a competition has no affect on strength or endurance.

Whether coitus would affect the soccer players psychologically is harder to test, but experts maintain that it can have a positive mental effect. “If athletes are too anxious and restless the night before an event, then sex may be a relaxing distraction,” Ian Shrier, a sports medicine specialist at McGill University, wrote in a 2000 review of 31 studies on sex and sports titled “Does Sex the Night Before Competition Decrease Performance?” published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine.

Some experts even argue that previous World Cups wins prove sex can be beneficial.

“The Netherlands national soccer team, at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, is an example of this,” Juan Carlos Medina, general coordinator of the sports department at Tecnologico de Monterrey in Mexico told CNN. “Some of those players were accompanied by their wives, and they won the second place. I don’t say this is a determinant factor, but it brings support.”

“Even Pele confessed that he never suspended sexual encounters with his wife before a game, I mean, that thing about sex helping to relax is a verified truth,” he added.

Ultimately whether sex will negatively impact a person’s emotions before a game depends on each individual. Some find it’s a relief, others a distraction (especially if it keeps them up all night). “In general, an athlete should never try something before an important competition that they have not already tried in lesser competitions or practice,” Shrier concludes.

How Do You Know If You’re on a Date? – The Cut

How Do You Know If You’re on a Date? – The Cut

6/16/2014 | The Cut

Cindi Leive and the Glamour staff have set out to reignite the fire in America’s loins by declaring Saturday, June 28, National Date Night, and facilitating the whole event through restaurant and retail deals. According to a survey in Glamour‘s upcoming July issue, 73 percent of women report having no idea if they are even on a date or not, because we’re all so ruined by booty calls, text-based love affairs, and the long-term fantasy relationships we have with people’s Tinder profiles before even speaking to them.

How can you tell if you’re on a date? If we define “date night” by the companies involved in the promotion — e.g., Piperlime, Whole Foods, and Drybar — then a date is when one participant gets a blowout and a new outfit, and two people share either a moderately priced meal at a national chain or overpriced food in the Whole Foods café.

This already seems too complicated. A better gauge: Are you boning? If so, it may be date night.

Why Glamour’s EIC Wants You to Go on a Date

6/16/2014 | Racked

Glamour EIC Cindi Leive and Lena Dunham.

As Glamour EIC Cindi Leive explains, women these days have a big problem on their hands. We’re talking about the end of dating, the slow decline of an American institution once held so dear by both men and women. To try to regain some footing, Leive and the Glamour team have come up with Glamour Date Night, a nationwide initiative that’s going down Saturday, June 28.

To encourage women (and men) to hop back in the dating saddle, Glamour‘s editors have lined up deals with retailers and restaurants, and have dedicated a large portion of the magazine’s July issue to the cause. After the jump, Leive explains why she thinks dating has tanked, and why women shouldn’t be afraid to ask for what they want.

Where did the idea for Glamour Date Night come from?
“It came from a conversation our editors were having about all of the complaints that they hear from our readers—mostly our single readers—about how dating appears to be dying an untimely death. Here’s this thing that’s existed for a hundred years, a century-old American tradition, yet every young woman we talked to was complaining that it’s been completely replaced by the 11pm texts, the online hook-up, and to a lesser extent by group dating. We did a survey of 2,500 women and my favorite statistic from it was that 73% of women have actually wondered ‘Is this a date?’ about their most recent date. When you don’t even know if the date you are on is an actual date, then something’s wrong.”

Why did you pick June 28?
We felt like it needed to be a weekend night, obviously, even though there is a lot to be said for the weekday evening date. In this case, for a lot of people, Saturday night is still the date night. Summer is a good time; you don’t want to be doing it on a holiday weekend. It seems like the right moment.

We hatched the idea at a Glamour full-staff offsite last summer. So it’s been a while in the making. We believe [Glamour date night] will be annual.”

Glamour editor Christina Perez and her fiance.

How do you plan to measure the success of Glamour Date Night?
“Well, we’ll see what we hear from readers. We are offering deals on more than 50 date-related things that they can get their hands on across the country. So obviously we’ll be able to measure the number of women who actually took advantage of these deals, but more than that, what we want to hear from our readers is, now that you and the guy in your life were forced to go out on an honest-to-god actual date, will this stick? Every relationship counselor worth their salt will tell you to sit down with somebody for more than three-and-a-half seconds of speed dating to get to know whether they’re right for you. You’re able to make better choices about your romantic life. You’re actually having a conversation that takes place over dinner, and not over text at 12:37am.”

Did you line up partners for this initiative?
“We’re working with restaurants in every major market, so no matter where you live as a Glamour reader, there’s something you can take advantage of. Some of the things that I think readers will be most excited about are Whole Foods, which is doing a whole picnic spread that you can get a discount on, you can get discounts on date-night clothing from Piperlime, you can get discounts at Drybar if you’re working on your blowout. I think women will be very excited.”

Does Glamour Magazine stand to earn money from this editorial initiative?

Glamour cites a recent decline in dating. What killed dating, do you think? Was it the smartphone?
“I think dating has changed generation to generation, but to answer your question about why it’s taken this steep nose dive, I think don’t think it’s as simple as the smart phone killed dating. I think it’s a combination of technology, which makes it much easier to connect with people (that’s a good thing) but also much easier to connect with people in a totally superficial way (that’s a bad thing). I think it leads to people overdating, where you’re actually scheduling 12 30-minute meetings over the course of a week. I know both men and women who do this when they start online dating. I don’t think those qualify as real dates if you’re whizzing through them with one eye on the clock. People lead very over-scheduled lives now, in general.

We [also] have a whole generation of women who have grown up not dating. If you’re 23 or 24, it’s just not what was ever done when you were in high school or college, so you have no frame of reference. But what we heard from women of every age is that they actually want to do it. One of our editors was saying that for her, the best date she’d ever been on was with an ex-boyfriend of hers simply because he had picked a night, made a reservation at a restaurant, and called her on the actual phone—not just texting her—to tell her he’d made a plan. All these things that seem so simple and any guy worth the price of admission should be doing that, but those are the kind of things that are generally not done.”

The last big conversation in this country around dating was spurred by The Rules. How does Glamour Date Night differ?
“I think that if this is something that women want, that they should push for it. We’re advocating on their behalf. PS, the message to women isn’t, sit around and wait for him to ask you. You can ask him, too, if you think the return of dating is a good thing. This is not a Rules thing. And how you act on your date and what you do on your date is totally your business. We just want you to get out there and look amazing.”

The Indecipherable Modern Dude: Your Love and Sex Questions, Answered

6/11/2014 | Science of Us

Like many other mid-20s women living in Brooklyn, I’ve made my way around the world of online dating. In the 4 years that I’ve been quick matching, rating, swiping left or right, and chatting up countless men online, I’ve been on two good dates with guys I was interested in (one found another girl, one found another job on the other side of the country).

But even with guys I’d never consider for more than casual dating, there’s a frustrating dynamic I always seem to find myself in: We talk online, he’s charming and interesting; we talk via text, he’s funny and smart; we meet in person, he’s respectful and fun. We go through all that, and then BAM, he just wants to have no-strings-attached sex. No more dates, no potential for a relationship, he just wants to bone. Am I doing something in the course of our interaction that makes him change his mind about me? At what point does the giant neon “Just hit that!” sign go on over my head? 

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good, clean, casual romp in the sack, but what’s a girl gotta do to stay on the relationship path?

-Bummed in Brooklyn

Dear Bummed in Brooklyn,

What you describe is not an uncommon heterosexual dating dilemma. Men and women have different mating strategies depending on whether they are looking for a long- or short-term mate, and that could explain some of what you’re experiencing. In other words, if you are looking for a fun, casual summer fling, you will be attracted to different types of partner characteristics (e.g., sexy and hilarious) than if you were looking for a longer-term loving relationship (e.g., caring).

Rejection can also impact mate preferences. For example, a laboratory experiment was conducted to see whether social rejection would make women desire short-term mates over longer-term mates. The researchers had women take a personality survey, and some women were told their scores indicated they would lose many of their friendships and end up alone in life. These rejected women indicated greater interest in short-term mates than women who were not rejected. Rejected women also preferred mates with physical characteristics that reflected good genes (e.g., muscular body type) rather than characteristics that indicated better long-term potential. In other words, feeling rejected by dating partners and feeling frustrated about not finding someone may, on some level, be influencing what you are looking for in a mate, and lead to preferences for men who lack long-term dating potential.

Mate availability also plays a significant role in your situation. New York City is a context where single women greatly outnumber men; when this happens we see much shorter-term mating strategies among men, which means they are not as likely to settle down because there are many attractive options to choose from. Why settle down when there are other beautiful, successful women to pursue? When men in cities like New York City do commit, they tend to do so when they are over the age of 35, and women often report being much less satisfied in their relationships because they have lowered expectations for finding a “good” match in such locations.

So what is a Brooklyn girl to do? I recommend employing something I have termed “The Rule of Three:” Date three people at the same time. More than three can be too much to handle (who has the time?), but fewer than three makes it too tempting to put all your eggs into one basket too soon. Be honest to these men about dating multiple people; this makes your perceived “value” on the dating market higher, and therefore you become more valuable than other women who are comparatively more available, which could help guys take you seriously as more than just a potential casual sex partner. If, over time, you decide to get more serious with someone, you can start to drop numbers 2 and 3. Wait to start dropping the other guys until you are certain that “the one” has the long-term characteristics you are looking for because this takes time to discover.

I’ve been good friends with this guy (let’s call him Brandon) for eight years. Throughout our friendship, we’ve been flirty with each other and recently, especially since we both ended long-term relationships about a year ago, we’ve become even more so. He’s outright told me that he has wants to have sex with me and I want to, too. But I also like Brandon a lot and would love to be in a relationship with him. I don’t know if he feels the same way. What I don’t understand is how he can say he wants to have sex with me, flirt with me, and tell me I look “cute” and that I’m “gorgeous” without liking me or wanting to be in a relationship with me. We’ve been good, flirty, genuine friends for eight years and he only wants to have sex with me and not a relationship?

-Frustrated Friend

Dear Frustrated Friend,

Your eight-year friendship with Brandon has taken a flirtatious turn and you seem confused about what this means. Does he want to simply be friends with benefits? When selecting opposite-sex friendships, men tend to prioritize physical attractiveness in their female friends over other traits and sexual attraction between friends is very common, with 30-68% of people reporting some sort of physical attraction or sexual tension between friends at some point. You are both currently single and mutually attracted to each other, so your desire to have sex with each other is therefore not too surprising.

There are sex differences in motivations for having FWB relationships, with men generally being more motivated by sex, and women more by emotional connectedness. In addition, men are more likely to want the FWB status to remain the same over time; they are satisfied with indefinitely remaining friends who have sex, or until they find someone else to have a committed relationship with. In contrast, women are more likely to wish the FWB relationship would become “serious” over time — they add sex to the friendship with the hopes it will turn into a committed relationship. Many women report dissatisfaction and unhappiness when this change does not happen. The ambiguity of a FWB relationship may be difficult for some people to handle because there are few “ground rules” about what each partner expects from the relationship, and little discussion about what their hopes and expectations are. Women who experience a lot of anxiety in their intimate relationships also have a harder time adjusting to a FWB relationship than men because they perceive their FWB partners as being deceptive or misleading in their intentions.

My advice, which is similar to that provided by other researchers I know: Talk to him. You describe Brandon as a good friend, so a discussion about your desires and expectations from each other should not pose a threat to your friendship. If you want to have a more serious romantic relationship and he doesn’t, then A FWB arrangement may be difficult for you.

Why is it that guys seem to ignore everything a woman might be doing to say no or that they aren’t interested? I’m the least flirtatious person on the planet, but it seems like if I’m anything short of head-bitingly rude to certain dudes, they assume I want to hop in the sack. Is there anything women can do to prevent these sorts of misunderstandings? Likewise, what is it with guys supposedly reading personal ads and then completely ignoring anything a woman says in them? I’ve heard it’s supposedly that guys are biased to just ignore anything they don’t want to see in dating — is that true? 

– Don’t Wanna Be Rude

Dear Don’t Wanna Be Rude,

Most people assume that flirtatious behaviors are intended to initiate a sexual relationship, but there are other reasons people flirt, such as to start a platonic cross-sex friendship, to have fun, or to just feel emotionally closer to the other person. Men consistently misinterpret women’s flirtatious behaviors; they believe a woman’s flirtatious communication means she wants to have sex with him rather than her just being polite or friendly towards him. These misperceptions are even greater when the woman is attractive. So, the more attractive you are, the more men will perceive any form of communication from you as meaning “take me, now.”

Short of telling these men flat out you are not sexually interested in them, there is not too much more you can do. Flirting for fun or to develop a friendship is fine, but just be mindful of how such communication can be easily misperceived by these individuals. As for men who ignore details about you in responses to personal ads: ignore them. They are likely writing the same exact email to all the other women they message in the hope that even one will respond. Someone who truly is interested in you will take the time to learn about you before initiating a personalized form of contact.

Dr. Jennifer Jill Harman is an associate professor of psychology at Colorado State University who specializes in the study of sex and relationships. She’s a regular contributor to Science of Relationships and a co-author of The Science of Relationships: Answers to Your Questions About Dating, Marriage & Family.